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Iraqi Officials: Al-Qaeda Weakened But Still Serious Threat

The area surrounding the northern city of Mosul continues to be plagued by terrorist attacks.
The area surrounding the northern city of Mosul continues to be plagued by terrorist attacks.
BAGHDAD -- Iraqi officials say Al-Qaeda in Iraq still poses a serious challenge to the country's stability despite recent blows to its command structure, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports.

Saad al-Muttalibi, the government adviser for national security, told RFE/RL on May 18 that "Al-Qaeda is not finished yet, although it is much weaker now as a result of relentless operations by security forces that have taken the fight to the terrorist group."

Muttalibi added, however, that Al-Qaeda in Iraq has "an established foothold in the country."

He said Iraqi forces still face a long struggle when one considers that "countries more stable than Iraq, like Saudi Arabia, are still wrestling with Al-Qaeda."

The so-called Islamic State of Iraq, the insurgent group that leads Al-Qaeda in Iraq, announced on May 16 that it had named a new leader to replace its top commander, who was killed in a joint Iraqi-U.S. operation last month.

Muttalibi said this announcement might be a last attempt to revive the terrorist group's fortunes. He noted that "naming elements [to lead the group] who are unfamiliar with the vagaries of the Iraqi situation" suggests that Al-Qaeda may be running out of options.

Brigadier General Said Ahmad, a police spokesman in the northern city of Mosul, considered one of Al-Qaeda's last strongholds in Iraq, said that "the terrorist threat in Mosul has not been totally eliminated, but it is no exaggeration to say that Al-Qaeda is now operating at 10 percent of its previous capacity."

He added that "terrorists who infiltrate Iraq through Syria principally come to Mosul, but they no longer operate in the same accommodating environment they found before."

Ahmad said that "better cooperation by the public in reporting suspicious movements, combined with raids by security forces on an almost daily basis" have considerably reduced regional violence.

An uptick in deadly bombings in recent months has killed dozens of Iraqis, with officials suspecting Al-Qaeda in Iraq of being responsible for the attacks.