A suicide bomber wearing an explosives vest detonated his payload Saturday in the midst of a crowd of Sunni Arab militiamen in Iskandariya south of Baghdad. He killed 9 members of the local Awakening Council or “Sons of Iraq,” and wounded dozens. The Awakening Council members took a salary from the US and subsequently from the Iraqi government to fight radical extremists. One challenge they now face is that the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is determined to disarm all but about 17,000 of them. Since they have deadly enemies who consider them collaborators and traitors, however, just giving them desk jobs will open them to assassination. Even armed,they are targeted by the guerrillas, as on Saturday.
Al-Hayat estimates that 53 members of Awakening Councils were targeted and killed during the past week alone.
The bombing occured on a military base, and Iraqi soldiers had come to pay salaries to the Awakening Council members. It was the third time the Sons of Iraq had assembled to get their salaries; the first two times, the payment ended up being postponed.
Al-Hayat says that there has been severe tension between the Awakening Councils and the Iraqi military, since the latter has been arresting members of the former suspected of involvement in violence against the government before they joined the Sons of Iraq. Thamir al-Tamimi, the counsellor to the Awakening Councils, insisted that al-Maliki had personally intervened to help resolve the tensions, with the councils pledging to turn over any members about whose past they developed suspicions.
Meanwhile, parliamentarian Mahmud Osman of the Kurdistan Alliance complained that the Obama administration is being unrealistic in its policy toward Iraqi Kurdistan. He said that the Americans are demanding that the Kurdistan Regional Government achieve a detente with Turkey and that it resolve its differences with the central government in Baghdad. These American demands, he said, are unreasonable, since Turkey has placed unacceptable conditions on the talks, which no Kurdish government can accept. Likewise, Baghdad is making a lot of demands on the Kurds that they do not feel they can accept.
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