Making Themselves at Home: al Qaeda Ups Mafia-Style Extortion in Mosul
The northern Iraqi city of Mosul is well known as the base of Sunni Muslim extremists, Al Qaeda, in Iraq. But recently the militants have been stepping up their terrifying game, charging more and more “protection money” from an increasing range of individuals and businesses, and threatening and bombing any who refuse.
Recently there was a bomb blast at what is for some people in the troubled northern Iraqi city of Mosul, a piece of recent history. The owner of the Sama shopping mall in the Arabi neighbourhood, constructed at the cost of US$ 1 million and the first shopping mall to be built in Mosul, had refused to pay the “terror tax” that the local branch of Al Qaeda was demanding. The extremist organisation’s answer: On Oct. 23 a bomb, which resulted in 19 serious injuries and deaths.
On the very same day, the organization – known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIS for short, or Daash – also bombed a restaurant. Apparently the owner of the Happy Restaurant in Mosul also had not paid the right amount to the extremist extortionists.
These unfortunate business owners are some of the small number who are refusing to pay the “protection money” that the Al Qaeda affiliates are demanding. Everyone else is paying up, say Mosul locals.
This sort of behaviour is nothing new for Al Qaeda – they have been extorting money from Mosul’s people for years, ever since 2004 in fact. The difference in the most recent threats and blackmail is that Al Qaeda is spreading the net wider and putting the prices higher, says a local writer Abdul Qader Mohie Saeed. For the first time, they are targeting mosques in the west of Mosul, schools, university professors and the owners of power generators; the latter are the owners of diesel fuelled power generators and locals pay for their use during breaks in government-supplied electricity (of which there are many).