السبت , مايو 22 2021

Iraq denies Saudi border withdrawal

Iraqi troops have been patrolling the border with Saudi Arabia looking for jihadist infiltrators

Iraqi military officials have denied that troops have abandoned positions along the border with Saudi Arabia.

Interior ministry spokesman Brig Gen Saad Maan told the BBC that the border force was functioning normally.

Earlier, al-Arabiya TV reported that Saudi Arabia had deployed 30,000 soldiers along the 900km (560-mile) frontier after Iraqi forces withdrew.

The Saudi personnel were fanning out along the border to prevent attacks by jihadist-led Sunni rebels, it said.

Last week, King Abdullah ordered all necessary measures to be taken to protect Saudi Arabia against “terrorist threats”.

On Wednesday, he discussed Iraq and the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) with US President Barack Obama.

Mr Obama also thanked the Saudi monarch for his $500m (£291m) donation to the United Nations to help it address the humanitarian crisis caused by the insurgency in Iraq.

More than one million Iraqis have fled their homes over the month as Sunni rebels led by Isis overran Mosul, Tikrit and other cities and towns in the north and west. At least 2,461 people were killed in violent attacks in June, according to the UN and Iraqi authorities.

Amnesty offer

Western officials in the Iraqi capital said they had no reason to believe that the reported Saudi troop movement had come in response to any direct threat along the border, the BBC’s Paul Adams in Baghdad reports.

Their view was that such moves were more likely to represent a prudent step in light of the chaotic situation in Iraq, our correspondent adds.

About 10 days ago, there were reports of clashes between Isis and the Iraqi army in the town of Nukhayb, around 120km (75 miles) from the Saudi border, with witnesses talking about Iraqi troops fleeing towards the Shia holy city of Karbala, about 100km (60 miles) south of Baghdad.

However, there have been no further reports from the area.

There were deadly clashes between Iraqi troops and a Shia cleric’s followers in Karbala on Wednesday

The fighting erupted when the authorities attempted to arrest the cleric, Mahmoud al-Sarkhi

More than one million Iraqis have been displaced by the fighting over the past month

Al-Arabiya published a video showing what the Saudi-owned channel said were about 2,500 Iraqi soldiers in the desert east of Karbala who had been ordered to leave their posts along the border with Saudi Arabia.

On Wednesday, up to 45 people were killed in clashes between Iraqi security forces and armed followers of a radical Shia cleric in Karbala, security sources told the Reuters news agency.

The clashes reportedly erupted when police and soldiers, backed by helicopter gunships, tried to arrest Mahmoud al-Sarkhi around midnight on Tuesday, after his supporters started blocking roads and setting up checkpoints around his stronghold in the city.

Earlier this week, he had criticised a decree by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most senior Shia cleric in Iraq, which called on Iraqis to volunteer to fight alongside government forces.



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Iraq is being sucked into a wider regional and sectarian war, reports the BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse

Also on Wednesday, Prime Minister Nouri Maliki offered an amnesty for all people who had been “involved in actions against the state” but who had now “returned to their senses”, excluding those responsible for killings.

The call appeared to be an attempt to split the alliance of jihadists, loyalists of former President Saddam Hussein and anti-government tribesmen who are fighting the government.

But on Thursday, security forces were still struggling to dislodge those who had taken control of Saddam’s home city of Tikrit, more than a week after launching a counter-offensive.

Salahuddin Governor Ahmed Abdullah Juburi said has said that troops and pro-government militiamen are “advancing slowly because all of the houses and burned vehicles have been rigged with explosives, and militants have deployed lots of roadside bombs and car bombs”.

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