PM: Iraq ready to take over security in Basra province
Iraq is prepared to take over security in the entire southern province of Basra from the British military, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told visiting British Defense Secretary Des Browne on Wednesday. Maliki assured the British minister of Baghdad's readiness to take on the "terrorists," his office said in a statement, cited by AFP.
"Iraqi forces are ready to take over the security file in Basra. Our forces are ready to confront any challenges and to chase terrorists," Maliki told Browne, who was on a surprise visit to Iraq. Maliki also told Browne that his government would not stop the national reconciliation process "despite of all the obstacles from those who do not want it to happen."
Browne, meanwhile, pledged London's continued support to Iraq, according to the statement. "We will cooperate in achieving security and stability in Iraq and especially in Basra which is witnessing progress," he was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military claimed successes in its fight against Sunni and Shiite militants. American forces hunting for a senior al-Qaeda leader accused in assassinations and car bomb attacks killed three suspects Wednesday after surrounding a building in the northern city of Kirkuk, the military said, according to the AP.
The clash came around the same time as a failed assassination attempt on an investigative judge in the northern city. Police Brig. Gen. Sarhat Qadir said gunmen in a vehicle attacked Judge Zaher al-Bayati around 8:30 a.m. in the city's southern al-Wasiti neighborhood. Two bodyguards died, Qadir said.
About 20 minutes later, drive-by shooters opened fire on an intelligence officer as he was driving with his wife and daughter, the police chief said. The intelligence officer escaped injury, but both his wife and 5-year-old daughter were both hurt.
The U.S. military also announced that U.S. and Iraqi commandos had detained a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq leader and three other men in Khadra, north of Baghdad, in a raid that left one U.S. soldier lightly wounded.