Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat- A number of families have fled the city of Samarra, north of Baghdad, saying that if the government does not intervene, their city will end up like Kabul during the Taliban era.
The fleeing families say that extremists have renamed the city “the Islamic Emirate of Samarra, which is one of the emirates of the Islamic State of Iraq, declared by Al-Qaeda in the Land of Two Rivers last year.
Abdul-Karim Sadi, 46, said: “We and our families have gradually fled our city leaving behind our possessions except for some money that will sustain us for a few months. The situation in Samarra and its suburbs has become intolerable because extremist groups have begun interfering in people’s private lives to the point of interfering in private relationships between husbands and wives.”
He pointed out that these groups “began arriving in Samarra specifically a year and a half ago. Most of their leaders hold Arab citizenships, including Syrians, Algerians, Egyptians, and Yemenis, along with some Iraqi tribesmen who assist them and offer them facilities. These groups have been given houses and farms to turn them into training camps. They will train the sons of the city who refuse to join them so that they will force them to join them in the future by threatening to kill their families if they refuse.”
Muhannad al-Samarra’i, 31, a policeman in Samarra, said he received direct threats from these extremist groups to quit work for the police force in the city; otherwise, he will be killed along with his family if he continued to work with the government, which they described as collaborator. He added: “These groups are tightening their grip on the city and its people in the absence of government security establishments, which have weak presence, and only in the center of the city.” He said that US forces look on what is happening in the city and on what those groups are doing without really intervening to eliminate them. US forces sometimes let these groups do what they want in the city and its helpless people.”
Muhannad al-Samarra’i’s wife, a mother of two, said: “These extremist groups have imposed particular conditions on women, such as wearing veil and robes.” The wife, who was born in Samarra in the 1970s, added: “These groups have recruited some women to propagate extremist ideas and beliefs among other women of the city. They employ these women to spread takfiri ideas against anyone who does not get affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Islamic Emirate.”
Muhannad al-Samarra’i stressed that the mujahidin organizations and the Islamic Army, which are linked to Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers, “have extended their control throughout the city and its suburbs. There are large areas in the city where US forces cannot enter or even pass through after having been exposed to repeated assaults that inflicted big losses in lives and equipment.”
Raed al-Samarra’i, 33, Muhannad al-Samurai’s eldest brother, said that members of the security and intelligence services of the former Iraqi regime and of the Baath Party have joined these extremist groups and work closely with them under a leader of an Arab nationality. He added: “Families that do not declare their allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq or to these groups and to those working with them face death, eviction, or the confiscation of their properties and estates.” He noted that these groups impose “protection money on shop owners and professionals on the pretext of aiding resistance attacks against US and Iraqi security forces. They attack even citizens who refuse to declare allegiance to the Islamic Emirate.”
Muhannad said that large areas of the farms around Samarra have been transformed into camps like those of Al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan. Arab fighters, who were trained in Afghanistan many years ago, supervise the new camps in Samarra. Other interlocutress agreed with Muhannad that the city of Samarra “is becoming like the Afghan cities of Qandahar and Kabul in the era of Taliban.” They said that these groups will rule the city publicly unless the Iraqi government intervenes strongly and ends the existence of these groups and their shelters and eliminates any person or party that offers them support.”