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A New Awakening Council

Muhammed Abdullah
Fears of the return of security problems began to mount among the citizens of Diyala and security forces after the kidnapping of 10 tribal shayks, members of the Diyala Awakening Council, and the killing of one…
8.11.2007  |  Diyala

According to sources closely related to the kidnapped delegation, an armed group affiliated with one of the "influential religious streams" blocked the road between the majority-Shi'ite town of Sa'ab, 40 kilometers north of Baghdad, and al-Rashidiyah, south of Ba'qoubah, killing the leader of the Izzat tribe and abducting the delegation of ten shaykhs. The same sources said that, "the kidnapping took place when the delegation formed of the tribal leaders of al-Janabat, al-Ubaidat, and al-'Azza, in addition to leaders from Ta'mim and other tribes, who later on declared that they have joined the Diyala Awakening Council, was heading home after meeting with Prim Minster Nuri al-Maliki."

Request for compensation

Leaders and tribesmen in Ba'qubah stress the importance of putting an end to the growing influence of armed groups with religious tendencies and believe in the importance of the participation of tribes in the security plans. Shaykh Sabah Shukr Hamud al-Shammari, spokesman of the Diyala Support and Reconciliation Council (previously known as Diyala Salvation Council) told Niqash that his tribe, the Shammar, "has been one of the most targeted tribes by terrorists during the last four years. 700 members of the tribe were killed, 450 women widowed and 1,200 children orphaned. Additionally, 16 villages inhabited by the tribe were burned and the four Hussayniyat (Shi'ite religious centers) of the tribe were blown up," indicating that, "putting an end to the crisis cannot be done in one or two meetings." He continued that, "Those who seek national reconciliation should understand that such reconciliation should be accomplished on the ground and in the field but not in official corridors. Those who seek reconciliation should find remedial solutions for the problems; they should convince women in grieve for the loss of their sons or husbands; they should compensate people for the assaults and theft of their farms and fields; they should compensate those whose shops were raided and burned. They should do all this before thinking of holding a fancy banquet and claiming that it is a reconciliation summit and before paying its cost from the people's money."

Armed militias

The security operation launched by the Iraqi and American troops in mid-July 2007 against the strongholds of al-Qaida and armed groups allied with it in the city was one of the reasons for hundreds of insurgents to join the war against al-Qaida, after lengthy conflicts between these insurgents and al-Qaida. Intelligence sources told Niqash in a telephone conversation that, "the armed phalanges, later on became to be known as popular committees, started to replace government security apparatuses in the city and to impose their control over it. Tens of citizens were arrested by the popular committees and those, according to security departments, should be handed over. This has led again to the eruption of conflicts between the armed militias and the security apparatuses, to the deepening of administrative, security and ethnic impasse in the city."

The citizens of Ba'qubah, a mixture of Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kurds, demand the disbanding of these armed phalanges that are supported by the US troops and who, according to them, are playing the roles of militias and gangs. They also demand an expansion of the security campaign to cover wider areas of the city, outside the center, as they are central areas for pro al-Qaida armed groups.

Sectarian tensions and Shi'ite awakening

Seven hundred tribal leaders and academics stressed during one of the conferences held by the Diyala Awakening Council in recent days that, "the return of forcibly deported families to their homes and the return of their property is the real indicator of stable security conditions and peace. Otherwise, relative victories accomplished remain insufficient." Tribal leaders demand from the Iraqi government and the multi-national forces to "legitimize" and support more than 30,000 fighters, sons of these tribes, in order to start a genuine battle against al-Qaida. Citizens of Diyala blame military and security leaders for the deteriorating security situation and for ethnic cleansing which have lead to the deportation of 32,800 families from the city. In the meantime, members of the local council accuse government officials of supporting armed militias. A security source in the city told Niqash that a meeting will be held soon with tribal and religious leaders in order to form a Shi'ite awakening council and to put an end to the influence of the militias in Ba'qubah. Meanwhile, the Khalis neighborhood in Ba'qubah and other areas are witnessing a sectarian as armed militias affiliated with al-Mahdi Army, led by the young religious cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, taking control. In response, said the security source, "The awakening councils, which will be created have received the backing and support of big and influential families in the city."

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