The rising power of Al-Qaida in Iraq became further evident on Sunday as a new government offensive on the jihadists ended with some 20 deaths and injuries to policemen and government- aligned militiamen.
The Assocated Press reported that hours after the assault was launched, Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki left the door open for a political solution in a speech ostensibly restating his commitment to destroying Al-Qaida.
“Our battle is firstly to beat and eliminate terrorism, though we welcome any solution, any proposal and any political meeting that should realize the priority of destroying terrorism, al-Qaida, its formations and its allies,” al-Maliki said.
Since late December, members of Iraq’s al-Qaida branch — known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — have taken over parts of Ramadi, the capital of the largely Sunni western province of Anbar. They also control the center of the nearby city of Fallujah, along with other non-al-Qaida groups that also oppose the Shiite-led government.
The sectarian, antagonistic, intimidating nature of Al-Qaida's war was emphasized in a statement by the organization's leader in Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi:
"You the Sunni people in Iraq, you can carry the weapons against the Shiites. ... This is your chance, so do not miss it. Otherwise you will be finished,” al-Baghdadi said, urging Sunnis to carry the fight to Baghdad.
In the wake of Al-Qaida's successes in Iraq, Mohammad Momani, information minister in neighboring Jordan, announced that the kingdom is ready to host U.S. training of Iraqi soldiers, which it first did following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
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