There is little assurance that the death of bin Laden will lessen the kidnappings, murders, and bombings of Christians and their churches which have become trademark attacks by al Qaeda affiliates in Iraq.
By Munaf Ammar, Ali A. Nabhan and Jabbar Yaseen
5/3/2011 Iraq (The Wall Street Journal) – The killing of Osama bin Laden was greeted with a mixture of emotions in Iraq, a country which paid a heavy price in the U.S. response to the September 11 attacks.
There was relief, indifference and worries about retaliation.
Iraq was invaded in 2003 by a U.S.-led coalition looking for weapons of mass destruction that were never found. Quickly, the conflict became a magnet for jihadists fighting foreign troops and all those seen by them as apostates or infidels including the country’s newly-empowered Shiite majority and the minority Christian community.
Kidnappings, beheadings and bombings of Shiite mosques and shrines and Christian churches became the hallmarks of al Qaeda’s affiliates in Iraq in attacks that killed thousands and pushed the country to the brink of civil war.
Although al Qaeda in Iraq has been significantly weakened by the death and capture of several of its top leaders over the years, it remains a potent threat as Iraqis grapple with major challenges to their fragile democracy and hopes for a better future.
The Iraqi government, which has long blamed security failings on an alliance between al Qaeda elements and loyalists to former leader Saddam Hussein, welcomed the news hoping it would serve as a blow to extremism across the region.
Jasim al-Halbousi, the head of the provincial council in Anbar said bin Laden had played a role in “the devastation that plagued” the western Iraqi province which until a few years ago served as a safe haven for al Qaeda-linked militants embracing a fanatical Sunni Muslim ideology.
In Baghdad’s Kadhimiya district, home to one of several revered Shiite shrines around the country that were targets of numerous bloody attacks by al Qaeda-tied extremists since 2004, the news of bin Laden’s demise was greeted with relief.
“For sure I am happy, he killed innocent people and Muslims, I hope his death will weaken and finish off al Qaeda,” said Mohammed Abdel-Razaq, a pastry shop owner.
“Al Qaeda in Iraq may try to carry out one or two operations in the name of revenge for bin Laden,” said Hussein Kamal, who heads the Interior Ministry’s intelligence unit.