Home Al-Qaeda Al Qaeda in Iraq: liberating prisoners more than just PR points

Al Qaeda in Iraq: liberating prisoners more than just PR points

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Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Contributor for In Homeland Security

Two coordinated simultaneous attacks took place on two Iraqi prisons on July 21 that freed at least 500 prisoners in Abu Ghraib. The attack on Taji was thwarted. Some sources say thousands escaped from Abu Ghraib.

“Most of them were convicted senior members of al Qaeda and had received death sentences,” said Hakim Al-Zamili, a senior member of parliament for security committee.

A statement was made today (July 23) in which Al Qaeda operatives took credit for the assaults, involving: months of planning, rocket propelled grenades, mortars, suicide bombers and car bombs.

The Iraqi security officials killed in action are reported to be at least 25, with ten militants and 21 prisoners also killed.

Symbolism is political power. This is especially true for a jihadist movement like al Qaeda in Iraq and their affiliate groups. The organization raided and set free prisoners that were abused in scandal from the US. Not only is al Qaeda in Iraq demonstrating power and sophistication on many fronts with this assault, but they are effectively stating that they are the real the real freedom fighters, not the ones involved in Operation Iraqi freedom. They will continue to claim that they have chased American infidels out and that they have the power to target high security facilities and overcome them with time.

The best propaganda is partially true. Very little propaganda is needed when terrorists succeed in attacks other than claiming responsibility. This does more than demonstrate capability and propagates further terror on the largely Muslim Shia Iraqi community that are increasingly at odds with the Sunni.

The US is gone and Iraq is a sovereign country that does not want Americans there to help. The prison was raided successfully. Now it is up to Iraqi security forces to hunt the escapees down as well as the group/cell(s) responsible. Not an easy task but it must be done in order to demonstrate resolve and capability for reprisal. If they do not or cannot, then the al Qaeda prison break narrative will grow much farther and faster, spawning even more recruits and Sunni militant sympathizers.

The attacks to follow will likely be larger and more sophisticated. What is at stake is the thin-line of sectarian civil war between the two Islamic sects. The instigation of conflict by extremists Sunni groups like al Qaeda are far more the objective than mass hatred. Hundreds are dying every month in the civil strife. The underlying question for Iraqi national security and political stability is something like this: Is the will and commitment to keep Iraq together as one nation still as strong as it is to tear it apart?

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