Ex-insurgents targeted in Iraq
More than 40 killed by suicide bombers while waiting for paychecks
BAGHDAD — In the deadliest of a recent string of attacks against former insurgents who switched sides to fight alongside American forces, more than 40 people were killed by a suicide bomber Sunday morning as they lined up outside an Iraqi army base to receive their paychecks.
The bomber struck on the first day of the workweek in Radwaniya, a largely Sunni neighborhood southwest of central Baghdad. An official at the Ministry of the Interior said at least 43 people were killed and 40 were wounded. The dead were mainly members of the Awakening movement, the organization made up mostly of Sunni former insurgents, but which also included Iraqi soldiers.
Hours later, another attack aimed at Awakening members killed four of them in Al Qaim, a city in Anbar Province in western Iraq.
The violence comes after a series of assassinations and attacks in recent months against the former insurgents, adding new urgency to questions about how long they will remain loyal to a government they blame for not protecting them. The concern, and an apparent goal of the attackers, is that nearly 90,000 armed former militants could hit the street again as the United States is sharply reducing the number of troops in Iraq.
“I’m blaming the security forces,” said Sheik Ali Hatem al-Suleiman, an Awakening leader in Anbar Province. “From the beginning, I said that politicians are responsible because they don’t care about the Awakening as a national project, and the evils of the security violations reflect negatively on the officials.”
For the Awakening members, whose decision to switch loyalties was pivotal in quelling the apocalyptic violence of 2006 and 2007, the attacks top a list of grievances, which includes not receiving the jobs they say they were promised for turning against the insurgency.
Many Awakening leaders blame the Iraqi security forces for not protecting them from revenge killings by militants loyal to al Qaeda in Iraq, the main insurgent group, or say the security forces themselves have been infiltrated by members still loyal to the insurgency.
The police chief in Anbar, the once-restive region where the Awakening began, said the attacks were revenge by al Qaeda in Iraq.
“We accuse al Qaeda with implementing such attacks because they want to prove their existence in the province, but we will not allow them,” Maj. Gen. Baha al-Qaisi said.
But Awakening leaders were doubtful that the government could or would protect them. Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha, an Awakening leader in Anbar, said, “We are going to send our forces to protect all the Awakening headquarters in Anbar because the government is not able to provide security for them.”
An injured Iraqi soldier is taken home after a suicide attack Sunday in Radwaniya, southwest of Baghdad. Twin suicide bombings killed at least 43 people, including former insurgents who are part of the Awakening movement.