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Sons of Iraq join Diyala offensive

  |   Aug. 6, 2008 at 8:27 PM
BAQUBA, Iraq, Aug. 6 (UPI) -- The government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recruited the Sunni paramilitary force Sons of Iraq for operations in Diyala province, officials said.

The prime minister launched military operations in late July in Diyala province targeting Shiite militias and al-Qaida fighters. The incursion follows similar operations in Basra, Sadr City and Amarah.

Despite earlier efforts to sideline the Sunni militia, which came out of the Anbar Awakening in 2006, Iraqi officials have recruited elements of the force to fight alongside the Iraqi military, the Inter Press Service reported.

Iraqi officials said the Diyala operation was focused on routing al-Qaida members who had infiltrated local police forces.

"Tomorrow you will take your role with us in our operation to attack al-Qaida militants," Iraqi Gen. Ali Ghaidan told the Sunni force.

Iraqi planners had been criticized in the past for pre-emptive warnings regarding military operations, giving insurgents advance notice to flee the area. Government officials, however, said the move is intended to disrupt the militant hierarchy.

Maliki extended an offer of 3,000 jobs in the national police force to the group in exchange for information regarding militant activity in the area.

The paramilitary force formed in response to al-Qaida activity in western Anbar province.

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