News / Middle East

US Official: Al-Qaida Responsible for Nearly All Suicide Attacks in Iraq

FILE - Security forces inspect scene of suicide bombing at a coffee shop, Kirkuk, Iraq, July 13, 2013.
FILE - Security forces inspect scene of suicide bombing at a coffee shop, Kirkuk, Iraq, July 13, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
VOA News
A U.S. State Department official has highlighted the threat al-Qaida in Iraq poses to the country and its neighbors, as violence in Iraq escalates.

Brett McGurk, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has significantly increased its attacks in Iraq since early last year.

"Suicide attacks, we assess, are nearly all attributable to ISIL, and nearly all suicide bombers are foreign fighters who enter Iraq through Syria. To give one notable statistic, in November 2012, Iraq saw three suicide attacks throughout the country. In November 2013, it saw 50," said McGurk.

Multiple bombs exploded in Iraq's capital Wednesday, killing at 32 people, while car bombings Thursday left at least five people dead. Violence across Iraq killed 1,000 people last month and nearly 9,000 last year, the highest levels since 2008.

McGurk said al-Qaida in Iraq is attacking predominantly Shi'ite and Kurd areas to stoke sectarian tensions, while also attacking Sunnis to eliminate their rivals and grab territory. He pointed out that the group's leader, believed to be based in Syria, is seeking to control territory from Baghdad to Lebanon

McGurk said the United States is urging Iraqi leaders to develop a security, political and economic strategy to isolate extremists, and is supporting Iraq's military with equipment and training as they try to battle al-Qaida.

President Barack Obama has ruled out the return of U.S. troops to Iraq. The last American forces withdrew in 2011, but U.S. Representative Eliot Engel said Wednesday the United States remains concerned about Iraq's security.

"Direct use of U.S. military force in Iraq is virtually unthinkable at this point. We've withdrawn from Iraq, and we aren't going back. Although we no longer have boots on the ground, however, the U.S. does maintain a stake in Iraq's security, and I believe we should continue to provide appropriate assistance to the Iraqi military in their fight against ISIS," said Engel.

Engel discussed the situation in Iraq's western Anbar province, where last month militants took control of Ramadi and Fallujah. He said the military alone cannot resolve the situation, and that the government must enlist moderate Sunnis to help counter al-Qaida.

Iraqi troops have remained outside the cities, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has called on local tribes to evict the militants themselves.

The State Department's McGurk said Wednesday that Ramadi is increasingly secure, but that the situation in Fallujah is more complicated, with some locals supporting al-Qaida and the militants trying to draw the military into fighting.

"The Iraqi military would have the numbers and the equipment to go into Fallujah tomorrow and clean out the streets. We believe that were they do to an assault like that, that it would actually exacerbate the problem," said McGurk.

He also described the ongoing cycle of sectarian tension in Iraq. Minority Sunnis are seeking reforms from the Shi'ite-dominated government, but McGurk said violence has made it difficult for Shi'ites and Kurds to support the legislation. As a result, he said, al-Qaida is exploiting the divide with more violence that puts the Sunni-sought reforms "further out of reach."

Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said the fighting in Syria is further strengthening al-Qaida, with militants freely moving between the two countries.

McGurk called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a "magnet for foreign fighters." He said that as long as Assad remains in power, there will be destructive effects on countries in the region, particularly Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid