Al Qaeda front group the Islamic State in Iraq has claimed responsibility for last week’s deadly truck bombings in Baghdad.
The bombings, which targeted Iraqi’s foreign and finance ministries, killed more than 100 Iraqis and wounded hundreds more. The bombings took place less than two months after the Iraqi security forces took control of security in the cities, and US forces withdrew to bases. The Iraqi government was also beginning to remove the concrete barriers that line the city streets.
Al Qaeda in Iraq said its “sons launched a new blessed attack at the heart of wounded Baghdad,” designed to “wreck the bastions of infidelity.”
The attack was designed to shake the Iraqi people’s faith in the government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and show that the Iraqi Security Forces are incapable of providing security. Al Qaeda accuses Maliki of being an Iranian agent.
The bombings “shook the earth under their feet and tore apart their hearts of fear and horror, proving to everyone the weakness of their government,” the statement read, according to a translation by the Associated Press.
The blasts have shaken the Iraqi government and security forces. Prime Minister Maliki has been accused of ramping down security efforts too quickly in an attempt to gain political favor before the upcoming January elections. Since the attack, Maliki has ordered the concrete blast walls to be put back up around sensitive sites, and the military has arrested 11 officers for negligence or aiding in the attack.
The Iraqi government has accused both al Qaeda in Iraq and former Ba’athists operating from Syria of conducting the attack. On Aug. 23, state-run television aired the confession of a senior member of the Ba’ath party who is accused of masterminding the attacks.
The suspect claimed he was a former policeman in Miqdadiyah in eastern Diyala province, a region that has served as a bastion for al Qaeda in Iraq. He said the attackers paid $10,000 in bribes to ensure that their trucks would pass through checkpoints into Baghdad. The attack was ordered by a senior Ba’ath official based in Syria.
Today, the Iraqi government asked Syria to turn over senior Ba’athists Sattam Farhan and Mohammad Younis al Ahmed for their involvement in last week’s bombings.
Al Qaeda in Iraq is regrouping in Syria in an attempt to re-launch a terror war against the Maliki regime. Sheikh Issa al Masri, a senior commander and ideologue, is reported to have been sent to Damascus to reestablish al Qaeda’s facilitation and operations networks inside Syria. Sheikh Issa is working in conjunction with Abu Khalaf. The two are thought to have been behind the recent suicide attacks in Ninewa province and in Baghdad.
Al Qaeda in Iraq and Ba’athist insurgent groups have cooperated in the past. Between 2006 and 2007, units of the Islamic Army of Iraq, a group largely made up of former Ba’athists and soldiers, were subsumed into al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq.
The groups began to clash after al Qaeda assassinated tribal leaders and leaders of rival insurgent groups, and attempted to take over the Sunni insurgency through the Islamic State of Iraq. Other Sunni insurgent groups such as the 1920s Revolution Brigades turned on al Qaeda and formed government-sanctioned militias called Awakening councils. The Anbar Awakening, the nucleus of the group, drove al Qaeda out of the province just as the US began ramping up forces in 2007 as part of the “surge.”
During the military operations in 2007, Al Qaeda in Iraq and the remaining elements of the Sunni insurgents that went against the state were largely defeated. The groups went from controlling vast tracts of territory to small pockets in the northern regions of Diyala and Ninewa provinces. Al Qaeda in Iraq still possesses the capacity to conduct large strikes periodically, but no longer controls territory in Iraq.