BAGHDAD, (Xinhua): Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki on Saturday paid a surprise visit to the battlefield in Anbar province to announce a rebuilding plan, while violence across the country left 21 people killed and 26 wounded, government and security sources said.
Maliki spent several hours in his first visit to the province, during which he met with top military and tribal leaders, who briefed him on the security situation and the development of military operations in the provincial capital city of Ramadi, some 110 km west of Baghdad, a statement from Maliki’s office said.
Maliki pledged to restore security and stability across province and announced a comprehensive reconstruction plan for cities destroyed by militant groups or in clashes with them, the statement said.
The plan also includes training thousands of local young men, who fight the militant groups to protect their homeland in the place of the army, which will withdraw for other missions, the statement added.
Meanwhile, an official from the main hospital in Fallujah told Xinhua that his hospital received Saturday three bodies and four people with artillery and mortar wounds.
Anbar province has been the scene of fierce clashes that flared up after Iraqi police dismantled an anti-government protest site outside Ramadi in late December.
In Baghdad, three civilians were wounded when two roadside bombs went off in the east district of Sadr City, a police source told Xinhua.
Four more people were wounded in a roadside bomb blast at a marketplace in Obiedi district in east Baghdad, while a policeman was wounded in a roadside bomb explosion near his patrol in Zaiyounah district also in the east, the source added.
In Iraq’s eastern province of Diyala, militiamen bombed a Sunni mosque in the village of Albu-Shaheen east of the provincial capital city of Baquba, a local police source told Xinhua.
Abul Khaliq al-Azzawi, a member of the provincial council, told Xinhua that Shiite militiamen destroyed the mosque by detonating several bombs they planted in the building.
“This is the fifth Sunni mosque bombed by the militia during the past two months,” Azzawi said.
Violence and sectarian tensions have been running high recently between Sunni and Shiite communities in the volatile province of Diyala, as Sunnis and Shiites accuse each other of supporting extremists and militiamen.
Separately, an army force clashed with a wanted suspect of terror crimes and shot him dead at Himreen mountain, some 50 km north of Baquba, the provincial police source said.
Meanwhile, a policeman and a government employee were wounded when a roadside bomb went off near their car near the city of Sa’ diyah, about 60 km northeast of Baquba, the source added.
Diyala province, which stretches from the eastern edges of Baghdad to the border of the country, has long been a volatile area since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 despite repeated military operations against the militant groups.
Earlier in the day, the police told Xinhua that 17 soldiers and policemen were killed and 12 others wounded in separate overnight attacks targeting the security forces across the country.
In one of the attacks, five soldiers were killed and seven wounded in clashes between gunmen and Iraqi security forces erupted in Jurf al-Sakhar area south of Baghdad, a local police source told Xinhua.
In Salahudin province, five policemen were killed and two wounded when gunmen attacked a police force on a highway near the city of Baiji, some 200 km north of Baghdad, a provincial police source said.
In a separate incident, gunmen attacked a minibus on a main road near Salahudin’s provincial capital city of Tikrit, some 170 km north of Baghdad, leaving four soldiers killed and three others wounded, the source said.
Meanwhile, a police colonel were shot dead by gunmen in the center of Tikrit city, the source added.
Also in the province, an off-duty soldier and a policeman were shot dead separately by gunmen near their homes in the city of Shirqat, some 280 km north of Baghdad, he said.
Iraq is witnessing its worst violence in recent years. According to the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, a total of 8,868 Iraqis, including 7,818 civilians and civilian police personnel, were killed in 2013, the highest annual death toll in years.