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Archive for April, 2010

Abu Ayyub al-Masri, seen in a poster in a 2006 news conference

Abu Ayyub al-Masri, seen in a poster in a 2006 news conference

 By: FA ME / Source: New York Times

BAGHDAD — Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki announced Monday that two top insurgent leaders had been killed, including a somewhat mythic figure who has operated under the name Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. Mr. Baghdadi has been reported dead or detained several times previously, and his very existence had been called into question a few years ago by American military leaders.

 After Mr. Maliki’s press conference, the American military released a statement verifying that Mr. Baghdadi was killed in a joint raid between Iraqi and United States forces in the dark hours of Sunday morning near Tikrit, near Saddam Hussein’s hometown.

  Also killed, according to Mr. Maliki and American officials, was Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, also known as Al Qeada in Mesopotamia, a largely Iraqi group that includes some foreign leadership.

 Both men were found in a hole in the ground.

 “The security forces surrounded the hole, and when they got them out they were dead,” Mr. Maliki said at the news conference. Mr. Maliki said computers and letters were found that included communication between the men and Osama bin Laden.

 One United States soldier died during the operation in a helicopter crash, which officials said was not caused by enemy fire.

 “The death of these terrorists is potentially the most significant blow to Al Qaeda in Iraq since the beginning of the insurgency,” said Gen. Ray Odierno, the top American military commander in Iraq, in a statement. “The Government of Iraq intelligence services and security forces supported by U.S. intelligence and special operations forces have over the last several months continued to degrade A.Q.I. There is still work to do but this is a significant step forward in ridding Iraq of terrorists.”

 The American military said Mr. Masri had replaced the former leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in 2006. The American military described Mr. Masri as being “directly responsible for high profile bombings and attacks against the people of Iraq.”

 While violence is down dramatically in Iraq compared to the worst days of the insurgency and sectarian violence in 2006 and 2007, the country still faces daily attacks in the form of car bombs, improvised explosive devices and assassinations.

 The Sunni insurgency, whose face was Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, deteriorated in recent years after American forces persuaded groups of fighters to switch sides by paying them cash and promising them jobs, a movement that became known as the Awakening.

 P.S: in the New York Time piece above, they didn’t mention that during the conference held by Nuri Kamal al-Maliki he spoke about a plot and well organized campaign that Al Qaeda was organizing to bomb the biggest number of churches in Iraq, we don’t know yet how big this plot is and who is behind the support of such plans?

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BlackWater Guard

BlackWater Guard

Source : Stars and Stripes online edition

 BAGHDAD — As the Iraqi government pushes for more control over the tens of thousands of American contractors still in the country, some high-level U.S. interpreters say new visa regulations are pushing them to leave.  

 The interpreters, Arab-Americans who work in sensitive areas such as intelligence or as liaisons between senior American officers and Iraqi officials, worry that submitting the details of their identities to the Iraqi government could endanger themselves or family members living in Iraq or elsewhere in the region.

 “Working for four years doing intel, pretty much I know how corrupt things are,” said one former Iraqi-American interpreter who quit her job and returned to the U.S. last month after her company notified employees they would need to apply for a visa. Like other interpreters interviewed for this story, she spoke on the condition of anonymity.

 Along with many other U.S. contractors, most interpreters travel to Iraq via military flight from an air base in Kuwait to one of several air bases in Iraq. Unlike at the commercial airport in Baghdad, there are no visa checks at the bases. But Douglas Ebner, a spokesman for DynCorp International, said the company was recently told its employees would need visas anyway. 

 “We have been informed by Iraqi government authorities that contractors, including interpreters, who use military transportation hubs to enter Iraq, as well as those individuals already in-country, must apply for the appropriate visa,” he said in an e-mailed statement. “We take very seriously our corporate obligation to comply with applicable local laws.”

 It’s not clear how or whether the Iraqi government will enforce that requirement.

 Qusai al-Kubaisi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said contractors entering via U.S. military bases have been required to apply for visas for more than a year, though that has never been enforced.

 Still, the change could affect thousands of the nearly 100,000 U.S. contractors who remain in Iraq. And it comes amid continuing attempts by the Iraqi government to clamp down on those contractors — especially ones involved in security.

 Angry over a U.S. judge’s dismissal of criminal charges against five security contractors accused in the September 2007 shooting deaths of 17 people in Baghdad, Iraqi officials in February ordered any contractors who ever worked for the former Blackwater Worldwide out of the country and threatened to arrest on visa violations any who failed to leave — an apparent acknowledgement that many contractors arrive without a visa.

 The day after that threat was issued, a site manager for Global Linguist Solutions sent interpreters an e-mail telling them a visa was “now required to enter and exit Iraq” and asking them to submit personal information including their father’s name and their country of birth.

 Global Linguist Solutions, a subsidiary of DynCorp and McNeil Technologies, was awarded a five-year, $4.6 billion contract in 2007 to provide translation services to the military in Iraq, including up to 1,000 Arabic-speaking U.S. citizens with security clearances.

 And some of those interpreters say information like their father’s name and their birthplace — though standard lines on a visa application in the Arab world — would make their families easy to find.

 “I was involved in a lot of things that weren’t pretty,” said one interpreter still in Baghdad, who said he wasn’t sure whether he would comply with the visa regulation. “I put a lot of people behind bars. So of course I’m worried about it.”

 Interpreters have been given the option to quit their jobs and leave Iraq if they don’t want to submit the information. But that has left some feeling like they’re being cast aside. Some also say interpreters should have been given protections under the Status of Forces Agreement, and complain that the military has shown little interest in standing up for them now.

“We’re always being told how we’re essential to the mission and we are, because if not for us, nobody can understand each other,” said another interpreter in Baghdad. “We are proud Americans and we want to see this through, but now we feel like we’re being abandoned. It’s just, ‘Do this or get out.’”

 This is not the first time interpreters’ identities have become a sensitive issue. Locally hired Iraqi interpreters long wore bandanas over their faces while on patrol with U.S. troops and resisted occasional attempts to have them unmask, which the military saw as a signal of a return to normalcy. Iraqi interpreters also complained about attempts by the Iraqi government to make them pay taxes — hardly ever paid by anyone in Iraq — which required them to declare their employer.

 The interpreters hired from the U.S. essentially represent the top-level translators in the country, and few ever wore bandanas. But they still worry.

 “I support the mission very much, but if it comes to putting myself or my family in danger then I have to draw the line and quit,” said the former translator. “We were hired by the U.S. Army, so I don’t see why we have to deal with the corrupt Iraqi government.”

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