BAGHDAD -- Iraq's interim president issued a warning yesterday to guerrillas who have killed hundreds of Iraqis, pledging 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 also has been talking increasingly tough about those who carry 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 said. "We have a very sharp sword ready for anyone who threatens the security of this country."
In a crackdown last night, dozens of Iraqi police fanned out in the Bab Alsheikh neighborhood in Baghdad, setting off small gunfights 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, Iraq's deputy interior minister.
Meanwhile, Philippine official Rafael Seguis said his country would pull its troops from Iraq "as soon as possible" in response to kidnappers' demands. It was unclear whether any pullout would be ahead of the troops scheduled Aug. 20 departure.
Insurgents holding Filipino truck driver Angelo dela Cruz hostage said they had moved him to a site where he would be killed if the Philippines did not agree to remove its 51-member peacekeeping force by next Tuesday.
In a new video, Dela Cruz pleaded with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to withdraw the country's 51 troops early so that he would not be killed, Al-Jazeera said. He also asked that his body be taken to his country if he is killed.
The militant group, the Iraqi Islamic Army--Khaled bin Al-Waleed Corps, said it had done everything possible to prove that it wanted to spare the life of the 46-year-old father of eight, adding that it had given him food and water.
Kidnappings, car bombs, assassinations, and other violence have hindered Iraq's efforts to rebuild after sanctions and war. Attacks have killed scores of US troops and hundreds of Iraqi civilians in the 15 months since Saddam Hussein's ouster.
US officials have long attributed the violence to foreign fighters, but the military recently said most of the fighters are Hussein loyalists.
Yesterday, Iraq's human rights minister, Bakhtiyar Amin, said the government has 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, a Lebanese, a Moroccan, a Turk, and an Afghan.
Diplomats took steps yesterday to help Iraq restore order, with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan choosing Pakistani diplomat Ashraf Jehangir Qazi as the new UN envoy to Iraq.
Qazi, the ambassador to Washington, will replace Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was among 22 people killed in the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad on Aug. 19.
In Brussels, the European Union foreign ministers pledged to help promote a stable democracy in Iraq by offering economic aid -- as soon as the security situation allows. Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari of Iraq thanked the EU for being the largest donor of humanitarian aid to his nation but called for further "direct assistance."
Also yesterday, 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 -- the first time the banner has flown there in 13 years.
Yawer, whose presidential post is largely ceremonial, said at a news conference that insurgents no longer can wage attacks under the guise of resistance to an occupying power, because 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.' "
Yawer, leader of the Shammar tribe, said the government planned to announce an amnesty soon, and he urged militants to seize the opportunity to lay down their weapons, or "there will be the sword."