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Monday, 4 February 2008

Mosul residents stock up ahead of 'decisive battle'

Residents of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul are hastily stocking up with supplies ahead of what Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki says will be a "decisive battle" against Al-Qaeda, traders said on Sunday.

Maliki warned on Saturday after an emergency meeting of his war council in Mosul, the last urban stronghold of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, that a major assault on the jihadists in northern Nineveh province was imminent.

Nineveh governor Duraid Kashmoula told reporters in the provincial capital of Mosul on Saturday that the assault would start "in a few days".

The warnings come after blasts and attacks in Mosul which have killed dozens of people, including a police chief, and bombings of Baghdad markets on Friday by two mentally impaired women which killed almost 100 people.

"It is time to launch a decisive battle against terrorism," Maliki said after Saturday's meeting attended by US commander in Iraq General David Petraeus and Iraq's national security advisor Muwaffaq al-Rubaie.

"The battle that our armed forces will launch will destroy terrorism and the criminal gangs and outlaws in Nineveh," he said.

On January 25, Maliki promised a "decisive battle" against Al-Qaeda after dozens of people including a police chief were killed in bomb attacks in Mosul.

Since that warning and the arrival a few days later of military reinforcements in Mosul, residents have made a rush on foodstuffs and fuel, traders said.

"I sold in one week what I usually sell in a month," said grocer Abu Karim, 49. "The rush is continuing."

"Many people have been stocking up on different kinds of foods since the announcement of the operation." More