James Hider / The Times of London – 2005-01-06 22:40:38
BAGHDAD (January 4, 2005) — Iraq’s rapidly swelling insurgency numbers 200,000 fighters and active supporters and outnumbers the United States-led coalition forces, the head of the country’s intelligence service said yesterday.
The number is far higher than the US military has so far admitted and paints a much grimmer picture of the challenge facing the Iraqi authorities and their British and American backers as elections loom in four weeks.
“I think the resistance is bigger than the US military in Iraq. I think the resistance is more than 200,000 people,” General Muhammad Abdullah Shahwani, director of Iraq’s new intelligence services, said.
Bomb attacks killed another 18 people yesterday, almost all of them members of the security services, and the head of the Baghdad division of the Iraqi National Guard admitted that his paramilitary police force had been infiltrated by people who are leaking information to the guerrillas.
General Shahwani said that there were at least 40,000 hardcore fighters attacking US and Iraqi troops, with the bulk made up of part-time guerrillas and volunteers providing logistical support, information, shelter and money.
‘Two Years and No Improvement’
“People are fed up after two years without improvement,” he said. “People are fed up with no security, no electricity, people feel they have to do something. The army (dissolved by the American occupation authority) was hundreds of thousands. You’d expect some veterans would join with their relatives, each one has sons and brothers.”
With elections less than a month away, the guerrillas have launched a massive campaign of attacks against anyone linked with the coalition or the Iraqi authorities.
Yesterday, at least ten National Guardsmen were killed in the northern Sunni towns of Tikrit and Balad, and another six policemen and a civilian died in two car bombings in Baghdad, one of them close to the offices of Iyad Allawi, the interim Prime Minister.
The commander of the Iraqi National Guard in Baghdad said that his forces were trying to root out guerrillas who had infiltrated his organisation, and who were passing on intelligence to the insurgents to enable the attacks. Major- General Mudhir Abood said that the problem had arisen because the force had been set up hastily in the face of a rapidly deteriorating security situation and that the new recruits had not been sufficiently vetted.
More than 1,000 Iraqi Police and Guardsmen Killed
More than 1,000 police and National Guardsmen have been killed since the security forces were established after the war in relentless attacks aimed at plunging the country into chaos.
In the northern city of Mosul, insurgents displayed a gruesome talent for inventive murder by blowing up a policeman as he approached a beheaded corpse that had been packed with explosives.
* Hazim Shalan, the Iraqi Defence Minister, said yesterday that the elections scheduled for January 30 could be delayed to a later date if the Sunni Muslim community agreed to take part.
“We have asked our Arab brothers, particularly in Egypt and Gulf countries, to get Iraqi Sunnis to participate in the elections and if such a participation requires a delay to the election date, they could be delayed,” Mr Shalan said.
Copyright 2005 Times Newspapers Ltd.
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