Al Qaeda in Iraq continues to target Sunni leaders of the Awakening councils that have sprung up throughout Iraq. In the latest attack, two suicide bombers assassinated Colonel Riyadh al Samarrai, the leader of the Adhamiyah neighborhood in Baghdad. Thirteen others were killed in the twin bombings. “One of the bombers detonated an explosive vest, the other struck with a car bomb,” Reuters reported.
The suicide vest bomber is said to have hugged Samarrai just before he detonated his vest, The Associated Press reported. The car bomber detonated after emergency crews arrived on the scene.
The suicide attack occurred at the entrance of the office of the Sunni Endowment, where al Samarrai was in charge of security. The Sunni Endowment, under the leadership of Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al Samarrai, turned on the Association of Muslim Scholars, the Sunni religious establishment that supports al Qaeda in Iraq on Nov. 14, 2007.
The Endowment, with the support of the Iraqi government and the Army, closed down the Association of Muslim Scholars’ Umm al Quraa mosque. Samarrai criticized the Association of Muslim Scholars as al Qaeda pawns. “The association has always justified killing and assassinations carried out by al Qaeda,” Samarrai said last November.
The attack in Baghdad was one of at least three engagements today between al Qaeda and the Awakening. The other two attacks occurred in Diyala province, where al Qaeda in Iraq has carved out a new safe haven near Miqdadiyah.
The largest attack occurred in Khalis, just north of Baqubah. Al Qaeda in Iraq kidnapped 13 members of tribal sheikh’s family and wounded two others. “Sheikh al Mandil is a leader of al Ubayd tribe,” Voices of Iraq reported. “According to initial information, the targeting of Sheikh Mandil’s house came after he planned to set up a Sahwa (awakening) council inside the village in order to fight members of al Qaeda.”
The second clash occurred in the town of Buhriz. One member of an Awakening patrol in the town was killed in a clash with al Qaeda fighters. The Awakening patrol captured three al Qaeda fighters during the fight and turned them over to police, Voices of Iraq reported.
Al Qaeda in Iraq has targeted the Awakening Councils on a near-daily basis. Over the past week, six high-profile attacks against Awakening forces occurred in Baghdad, Diyala, Anbar, and Babil provinces.
A member of the Fallujah tribal council was assassinated on Jan. 5. Eight Iraqis were killed, including two police and members of an Awakening patrol, and 16 wounded in an al Qaeda suicide attack in Baqubah. A suicide bomber killed 30 and wounded 38 in an attack on a funeral of a former Iraqi Army officer in Baghdad on Jan. 1.
There were two attacks on Awakening forces on Dec. 31. Eleven Iraqis were killed and seven wounded in a suicide attack on an Awakening checkpoint in northern Baghdad. One Awakening fighter was killed and three wounded in a suicide attack north of Hillah in Babil province.
Al Qaeda in Iraq initiated its terror campaign against the Awakening movements that have developed across the country to fight the terror group. On Dec. 3, 2007, “Abu Omar al Baghdadi,” the fictitious leader of al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq, released an audiotape outlining its “ghazw campaign” targeting the Awakening movements, the volunteer Concerned Local Citizens movements, and all who cooperate with them. “The individual mission of each mujahid [during the ghazw campaign] … is to conduct 3 IED attacks or 3 attacks with explosives, especially martyrdom attacks, or at least to kill 3 ‘apostates and traitors.'” The campaign is to end on or around Jan. 29, 2008.
On Dec. 29, Osama bin Laden issued an audiotape threatening Iraqi Sunnis who opposed al Qaeda’s Islamic State. Sunnis who participate in the Awakening movements would “suffer in life and in the afterlife,” bin Laden said.
Leaders of the Awakening in Diyala, Salahadin, and Anbar provinces responded to bin Laden’s threats, MEMRI reported. The Anbar leader said that al Qaeda was no longer influential in the province and that members of the Awakening would continue to hunt the terrorists until they were eliminated. The Salahadin commander called al Qaeda’s action un-Islamic and described its fighters as “gangs and highwaymen who harm the honor of the women of the Iraqis and shed [Iraqis’] blood.” According to MEMRI, the Diyala commander “accused al Qaeda of spreading corruption in Iraq and of attempting to occupy Iraq in the guise of serving the religion and Islam, and promised to eliminate al Qaeda members.”
Al Qaeda kicked off its anti-Awakening campaign strongly, with eight significant attacks during the first five days. At least 29 Iraqis were killed and 105 wounded in attacks on Awakening forces in the northern cities of Baiji and Baqubah on Dec. 25, 2007.
For additional information on al Qaeda’s attacks on the Awakening forces, see The Awakening, al Qaeda clash in Iraq [Dec. 17] and Al Qaeda continues attacks on Awakening security forces [Dec. 25].