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.
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 We've withdrawn from Iraq, and we aren't going back.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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More