Al-Qaeda with the help of its members in Syria is starting to use its old deserted camps once again to wage operations against Iraqi targets, an Iraqi security officer told Al Arabiya News Channel on Sunday.
“We have intelligence information that al-Qaeda has started rearranging its old camps and reunifying its forces. There is cooperation between those working in Iraq and Syria,” Officer Mohammad al-Askari said.
Iraqi officials have long warned that the conflict-ridden Syria has become a fertile ground for extremist Islamists, who could give support for other militias in Iraq to carry their attacks.
“This has to be stopped,” he added, giving some details about the military operation against al-Qaeda, which began Saturday in the Sunni stronghold province of Anbar.
He said the air forces, equipped with modern Russian-made Mi-35 aircrafts and high-precision rockets, are leading operation against al-Qaeda camps. The aircrafts, which have much improved night visions, can detail and hit targets from 4-5 km distance, he said.
“We have all of Anbar, al-Jazira, Ninveh commands joining. They are backed by a great support from the air forces and the army aviation,” he added.
Al-Jazira operations command is responsible for the security of the western desert and the border areas with Syria. Anbar and Ninveh are named after the Sunni provinces, which they are responsible to protect and secure.
The official said in Wadi Horan in Anbar’s northern desert, information detailed the existence of more than 60 extremist elements congregating in a camp there to train and prepare for their attacks.
Soon after the air force targeted their camp “they escaped,” but after the land forces arrived, and “due to their nationalist sentiments, the commander hurried and took a shortcut to enter the camp, leaving him and five others killed, and 11 people injured.”
Askari warned that the militants leave mines and other explosives in their camps before departing.
Iraq is grappling with deadly violence, which has surged this year to levels not seen since 2008, when the country was just emerging from a brutal sectarian conflict.
More than 6,600 people have been killed since the beginning of 2013, according to AFP figures based on security and medical sources.
The Iraqi army was on high alert on Saturday following the deaths of at least 16 Iraqi military officers in an ambush in the western Sunni Muslim-dominated province of Anbar.
Seven senior Iraqi officers, including Major General Mohammad al-Karawi, were among those killed in the attack.
Militant Islamists online described Karawi’s death as payback for the killings of more than 40 people in a raid by security forces on a Sunni protest camp in the northern town of Hawija in April.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi Defense Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi hailed an anti-terror Saudi fatwa or religious edict in an interview with Al Arabiya News Channel aired on Sunday.
“I am happy by the fatwa issued by Saudi Arabia. This fatwa has an important influence in spite of criticism by the terrorists against it,” Dulaimi said.
While Saudi Arabia has issued previous fatwas prohibiting Muslims participating in terrorist acts, Dulaimi described the fatwa as “late,” but at least “it came in the right time.”
(With AFP)SHOW MORE