<%@LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> WorldTribune.com: Mobile Al Qaida attempts to organize ethnic Turks in northern Iraq

Al Qaida attempts to organize ethnic Turks in northern Iraq

Friday, March 21, 2008 Free Headline Alerts

BAGHDAD Some ethnic Turks have joined the Al Qaida-aligned insurgency in Iraq.

Iraq's Turkmens formed an Islamic militia in northern Iraq. Called the "Martyr Saighan Battalion," the group said it would join the Al Qaida-led insurgency against the U.S.-led coalition, Middle East Newsline reported.

Arab analysts discounted a mass recruitment for any Turkmen insurgency. But they raised the prospect that Al Qaida could exploit Turkmen bitterness over Baghdad's neglect of their community.

"We hail and join hands with all Iraqi jihadist groups to continue the path of jihad," the group said. "We say to you that you have brothers in religion and nationality that raised the flag of jihad [and] resistance and kept up an Islamic jihadist front against the enemy."

Turkmens are non-Arab Muslims who came from neighboring Turkey. Turkmens, who live around Kirkuk, have complained of being harmed by the Kurdish autonomous government and militias in northern Iraq.

Ankara has sought to protect the rights of Turkmens, particularly in their claim of crude oil reserves in northern Iraq. Turkmens were said to number around three million, making them the third largest ethnic group -- after Arabs and Kurds in Iraq.

On Feb. 15, the Martyr Saighan Battalion released its first communique, which pledged to expel the coalition. The group said Turkmen young men have organized an insurgency network in Kirkuk to stop the U.S. exploitation of Iraqi oil reserves.

"Together we will defeat the infidels as we did a century ago," the Martyr Saighan Battalion said. "We will work with you to restore the ummah's glory and become one nation under one caliphate again."

In August 2007, the Al Qaida-aligned Islamic State of Iraq praised Turkmen insurgents. So far, no attacks by the Turkmen have been reported.

"The Iraqi government's continuous negligence with respect to Turkmen claims of unjust treatment can be expected to encourage more Turkmen to ally themselves with the so-called Islamic State of Iraq," Abdul Hameed Bakier, a Jordanian-based counter-insurgency expert, said.

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