BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq's interim president issued a warning Monday to guerrillas who have killed hundreds of Iraqis, promising to use a "very sharp sword" against anyone threatening the country's security.
The new Iraqi government has been discussing offering a limited amnesty to militants to put down the insurgency. But it has also been talking increasingly tough about those who keep carrying out attacks.
"Terrorism isn't just killing and blowing up bombs; whoever threatens the ordinary life of the people is a terrorist," President Ghazi al-Yawer (search) told reporters. "We have a very sharp sword ready for anyone who threatens the security of this country."
Al-Yawer's words appeared carefully chosen, reflecting a classical Arab symbol of might in the sword and threatening militants, some of whom have beheaded hostages, with their own chosen weapon.
In a crackdown Monday night, dozens of Iraqi police fanned out in the capital's Bab Alsheikh (search) neighborhood, setting off small gunbattles in which one suspect was killed and two were wounded. Hundreds of people were detained. The operation targeted "criminals, kidnappers and looters," said Hussein Ali Kamal, the deputy interior minister.
Meanwhile, Philippine official Rafael Seguis (search) said his country would withdraw its troops from Iraq "as soon as possible" in response to kidnappers' demands. But it was unclear if any pullout would be ahead of its scheduled Aug. 20 departure.
Insurgents holding Filipino truck driver Angelo dela Cruz (search) hostage said they had moved him to the place where he would be killed if the Philippines did not agree to remove its 51-member peacekeeping force by July 20.
In a new video, Dela Cruz pleaded with Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (search) to withdraw the country's 51 troops early so he wouldn't be killed, Al-Jazeera said. He also asked that his body be delivered to his country.
The militant group, the Iraqi Islamic Army-Khaled bin Al-Waleed Corps (search), said it had done everything possible to prove it wanted to spare the life of the 46-year-old father of eight, adding that it had given him food and water.
Hostage-taking, car bombs, assassinations and other violence have hindered Iraq's efforts to rebuild after sanctions and war. The attacks have killed scores of U.S. troops and hundreds of Iraqi civilians in the 15 months since Saddam Hussein's ouster.
U.S. officials have long blamed the violence on foreign fighters, but recently the military said the fighters are mainly Saddam loyalists.
On Monday, Iraq's Human Rights Minister Bakhtiyar Amin said the government currently had 99 foreign fighters in detention. The detainees include 26 Syrians, 14 Saudis, 14 Iranians, 12 Egyptians, nine Sudanese, five Palestinians, five Yemenis, five Jordanians, five Tunisians, one Lebanese, one Moroccan, one Turk and one Afghan.
Diplomats moved Monday to help Iraq restore order, with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan choosing Pakistani diplomat Ashraf Jehangir Qazi as the new U.N. envoy to Iraq.
Qazi, the ambassador to Washington, will replace Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was among 22 people killed in the Aug. 19, 2003, bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.
In Brussels, Belgium, the European Union foreign ministers pledged to help promote a stable democracy in Iraq by offering economic aid — as soon as security allowed. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari thanked the EU for being the largest donor of humanitarian aid to Iraq but called for more "direct assistance."
Also Monday, Iraq and France restored diplomatic relations that were severed during the Gulf War. France's new ambassador to Iraq, Bernard Bajolet, hoisted the French flag atop the embassy for the first time in 13 years.
Al-Yawer, whose post as president is largely ceremonial, said during a news conference that insurgents could no longer wage attacks under the guise of resistance to an occupying power, since the United States transferred sovereignty two weeks ago.
"The occupation is over now," he said. "We want to tell anyone who wants to threaten the security of this country: 'Enough.' I say, 'Enough. Stop."'
Al-Yawer, leader of the Shammar tribe, said the government planned to announce an amnesty soon, and he appealed to militants to seize the opportunity to lay down their weapons, or "there will be the sword."
Al-Yawer spoke during a meeting with Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan and National Guard Brig. Gen. Muther al-Rashardi, where the men sought to reassure Iraqis they were trying to restore order.