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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid