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Iraqi forces positioning for battle with al Qaeda loyalists

  • Story Highlights
  • Iraqis gather before planned operation against al Qaeda in Iraq
  • New video apparently shows former Iraqi police official joining insurgency
  • Ex-official in Saddam Hussein's government, his family killed in home invasion
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A major movement of Iraqi forces gathered on Sunday in Mosul as a prelude to a planned offensive against Islamic fighters loyal to al Qaeda, an Iraqi government spokesman said.

The forces include troops, special forces, tanks and Iraqi air force support, Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari told the state-run television network al-Iraqia. Iraqi police and the army will play the lead role and will be supported by multi-national forces, he said.

Al-Askari said multi-national forces and members of the country's "awakening councils" -- a frequent target of the jihadists -- will participate in the offensive as well. Awakening councils are largely Sunni Arab groups that are cooperating with U.S. troops against al Qaeda in Iraq.

A security official in Mosul told CNN that reinforcements from Baghdad would begin arriving Sunday and continue over the coming two weeks.

Plans for the offensive were announced the week after a police official was killed by a suicide bomber, and 34 people were killed and 224 wounded in a separate blast in western Mosul, about 400 kilometers north of Baghdad.

In a separate incident, a videotape of a man claiming to be Diyala province's deputy police commissioner saying he was joining the insurgency was posted Sunday on the Internet.

The video -- posted online by counterterrorism specialist Laura Mansfield -- shows the man, who identifies himself as Ayad Ismael Mheimed, making a statement to the camera and then handing over his gun and badge to jihadists with the Islamic State of Iraq, a group said to have connections to al Qaeda.

Mheimed was the Diyala deputy police chief until about six weeks ago when he resigned, a Diyala province security official told CNN. The official said he quit his job after receiving threats from al Qaeda in Iraq and after his son was kidnapped and released.

And on Saturday, the leader of a "concerned local citizen" group was killed in northern Baghdad when a bomb exploded in his car, the coalition military said in a written statement. The U.S. backed "concerned local citizen" program is intended to beef up security for individual tribes and groups, who are trained to conduct their own security operations and patrols but work under the authority of coalition and Iraqi security forces.

On Saturday night, knife-wielding home invaders attacked a former official in Saddam Hussein's government, killing him, his wife, son and daughter, an Interior Ministry official said.

Ahmen Ali was a Baghdad city official before the U.S.-led invasion, the official said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Ahmed Taha and Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report.

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