Politicians and activists in Iraq’s Mosul and Anbar provinces expressed yesterday [Feb. 27] their insistence that sit-ins calling for the release of detainees and the abolition of the Terrorism Act be kept free from sectarian sentiment. They said they are still committed to national unity, despite attempts by the authorities to incite sectarian strife for over two weeks. Senior officials and MPs from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s coalition participated in these attempts, and have been utilizing militias belonging to ruling parties and other hastily formed armed groups, according to activists.
The sources from Mosul, Anbar and Baghdad told Azzaman that the authorities are seeking to escalate sectarian tensions through assassinations carried out in a number of neighborhoods in Baghdad that support the Mosul, Anbar, Fallujah and Samarra protests. These assassinations have occurred in the Adhamiya, Jihad, Amiriya and Abu Ghraib neighborhoods. The authorities have been sending death threats and implementing plans for mass mobilization of the population, in order to provoke a strong sectarian response from protesters, setting a pretext to forcefully break up sit-ins.
The sources confirmed to Azzaman that protesters will not be moved to react or to give the authorities the excuses they need to achieve their goals.
They reported that militants had carried out sectarian-motivated assassinations in Baghdad — particularly in the Jihad neighborhood. They had also sent envelopes containing messages giving the people there the choice of leaving or death, with a bullet enclosed in each envelope.
The sources said there had been 13 assassinations in the Jihad neighborhood alone, alongside death threats that are sent out in plain view of the authorities, who have not take any action. This has sparked panic among the population and prompted many families to leave their homes, move to new neighborhoods and rent houses in spite of difficult economic conditions.
The sources elaborated to Azzaman that many families cannot afford to move to another district in Baghdad and don’t have the option of living with relatives in another area. They remain in their houses, taking precautionary measures. They have even kept their children from going to school for fear of being murdered. Family members are returning home early to avoid walking in the streets at night.
However, the sources said that despite death threats made by the militias and widespread fear, displacement in Baghdad neighborhoods is still relatively limited. The sources demanded the authorities to intervene and not let Iraqis live under constant fear of sectarian reprisals.
In the framework of this approach, Iraqi Transport Minister Hadi al-Amiri said that Turkey and Qatar’s support for the armed opposition in Syria is tantamount to declaring war on Iraq, which will suffer from the consequences of a neighboring conflict that is becoming increasingly sectarian in nature.
Amiri, head of the Badr Brigade militia, said that Turkey and Qatar are obstructing every effort aimed at peacefully settling the conflict in Syria. Meanwhile, military sources told Azzaman that Maliki, as the commander in chief of the armed forces, has established a new leadership for the so-called “Jazeera command” operations.
Their work extends from the city of Haditha to the border with Syria and Jordan. He assigned leadership and general staff positions within this command to officers he can trust who originally come from central and southern Iraq, in coordination with the Defense Ministry. The sources told Azzaman that these forces have been established to provide military support in the case of an emergency requiring intervention in Iraq’s western provinces. The purpose of this is to prevent the flow [of militants] into Iraq from Syria if the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad falls.
The sources explained that another goal of these new forces is to distance Iraq’s western areas [from the conflict].
Amiri accused Ankara and Doha — who support the armed opposition against Assad — of arming jihadist groups in Syria, including Jabhat al-Nusra, which has ties with al-Qaeda in Iraq.
The source noted, “We openly proclaim that Turkey providing al-Qaeda in Syria with money and weapons ... is tantamount to armed action against Iraq, because these weapons will certainly affect Iraqis.”
Military sources explained to Azzaman that the formation of these forces came at a time when a number of politicians and officers of the armed forces are demanding to re-instate the legion system. This is after a new leadership for the operations, affiliated with the office of the commander in chief of the armed forces, was established.
In other related news, two people — including one policeman — were killed, while four others — also including a policeman — were injured during different security incidents in Iraq yesterday.
Security sources said that an explosive device had been detonated yesterday [Feb. 27] in a grocery store in the Dora district of southern Baghdad, injuring two civilians inside the store.
In Mosul, Nadem Khalaf, the manager of the human resources department at the city municipality, was killed by unidentified armed men in the al-Maliya district in the East while on his way to his office yesterday.
In Mosul, security sources said that a policeman was killed and two others were wounded, including one policeman, after an explosive device detonated in the al-Shifa neighborhood in western Mosul this morning.
In Kirkuk, a police headquarters and checkpoint were separately attacked by a Katyusha rocket and car bomb, without causing any casualties.
Local security sources reported that a Katyusha rocket had landed on the Hawija district Police Directorate’s headquarters. The incident caused minor damage to the building, but no injuries.
The sources added that a car bomb exploded near a police checkpoint in the Celebration Square in southern Kirkuk without causing any injuries.
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