Monday 19 February 2018

10 years on, al-Qa'ida reclaims Iraq's bloodstained streets

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein

Colin Freeman

TEN years after the capture of Saddam Hussein, Iraq is facing an insurgent bloodbath again as al-Qa'ida reclaims vast swathes of the country.

Today's anniversary sees the country still struggling with his legacy, and al-Qa'ida launching a fresh campaign of terrorist atrocities from new territory carved out in the west and north of the country.

Backed by jihadists fighting in neighbouring Syria, the group is trying to create an "emirate" straddling the two countries, taking advantage of the collapse in security across the border.

Bridges on roads around four towns near the border -- including Haditha and Rutba -- on the Iraqi side have been dynamited, making it difficult for security forces to operate in the area.

Road signs have even been put up proclaiming it to be the turf of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the name for the joint Syrian-Iraqi al-Qa'ida franchise.

Further north in the city of Mosul, another al-Qa'ida stronghold, the group is boosting its war chest by raking in up to €6million a month in "tithes" from local businesses.

Using its new haven as an operating base, al-Qa'ida has mounted repeated strikes across the country, with an average of 68 car bombs a month this year.

After a period between 2009 and 2011 in which violence waned, al-Qa'ida's resurgence in the past year has led to a fresh sense of despair on the streets of Baghdad.

"It is not as bad as during the civil war, but whenever you leave your house, you can't be sure that you will be coming back," said Shadi Karaqzi (23) an accountancy student smoking a shisha pipe in a central Baghdad cafe, itself the target of a car bomb attack in 2007. "We are living in terror."

The death toll for 2013 has hit 7,000. Some 979 people died in October alone, twice the death rate when US forces plucked Saddam from his "spider hole" in December 2003. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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