US, Iraqi Forces Launch Major Offensive

Diyala target of big push
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 29, 2008 11:05 AM CDT
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Scott Malecki, right, rests after gathering suspects in a raid on an al-Qaida cell in Iraq's volatile Diyala province on Friday, July 25, 2008.   (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – US and Iraqi forces have launched a major operation in Diyala province, which they consider the last major refuge for insurgents near Baghdad, the AP reports. Authorities have set up new checkpoints and banned all but official traffic as troops zero in on the capital city of Baquba, hoping to replicate their successes in Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra.

Religiously diverse Diyala has long been one of the hottest zones in Iraq. “It is a dream for residents of this province to live in peace, away from killings and kidnappings,” said one Baquba resident, who is praying to “God to make this operation successful.” Another criticized the early announcement, because he feared militants would have time to flee.