Al-Qaeda Style: Eyes haunting Iraqis in Al-Anbar
Shafaq News/ Merchants and contractors who used to work with Iraqi security services and U.S. forces were at the crosshairs of Al-Qaeda militants when the latter had broad influence in Al-Anbar for many years. However, even after Al-Qaeda and ISIS hegemony faded, Iraqi contractors and merchants still walk with target signs on their backs.
Al-Murabatat or stations (warriors gathered and prepared to fight) - set up by members of armed factions under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilization Forces (P.M.F.) brought back to the memory the methods of Al-Qaeda's control of various areas of Al-Anbar between 2004 and 2009.
Contractors and cargo carriers to the U.S. soldiers at Ain Assad Airbase in western Al-Anbar, in which the U.S. forces are based, fear Al-Murabatat that monitors those entering and leaving the Airbase.
Al-Murabatat deploy civilian vehicles from the city of Heet to the Iraqi-Syrian border, stationing on the main road to Al-Baghdadi city, and monitoring and identifying Iraqi civilians entering Ain Assad; whether they are transport operators meeting the soldiers' needs from the local market, construction contractors transporting building materials, or tribal leaders and local officials.
"Armed factions are monitoring Ain Assad Airbase from afar. They are watching over those going inside and outside through the Al-Murabatat or cars passing through the highway in patrols back and forth", an Iraqi security source in Al-Anbar told Shafaq News agency.
"Those parties are threatening whom they suspect are dealing with U.S. agencies, whether the U.S. forces or even liberated cities' organizations working within the stabilization programs. Some of them were threatened and received messages warning them not to visit Ain Assad again", the source added.
Hundreds of U.S. soldiers are based at Ain Assad Airbase, 110 kilometers west of Ramadi. Over the past years, U.S. forces have carried out extensive rehabilitation and reconstruction operations requiring the transfer of construction materials and local workers to complete these projects. Similarly, delivery workers are constantly entering and leaving the Airbase at the request of its inhabitants to deliver regular daily goods.
M.S, a contractor from Haditha, western al-Anbar, told Shafaq News agency that he received an anonymous letter warning him of entered Ain Assad and stayed there for more than two hours. The letter also contained his car's plate number. "There are those who follow and threaten us in the name of well-known factions—the same factions behind the chaos in Baghdad with Katyusha rockets. We have worked for a while at Ain Assad. There is still some work there that we can benefit from. If we do not do it, someone else will".
Since late last year, the Green Zone in Baghdad, where major government headquarters and foreign embassy missions are located, military bases hosting the International Coalition's forces, and convoys transporting logistics have been subjected to missile and bomb attacks.
Since last October, attacks have decreased considerably when Iraqi Resistance factions announced halting the operations against foreign forces and interests, particularly the U.S. forces in Iraq, to allow them to withdraw from the country. Washington accuses pro-Iran Iraqi factions, particularly Kata'ib Hezbollah and Asa'ib Ahl Al-Haq, of being behind the attacks.
In April, eight factions (Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, Al-Aufiaa Movement, Jund Al-Imam Movement, Harakat Hezbollah Al-Nujaba, Kata'ib Sayyid Al-Shuhada, Kata'ib Al-Imam Ali, Saraya Ashura, and Saraya Al-Kursany), known as the "Iraqi Resistance", announced that they were targeting U.S. forces in Iraq, deeming them as "occupying forces".
Walid Al-Issawi, who works for a civilian organization in western Al-Anbar, wondered if they view the Iraqi security forces undergoing training drills at Ain Assad airbase as traitors as well, "There is nothing worth mentioning. It is only business, mostly services to the governorates and workshops that have been stalled for some time now because of the constant threats".
"Al-Anbar's people are being accused of treason and are facing another terrorism that uses the same terminology as Al-Qaeda and ISIS", Al-Issawi added.