After a very intense war over the last three days, militants affiliated with Al-Qaeda succeeded in capturing Fallujah, a city in western Iraq. The Al-Qaeda flag has now been raised over various government structures in an area that was once secured by United States forces. Anbar police force head Hadi Razeij told reporters that law enforcement officials had completely vacated the city and stationed themselves on the outer edge of the Fallujah city limits. He said that even though the walls are protected by Anbar police, Fallujah citizens are Al-Qaeda prisoners.
During the United States led war in Iraq, Sunni insurgents had a stronghold in both Fallujah and Ramadi. Al-Qaeda took over both cities last week and have been fighting off any intrusion by government sources since that time.
The State Department of the United States government voiced concerns in a recently released statement that said it would continue to work with Iraqi leadership in fighting Al-Qaeda. They said that Iraqi tribal leaders were showing much courage in their fight to eliminate terrorists from their city limits.
One United States newspaper has reported that a minimum of eight people have been killed and dozens wounded on Friday as the Iraqi military tried to regain a hold on the city. Using mortar bombs in their attack, the Iraqi military was joined in the battle by fighters from Ramadi.
Leading Sunni tribes revolted against Al Qaeda prior to the withdrawal of American forces at the close of 2011. However, they have not offered support of the current government in Iraq being led by the Shiite sect, making for a strange alliance in the battle against Al-Qaeda. It is not yet clear how many have died in the attacks that began earlier this week.
Al-Qaeda sought to favor with the Fallujah population when a militant leader showed up with worshipers holding prayers in the main avenue of the city. He stood there proclaiming that his soldiers were there to defend the Sunnis from the controlling governmental authorities. The overthrow of Ramadi and Fallujah by Al-Qaeda is a huge set back to the Shiite government of Prime Minister al-Malik. al-Malik’s administration has already been grappling to stifle a less than contented attitude running throughout the Sunni minority concerning the political control of the Shiite sect. This attitude has led to a rise in violence over the past several months.
The Anbar province is located on the Syria and Jordan borders and is a desert climate. It is almost completely Sunni populated. In 2003, the province was the center of the Sunni rebellion against United States soldiers and the government of Iraq after the United States led invasion that took down Saddam Hussein in 2003. The rebellion was urged on by frustration over the removal of their sect from power during Saddam’s regime and the success of Shiites. It was during that occurrence that Al-Qaeda established a branch in Iraq.
In an attempt to break up tension, al-Maliki evacuated military forces out of cities in Anbar and gave over security to local law enforcement. This had been one of the major demands of Sunnis for some time due to the fact that they view the army as a weapon of al-Maliki’s government. When that happened, Al-Qaeda forces attacked in Ramadi and Fallujah to run security forces out of the cities.
By Rick Hope