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Iraqi, US Troops to Join Forces in Fighting Insurgents in Mosul

An Iraqi defense spokesman says Iraqi and U.S. forces will fight together against al-Qaida and other insurgents in Mosul. The northern city this past week has been rocked by attacks and blasts blamed on insurgents. VOA's Deborah Block reports from Baghdad.

Major General Mohammed al-Askari, spokesman for Iraq's defense ministry, says Iraqi police, tribal forces and anti-al-Qaida "Awakening" groups will also join the fight. At a news conference in Baghdad, he said Iraqi forces have been preparing for the operation for years and collecting intelligence on terrorist networks.

He says we are not fighting regular forces, but terrorists, and we have to be very careful we do not target civilians.

Askari said on Sunday that reinforcements of troops, tanks and vehicles have now reached Mosul for an offensive against al-Qaida-linked insurgents. He gave no details of the size of the deployment and would not say when the operation will begin.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Friday promised a "decisive battle" against insurgents in Nineveh province where Mosul is the capital. Last week, blasts killed dozens of people including a police chief.

U.S. military spokesman Major General Kevin Bergner told the news conference that coalition forces would coordinate closely with Iraqi troops in Nineveh. The American military already has two divisions deployed in the province, one in Mosul and another in the west of the province.

General Askari says once the terrorists are pushed out of Nineveh they will have no place to go. Coalition operations in western Anbar province and in Diyala province, north of the capital, have targeted al-Qaida in Iraq insurgents.

On Monday, five U.S. soldiers were killed in Mosul when their patrol was struck by a roadside bomb and then attacked by gunmen holed up in a nearby mosque.