Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, says the government is launching a major offensive against al-Qaida elements in the northern city of Mosul, following two days of deadly bombings that killed nearly 40 people. VOA's Deborah Block has further details from Baghdad.

Prime Minister Maliki said Friday his government is sending troops to Mosul to fight al-Qaida in Iraq insurgents.

He said the troops are moving to Mosul and the fight there will be decisive with the help of Mosul's population.

During an address in the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala south of Baghdad, he warned that Iraq's army is now a powerful force.

He said an operations center has been established in Nineveh province for a final war against al-Qaida and the remnants of the former Saddam Hussein regime.

The prime minister did not indicate how many troops are being sent or provide further details.

The announcement came after warnings by the U.S. military that Mosul is the last major city where al-Qaida in Iraq maintains a strong presence. It has been largely driven from Baghdad and other major population centers.

On Thursday, a suicide bomber killed a top police chief and two other officers in Mosul as they toured the site of a deadly explosion that occurred on Wednesday. One U.S. soldier and one Iraqi soldier were wounded in Thursday's blast. Wednesday's massive explosion at an abandoned apartment building and adjacent homes killed 34 people and wounded more than 200 others.

Mr. Maliki traveled to Karbala a day after a roadside bomb targeted a senior aide of Iraq's spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. The aide escaped unharmed but two of his bodyguards were killed and two were wounded.

Three weeks ago, U.S. and Iraqi forces launched a new assault against al-Qaida operatives in Diyala province, north of the capital.