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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Maliki Vows to Crack Down on Militias and Insurgents

BAGHDAD -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki vowed on Thursday that his crackdown in Baghdad would leave militants nowhere to hide, even if they sought refuge in mosques or schools.

In a speech to the parliament, Maliki urged politicians on all sides to support his Baghdad security plan, backed by some 17,000 U.S. reinforcements, which is seen by many as a last chance to stem sectarian violence in the capital.

"There will be no safe haven -- no school, no home, no [Sunni] mosque or Shiite mosque. They will all be raided if they are turned into a launch pad for terrorism, even the headquarters of political parties," Maliki said.

"I know that senior criminals have left Baghdad, others have fled the country. This is good, this shows that our message is being taken seriously," he said.

There has been some concern that militants could simply avoid confrontation during the crackdown, betting that U.S. troops would eventually leave.

"There is a ... concern they might be lying low, avoiding conflict now in order to fight another day," U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said Wednesday.

Criticized for not doing enough about Shiite militias linked to some of his allies, particularly radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army militia, Maliki has vowed to take on armed groups regardless of sect or political affiliation.

"We have worked hard to get professional officers to lead this plan, with no political affiliations. So let's all help these officers," Maliki said, answering criticism that the Iraqi army and police are infiltrated by sectarian militias.

Maliki rejected suggestions that his security plan represented a last chance, saying: "The battle between us and terrorism is an open-ended battle. It does not stop with the end of this plan."