Last updated: 14 August, 2013

Iraqi premier insists security campaign to carry on

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki vowed Wednesday that security forces will keep up a campaign of mass arrests and targeting of militant camps, as attacks killed 17 people.

Maliki said more than 800 alleged militants had been detained and dozens of others killed in multiple operations, the latest announcement by authorities of efforts to tackle spiralling violence that has left more than 3,400 dead since the start of 2013.

“The operation that we started in chasing terrorists, and those who stand behind them, will continue until we protect our people,” the premier said in remarks broadcast on state television.

He said security forces had destroyed militant infrastructure used to make car bombs and seized a large amount of weaponry and explosive materiel.

The premier did not, however, specify when the arrests were made, where the operations took place or who had carried them out.

Security forces have for weeks been carrying out wide-ranging operations in the Baghdad area and north and west of the capital after brazen July jailbreaks claimed by an Al-Qaeda front group.

Hundreds of inmates were freed, among them some said to be senior militants.

Despite the regular announcements of the killing or capture of fighters, violence still plagues daily life.

Two bombs — one in a cafe and another on a street — exploded on Wednesday night in the city of Baquba, north of Baghdad, killing 14 people and wounding 26.

And gunmen shot dead a judge and his driver in an attack west of Baiji, also north of Baghdad, while a magnetic “sticky bomb” killed a police colonel in the capital itself.

The Wednesday attacks bring the number of people killed in the first two weeks of August to 300 — an average of more than 21 people each day.

Overall, 3,439 people have been killed so far this year, according to an AFP tally, with the United Nations reporting still higher figures and pegging the violence as the deadliest to hit Iraq since 2008.

Violence has increased markedly since January, with analysts saying the upsurge is driven by anger among the Sunni Arab minority that the Shiite-led government has failed to address, despite months of protests.