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As Al Qaeda moves fight to Syria, violence in Iraq drops sharply

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"Violence is down in Mosul, maybe one or two operations per day, sometimes none," the officer said Monday. "Today, members of (Al Qaeda in Iraq) attempted to booby-trap a house, but they were discovered and the operation failed. Yesterday, two IEDs" — improvised explosive devices — "were planted and both were discovered, and they failed again. The day before that there were no operations at all."

As for the rest of the province, "I can say that violence is down more than 50 percent since autumn of 2011, and much more than that if compared with an earlier date, like autumn of 2010," the officer said.

Last Thursday, James R. Clapper, the Obama administration's director of national intelligence, told Congress that the United States thought Al Qaeda-affiliated fighters were responsible for the most spectacular rebel attacks on Syrian military forces in recent months, including suicide bombings in Damascus in December and January and two attacks earlier this month in Aleppo. The four attacks, which targeted Syrian military or intelligence facilities, killed at least 70 people.

Clapper called the presence of Al Qaeda-affiliated fighters in Syria a "disturbing phenomenon" and warned that the anti-Assad rebels "in many cases may not be aware they are there." 

Iraqi officials said they'd suspected for months that Al Qaeda-affiliated fighters, who flocked to Iraq after the US toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, were leaving for Syria.

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