Terror group stokes sectarian strife by taking credit for a series of attacks last week that killed at least 88 people, including an MP that the group called an 'arrogant criminal'.
Al Qaeda group claims wave of Iraq attacks, says Iraq is run by Iran
BAGHDAD // Al Qaeda's front group in Iraq has claimed a wave of violence in the past week that killed at least 88 people, including a Sunni member of parliament who was assassinated by a suicide bomber, a statement said.
The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) described lawmaker Ayfan Al Essawi as an "arrogant criminal" and said the spate of violence last week was carried out as revenge for Iraq's government holding Sunni female detainees.
In a statement distributed by the Al Fajr Media Centre and posted on the Iraqiyoon website on January 18, ISI claimed the "cutting of the head of the dog of the Americans, and the tail of the Safavid apostate, the criminal Essawi," going on to describe the dead lawmaker as an "arrogant criminal".
It was making a pejorative reference to the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, implying that it was under the domination of formerly Safavid-ruled Iran.
"God helped the mujaheddin tear him away from his followers, and send him with the former Sahwa sheikhs," the group said, referring to Essawi's past as a former leader of the Sahwa, or anti-Qaeda Sunni militia.
Sahwa fighters are viewed by Sunni militants as traitors for having sided with the US army from late 2006, and are often targets of violence.
The statement also claimed responsibility for a "series of invasions which were launched as revenge for Sunni females in the prisons of the Safavids" and promised to publish details of the attacks in a further statement.
"The military and security units of the Islamic State of Iraq launched a third blessed wave by striking several criminal strongholds in different areas of Iraq in a well-coordinated way despite all the measures taken by the apostate government," the statement said.
The three days of violence, from January 15 to 17, left 88 people dead in a series of attacks that targeted all of Iraq's major sects and ethnic groups, including 33 people who were killed in twin car bombs.
Al-Qaeda's front group is widely seen as weaker than during the peak of Iraq's sectarian bloodshed from 2006 to 2008, but is still capable of carrying out mass-casualty attacks on a regular basis.
* Agence France-Presse