BAGHDAD (AFP) – The Iraqi government has said the reign of terror of Al-Qaeda in Iraq was nearing its end, as a massive security crackdown in Baghdad entered its second day.
The mine of information from Al-Qaeda documents seized after its leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed spelt “the beginning of the end” for the terror group, according to Iraq’s national security advisor Muwaffaq al-Rubaie.
“We believe Al-Qaeda in Iraq was taken by surprise, they did not anticipate how powerful the Iraqi security forces are and how the government is on the attack now,” Rubaie told a news conference Thursday.
He said the documents had given Iraq an “edge over Al-Qaeda and will also give us the whereabouts of their network and their leaders and their weapons, and the way they lead the organisation and the whereabouts of their meetings”.
The documents were seized from the rubble of Zarqawi’s safe house on June 7 following its destruction in a US air strike, as well as in a series of subsequent raids in Baghdad.
The prime minister’s office, citing one of the documents, disclosed that Zarqawi aimed to widen the rift between the United States and Iran with kidnappings and assassinations against US interests falsely attributed to Iran.
In what the government dubbed Zarqawi’s “plan of death and destruction”, he voiced doubt whether “America is truly an enemy of Iran because of the large support that Iran provided America in its wars against Afghanistan and Iraq”.
“On that basis, it is vital to work towards inflating the danger of Iran to America, and show America and the West in general the real danger presented by Iran,” according to the document.
Earlier reports on the documents found at the safe house showed that Al-Qaeda was looking to stir up conflicts between the Shiites and US forces as well as between various Shiite leaders.
The group also planned to carry out terrorist attacks in the West and then leave evidence at the sites implicating the Iranians, according to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s office.
Zarqawi’s organization was also going to spread misinformation that Iran had weapons of mass destruction, including biological and chemical weapons.
Iran and the United States have had testy relations for decades, exacerbated in recent months over Iran’s uranium enrichment, which Tehran insists is for nuclear power while Washington fears it could be used for bombs.
Baghdad, meanwhile, remained under a security clampdown for the second day as more than 50,000 Iraqi and US forces patrolled the streets.
The massive deployment is part of Maliki’s new security plan for the Iraqi capital which has seen dozens of people killed each day in bombings and shootings.
Despite the stringent security measures, violence continued in the Iraqi capital on Thursday, though at a substantially reduced level than in past weeks.
Police on Thursday found seven bullet-riddled bodies across the capital, four of them in the Tigris river.
Also an worker at a local vegetable oil factory was shot dead in Baghdad’s Al-Bayaa neighborhood, while gunmen in the northern city of Tikrit shot dead four Sunni worshippers in a mosque as they prayed.
“The operation continues for the second day and the composition of troops, especially the coalition forces remains the same,” US military spokesman Major William Wilhoite said.
On Wednesday, US President George W. Bush told reporters in Washington that 26,000 Iraqi soldiers, 23,000 Iraqi police and 7,200 coalition forces were deployed in Baghdad as part of the operation.
The plan, Operation Forward Together, is one of the largest since the March 2003 invasion by US-led troops and Maliki has called upon all political groups, religious leaders and ordinary Iraqis to support it.
Defense Minister Abdel Qader Mohammed Jassim hinted on Wednesday that the security operation would continue for several days. “This operation, we have timetable dates and it will build in strength,” he said.
The security plan includes house-to-house searches of areas suspected of hiding insurgents as well as a crackdown on civilians carrying weapons.
A night-time curfew in the capital has also been extended by two and a half hours, while a vehicle ban is to be imposed during the Muslim weekly midday prayer hours on Fridays.