Al-Qa'ida 'running out of suicide bombers in Iraq'

Foreign would-be militants are heading to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq's Foreign Minister tells Patrick Cockburn

Al-Qa'ida is struggling to launch frequent suicide attacks in Iraq for the first time because of a shortage of foreign volunteers travelling to the country to carry them out.

Interrogation of prisoners and intercepted messages revealed that local al-Qa'ida commanders are complaining about the lack of foreigners to carry out suicide missions as they had done to devastating effect in the past, Iraq's Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, said in an interview with The Independent .

"The shortage of suicide bombers is because Islamic fundamentalists are more interested in Afghanistan and Pakistan these days, the Americans are withdrawing from Iraq and al-Qa'ida's networks have been disrupted by ourselves and the Americans," said Mr Zebari, whose own foreign ministry building was badly damaged by a vehicle bomb last August that killed 42 staff members and injured many more. "I expect al-Qa'ida will pool its remaining resources and make another spectacular attack in Baghdad very soon."

Mr Zebari said he believes that al-Qa'ida is finding it much more difficult to find safe havens in parts of Iraq dominated by the Sunni Arab community which turned out to vote en masse in the general election in March.

The use of suicide bombers from outside Iraq – the majority coming from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, Syria, Libya, Algeria and Morocco – played a central role in destabilising the Iraqi governments which followed Saddam Hussein. The first suicide bombings started in August 2003 and al-Qa'ida was able to attract volunteers for suicide missions from across the Muslim world, enabling it to launch seven or eight attacks in a single day.

In 2007, 5,480 people were killed from "multiple fatality bombings" but this number more than halved the following year and dropped further to 2,058 in 2009. In the first three months of 2010, 346 people have died, according to the Brookings Institution think tank.

Shia civilians in markets or coming out of mosques were frequently targeted by the fanatically Sunni al-Qa'ida leaders. Sitting in his temporary office beside the recently reopened foreign ministry building, Mr Zebari said that the only factor now favouring al-Qa'ida is the political stalemate that has yet to produce a government, 75 days after an election on 7 March failed to produce an outright winner.

In this uncertain political atmosphere, even a reduced level of attacks increases instability. He said that earlier this week, a newly elected member of parliament was assassinated in Mosul "almost certainly by al-Qa'ida, but Sunni politicians immediately blamed the government for not giving the MP enough protection".

A leader of the Kurdish resistance to Saddam Hussein for many years, Mr Zebari has a reputation of being one of the ablest ministers in the governments which followed the overthrow in 2003.

But he sounded despairing as he detailed the difficulties in forming a new power-sharing government because of the personal animosities between leaders. He suggested that the UN play a greater role taking over from the US which "in the past played a crucial role banging heads together".

The results of the election have been in dispute since the bloc headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki came a narrow second to the Sunni-backed bloc headed by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Because both blocs fell far short of an outright majority, they are competing to form a governing coalition. So far there has not even been a round-table meeting between the different parties and Mr Zebari does not believe that the US proposal for a grand coalition between Mr al-Maliki and Mr Allawi is feasible. "The difficulty is in deciding who will be in the driving seat," he said.

The result of these internal divisions in Iraq is that foreign powers are playing an ever increasing role in deciding what happens in the country. Mr Zebari pointed to the growing role of Iran, Turkey and Syria in Iraq.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Designer / Design Director

£38000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This B2B content marketing agen...

Austen Lloyd: Law Costs HOD - Southampton

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn