Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Zarqawi targets Baghdad and Kirkuk

IWPR sources say the al-Qaeda-linked militant is preparing to disrupt elections, and Saddam loyalists are also on the move.
By IWPR\'s reporting

Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is planning to disrupt voting in Baghdad and Kirkuk, two high-ranking Iraqi intelligence sources told IWPR.


Zarqawi believes targeting the election in these key areas will cause it to fail throughout the country, one source said.


Zarqawi, who is blamed for much of the violence in Iraq, has already threatened the elections in voice recordings posted on the internet.


The sources said Zarqawi militants are also moving to Saddam Hussein’s home town of Tikrit, and the two regional capitals of Iraqi Kurdistan, Arbil and Sulaimaniyah, to attack polling stations there on election day. Until now, Arbil and especially Sulaimaniyah have been relatively safe areas.


Sarkawt Hasan, head of security in Sulaimaniyah, said he has received similar reports, and security officers manning checkpoints have been told to be on the highest state of alert. He said there would be a zero-tolerance policy in the next 24 hours, with cars not allowed within 300 metres of polling stations.


“Our security forces at checkpoints have been told that people who are not from the city or who are strangers who try to enter Sulaimaniyah in the next 24 hours will be apprehended and held until after elections,” Hasan said on January 28.


National security minister Qassim Dawoud said during a press conference on January 28 that two key Zarqawi aides were arrested in mid-January. One was in charge of Zarqawi’s Baghdad operations.


Another Zarqawi loyalist was arrested on January 27 as he tried to enter the southeastern city of Kut, a police commander there said. He said the 29-year-old suspect admitted to killing Iraqi policemen and national guardsmen through car bombs and other means, both in Baghdad and in the provinces.


The Baghdad intelligence sources believe Zarqawi is currently in the al-Dora area of Baghdad and is moving between the city and the towns of Baaqubah and Hibhib to the northeast. They also said Zarqawi is keeping a contingent force in Bohruz and Hibhib, both in Diyala province, and is sending out units to ambush convoys on the Baghdad-to-Kirkuk road.


One of the Baghdad sources said Zarqawi has been visiting the village of Ghalibiya, located near the town of Khalis in Diyala. Khalis is just north of Baghdad.


Former Saddam loyalists are also planning to disrupt the January 30 poll.


A security official in Mosul, who wished to remain anonymous, said 500 trained members loyal to the Saddam regime are moving to Baghdad and south-western parts of Kirkuk to launch attacks on election day.


In recent days, the sources said, members of Saddam’s intelligence service have entered Iraq from Syria under the command of a former top Iraqi intelligence official. They have been deployed to Mosul, Kirkuk , Tikrit, Samarra and Baiji to hit polling sites on election day.