Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has issued a high security alert for possible terror attacks, as the U.S. moves to formally end its combat mission in the next few days.
Mr. Maliki issued a statement Friday urging security forces and civilians to "exercise the highest degree of caution." He said a "criminal alliance" between al-Qaida forces and members of former leader Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party is plotting a wave of attacks across the country.
The Iraqi prime minister said the alleged plotters have "foreign assistance."
Meanwhile, an al-Qaida group has claimed responsibility for a recent string of attacks that have killed at least 55 people.
In a statement posted on a militant website, the Islamic State of Iraq says it spearheaded attacks during the holy month of Ramadan with targets that included headquarters and checkpoints for Iraqi security forces.
Prime Minister Maliki's warning of more attacks comes ahead of Tuesday's formal end of the U.S. combat mission. The U.S. will shift its role to advising and training Iraqi security forces until the end of 2011, when all U.S. forces are scheduled to leave.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.