Al Qaeda is attempting to make a comeback in Iraq by enticing scores of former Sunni allies to rejoin the terrorist group by paying them more than the monthly salary they currently receive from the government, two key US-backed militia leaders have told the Guardian.
They said Al Qaeda leaders were exploiting the imminent departure of US fighting troops to ramp up a membership drive, in an attempt to show that they are still a powerful force in the country after seven years of war.
Al Qaeda is also thought to be moving to take advantage of a power vacuum created by continuing political instability in Iraq, which remains without a functional government more than five months after a general election.
Sheikh Sabah al-Janabi, a leader of the Awakening Council — also known as the Sons of Iraq — based in Hila, 60 miles south of Baghdad, told the Guardian that 100 out of 1,800 rank-and-file members had not collected their salaries for the last two months: a clear sign, he believes, that they are now taking money from their former enemies.
The Sons of Iraq grew out of a series of mini-rebellions against militants associated with Al Qaeda that started in late 2006.
They soon grew into a success story in Iraq. The then commanding US general, David Petraeus, agreed to pay each member a $300 monthly salary and used the rebels as a tool to quell the boiling insurgency.