Iraqi police, Army and tribal fighters rout a major al Qaeda in Iraq attack
Thursday’s battle in the village of Amiriya, just south of Fallujah, highlights the ongoing battle between the Sunni tribes and al Qaeda in Anbar province. At least 50 al Qaeda were killed and 80 captured in the largest battles between al Qaeda and Iraqi police, Army and the Anbar Salvation Council in Anbar province this year.
The media accounts claim ‘insurgents’ attacked the village, but do not provide a reason for the attack. “The clashes on Wednesday began about 1 p.m. when insurgents attacked a village near Fallujah, about 35 miles west of Baghdad, and ended about six hours later when Iraqi soldiers, police and the tribal fighters killed 50 suspected insurgents and captured 80 others, according to Abdul-Karim Khalaf, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry. Khalaf declined to say how many Iraqi security personnel were killed or injured,” The Washington Post reports.
But the full story, according to an American military officer and an American intelligence source, is that al Qaeda in Iraq, under the banner of the Islamic State of Iraq, assembled several hundred fighters to attack a prominent leader of the Anbar Salvation Council, the grouping of local tribes and Baathists, and former insurgents who now oppose al Qaeda in Iraqi. The leader of the Anbar Salvation Council was to attend the funeral of one of those killed in last week’s suicide bombing in Habbaniyah.
The Iraqi police in Amiriya held off the attack, and radioed for backup from Iraqi Army, police and members of the Thurwa al-Anbar, the tribal militias assembled by the Anbar Salvation Council. U.S. air support was called in to help fend off the attack. The Anbar Salvation Council leader escaped as Army, police and tribal fighters poured into the village and routed the al Qaeda force, which was estimated to be several hundred fighters. Once intelligence source claims the figure of 50 al Qaeda killed is low, and the number is likely over 100.
The New York Times claims “two groups that have had ties to insurgents, the Islamic Party Fighters and forces of the 20th Revolution brigade, counterattacked in support of the local residents.” The proper name for the insurgent groups are the Islamic Army in Iraq, and the 1920s Revolution Brigades. And they also fought with Iraqi Army and police units.
While al Qaeda in Iraq, via its political front the Islamic State of Iraq, claims the Islamic Army in Iraq and the 1920s Revolution Brigades are now part of its organization, this is only partially true. al Qaeda, through a campaign of intimidation and assassinations, has co opted some elements of the domestic Sunni insurgent groups, as well as at least 6 of the 31 major tribes in Anbar province. But the full contingents of the domestic insurgent groups such as the Islamic Army in Iraq and the 1920s Revolution Brigades did not go over to al Qaeda. Some have chosen to stand up against al Qaeda in Iraq.
Last week’s suicide bombing in Habbaniyah targeted Sunni religious and insurgent leaders who have begun to speak out and act against al Qaeda. “Senior commanders of the Islamic Army in Iraq, the Jaish Al-Mujahideen and the 1920 Revolution Brigades” were killed in the Habbaniyah mosque bombing last weekend, according to the Al-Badeel Al-Iraqi website. “Ayad Al-Dulaimi, Khalid Abdullah Al-Khalifawi and Abu Al-Waleed Al-Mar’awi from the Islamic Army and Aswad Kamil Al-Falahi and Ahmed Sabah from the 1920 Revolution Brigades were all killed in the explosion,” notes IraqSlogger. “Sheikh Mohammed Al-Mar’awi, the imam of the mosque, had criticized al Qaeda for targeting American troops in the vicinity of civilian areas.”
Elements of the Islamic Army in Iraq, Jaish Al-Mujahideen, the 1920 Revolution Brigades and other elements of the Sunni insurgency are battling al Qaeda in Anbar, and are fighting alongside government forces. al Qaeda countering by assassinating as many of the leaders of the Sunni opposition as possible. Last week’s bombing of the Habbaniyah mosque, as well as the assassination attempt against Shiekh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, the head of the Anbar Salvation Council, and yesterday’s attack in Amiriya are part of a campaign to deprive the Sunni opposition of its leadership.