By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2011 – Bomb explosions that have killed at least 58 Iraqis today appear to be the work of al-Qaeda in Iraq, a spokesman for U.S. Forces Iraq said here today.
The explosions, similar to an attack launched in August last year, struck cities from Tikrit to Baghdad to Basra, with the largest loss of life in Kut.
The attacks are proof that Iraq remains a dangerous place, Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan said.
“We haven’t seen claims for these attacks, but given the targets, the methods, it very much looks like al-Qaida’s work,” Buchanan said in an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.
But though al-Qaeda in Iraq still can launch spectacular attacks, the general said, the organization’s membership, funding and freedom of movement have continued to decline.
At one time, he said, al-Qaida in Iraq was able to launch these attacks almost daily and posed an existential threat to the Iraqi government. Today, al-Qaida is a shadow or its former self, and even horrendous attacks like today’s do not represent a threat to the government, Buchanan said. “[Al-Qaida in Iraq] is between 800 to 1,000 members of all stripes, from financiers to smugglers to media people to fighters,” he added.
The terrorists remain dangerous, Buchanan said, but they have been under attack by U.S. and Iraqi forces, and have lost any support they had from the Iraqi people by their callous bombing campaign that kills fellow Muslims.
Al-Qaida in Iraq has never changed its ideology, the general noted, and Iraqis know this. “They will do anything they can and murder anyone to try to overthrow the government,” he said, “but they have very little support.”
The terror organization has lost its freedom of movement in the country, Buchanan said. At one time, he added, the terrorists were able to move from Mosul and Tikrit to throughout Anbar province, and in and around the suburbs of Baghdad. They had a network of supporters that gave them that mobility.
The group also has lost much of the funding stream it counted on in the past, Buchanan said, and reportedly has been robbing banks and gold stores to mount its operations.
Finally, he said, the stream of foreign fighters flowing in to Iraq over the Syrian border has almost dried up.