BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq's government will create a new security service specifically geared toward tackling the nearly 15-month-old insurgency in the country, Prime Minister Iyad Allawi (search) said Thursday.
The new service, the General Security Directorate, "will annihilate those terrorists groups, God willing," Allawi said during a news conference.
In remarks published earlier in the al-Hayat newspaper, Allawi was quoted as saying Iraq has arrested operatives linked to Al Qaeda (search) and is seeing increasing coordination between the terror network and Iraqi insurgents loyal to ousted dictator Saddam Hussein (search ).
Allawi told reporters that he had asked Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Morocco and Egypt to contribute troops to the multinational force to help him secure the country. He also announced that he would be going on his first foreign tour as prime minister to nearby Arab countries.
"We would like to strengthen our relationship with our neighbors and we are making this a priority," he said.
Since taking power, Allawi's government has made clear it intended to crack down on militants who have caused chaos with assassinations, bombings, sabotage and other attacks. The violence has hampered efforts to rebuild and recover after war and years of international sanctions.
The government has passed emergency laws giving Allawi the power to declare curfews and impose limited martial law to curb the violence and has repeatedly threatened the militants.
The new security service appears to be another step in the fledgling government's efforts to tackle the violence.
In the al-Hayat article, Allawi said that among Al Qaeda operatives arrested by Iraqi forces were the driver of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search ), a Jordanian linked to Al Qaeda who is accused of deadly attacks and kidnappings in Iraq and elsewhere. Huge amounts of money, he also said, are entering Iraq to fund attacks in the country.
"Over the last two or three days, we have captured a number of crucial figures who have started to fully and effectively cooperate with the investigative and judicial authorities," Allawi was quoted as saying.
Allawi also said millions of dollars are being channeled by Saddam loyalists in neighboring countries to operatives with Al Qaeda links in Iraq, such as al-Zarqawi's group, to carry out terror attacks.
He specifically mentioned Jordan and Syria, but told the London-based pan-Arab newspaper that his criticism wasn't of governments but of those who abused the hospitality of countries that took them in when they fled Iraq.
"We have learned there is a kind of escalating coordination between remains of Saddam's regime and Al Qaeda elements such as al-Zarqawi," he added.
Iraq has said it has 99 foreign fighters in detention, the majority of them from neighboring countries. On July 21, foreign ministers from Iraq and its neighbors will meet in Egypt to discuss border security and the passage of money and fighters.
Al-Zarqawi is believed to be the leader of Tawhid and Jihad, a group that claimed responsibility for many deadly attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq as well as the kidnapping and beheading of foreigners working there. The United States is offering $25 million for information leading to al-Zarqawi's capture.
On Wednesday, a statement posted on an Islamist Web site, purportedly from al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for a mortar attack near Allawi's home last week. The statement said the militant's group would continue to pursue Allawi, whom insurgents view as a collaborator with President Bush and American forces.
Last week, the government passed emergency laws giving Allawi the power to declare curfews and a limited martial law to tackle the violence.
In an effort to tackle the violence and terror attacks, the government was discussing restoring the death penalty that had been suspended during the U.S. occupation, Allawi said during the news conference. The European Union has criticized that plan.
"We need some sanctions that are up to the scale of those crimes," Allawi said. "That is why the capital punishment issue is still being discussed."
Responding to a question about whether the elections scheduled for January where going to be delayed, Allawi responded firmly: "The elections are going to be held on time."