Kurdish soldiers train for Baghdad mission
An Iraqi army brigade based in the northern Kurdish region will be sent to Baghdad as part of the new battle for control of the Iraqi capital, a Kurdish general said Saturday.
The 3,000 soldiers in the brigade will be working with U.S. and Iraqi forces and will head to the city "soon," saidBrig.-Gen. Nazir Assem Korran.
He said his soldiers, based in Irbil, were undergoing intensive training in urban combat.
The brigade is one of two coming from the Kurdish region, and a third brigade will come from southern Iraq. The second Kurdish brigade will come from the northern city of Sulaimaniyah.
Thousands of Iraqi and U.S. troops are expected to do neighbourhood searches to clear the city of Sunni Muslim insurgents and local militias such as the Mahdi Army of radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
The Mahdi Army has been blamed for much of the sectarian killing in the past months.
"We are going to confront any terrorist elements or militias. We will confront any outlaws," the general said.
Korran said his troops would face a language barrier because 95 per cent of the brigade is Kurdish and unable to speak Arabic. Kurds, a separate ethnic group, are largely Sunnis but not Arabs.
"I believe that we will bring translators with our brigade to solve this problem," he said.
The general said his troops were part of the Iraqi army and do not belong to local Kurdish militias, known as peshmergas, as some Iraqi media reports have claimed.
U.S. President George W. Bush announced this week that he would send 21,500 more troops to Iraq to help secure Baghdad's streets.
Bush said 80 per cent the violence in Iraq happened within a 50-kilometre radius of the city.
About 132,000 U.S. troops are already posted in Iraq. Under the plan unveiled Tuesday, 17,500 more soldiers would be deployed to the unstable capital and the other 4,000 would go to the violent Anbar province.
With files from the Associated Press