Iraq polices with drones
Baghdad - Iraq has started flying
unmanned aircraft or drones along its borders to stop foreign
fighters and arms entering through neighbouring countries, the
interior ministry said on Tuesday.
Interior ministry spokesperson Major-General Abdul Karim Khalaf
said the drones would police all Iraq's borders and their first
mission took place two weeks ago.
"This is the first time Iraq has used unmanned planes to
intensify the monitoring of Iraqi borders," Khalaf told a news
conference. "This is a new technique to control our borders,
which exceed 3 600km."
Last month US forces shot down an Iranian drone spy plane
that ventured inside Iraq in an incursion that angered Iraqi
officials deeply suspicious of their more powerful neighbour's
For years Sunni Islamist al-Qaeda militants crossed into
Iraq's western deserts through Syria, while Shi'ite militiamen
received arms, weapons and training through the mountainous
border with Iran.
Violence has fallen
US and Iraqi officials say the flow of foreign fighters
through Syria has fallen drastically and tighter border security
has forced al-Qaeda to rely on young and inexperienced local
High-tech scanning equipment installed at crossing points on
the Iranian border has meanwhile constricted the flow of weapons
for what the US military alleges are Iranian-backed Shi'ite
militias. Tehran denies backing Iraqi militants.
Violence across Iraq has fallen sharply in the past 18
months. The US troops that invaded in 2003 to topple president
Saddam Hussein will cease combat operations by August 31 next year
and will all have left by the end of 2011.
Khalaf said the drones were most useful at night, when their
infrared sensors could detect the body heat of militants.
"The planes have already been used to chase three
infiltrators," he said.
Khalaf said the number of border security centres had
increased tenfold since 2006, with the average distance between
them now around 1 500m, compared with 10km to 15km three years ago when sectarian bloodshed
raged in Iraq.