News / Middle East

Maliki: Time to End al-Qaida Presence in Fallujah

FILE - Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki speaks during an interview with Reuters in Baghdad, Jan. 12, 2014.
FILE - Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki speaks during an interview with Reuters in Baghdad, Jan. 12, 2014.
Reuters
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Wednesday it was time to clear al-Qaida-linked militants out of the rebel-held city of Falluja, but set no deadline for any military assault.
 
The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al-Qaida offshoot also on the frontlines of Syria's civil war, overran Falluja with help from other Sunni Muslim groups on Jan. 1.
 
Iraqi troops and security forces have set up a loose cordon around the city, 50 km (31 miles) west of Baghdad, and have clashed sporadically with insurgents inside, but Maliki has said community leaders and tribesmen should force ISIL to withdraw, in order to spare Fallujah more bloodshed and destruction.
 
“The time has come to settle this issue and end the presence of this gang in this city and save its people from their evil,” Maliki said in his weekly televised address to the nation.
 
Three hours later, helicopter gunships bombarded eastern and northern districts of Fallujah, residents said. It was not clear if that was the prelude to wider military action.
 
Maliki again urged the people of Falluja to “to take crucial positions on the presence of those dirty people without losses and without sacrifices,” but set no precise time limit.
 
“Those criminals are seeking to ignite sectarian strife and to end up with the division of Iraq,” Maliki said.
 
Maliki faces a parliamentary poll on April 30 with violence in Iraq at its worst since Sunni-Shi'ite killings peaked in 2006-2007. His critics say his policies have fuelled grievances among minority Sunnis, driving some into the arms of ISIL, which has also exploited the war in Syria to make a comeback in Iraq.
 
ISIL militants, who are greatly outnumbered by armed tribesmen in Falluja, have kept a generally low profile, telling mosque congregations repeatedly that their mission is to protect the population, not to impose their harsh version of sharia law.
 
Lawless city
 
However, ISIL circulated leaflets last week announcing the formation of a “Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice,” which recalled memories of the Islamic courts that meted out rough justice in Falluja when it was controlled by a hardline Islamist council in 2005 to 2006.
 
While people in Falluja are hostile to Maliki's Shi'ite-led government, many fear a full-scale army attack that would echo two fierce U.S. assaults on insurgents there in 2004. Tens of thousands of people have fled the city, U.N. officials say.
 
Efforts to negotiate a solution have so far failed. Tribal chiefs and clerics met on Sunday to pick a new mayor and police chief, but ISIL rejected the outcome because it had not been represented in the talks, participants in the meeting said.
 
ISIL militants have brought more fighters and weapons into Falluja in the last three weeks, and other armed groups have proliferated in the security vacuum. Residents said they could not tell the allegiance of the roaming gunmen.
 
Two days ago, armed men abducted a former Falluja police chief in the city's southern outskirts. Relatives and tribal leaders said they were seeking his release by paying a ransom.
 
“The situation in Fallujah is critical and getting out of control,” said one tribal leader. “Everyone is carrying guns and it would only take a spark to ignite a war in the city.”

You May Like

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid