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COCKROACHES: Al-Qaeda Raises its Black Flag of Rule in Iraq

By , Baghdad

Ten years after the capture of Saddam Hussein, Iraq is at risk of becoming a failed state again as al-Qaeda reclaims vast swathes of the country.

Friday’s anniversary of the Iraqi dictator’s arrest sees the country still struggling with his legacy, with al-Qaeda launching a fresh campaign of terrorist atrocities from new territory carved out in western and northern Iraq.

Backed by jihadists fighting the civil war in neighbouring Syria, the group is trying to create an “emirate” straddling the two countries, taking advantage of the collapse in security across the border.

Bridges linking four key border towns on the Iraqi side have been dynamited, making it difficult for security forces to operate in the area.

Road signs have even been put up proclaiming it to be the turf of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the name for the joint Syrian-Iraqi al-Qaeda franchise.

Further north in the city of Mosul, another al-Qaeda stronghold, the group is boosting its war chest by raking in up to £5 million a month in “tithes” from local businesses.

Using their new safe haven as an operating base, al-Qaeda has mounted repeated strikes across the country, with an average of 68 car bombs a month this year.

After a period between 2009 and 2011 in which violence was on the wane, al-Qaeda’s resurgence in the past year has led to a fresh sense of despair on the streets of Baghdad, where many young Iraqis think now only of leaving the country.

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