Al-Qaeda Sinks Roots in Mosul

The government's effort did not produce a solution to the problem, taking place as it did during a dispute between the provincial administration, which was demanding oversight of security issues, and the central government, which was in charge of security. This disagreement negatively affected the relationship between the locals and Iraqi security forces.

On the one hand, the Sunni majority in Mosul considers the state security forces a tool of the Shiite-dominated government and therefore does not trust them. On the other hand, Mosul residents fear al-Qaeda taking revenge on their families or against them personally if they cooperate with the security forces. The organization has sent a number of messages indicating that it does not think twice about retaliating against those who “collaborate” with the government.

In September, al-Qaeda militants bombed the homes of select policemen and army officers to punish them for joining the security forces. The attacks were launched shortly after the federal government announced that it was ready to welcome former army officers from Mosul into its ranks.

Al-Qaeda has benefited from the growing sectarian tensions in Iraq and has adopted tactics to help it gain the trust of Mosul's Sunni inhabitants — such as by preventing sporadic acts of violence, like booby-trapped car explosions — and presents itself as their protector. Furthermore, al-Qaeda has succeeded in taking advantage of events in Syria and the widening rift between Iraqi Sunnis and the Iraqi government to attract followers in a city full of unemployed youth.

By strengthening its organization, broadening its funding and playing off sectarian feelings, the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has managed to surpass competing armed groups, among them those affiliated with the Baath Party. In the past few months, the group launched attacks on non-Sunni religious minorities — including the Shabaks, the Shiite Turkmen and the Yazidis — in an attempt to alter the demographics and make Mosul and its environs entirely Sunni. In one of these attacks, it detonated a car bomb at an elementary school in an area inhabited by Shiite Turkmen.

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