Organized Crime is Another Threat to Iraq, Says Top General

By Matthew Harwood

Another threat has emerged to challenge Iraqi stablility, says General David Petraeus, the U.S. commander of troops in Iraq: organized crime.

The reduced threat from al Qaeda has given way to nonsectarian crimes — kidnapping, corruption in the oil industry and extortion.

“As the terrible extremist threat of al Qaeda has been reduced somewhat, there is in some Iraqi neighborhoods actually a focus on crime and on extortion that has been ongoing and kidnapping cells and what is almost a mafia-like presence in certain areas,” he said.

And an incident yesterday may show al Qaeda in Iraq, while diminished,  will not go down quietly.

As the Associated Press reports:

Gunmen in Baghdad snatched 10 Sunni and Shiite tribal sheiks from their cars Sunday after talks with the government on fighting Al Qaeda, and at least one was later found dead.... The two cars carrying the sheiks - seven Sunnis and three Shiites - were ambushed in Baghdad's predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Shaab at about 3:30 p.m., police officials said.

The sheiks were returning to Diyala Province after attending a meeting with the Shiite-dominated government's adviser for tribal affairs to discuss coordinating efforts against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the police and a relative said.

No organization has claimed responsibility for the attack, although the two main suspects are al Qaeda in Iraq and the Mahdi Army, a sectarian Shia militia under the control of the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.



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