Pointing to similarities they see between the latest string of bombings against Shi’ite targets and a campaign by the “al-Qaeda in Iraq” organization in 2006, top security officials in Iraq are concerned that the bombings signal the start of a new effort by the group to destablize the nation.
“You will see them attempting to start the sectarian violence again,” one top ranking Iraqi army official predicted. Indeed, while the Sunni group hasn’t claimed credit for the attacks, they have almost exclusively targeted Shi’ite neighborhoods and religious sites, and today’s attacks targeted sites popular with followers of Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose militia also engaged in sectarian clashes.
The Al-Qaeda in Iraq group was formed following the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, with the expressed goal of driving the occupation forces from the nation. The group has pledged allegiance to the al-Qaeda network, and unlike other Sunni militias aimed at clashing over neighborhoods has predominantly relied on suicide bombings against key targets.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki blamed the group for a similar string of attacks in April, and claimed it was coordinating the attacks with the remnants of the Ba’athist regime. He also claimed the group has been infiltrating the US-backed Awakening Council, a Sunni militia which has often been at odds with the Shi’ite-led government.