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Iraqis Prepare For Operation Lightning --> An Iraqi police patrol (file photo) Baghdad, 28 May 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Iraq's Interior and Defense ministries yesterday planned for an upcoming operation that will deploy some 40,000 soldiers in Baghdad to hunt down insurgents responsible for killing hundreds of Iraqis in recent weeks.

The Defense Ministry gave few details of Operation Lightning ("Barq" in Arabic) when making the announcement yesterday. It is unclear if U.S. forces will participate in the maneuvers, aimed to establish a security ring and checkpoints around the capital.

In other developments, a message posted on Islamic websites yesterday says Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the reported leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, is in "good health" and "running the jihad."

The message comes after an Islamic website on 24 May said al-Zarqawi had been wounded. The validity of both messages cannot be confirmed.

(RFE/RL Iraqi Service, agencies)