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Iraqi PM Announces Crackdown in Diyala Province

Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says he hopes to soon extend military operations against, what he calls, outlaws in the nation. In a speech in Iraq's southeastern Maysan Province, the prime minister also called for Iraqi troops to respect human rights. VOA's Suzanne Presto reports from the northern city of Irbil.

Prime Minister Maliki told a group of tribal leaders, military personnel and officials that Iraq's military has scored many victories against al-Qaida-in-Iraq terrorists, militants and insurgents during recent security operations.

He also noted Iraqi military successes against insurgents during the ongoing offensive in the city of Amarah, an operation that targets Shi'ite militants and weapons' smugglers. The offensive in Maysan's provincial capital began in earnest on June 19.

The Iraqi leader said he hopes to soon extend that battle against terrorists to restive Diyala Province, which is north of Maysan and also along the Iranian border.

Sunday, a female suicide bomber killed at least 16 people and wounded 40 others in Diyala's capital, Baquba.

Mr. Maliki said Iraqi forces will follow terrorists, al-Qaida-in-Iraq members and any outlaws, and work to ensure that the nation is one where law and order prevails.

In speaking about law and order, the prime minister turned his attention from insurgents to government troops. Mr. Maliki urged Iraqi soldiers to respect human rights throughout their operations.

In recent days, citizens in Amarah who are loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have accused the troops of targeting and detaining them. As dictated by the radical Shi'ite cleric, Sadr's followers have not resisted Iraqi government forces.

Sadr's aides have complained that Iraqi forces were carrying out what they called "random" raids. The aides have emphasized they support Baghdad's efforts to impose order in Amarah, provided that security forces act within the law.

The prime minister said troops must always remember to respect the law because they are working to support peace, safety and the rule of law.

Mr. Maliki reminded the military that citizens and tribal leaders in Maysan Province are supportive of the campaign to clear the city of outlaws and weapons smugglers. He said people's rights must be respected, and he urged troops to differentiate between the honest and the guilty.

Maysan Province is a majority Shi'ite province that borders Iran. The provincial capital, Amarah, is believed to be the scene of major weapons smuggling.

Mr. Maliki said the troops will remain in Maysan Province until the government is certain that criminal elements will not return.

In recent months, the Iraqi army has staged similar offensives in eastern Baghdad's Sadr City, Basra and Mosul in an effort to clear the cities of militants and to improve stability in the country.