Saturday, March 24, 2007

Sunni Officials Reconsider Ties to Insurgents

Looks like Harith al Dhari might have to stay in Jordan for the rest of his life.

Sunni Officials Reconsider Ties to Insurgents
Clashes Erupt in Western Baghdad; Bombings, Mortar Attacks

Al-Melaf’s correspondent in Baghdad reports that some figures in the Sunni Arab political leadership are reconsidering their connections to insurgent groups in light of the assassination attempt against Deputy Prime Minister Salam Al-Zobai (Sunni, Iraqi Accord Front) in a suicide attack at his residence in Baghdad yesterday. Al-Zobai, a high profile Sunni politician in the Shi’ite-led Iraqi government, was injured in the bombing and remains in intensive care. Iraqi authorities detained several members of his security detail following the attack after Dhafir Al-Ani, a member of Al-Zobai’s bloc in parliament, said the suicide bomber was one of the deputy prime minister’s bodyguards. The Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group of extremist insurgent groups including Al-Qaeda in Iraq, claimed responsibility for the attack in an Internet statement. Several Sunni politicians, such as Vice President Tariq Al-Hashimi and the Accord Front leader Adnan Al-Dulaimi, have defended insurgent groups in the past, but the attack against Al-Zobai, the third against Sunni politicians in the last few months, is a clear message from insurgent groups that they are targets as well.

An unnamed Iraqi security official had identified the suicide bomber as Weheb Al-Sa’di, a bodyguard of Al-Zobai who was in detention by Iraqi authorities on terrorism charges last year before the deputy prime minister intervened to secure his release. The state-run Al-Iraqiya TV confirmed the identity of the bomber, while Alaa’ Al-Zobai, the deputy prime minister’s brother, denied the reports in a statement to wire agencies. The Sadrist Nahrain Net website quotes an anonymous Iraqi official who said Al-Sa’di was close to Harith Al-Dhari, the head of the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq who is wanted by the Iraqi government on charges of inciting terrorism.

Eye Iraq Media reported fierce clashes between unknown gunmen and Iraqi Army troops in the Jami’a district west of Baghdad near the highway going on since early morning. Residents in western Baghdad have reported massive explosions and U.S. and Iraqi troops have been conducting raids in the Sunni-majority districts of Jami’a, Adil, Ghazaliya, Amiriya, Yarmouk and Mansour for the fourth day in a row, according to residents. Eye Iraq also reported that ten civilians were killed and wounded in a mortar attack at the Shi’ite-majority Abu Dshir district, south of Baghdad, while SCIRI’s Buratha News Agency reported that the Shurta Al-Khamsa district south of Baghdad has also been hit with mortar rounds fired from the rural Sunni-majority Duwanim and Radhwaniya areas.

Meanwhile, Heyet Net reported through eyewitness accounts that Iraqi Army troops have cordoned the Sunni-majority Fadhl district in central Baghdad since 2 a.m., and residents said that Iraqi soldiers are randomly and opening fire on their streets in a provocative manner. The area has been a target of several sweeps by Iraqi and U.S. troops as part of the Imposing Law security operation in the capital. It was also a common nighttime target for Shi’ite militias and mortar attacks. Aswat Al-Iraq also reported that Iraqi troops have closed all streets leading to the Karrada district.

The Islamic Fadhila Party issued an official statement accusing “hundreds of outlaw militants” using official security vehicles of carrying out the attacks against the party’s headquarters in Basrah Thursday, the Iraq News Agency reported. The statement hinted that the attacks were in response to the party’s decision to break away from the United Iraqi Alliance, the majority Shi’ite bloc in Iraqi parliament, and act as an independent bloc. It also revealed that party branches in Samawa and Suwayra were attacked days ago. The party held security forces in the Basrah Governorate full responsibility for failing to intervene and for the involvement of some of its “partisan” elements in the attacks. “The party is extremely pessimistic about the performance of security forces when it takes over security responsibilities from British troops,” the statement concluded.

Eyewitnesses in Basrah said that fliers threatening members of the Fadhila Party were distributed in the city yesterday. The fliers, which did not carry a signature, accused Fadhila members as “traitors that have abandoned the path of the Prophet and the imams,” in reference to the party’s withdrawal from the major Shi’ite bloc in parliament. The eyewitnesses added that tensions remain high in the southern city and that Iraqi security forces continue to man checkpoints on roads leading to the governorate building and the main Fadhila Party headquarters in central Basrah.

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