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"Sleeper Cells" Pose as Refugee Families?
Provincial Police Chief: Intel Plan Will Block Cells' Influence
12/09/2008 1:06 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

"Sleeping cells" with links to feared armed groups are attempting to infiltrate areas of Diyala Province by pretending to be members of displaced families, a security source in the Provincial Council has said.

The source said that many of the families claiming to be displaced are in fact "sleeping cells linked to al-Qa'ida," adding that cells have started to become active recently in areas around Ba'qouba, Newsmatique writes in Arabic.

Meanwhile the commander of Diyala Police told the agency that an intelligence strategy was in place to render these "cells" ineffectual.

In an interview with Newsmatique, the provincial council security source confirmed on Tuesday that "A large number of the families that claim to be displaced are proven by incontrovertible evidence that they are not" what they say, adding that "they fled from these areas because their sons were leaders of armed groups linked to many acts of violence."

The source, speaking anonymously, said that "These families have formed sleeping cells linked to al-Qa'ida and have a big influence, as they are considered field bases that can provide secure havens for suicide bombers and conceal weapons and explosives."

The source asserted that, "The security forces have recently arrested several wanted men inside the western areas of Ba'qouba city who were proven to be residents of villages outside Ba'qouba who fled after military operations were launched in their areas, adding that the suspects "left their areas and resided in some areas of Ba'qouba" because they were "accused of acts of violence" in their original villages.

For his part, the police commander for Diyala Province, Maj. Gen. Abd al-Husayn al-Shumari, told Newsmatique that, "Many sleeping cells were found three months ago in several areas of the province, but their influence has been reduced after the high-quality military operations launched by joint forces during the "Basha'ir al-Khayr" security operations," which launched in July of this year.

Al-Shumari asserted that there is a "strategy to discover the sleeping cells" by the activation of local intelligence-gathering plans.

Al-Shumari added that "other steps have been taken in the same framework, including taking families back to their original area of residence within 48 hours after they are secured."

Explaining that the if the families remain in place and decide not to return, it could suggest that they are involved in sleeper cell activity.

The police commander added that "Security forces have been ordered to forbid families from moving from the countryside to the city, except after confirming the reasons for the family's move."

Security commanders in Diyala Province have referred to a "post-major operations phase" which relies heavily on intelligence activities to prevent the formation and activity of sleeper cells, Newsmatiquewrites.

The application of security and intelligence measures to sensitive refugee populations could have unexpected effects, however. If suspicions and security burdens fall disproportionately on one community within the diverse Diyala Province -- such as displaced Sunnis as local forces hunt for al-Qa'ida cells -- it could engender hardship and resentment, even among Iraqis without links to targeted groups.

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