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Diyala Confronts New al-Qaeda Threat

Muhammed Abdullah
New security warnings in Diyala are increasing fears that al-Qaeda and other armed groups may be seeking to re-establish themselves in the province.
5.10.2009  |  Diyala

The fears come as al-Qaeda announced in September the recreation of the ‘Islamic State of Iraq’ in the province. The group, first created in 2006 and later defeated by tribal and governmental forces, could suggests that extremists are preparing for a new offensive.

“Security investigation with Arab detainees who were recently arrested, confirmed the intentions of al-Qaeda to destabilize the security situation in the province," warned police commander General Abdulul-Hussein al-Shammari recently.

In a web-site posting Al-Qaeda in Iraq appointed Abu Hamza al-Muhajer to the post of the first minister and minister of war in the new Islamic State of Iraq government. Eight other ministers were also announced: Abdul-Wahhab al-Mashhadani, minister of Islamic law commissions; Muhammad al-Dulami, minister of public relations; Ali Hassan al-Jibouri, minister of martyrs affairs; Abdul-Razzaq al-Shammari, minister of security; Abdullah Al-Qaysi, health minister, Ahmad al-Taei, information minister; Usama al-Luhaibi, oil minister; and Younis Hamadani, finance minister.

Observers today fear that unrelenting violence in different areas of the province, especially in al-Miqdadiyah district, Buhruz and al-Tahreer neighbourhoods, reflect wider support for the Islamic State in Iraq from other fundamentalist organizations such as the Iraqi Islamic Army Organization, the Rashidain Army and the Armed Naqshabandy group.

During the last month, fundamentalist organizations have successfully mounted a number of attacks including a suicide bombing in Baqouba’s popular market, which killed four people and injured 13.

Yet despite the recent upsurge in violence and fears associated with the re-emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq, security officials have sought to play down fears and reassure people that the situation is under control.

"The statement of the organizations will not have any impact on the government and the security situation,” al-Shammari told Niqash. “The days of armed militias have gone once and forever.”

For his part, Ghalib al-Karkhi, police spokesman in Diyala, said that “the security services have full control over the security issue.” At the same time, al-Karkhi appealed to the people of Diyala to provide security forces with any information on new movements or cells of armed groups that they might encounter.

In the meanwhile, political figures from Diyala have ruled out the possibility of an outbreak of new sectarian violence following the recent attacks.

Sadeq al-Hussaini, deputy president of the province’s council for the Shia United Iraqi Alliance, told Niqash that “today, the Islamic State of Iraq is unable to gain the loyalty of Sunni citizens in Diyala, unlike the success it achieved after the Samarra bombings and the subsequent sectarian tensions.”

Likewise, leading members of Islamic Sunni parties have stressed that a new sectarian war is not going to break out, affirming that extremist groups no longer enjoy popular support.

Mahdi al-Jibouri, a leading member of the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party told Niqash that “the current political situation is radically different from that which prevailed in the past. Political forces and blocs have now realized that the existence of armed groups and sectarian militias is wrong.”

While in 2006 and 2007 extremist groups were able to mount a successful offensive in the province, the last two years have witnessed an unprecedented ‘Sunni coup d'état’ against extremist groups. With the creation of the tribal awakening councils and the integration of Sunni parties into the political process, the fighting strength and political support of extremist groups has collapsed.

Sunni and Shia tribal leaders have held a number of special conferences to initiate the national reconciliation process in the province. Committees have also been formed to oversee the implementation of charters related to the return of displaced families following the sectarian violence and to ensure that these families are provided with necessary protection.

Politicians and tribal leaders believe that these measures will ensure continued popular support for the political process and the rejection of extremist groups.

Sheikh Naseral-Hazzal, one of the most prominent leaders of the Anza tribe told Niqash that in the present security climate, the people of Baqouba prefer to support the political parties than the Talaban vision espoused by al-Qaeda.

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