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Daily Column
Iraq Papers Thur: Looking for al-Duri
A Series of Suicide Attacks, 'Allawi Considers Kirkuk's Constit. Article "Null"
01/02/2008 4:13 PM ET
Iraq’s new year started with a wave of suicide bombings, Iraqi and Arab papers reported. In Baghdad, al-Quds al-‘Arabi said, over 30 Iraqis were killed when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive belt during the funeral of an Iraqi ex-officer. Eye-witnesses told the paper that the attack must have been executed by “a family relative or an individual known by the family,” since “no strangers were present in the wake.” The Iraqi authorities said that the suicide bomber may have been a member of al-Qa’ida in Diyali, since the targeted funeral was for a man who originates from the northern province. Kull al-‘Iraq added that the attack may have been targeting an ex-Brigadier in the Iraqi Army, Mu’tazz al-‘Azzawi, who is a relative of the deceased. According to reports, the suicide bomber detonated the explosives when he was facing al-‘Azzawi.

A day later, Az-Zaman reported, a car bomb exploded near “Awakening” militiamen in the town of Tarmiya, killing four 15-year-old students who were in the area, in addition to five Awakening fighters. The attack represents a recent trend, whereby al-Qa’ida concentrates attacks and assassinations against the rank-and-file of the Awakening militias, which have been combating al-Qa’ida with the aid of the US and the Iraqi government.

In one dimension at least, these assassinations mark a continuity with a history of rivalry that pitted al-Qa’ida against competing insurgent groups, such as the Islamic Army and the 1920 Revolution Brigades. Many fighters and leaders from these groups have joined the “Awakening” movement; and after months of denial, groups such as the 1920 Brigades now openly acknowledge being part of the Awakening in several provinces. The US and Government-funded war between al-Qa’ida and these Sunni armed groups represents the main success of the US military in 2007 Iraq: making the war between al-Qa’ida and Sunni militias take center stage for many Iraqi Sunnis, rather than the war between Sunni armed groups and the US military.

In other news, al-Hayat said that the town of Dur (30 Km north of Samarra') witnessed a violent US-Army crackdown, after US officers apparently suspected that ‘Izzat al-Duri was hiding in the town. Al-Duri is currently the leader of the – banned – Iraqi Ba’th party and leads an important section of the insurgency.

The paper said that many homes in Dur were raided, with “most of the town’s youth and a number of tribal Sheikhs” being arrested by the US forces. The arrests, the paper added, came mere days after the town celebrated the anniversary of Saddam’s execution with mourning and mock-funerals. The US forces imposed a curfew on Dur, and after receiving information that ‘Izzat al-Duri was in the town participating in the commemoration started the raids and arrests.

While the US forces claim that they captured a man connected to al-Qa’ida, locals told the paper that al-Qa’ida militia is not active in Dur, which is dominated by Ba’this loyal to ‘Izzat al-Duri.

In related news, Az-Zaman said that units of the US Army raided the Health Ministry in Baghdad and arrested several of its guards. The paper said that no statements were released by the US forces explaining the purpose of the raid, which is the second in a year. In early 2007, US forces attacked the building of the Ministry and arrested Hakim al-Zamili, the vice-minister at the time, who is currently in prison awaiting trial for charges of sectarian murder.

Lastly, in political news, al-Hayat said that the party of the ex-Prime Minister Ayad ‘Allawi criticized a recent agreement between the Islamic Party and the two main Kurdish parties because of alleged “concessions” on the issue of Kirkuk. A week ago, Chairman of the Islamic Party, Tariq al-Hashimi, announced the signing of a pact with the Kurdish KDP and PUK, the agreement included a section which calls for the determination of Kirkuk’s status according to the 140th article of the Iraqi constitution, which is rejected by a majority of Kirkuk’s Arab residents.

Usama al-Najafi, an MP on ‘Allawi’s list, insinuated that al-Hashimi “offered” Kirkuk to the Kurds and commented: “(al-Hashimi) gave what he does not own to whom does not deserve it,” adding that the 140th article “has become constitutionally null” with the advent of the year 2008 – the article spoke of a referendum in Kirkuk during 2007, which could not be fulfilled.


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