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 We've withdrawn from Iraq, and we aren't going back.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

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid