Iraq Al Qaeda Commander Jugheifi Killed

A senior al Qaeda commander in Iraq was shot dead on Saturday in Fallujah by unidentified gunmen, a killing believed to be related to the increasing trend of Sunni insurgents turning on the terrorist organization.

Muwaffaq al-Jugheifi had allegedly been responsible for numerous crimes in Anbar Province including kidnapping. He had also led bloody clashes against rival insurgent groups.

Two hundred Anbar tribal chiefs recently declared war on al Qaeda because of the militants’ murderous rampages in the predominantly Sunni province.

Tribal chiefs, the US military and nationalist insurgent groups have all been forced to re-evaluate their priorities and forge a reluctant truce to defeat a ruthless common enemy in al Qaeda, and hopefully drive them out of Iraq.

So far this year, around 12,000 Anbar residents have joined the Iraqi security forces, twelve times last year’s number. The US pays for their training, which takes place in Jordan, before their deployment on the streets of Anbar.

These developments have caused US military officials to speak of a ‘turnaround’ in Anbar province, which has long been a Sunni insurgent stronghold. Anbar has also claimed the lives of nearly 1,300 US troops since the 2003 invasion of Iraq – more than any other province. Five thousand extra US soldiers were recently sent to Anbar as part of President Bush’s troop surge.

Anbar tribal chiefs have further vowed to hunt down al Qaeda throughout Iraq. Muwaffaq was gunned down in Fallujah days after the chiefs sent 50 secret police into the western Baghdad neighborhood of Amiriyah to kill al Qaeda militants who had been attacking other insurgent groups. After two days of fierce battles, the neighborhood is said to be cautiously calm. The number of casualties on either side is not yet known.

Despite the immediate benefits of the new alliances in terms of fighting al Qaeda, the insurgency remains strongly opposed to the US occupation of Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Sunni insurgency remains equally committed to bringing down the Shia-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has not yet begun the reconciliation process that will be necessary to unite Iraq.

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