New al-Qaeda in Iraq chief vows blood-soaked days

Baghdad–Al-Qaida in Iraq’s new leader warned Shias on Friday that “dark days soaked with blood” lie ahead and that a new campaign of attacks was under way.

The warning comes just days after Iraq was wracked by the worst attack this year, a series of coordinated bombings and assassinations that killed 119 people — most of them Shias and members of the security forces — across 10 cities.

The Iraqi insurgent umbrella group, the Islamic State of Iraq, named al-Nasser Lideen Allah Abu Suleiman as its new minister of war, replacing the Egyptian Abu Ayyub al-Masri, killed in a US-Iraqi military strike on a safe house in April. The ISI counts al-Qaida as one of its member groups.

“Wait for the long gloomy nights and dark days soaked with blood,” said Abu Suleiman, addressing Iraq’s “polytheistic rejecters,” an insulting term for Shias common among extremist Sunnis. “What is happening to you nowadays is just a drizzle.”

He spoke in an audio recording posted on militant websites Friday.

One of the major doctrinal disputes between Sunnis and Shias can be traced back to the first three rulers of the Muslim community after the Prophet Muhammad. Shias reject those first three successors as illegitimate.

Al-Qaeda attacks on Shia shrines in 2006 plunged the country into a bloody cycle of mutual sectarian attacks. A measure of fragile calm, however, has returned to Iraq in the past two years.

There are fears that with the new rounds of attacks, mostly targeting Shias, al-Qaeda is hoping to provoke a backlash against Sunnis and re-ignite the sectarian warfare that brought the country to the brink of civil war.

Abu Suleiman promised to “continue the path of jihad” and said his warriors had already begun “a new campaign of attacks on security and military checkpoints in Baghdad and elsewhere.”

During Monday’s attacks, violence in Baghdad consisted mainly of early morning strikes against security checkpoints that killed nearly a dozen police and military officials.

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