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Iraqi leader offers amnesty for turning in weapons

  • Story Highlights
  • Mosul and Ninevah province gunmen to be paid and avoid jail if they turn in weapons
  • Those who have committed crimes against civilians don't qualify
  • Officials: Mosul last big urban stronghold for al Qaeda in Iraq
  • Operations in Mosul have netted more than 800 arrests since last weekend
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From Jomana Karadsheh
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Gunmen in a northern Iraq province have been given 10 days to turn in their weapons to avoid jail time and get a monetary reward.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said the offer applies to people in Nineveh province and its capital of Mosul who were "duped and carried weapons" against security forces, but "whose hands are not covered in blood."

They must turn over their medium and heavy weapons to security forces and tribal leaders, al-Maliki said.

Those who have committed crimes against civilians do not qualify for the amnesty.

Al-Maliki is in Mosul overseeing a military offensive called Mother of Two Springs against al Qaeda in Iraq. The prime minister issued a statement saying the operation "will achieve its goals with God's will and your cooperation with the armed forces and security apparatus."

An operation that began last weekend, Lion's Roar, and Mother of Two Springs have netted more than 800 arrests in Nineveh, state TV quoted the Interior Ministry as announcing.

Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said Wednesday that Lion's Roar was a preliminary security plan that set the stage for this week's Operation Mother of Two Springs.

Officials call Mosul the last big urban stronghold for the predominantly Sunni organization al Qaeda in Iraq.

Al-Maliki also met with a Christian delegation in Mosul on Friday. The Mother of Two Springs operation aims to end the suffering of the people of Mosul, including its Christians, he told them, according to a statement from the prime minister's office.

Although Christians are a small minority in Iraq, thousands live in the Mosul area. They, and their churches, have been targets of extremists since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

The operation will continue until the situation becomes stable, and until closed bridges and roads are reopened, al-Maliki said Friday in the statement.

He urged young Christian men to join the Iraqi Security Forces.

"We have a number of solutions for imposing law and returning displaced families of all sects," he said. "And we want the Christians, Yazidis to bring their sons into the armed forces."

Yazidis are members of a small and ancient Kurdish sect.

On Thursday, al-Maliki met with tribal leaders and former Saddam Hussein-regime army officers to ask for their support in the campaign to oust the insurgents.

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