Iraq jihadist group ISIS a ‘threat’ to Baghdad

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By Nidhal al-Laithi

Azzaman, April 7, 2014

Iraqi troops have fortified positions in the outskirts of Baghdad and in the vicinity of Baghdad International airport following reports that the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS) was planning attacks on the capital.

Iraqi security forces said the ministries of interior and defence were deploying troops in Baghdad outskirts and that the U.S. embassy in Baghdad has advised its employees to avoid using Baghdad airport as a travel route.

There are fears that ISIS, which is currently in control of large swathes of land west of Baghdad, would try to attack the capital in last bid to disrupt general elections schedule for the end of this month.

ISIS jihadists are active in the provinces of Baaquba, Salahudeen and Nineveh. In the Province of Ramadi they are still in control of large parts of the strategic town of Falluja and certain neighbourhoods of Ramadi, the provincial capital.

Iraqi government sources refusing to be named for security reasons said ISIS wanted “to open a new front” to divert attention from the siege government troops have imposed on its fighters in Falluja.

An Iraqi army officer, speaking on condition of anonymity said, ISIS was trying to “establish a foothold” in the outskirts of Baghdad following reports that the army was tightening noose around their positions west of Baghdad.

“Their push towards Baghdad will be suicidal. We have enough troops to deter them (ISIS) and crush them,” said the officer.

The officer said Iraqi troops had inflicted heavy losses on ISIS, whose fighters were desperate to break the siege imposed on them in Falluja.

However, Iraqi Prime Minister Noor al-Maliki depicted a different picture of ISIS, saying the jihadist group was disrupting water supplies from reaching Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, urging tribesmen and Iraqi army to use all means to “crush the terrorists.”

The Iraqi army officer said that battles have been raging with ISIS and two other militant groups, which did not identify, for more than two months.

However, the officer admitted that some of the fighting was taking place in areas which were a few kilometres from Abu Ghraib in Baghdad outskirts.

“We have noticed a heavy presence of ISIS and fighters from other armed groups in the suburbs of Baghdad,” said the officer, adding that the jihadists were using some villages and towns as a haven.

The officer said the government was taking “all precautions” to prevent ISIS from reaching the area of the Baghdad International Airport and that many inmates in Abu Ghraib prisons have been moved to other areas.