BY EDWARD YERANIAN IN CAIRO FOR VOA NEWS – Two separate explosions, targeting members of the Sunni Muslim Sahwa (Awakening) movement in Iraq have left dozens of casualties. The Sahwa, or Sons of Iraq, helped U.S. forces put down an al-Qaida led insurrection during the worst days of sectarian strife in Iraq.
Iraqi officials say two suicide bombings in separate parts of the country have killed about four-dozen people and wounded many others. Most of the casualties belong to the government-backed Sunni Muslim militia that helped put a lid on a growing civil war in 2006 and 2007.
Baghdad security chief Qassem Mohammed Atta indicated a suicide bomber struck a checkpoint near a military base southwest of Baghdad. Members of the Sunni Sahwa militia had been lined up outside the base to receive their paychecks.
The Associated Press reported the men had come to the base for five days in row, hoping to be paid, and that security around the base was lax. Sahwa members complained that government forces were no longer searching people lined up in front of the base.
Another suicide bomber attacked a Sahwa militia facility in the town of Qaim, near the Syrian border. Sahwa fighters traded fire with the assailant, who blew himself up after being surrounded. Three militiamen were reportedly killed and six wounded in the blast.
The brother of a top Sahwa leader was also killed in a separate bomb blast targeting his vehicle. Abu Azzam al Tamimi said the explosion that killed his brother, as well as the other bombings were part of a planned and coordinated assault on his group.
He says that the attacks were programmed, rather than isolated acts, and they were part of someone’s broad agenda. That group, he insists, wants to take advantage of the void inside the country at the expense of the Iraqi people in order to bring the security situation back to square one.
He went on to accuse al-Qaida of responsibility in the attacks and complained the government is doing nothing to protect Sahwa militiamen.
Iraq analyst James Denselow of King’s College in London says Sahwa militiamen are at the mercy of their adversaries, as the government drags its feet in deciding what to do with them.
“We can assume here a tit-for-tat crescendo surrounding former protagonists in the civil war that raged from ’06 to ’07 largely,” Denselow said. “And the big question is whether the Sons of Iraq (Sahwa), which were such a critical part of the relative peace that followed the (US-led) ‘surge’ will be incorporated into the government and given a place in the new Iraq or whether they will be, instead of the ‘Sons of Iraq’ the ‘Orphans of Iraq’ in the sense that they are abandoned by a largely Shia-Kurdish-led government that looks to use cracking down on Sunnis as a means of increasing their own popularity.”
He says divisions among Iraq’s Shi’ite political blocs had created a “sort of competition” to see which could crack down harder on their Sunni adversaries. U.S. officials have warned of an upsurge in violence if the stalemate that has left Iraq without a government since March elections, continues.
A surge of violence has hit Baghdad since March parliamentary elections that yielded no clear winner. Security officials blame the string of attacks on al-Qaida in Iraq, raising fears the country’s political uncertainty is fueling insurgent violence.