Date registered: Sep 2004
Vehicle: 95 E300
Location: Inside my head
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 392 Post(s)
Excellent news for Iraqis
Iraqi rebels turn on Qaeda in western city
Mon Jan 23, 2006 1:00 PM ET
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi nationalist rebels in the Sunni Arab city of Ramadi have turned against their former al Qaeda allies after a bomb attack this month killed 80 people, sparking tit-for-tat assassinations.
Residents told Reuters on Monday at least three prominent figures on both sides were among those killed after local insurgent groups formed an alliance against al Qaeda, blaming it for massacring police recruits in Ramadi on January 5.
"There was a meeting right after the bombings," one Ramadi resident familiar with the events said. "Tribal leaders and political figures gathered to form the Anbar Revolutionaries to fight al Qaeda in Anbar and force them to leave the province.
"Since then there has been all-out war between them," said the resident in the capital of the sprawling western desert province of Anbar, speaking anonymously for fear of reprisals.
Local Iraqi officials confirmed residents' accounts of events but declined to comment publicly.
The bloodshed is the latest example of a trend U.S. military commanders and diplomats have been pointing to optimistically in recent months as a sign that some militants may be ready to pursue negotiable demands through the new Sunni Arab engagement in parliament after taking part in last month's election.
On Thursday, three local Islamist groups around Ramadi -- the 1920 Brigades, the Mujahideen Army and the Islamic Movement for Iraq's Mujahideen -- also met to distance themselves from their fellow Islamists in Qaeda, joining the shift against al Qaeda led by more secular, tribal and nationalist groups.
The pan-Arab Al Hayat newspaper quoted a statement from six Iraqi armed groups on Monday announcing they had united to form the "People's Cell" to confront Zarqawi and preserve security in the Anbar province.
The statement condemned "armed operations which target innocents" and affirmed "a halt to cooperation with al Qaeda".
Both sides have distributed leaflets in the city of half a million claiming killings of opponents.
"Qaeda announces the killing of someone in the Revolutionaries and then the others announce they have killed someone in Qaeda," the resident said.
Another resident following events closely said: "The conflict is now clear between the militant groups and al Qaeda; the Anbar Revolutionaries who were formed after the attacks say they want to eliminate al Qaeda from Anbar."
It comes at a time when violence by al Qaeda, committed to a single Islamic state in the Arab world, slackened in Anbar and increased further east, notably in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, where the Iraqi military has alerted troops to be on the lookout for al Qaeda in Iraq's leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Nationalist militants -- some followers of Saddam Hussein's secular Baath party, others loyal to tribal chiefs -- have voiced increasing frustration with the tactics of al Qaeda in Iraq; keen for a say in parliament, they warned al Qaeda not to attack Sunni Arabs going to vote in the December 15 election.
The international Islamists' suicide bombings, especially those targeting civilians, have been counterproductive, some other insurgent spokesmen have said in recent months. Though influenced by foreign leaders, most al Qaeda fighters are Iraqi.
Since U.S. forces overthrew Saddam's Sunni-dominated government in 2003, disparate Iraqi groups have made common cause with foreign Islamists like Zarqawi and their Iraqi supporters, seeking to force out U.S. troops and bring down the U.S.-backed government of Shi'ites and Kurds.
The foreign-backed groups have brought in young suicide bombers while local insurgents have provided explosives and intelligence; there are signs, however, that their goals may be diverging, with some nationalists seeing political negotiation in Baghdad as a way of attaining some of their goals.
Among victims of the killings in Ramadi, residents said, was Hameed Faisal, a university professor killed after the Revolutionaries denounced Qaeda leaders named Abu Khattab and Abu Maad. In a reprisal, residents said, a militant named Medhat Abu Mustafa was killed and Qaeda claimed the assassination of an Islamist leader, Nasser Abdul Karim, an opponent of al Qaeda.
U.S. Major General Rick Lynch said in Baghdad last week: "We are seeing examples of Iraqi rejectionists (nationalists) taking up arms and informing on terrorists and foreign fighters.
"We are seeing this in Ramadi."