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November 23, 2007

A Story of the Awakening in Baghdad

It seems Al Qaeda didn't take to heart that whole spiel about winning hearts and minds.

The once-dreaded Al Qaeda in Iraq stronghold of Amariyah has a new boss, and he's not shy about telling the story of the shootout that turned him into a local legend and helped change the tenor of the Iraq war.

Earlier this year, Abul Abed, a disgruntled Sunni insurgent leader, began secret talks with the Americans about ending Al Qaeda's reign of terror in this run-down, formerly middle-class Baghdad neighborhood, renowned as one of the city's most dangerous. He had been gathering intelligence on the group for months.

One day in late May, he said, he decided it was time to act.

He hailed the car carrying the feared leader of Al Qaeda in the neighborhood, a man known as the White Lion, on one of Amariyah's main streets. "We want you to stop destroying our neighborhood," he told the man.

"Do you know who you are talking to?" said the White Lion, getting out of his car. "I am Al Qaeda. I will destroy even your own houses!"

He pulled out his pistol and shot at Abul Abed. The gun jammed. He reloaded and fired again. Again, the gun jammed.

By this time, Abul Abed said, he had pulled his own gun. He fired once, killing the White Lion.


"I walked over to him, stepped on his hand and took his gun," Abul Abed, which is a nom de guerre, said at his new, pink-painted headquarters in a renovated school in Amariyah, as an American Army captain seated in the corner nodded his head in affirmation of the account. "And then the fight started."

It was the beginning of the end for Al Qaeda in Amariyah. The next day, a firefight erupted. Al Qaeda fighters closed in on Abul Abed. Most of the 150 men who had joined him fled. Holed up in a mosque with fewer than a dozen supporters, Abul Abed thought the end was near.

"The blue carpet was soaked red with blood," he recalled. Then the imam of the mosque called in American help.

A friendship was born.

...

Since the Knights [as Abel terms his paramilitary group] drove Al Qaeda out of Amariyah after a two-month battle, the neighborhood has become largely safe.

"You can move freely in Amariyah at any time of the day or night," Abul Abed said. "You can even see women without head scarves, wearing tight jeans!"

Read the whole thing, down to this bit:

"The question is, what's the break point? ... How long before people start getting sick of it and start checking out?" [a US military official] said.


Abul Abed said the Sunni revolution has gone too far for that.

"Americans are our protectors and saviors," he said.


The real enemy of Iraq, he says, now is Iran.

Thanks to Tobias.


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posted by Ace at 01:48 PM

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