Iraqi soldiers 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ali al-Mashhadani)
BAGHDAD - Al-Qaida's Iraqi affiliate
has asked Sunni militia members who turned against the
insurgency and joined forces with the US military and the
Shi'ite-led government to return to its ranks, threatening to
attack those who do not "repent."
In an hour-long audio speech, the spokesman for the Islamic
State of Iraq (ISI), Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, said the group was
growing stronger "despite all the difficulties and challenges"
and was still training and sheltering foreign fighters, the
US-based SITE Intelligence Group said late on Monday.
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"As for you, satanic awakenings, we strive to guide you more than you
strive to kill us. If you come to us in repentance, we will accept your
repentance even if you killed a million people," Adnani said, according
"Do not stand in the way between us and the (Shi'ites) ... We will not
get bored or tired; rather, we will continue until the Day of Judgment,
and we will kill from amongst you only those who we see will never
The Sahwa militia, or Awakening Council, made up of former insurgents
who turned against al-Qaida and helped turn the tide of the Iraq war,
was formed in late 2006, mostly by Sunni sheikhs with the help of the US
military during the sectarian bloodshed that killed tens of thousands
The integration of the former Sahwa fighters into the government is
considered a key to stabilizing Iraq, eight years after the US-led
invasion that toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein and before a full
withdrawal of US troops by the end of this year.
The Sahwa are increasingly concerned that the new Shi'ite-led government
is not carrying out a promise to hire them. Two years ago the Pentagon
criticized the slow pace of integration, saying that a failure to hire
the Sahwa fighters could jeopardize security gains.
Jobless Sahwa could return to a weakened but still lethal insurgency that carries out dozens of attacks each month.
While overall violence has plunged since the 2006-07 bloodshed, bombings
and other attacks occur every day, and occasional major attacks kill
dozens of people. Sahwa militia members are frequent targets.
Adnani said the ISC was still carrying out hit and run attacks despite
rumors the insurgency had been weakened by the arrests and killings of
its leaders, and ordered Iraqi officials not to execute jailed Muslims.
"Know that if you execute Muslim women and men in general and the
(fighters) in particular, you will face dire consequences,"
he said. "Everyone knows that when we say, we deliver."