Associated Press
February 23, 2009

U.S. and Iraqi forces have begun a new military offensive in northern Iraq aimed at rooting out al-Qaida and other Sunni insurgents, American and Iraqi officials said Sunday.

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The offensive — dubbed Operation New Hope — has netted 84 suspects in the provincial capital of Mosul and surrounding towns, said Iraqi Brig. Gen. Saeed Ahmed al-Jubouri. Most of the arrests occurred in Tal Abta, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Mosul.

Claims by Sunni Arabs and Kurds over disputed territory in the northern Ninevah province have fueled significant violence in the area around Mosul, which U.S. officials have called Iraq’s last major urban battleground in the war against insurgents.

U.S. and Iraqi forces have staged many operations in Mosul and other areas north of Baghdad where levels of violence remain high even as they have significantly dropped elsewhere in the country.

The offensive comes more than a year after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki promised a “decisive” battle in Mosul against al-Qaida in Iraq.

But Iraq’s third-largest city has continued to face violence, particularly against Iraqi security forces.

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