BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Saturday his security forces, backed by Americans, were about to implement a major new crackdown on illegal armed groups from all sectarian factions in Baghdad.
Maliki said in a speech at a parade marking Army Day that the plan would be implemented in spite of any criticism from political factions: “The security plan is ready.”
Military commanders in each neighborhood of the capital, where a U.S.-backed security plan was first launched five months ago, would have full powers to implement the plan as they saw fit in their own areas.
“After a review of the previous plans, we will depend on our armed forces to implement this plan and the Multinational Force will support our forces,” Maliki said. “They will intervene whenever they are called on.”
“We completely reject any interference from any political parties in this plan. There will be no refuge from this plan for anyone who is operating beyond the law, regardless of their sect or their political affiliation,” he said, adding that the plan would continue until its objectives had been achieved.
“We will come down hard on anyone who does not carry out their orders and who does their job according to his political or sectarian background. We will pursue those people under the law and punish them most severely,” he said, in an address at a monument to the Unknown Soldier, erected by Saddam Hussein.
“We realize that implementing it will create some inconveniences for the people of Baghdad but they know that this is for their own good,” said Maliki, who also defended the execution of Saddam a week ago and said his government would “review” relations with countries which did not respect the will of the Iraqi people to hang the ousted dictator.
A spokesman for the U.S. military in Baghdad said he could not comment on ongoing operations.
Senior officials in Maliki’s dominant Shi’ite Islamist bloc in the national unity government told Reuters last week that they expected limited, targeted operations against Shi’ite militia death squads to begin after the Eid al-Adha holiday.
Iraqis get fully back to work on Sunday after a week off.
The main target of such operations, they said, would be the Mehdi Army loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, which is blamed by Sunnis for death squads that are killing hundreds of people a week in the capital. From Maliki’s speech, however, it was clear Sunni insurgents would also be targeted in Baghdad.