< Back to Iraqi Dinar in the News June 27th, 2006

7 Lesser Iraq Insurgent Groups Seek Truce

Location: BAGHDAD, Iraq
Posted: June 26, 2006 8:28 AM EST
URL: http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/0606/339328.html

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Seven Sunni Arab insurgent groups have contacted the government to declare their readiness to join in efforts at national reconciliation, a key Shiite legislator said Monday. The seven lesser groups, most of them believed populated by former members or backers of Saddam Hussein's government, military or security agencies, have said they want a truce, Hassan al-Suneid, a lawmaker and member of the political bureau of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa Party, told The Associated Press.

The contact by the insurgent organizations, which could not be independently verified, would mark an important potential shift and stand as evidence of a growing divide between Iraqi insurgents and the more brutal and ideological fighters of al-Qaida in Iraq, who are believed to mainly be non-Iraqi Islamic militants.

Al-Maliki was considering a possible meeting with leaders of the groups or contacts through intermediaries, al-Suneid said.

He identified only six of the seven organizations by name, listing them as the al-Ashreen Brigades, the Mohammed Army, Abtal al-Iraq (Heroes of Iraq), the 9th of April Group, al-Fatah Brigades, the Brigades of the General Command of the Armed Forces.

The al-Ashreen Brigades operate primarily in Anbar province, the violent insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad. The organization claims its operations have only been conducted against U.S. forces. They and other insurgents were said to have protected polling places against attacks by other militant groups in Anbar during December parliamentary voting.

The Mohammed Army is made up of former members of Saddam's Baath Party, members of his elite Republican Guards and former military commanders. It, too, has focused attacks on the U.S. military and played a role in the November 2004 battle for Fallujah.

Al-Maliki unveiled his 24-point national reconciliation initiative on Sunday, offering amnesty to insurgents who renounce violence and have not committed terrorist attacks.

"To those who want to rebuild our country, we present an olive branch," al-Maliki told applauding lawmakers. "And to those who insist on killing and terrorism, we present a fist with the power of law to protect our country and people."

The much-anticipated plan lacked important details, but issued specific instructions to Iraqi security forces to rapidly take control of the country so U.S. and other foreign troops can eventually leave. It did not include a deadline for their withdrawal.

Al-Maliki said Iraq also must deal with the problem of militias, which are blamed for a surge of sectarian violence that has worsened in Iraq, where nearly 40 people have been killed in the last 24 hours.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad congratulated the government on the initiative.

Hours later, the terrorist umbrella organization that includes al-Qaida in Iraq posted an Internet video showing the purported killing of three of the four Russian Embassy workers kidnapped June 3. A statement said the fourth also was slain.

"God's verdict has been carried out on the Russian diplomats ... in revenge for the torture, killing and expulsion of our brothers and sisters by the infidel Russian government," the Mujahedeen Shura Council statement said.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed doubt Monday over the authenticity of the video.

"We saw that footage. ... It is not fresh, it is dated sometime mid-June. ... It also contained a scene of execution of several people, but we are not 100 percent sure that these are our employees," Lavrov said on REN-TV television.

"Experts possessing the necessary equipment and experience are now studying the footage as thoroughly as possible," Lavrov said.

The kidnappers had demanded the Kremlin pull its troops out of Chechnya, a predominantly Muslim region in southern Russia where separatists have been fighting for independence for nearly 15 years.

While al-Maliki set no timetable for an American troop pullout, officials in Washington said Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top commander in Iraq, had drafted a plan for drawing down the U.S. presence by two combat brigades in late summer or early autumn.

The New York Times said officials indicated the reduction could involve the 1st Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division, which patrols a swath of west Baghdad, and the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, in troublesome Diyala province.

According to the report, those brigades would not be replaced numerically and their duties would be assumed by U.S. forces already in Iraq. The Times said the Casey plan envisioned eventually cutting U.S. forces from the current 14 brigades to five or six by the end of 2007.

Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman in Baghdad, said any reduction in forces would depend on conditions in Iraq and be made in consultation with the Iraqi government.

"Based on ongoing assessments of the conditions on the ground, force levels could go up or down over time in order to meet the evolving requirements for the mission in Iraq," he told the AP.

Al-Maliki, while calling for amnesty for some insurgents and opposition figures who have not been involved in terrorist activities, declared that insurgent killers would not escape justice.

The New York Times said officials indicated the reduction could involve the 1st Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division, which patrols a swath of west Baghdad, and the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, in troublesome Diyala province.

According to the report, those brigades would not be replaced numerically and their duties would be assumed by U.S. forces already in Iraq. The Times said the Casey plan envisioned eventually cutting U.S. forces from the current 14 brigades to five or six by the end of 2007.

Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman in Baghdad, said any reduction in forces would depend on conditions in Iraq and be made in consultation with the Iraqi government.

"Based on ongoing assessments of the conditions on the ground, force levels could go up or down over time in order to meet the evolving requirements for the mission in Iraq," he told the AP.

Al-Maliki, while calling for amnesty for some insurgents and opposition figures who have not been involved in terrorist activities, declared that insurgent killers would not escape justice.

"The launch of this national reconciliation initiative should not be read as a reward for the killers and criminals or acceptance of their actions. No, a thousand times no. There can be no agreement with them unless they face the justice," he said.

The prime minister, in power just over a month, said he was realistic about the difficulties ahead.

"We realize that there is a legion of those who have tread the path of evil (who) ... will continue with their criminal acts," he said.

Khalilzad urged Iraqi leaders to move quickly to take control of the country.

"The leaders of Iraq's various communities should truly be leaders to their people, and begin to take responsibility for bringing sectarian violence to an end," he said. "I urge the insurgents to lay down their arms and join the democratic process initiated by their fellow Iraqis."

Al-Maliki gave no specific ideas for disbanding sectarian militias and other illegal groups, saying only that the problem should be solved through "political, economic and security measures."

Khalilzad suggested individual militiamen who meet certain criteria could be posted to the regular security forces, while the others get job training and other rehabilitation. He dismissed a wholesale integration of militias into the security forces.

The reconciliation plan won the endorsement of the senior Sunni political figure in parliament.

"In the name of Iraqi Accordance Front, I support and agree with this initiative and call upon all Iraqis to support it because it will be the first step toward security, stability and the building of a new Iraq," said Adnan al-Dulaimi, whose organization represents the three key Sunni political parties in parliament.

However, it is expected that parliament's debate this week on the plan will reveal considerable opposition among hard-liners on both sides of the Sunni-Shiite divide.

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Associated Press writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra contributed to this report.



Written By SAMEER N. YACOUB

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