Bombings this week in Sunni areas of Iraqi have killed more than 100 people.
A series of bombings this week in Sunni areas of Iraq – in some cases targeting the Awakening Councils, or sahwas, that have resisted the spread of militant Islamist extremism – is raising concerns that Al Qaeda in Iraq may be regrouping following recent defeats.
On Thursday, a suicide bomber struck a funeral for two brothers – killed the day before –who had joined the Awakening Council in Albu Mohammed, 90 miles north of Baghdad. The blast killed at least 50 mourners, many of them thought to be sympathizers of anti-Al Qaeda groups.
On Tuesday in Ramadi, Anbar Province's capital, a man walked into a restaurant, screamed "God is Great," and blew himself up, killing at least 10 people. On the same day, a car bomb in Baquba, capital of Diyala Province, killed 50.
New violence in Sunni areas follows a period of calm that had allowed US and Iraqi officials to venture that Al Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni extremist groups were on the run. It also comes as the US has trained its sights on the Shiite militias threatening the Iraqi government's authority.
In December, Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Kareem Khalaf had said that 75 percent of Al Qaeda in Iraq's safehouses and hideouts had been eliminated, leading to an 80 percent reduction in attacks by the group over six months.
At the same time, in his year-end briefing with reporters in Baghdad, Gen. David Petraeus had said that, although Al Qaeda remained the single biggest threat to security in Iraq, the group was losing foreign sponsors and getting fewer of its fighters into Iraq. "Some of what we are told is that they are really struggling to buy gas for their vehicles," said General Petraeus.