BAGHDAD -- An Iraqi provincial governor says terrorist groups are behind recent armed attacks on U.S. forces in the region, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.
Adnan al-Zurfi, governor of the holy city of Al-Najaf, told RFI on April 11 that the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq must be fully respected because it has been approved by Baghdad under the Status of Forces Agreement signed by the countries.
"We will not tolerate any infringement on agreements signed by the federal government with any other country in the world," Zurfi told RFI. "The U.S. forces are here because there is an agreement between the Iraqi government and the United States, anyone who violates this agreement will be subject to legal prosecution."
Last week, U.S. forces accused local officials in the nearby city of Al-Diwaniyah, of conspiring in attacks against U.S. soldiers in southern Iraq.
U.S. Army officials said in a recent statement that one of its patrols came under fire from unknown assailants outside Al-Najaf. It added that one U.S. unit was attacked a few days later inside Al-Najaf at a provincial police headquarters.
Zurfi said armed terrorist groups are behind all of those attacks. Their goal, he said, is to prevent the smooth withdrawal of U.S. forces as is planned at the end of this year and also to present themselves as an alternative security force.
"But these people have no place in Iraq. Iraq is a country of freedom and democracy," he told RFI.
"In Iraq we have multiple political parties," he added. "This is a country where power is transferred in a peaceful manner and which does not need any kind of militia or armed groups. Instead, it needs a secure environment for everyone, a strong economy, and reconstruction."
Zurfi also announced the arrest of two people suspected of belonging to an armed group. He said provincial security forces are going after others who he said are coming from regions outside of Al-Najaf and trying to undermine security.
According to a U.S. Army official, U.S. forces in Al-Najaf were attacked a total of six times in March and April.
The so-called Brigades of Hizbullah in Iraq -- accused by the U.S. Army of being backed by Iran -- recently published statements and videos about attacks on American forces in southern Iraq.
Al-Najaf is 160 kilometers south of Baghdad.Read more in Arabic here