JAILBREAK AIDS AL QAEDA
U.S. intelligence analysts said al Qaeda’s takeover of two Iraqi cities in Anbar province is an outgrowth of a jailbreak orchestrated last summer by the terrorist network.
Al Qaeda’s Iraqi affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), carried out the sophisticated attack on two Iraqi prisons in mid-July, freeing some 500 prisoners, including large numbers of al Qaeda terrorists and senior leaders.
Those escaped prisoners are now the backbone of the forces controlling Ramadi and Fallujah under the black flag of al Qaeda.
The July attacks took place at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison and a prison near Baghdad called Al Taji.
The military operation was carefully planned and involved dozens of fighters equipped with mortars, rocketpropelled grenades and assault rifles. The attacking forces also used suicide car bombs to breach security barriers.
Before the prison raids, al Qaeda in Iraq was viewed as severely weakened. The hundreds of escaped prisoners strengthened the group that now is destabilizing Anbar and threatening the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Al Qaeda in Iraq now has an estimated 3,000 fighters, many of whom are controlling Ramadi and Fallujah.
Additionally, the lack of U.S. support — the Obama administration has promised to speed up deliveries of missiles but has ruled out sending troops — is prompting neighboring Iran to offer its military support.
Iran’s Islamist regime gradually has been increasing its strategic influence in Iraq through Mr. al-Maliki’s pro-Shiite policies. For example, Iraq has become a major transit route for Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps fighters on their way to fight in Syria’s civil war on behalf of the Bashar Assad government.
The escaped terrorists in July were described by U.S. officials as hardened first- and second-generation al Qaeda terrorists who settled in western Iraq, including Ameriya, Samarra, Fallujah and Ramadi.
Iraqi government forces failed to recapture the two cities, Agence France-Presse reported Tuesday.
“Security forces and armed tribesmen tried last night to enter areas controlled by the ISIS in the south of the city,” a police captain in Ramadi was quoted as saying by the press agency.
The al Qaeda takeover followed an incident Dec. 30, when Sunnis were angered that government forces cleared protest camps near Ramadi. Al Qaeda seized on the Sunni anger to foment an uprising.
Mr. al-Maliki has ordered to the army to retake the cities and is giving Anbar tribal militias time to take steps to oust the terrorists.