Al Qaeda in Iraq targets Baghdad’s developing police force
The Iraqi Army is gradually handing responsibility for Baghdad security to Iraq's developing police force – a transition Al Qaeda in Iraq is exploiting with increased attacks.
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As part of their campaign of intimidation, the attacks have also targeted the homes and families of policemen. In Fallujah, a policeman, his wife and 4-year-old daughter were killed in their home while in Abu Ghraib, on the outskirts of Baghdad, another policeman and his wife died when gunmen stormed their house.Skip to next paragraph
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Security forces stand ground, but Awakening members quit
In Adhamiya this week, Iraqi police working 24-hour shifts, some dressed in short-sleeved shirts and sandals, posted guard along the streets as a hot wind whipped up the dust. By late morning the temperature was already almost 120 degrees.
“Of course it’s Al Qaeda – they want to send a message that they are still here,” says policeman Hussein Kathem, referring to the attacks. “They don’t have a shape – they keep shifting. If we knew who they were we could fight them.”
Police in the neighborhood say after the attacks about 20 security people contracted to the police force – former members of the Sunni Awakening, a paramilitary force that the Iraqi government has long promised to transition to the regular security forces – had quit.
“They only make 300,000 dinars a month [about $240] – they decided it wasn’t worth it,” says Mr Kuthayar. Regular police make more than twice that although still not enough, they say, to even afford electricity for their homes.
But he says that unlike the Iraq of a few years ago, when the police disintegrated in the face of attacks and some Army units refused to fight, the security forces now are much more resilient.
“Before we didn’t have a state,” he says. “Now we have the police, the Army, intelligence, all the institutions of a state.”
He and his colleagues though say the biggest problem is lack of a government and rampant corruption. More than five months after Iraqis went to the polls political leaders are still fighting over who has the right to lead a coalition government.
'People now understand AQI is wrong'
Off the main road in Adhamiya, at the ‘Dream’ barbershop owner Arkan Mohammad was having the glass windows replaced in his shop after the checkpoint attacks – the sixth time they’ve been shattered.
During the height of the fighting in 2006, Mr. Mohammad left for Syria. When he found that country overcrowded with Iraqis, he went to Yemen to work as a barber before returning two years ago to find his shop completely destroyed. He says he does not think AQI will be able to take root again in neighborhoods like Adhamiya the way it did when people turned to Sunni insurgents or Shiite militias for protection.
“I don’t think people will receive Al Qaeda like they did before,” he says, during one of the long electricity cuts. “People now understand that Al Qaeda is wrong.”
He says though he believes Iraq is too unstable for US combat forces to withdraw right now.
“I would prefer that they not leave,” he says. “When the government is formed then they can leave.”