Page last updated at 16:15 GMT, Wednesday, 14 May 2008 17:15 UK

Iraqi PM leads offensive in Mosul

Iraqi soldiers man a checkpoint in Mosul, Iraq, (May 12, 2008)
Iraqi security forces have rounded up over 500 al-Qaeda suspects

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is in the northern city of Mosul to supervise an offensive against Sunni insurgents.

Mosul is seen as the last urban stronghold of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Elsewhere, a ceasefire between the government and Shia militiamen in the Sadr City area of Baghdad is reported to be generally holding.

However some skirmishes were still reported overnight in the area, with hospital officials saying five people had been killed.

In Mosul security officials said they had advanced from a preparatory stage in what is being called Operation Lion's Roar to a full-scale offensive against al-Qaeda fighters.

"The main aim of this operation is to purge and clean Nineveh province of all militants and their weapons and declare it a safe area," an Iraqi Defence Ministry spokesman told The Associated Press.

US military spokesman Maj Gen Kevin Bergner said US forces were providing air cover and intelligence support to the Iraqi troops in Mosul, who had arrested more than 500 people in the area.

"This phase has featured intensified operations by Iraqi security forces," Maj Gen Bergner said.

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