The spectre of al Qaeda returns to Iraq

Militant actions threaten the Christian population

Is al Qaeda staging a comeback in Iraq? Since Christmas Day, when it suffered the most serious terror attack since the 2010 massacre of worshippers at Baghdad’s church of Our Lady of Salvation, the beleaguered Christian community of Iraq has reason to weigh that question very seriously.

Though no group has claimed the latest triple bombing, visited upon worshippers at St John’s church and a nearby marketplace, blame was quickly laid at al Qaeda’s door.


As reported in last week’s The Irish Catholic, friendly soundings between the community and Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki during the festive season may have been a factor in militants opposed to the current government targeting Christians.

Such militants are invariably drawn from Iraq’s Sunni community, and remain deeply resentful of the power wielded by Mr Maliki and his Shiite fellows, a resentment now being fuelled by a military drive against alleged militant strongholds in Anbar province, a great wedge-shaped region neighbouring the capital and stretching to the borders of Jordan and Syria.

Mixed messages

This border element is of importance amid the mixed messages now circulating as military action continues.

Tribal leaders in both Falluja and Ramadi, where the bulk of current clashes are taking place, insist that the government is moving to suppress Sunni opposition and the al Qaeda claim is overstated to justify its actions (communities in both cities previously worked with American forces to oust al Qaeda in the wake of unprecedented levels of savagery wrought by the group under the leadership of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi).
However, other observers have pointed out that Anbar’s proximity to Syria is allowing al Qaeda fluidity of movement across the national border, increasing instability in both nations.


Dispatches from both Falluja and Ramadi report militants bearing al Qaeda’s black flag were directly involved in attacks on police stations and prisons – and in calls from mosques for young fighters to join the ‘revolution’ against Baghdad.

That being so, one does not have to read much between the lines to perceive the threat posed to Iraq’s Christians, already numerically denuded and with few places left within the Middle East to run should the al Qaeda spectre rise again.