BAGHDAD — Iraq's prime minister put his nation on its highest level of alert for terror attacks, warning of plots to sow fear and chaos as the US combat mission in the country formally ends on Tuesday.
The Iraqi security forces who will be left in charge have been hammered by bomb attacks, prompting fears of a new insurgent offensive and criticism of the government's preparedness to protect its people. Still, President Barack Obama left no doubt Saturday in his weekly radio address that the US is sticking to its promise to pull out of Iraq despite the uptick in violence.
In a statement to state-run television, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Iraqi intelligence indicated an al-Qaida front group and members of Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party are collaborating to launch attacks "to create fear and chaos and kill more innocents."
"We direct the Iraqi forces, police and army and other security forces, to take the highest alert and precautionary measures to foil this criminal planning," al-Maliki said in the statement issued late Friday.
A senior Iraqi intelligence official on Saturday said security forces believe suicide bombers have entered the country with plans to strike unspecified targets in Baghdad by month's end. The official did not know how many bombers or where they would attack, and spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.