BAQUBA, Iraq (AFP) – The Iraqi military backed by US forces on Friday arrested five suspects during an offensive aimed at flushing out Al-Qaeda in a restive northern province.
“Our forces arrested five wanted (suspects) in the last few hours,” said Colonel Shawkat Ahmed, spokesman for the Diyala operation, told AFP.
The raids took place in the centre of Baquba, capital of Diyala province, where 50,000 Iraqi soldiers and police began a major push against insurgents on Tuesday to secure the volatile region.
Since the start of the manoeuvres, Iraqi soldiers have detained dozens of suspected insurgents as well as liberated a group or six people who had been kidnapped and held by militants, the military says.
In Baquba, a 24-hour traffic lockdown had been eased, allowing businesses to reopen as people began to venture out of their homes for the first time in days.
Diyala, which has a long border with Iran, has been a centre of weapon smuggling, and has suffered repeated suicide bombings, thought to be mostly orchestrated by Sunni Muslim Al-Qaeda operatives.
In the past few months the multi-ethnic region made up of Christians and Muslims has seen repeated efforts by the US and Iraqi militaries to drive out insurgents, both Sunni Al-Qaeda and various Shiite groups.