Kidnappings, attacks on security forces and bombings returned to Diyala Province this spring. The region saw relative stability through 2008 and 2009 but now locals fear a return to the fierce violence of the past.
Iraqi security forces must prove their ability to protect the population and themselves against terrorist attacks, with armed groups focusing their attacks on the houses of police and security officers."All three houses destroyed this month are owned by police officers," said Abu Sujjad, who sells fuel in al-Tahrir district, one of al Qaeda’s former strongholds in Diyala. "Many police cars have been damaged in al-Tahrir district."
The president of Diyala’s security council committee, Muthana al-Tamimi, further intensified people’s fears in the province when he criticised the readiness of Diyala’s police.
"The security precautionary measures are not up to expectations," he said.
The al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia Organisation, working under the name ‘Islamic State In Iraq’ is one of the most active armed organisations in the city and is known known for its multi-ethnic and sectarian nature.
Attacks by the organisation, which have been ongoing for four years, caused thousands of deaths and forced many thousands more to leave the province.
In 2006, Tribal Awakening Councils were formed from former members of the organisation. With the assistance of US troops, who armed and trained them, the awakening councils defeated al-Qaeda, killing and arresting many of its leaders and causing violence in the province to decrease by over 60 percent.
Since, al-Qaeda forces have gradually rebuilt their strength, renewing their bloody attacks in Baquba and other parts of Diyala province.
Members of the awakening councils were assassinated, the latest being Thiyab Daoud and his wife, the awakening leader of al-Ubour village, who was killed on 14 June by an armed attack on his house in the village, 10 km north of Baquba.
"Al Qaeda’s leaders in Afghanistan have sent around 200 fighters to fight against the infidel occupiers and to spread Jihad against Washington all over the Islamic lands,” said Abu al-Fawwaz al-Iraqi, one of Diyala's awakening councils' leaders.
"However, the organisation was able to gain more power because a number of former Iraqi army leaders, known for their loyalty to Saddam Hussein's regime, joined them and were able to launch more attacks.”
After two of the most wanted al-Qaeda leaders were killed in al-Tharthar, near Samarra, in a joint military operation on 18 April, security leaders predicted the collapse of the organisation. Abu Umar al-Baghdadi and his war minister, Abu Ayoub al-Masri, had evaded capture for four years.
Recent attacks have proven that their security information was not so accurate.
Brigadier General Muhammad al-Tamimi, who is responsible for the counter-terrorism department, told Niqash that "the attacks against al-Qaeda have greatly changed the organisation's structure but it was able to regain its strength and to launch new attacks which have put security forces under more pressure.
"the arrest of senior members of the Organisation, Manaf al-Rawi, known as the Wali of Baghdad, and other leading members prompted them to launch heavy attacks such as the one carried out by five suicide bombers against the Central Bank of Iraq on 13 June."
Al-Qaeda’s recent attacks were launched under the name ‘Ghazwat al-Aseer’ (‘Prisoner’s Raid’), referring to one of al-Qaeda’s most prominent leaders who is currently detained by the Iraqi government.
A security official from the counter-terrorism department's information section confirmed this information. He told Niqash that "the title of al-Qaeda's operation is a clear indication that one of its prominent leaders has been arrested and that the security forces have not yet announced his name and his identity."
The official, speaking on conditions of anonymity, said that the “available information indicates that al-Qaeda, who was able to appoint a new leader in Iraq, increased its strength when former military leaders from the Baath regime era started to plan attacks for al-Qaeda members."
According to the US internet monitoring site, Center, al-Qaeda appointed al-Naser Li-Deen Allah Abu Suleiman as its new war minister after the death of al-Baghdadi and al-Masri.
According to the information collected, Abu Suleiman is originally from Morocco and has a more aggressive and extremist nature than his predecessors.