BAGHDAD (AFP) — Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Saturday that the country's security forces have managed to save Baghdad from a "siege by terrorists" backed by foreign nations.
"When we took over Baghdad it was under siege, with all roads leading to neighbouring provinces controlled by terrorists. They had surrounded Baghdad from all sides, backed by the bad intentions of other countries," Maliki told a gathering of top Iraqi and US officials including Washington's envoy to Baghdad Ryan Crocker.
"We wanted these nations to support and assist us in stabilising the country but they were thinking of finishing Baghdad," he said, without naming the countries.
"But Baghdad continues to stand," the Shiite prime minister said in a speech marking the fifth anniversary of the killing of prominent Shiite leader Mohammed Bakr al-Hakim in a 2003 car bombing in the holy city of Najaf.
"Yes, there are still Al-Qaeda militants left but they are being chased. We are hunting them. But we have been able to lift the siege of Baghdad."
Baghdad was the epicentre of violence in Iraq when sectarian bloodshed broke out in early 2006.
Daily car bombing, suicide attacks, and militia shoot-outs ripped through the Iraqi capital leaving tens of thousands of people dead, until mid-2007 when violence started to ebb following a US military troop "surge".
The US military claims most of the insurgent attacks in Baghdad and other regions of Iraq have been carried out by Al-Qaeda fighters, many of whom are foreigners entering the country from Syria.
It also accuses Iranian-linked groups of arming, funding and training Shiite groups to wage attacks against Sunni Arabs and foreign forces operating in the violence-wracked country.
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