Thursday, May 17, 2007


The growing threat facing Kurdistan

Kurdistan, Security
(RFE/RL) - Two high-profile bomb attacks targeting Kurdish institutions this month have drawn attention to security in the region, which had escaped much of the violence plaguing other areas in Iraq. But threats against the Kurds from Al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups have been growing.
The Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for both attacks in Internet postings. In a statement on the May 9 attack, the Al-Qaeda-affiliated group said the attack came "in response to the participation of the apostate peshmerga forces with the Safawi [a reference to the Shi'ite-led government in Iraq] government of [Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri] al-Maliki in the so-called 'Baghdad law enforcement plan.'"
Addressing Kurdistan region President Mas'ud Barzani and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, the group promised more attacks, adding, "We will not stop attacking you until you withdraw your mercenaries from the Baghdad province and cease to support the Crusaders [U.S.-led coalition forces] and the Safawis."
The Islamic State of Iraq first warned Kurdish soldiers against taking part in the Baghdad security plan in January. "We tell you that the martyrs brigades of the Islamic State of Iraq, particularly the Ansar martyrs [a reference to the terrorist group Ansar Al-Islam, whose bases in Kurdistan were crushed by a U.S. bombing campaign in the opening days of the war] cannot wait to confront you as to speed your arrival in hell," an Internet statement said.
The Kata'ib Kurdistan (Kurdistan Brigades), a group that pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda in March, also claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted to the Ansar Al-Islam website, the news website Kurdish Aspect reported on May 10. The brigades are reportedly part of Ansar Al-Islam, which is aligned with Al-Qaeda.
According to Kurdish Aspect, a source from within the Kurdish peshmerga said that Ansar Al-Islam and the Ansar Al-Sunnah Army are reorganizing their ranks and deploying their forces along the Iran-Iraq border. Kurdish leaders have also attributed recent attacks against Kurdish forces in the town of Penjwin to Ansar Al-Islam, saying the group moves freely across the Iran-Iraq border. Kurdish security sources told local media that the KRG was on alert for a terrorist attack in the days preceding the two incidents, based on intelligence that included detained terrorists' confessions, as well as the discovery of weapons caches.
Observations of websites and forums frequented by insurgents in Iraq and their supporters suggest that indeed, the Islamic State of Iraq and Ansar Al-Islam/Sunnah are attempting to gain a foothold on areas in the north. Apart from their stated claim of seeking retribution against the Kurds, their presence in the north would provide them with a valuable gateway for foreign fighters and supplies through the porous Iran-Iraq border.
The resurgence of insurgent activity in Kurdistan can be seen in the plethora of statements appearing on insurgent websites and forums in recent weeks, and Kata'ib Kurdistan has issued at least one video documenting its attacks. Moreover, Kurdish-language statements have appeared on forum websites with increasing frequency, suggesting insurgents may be trying to recruit Kurdish fighters to join their cause.
The frequency of attacks against Kurdish targets both in the Kurdish region and neighboring governorates to the south suggest that Kurds will remain under fire for some time to come. The potential consequences of an Al-Qaeda/Ansar campaign would be devastating to the region's economy, stability and governance. It could prompt Turkey to carry out plans for a large-scale incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan to hunt down PKK militants based there. Or worse yet, Turkey might take steps to secure Turkoman control over Kirkuk, a move that would evoke a violent reaction from Iraqi Kurds.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?