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Sunni tribes mete out justice to curb Iraq unrest
by Staff Writers
Kirkuk, Iraq (AFP) March 6, 2012

Sunni Arab tribes in central and north Iraq, long home to violent extremists such as Al-Qaeda, are taking a new approach against unrest: fining and expelling those who aid insurgents.

The punishments, backed by many of Iraq's biggest Sunni Arab tribes, mark a new level of tribal justice that was not meted out during the height of the country's sectarian conflict as many local leaders feared retribution if they publicly opposed the insurgents.

"We agreed on a mechanism and a roadmap, to support the Iraqi security forces and the inviolability of Iraqi blood," said Sheikh Hussein Ali Saleh al-Juburi, head of Hawija district council which hosted a meeting of around 150 tribal leaders last week.

Similar gatherings were held in Samarra and the nearby town of Ishaqi, all north of Baghdad, and the move was backed by the powerful Jubur, Obeid and Albu Hamdan tribes, as well as dozens of others.

Juburi said tribes would not tolerate those who "hide, support or provide space for armed groups to enter our areas and villages."

"Those who do will be dealt with as terrorists, and will be expelled from our land, and handed over to the judiciary."

A document signed by tribal leaders at the three meetings in Kirkuk and Salaheddin provinces states that the families of convicted killers must pay victims' families 100 million Iraqi dinars ($84,000), and notes that those who "assist criminals must be treated like the criminal".

It goes on to specify that if bombs or explosive materiel are found in anyone's home, that person will be expelled from the province for five years.

"We cannot accept any support for terrorism and violence, whatever its justifications, especially after the US withdrawal," Juburi added, referring to the US military's pullout from Iraq at the end of last year, nearly nine years after invading the country to oust Saddam Hussein.

Sunni Arabs, who dominated all the regimes of Iraq from its modern creation in 1920 until Saddam Hussein's overthrow in 2003, largely boycotted Iraq's first post-invasion parliamentary election in 2005.

In the following two years, a violent insurgency against government forces and US troops left tens of thousands dead across Iraq.

Though Al-Qaeda frequently targeted Iraqi security forces, government institutions and Shiite Muslims, other Sunni insurgent groups stated their opposition to the American troop presence in Iraq, which they described as an "occupation", as justification for violence.

The insurgency was only quelled when tens of thousands of extra American soldiers were sent in to Iraq, and US forces co-opted Sunni tribes which had previously sided with Al-Qaeda.

Violence now remains high by international standards -- 150 people were killed in attacks in February alone -- but is markedly lower than in years past.

Since the year-end US withdrawal, however, only one relatively minor Sunni insurgent group -- Jaish al-Mustafa -- has publicly declared they will lay down their arms.

Al-Qaeda's front organisation, the Islamic State of Iraq, has continued to claim attacks, while other insurgent groups such as Ansar al-Sunna or JRTN, which translates into English as the Army of the Followers of the Naqshbandiya Order, have made no such moves publicly.

The latest moves by Iraq's Sunni tribes to hand out tribal justice in addition to any punishment imposed by the country's judiciary, marks a change from relative inaction in past years, when tribal leaders were fearful of assassination at the hands of insurgent groups they opposed.

"In the past, circumstances were not good for us to take this step," said Talal al-Muttar, chief of the Albu Aswad tribe.

"At that time, we made similar calls, but some tribal leaders said we should drop the subject for the time being. Now, we are taking advantage of a more stable security situation."

Muttar, who attended the Samarra meeting, continued: "We want to exploit this opportunity to prevent any more bloodshed."

"We want to move forward," he said, "We do not want to go back to 2006."


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Qaeda claims dozens of Baghdad attacks
Baghdad (AFP) March 6, 2012 - Al-Qaeda's front group in Iraq claimed dozens of attacks in Baghdad this year, including a suicide bomb at a funeral and the assassination of the head of a women's prison, in a statement seen on Tuesday.

In a post on jihadist forum Honein, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) listed 43 incidents it was responsible for between January 10 and February 10 in the Iraqi capital.

The deadliest attack was a January 27 suicide car bomb against a funeral procession outside a hospital in a predominantly Shiite neighbourhood in east Baghdad that killed 31 people.

"Most of the victims in the funeral were close to the Safavid chief," said the Honein posting, dated March 4, referring to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The funeral was for Baghdad real estate agent Mohammed al-Maliki, but no reports have indicated he was related to the premier.

Sunni insurgents often invoke Iran's Safavid past, referring to the Shiite dynasty that ruled Persia between the 16th and 18th centuries and conquered part of Iraq, when denouncing the Baghdad government, which they say is controlled by Iran.

ISI also claimed a February 1 bomb attack that targeted the convoy of Iraqi MP Qais al-Shadhr, whom the insurgent group denounced as an "apostate." Shadhr was unharmed in the attack, which wounded five civilians.

The insurgent group added that it was behind the February 7 assassination of Sajida Saleh Hassan, the director of a women's prison in Kadhimiyah, north Baghdad.

ISI said Hassan was an "apostate" and "one of the filthy arms of the Safavid justice ministry."

On February 24, Al-Qaeda's front group said it carried out a wave of bombings and shootings across Iraq that killed 42 people a day earlier.

Violence across the country is down from its peak in 2006 and 2007, but attacks remain common. A total of 150 Iraqis were killed in February, according to official figures.


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'Qaeda fighters' kill 27 police in west Iraq
Haditha, Iraq (AFP) March 5, 2012
Suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen, some wearing army uniforms, raged through a western Iraq city Monday in a pre-dawn shooting spree that killed 27 policemen, including two officers killed execution-style. The assault, launched at about 2:00 am (2300 GMT on Sunday), saw insurgents dressed in military uniforms simultaneously attacking two checkpoints in the east and west of Haditha before storming ot ... read more

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