LONDON (AFP) – Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki insisted sectarian killing had come to an end in his country, blaming ongoing daily violence on Al-Qaeda in a television interview Monday.
“I would say that the sectarian killing is over,” Maliki said, in comments to be broadcast Monday on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the United States-led and British-backed invasion of Iraq.
“It threatened the breakout of a sectarian war, but this has been ended by two factors — the first one is the national reconciliation on which we still insist.
“The second thing is the ability of the security services in arresting those who are provoking the sectarian unrest,” he told ITV television, according to extracts released in advance of the broadcast.
He added that Al-Qaeda posed the “biggest threat” to Iraq and the Middle East.
“This situation will continue but the continuation of the increasing effort of this operation will deplete all the efforts of Al-Qaeda,” he said.
“We have accurate intelligence information that Al-Qaeda and the remains of the former regime are being scattered and chased and losing the secure conditions under which they used to operate.
“There are still some incidents but in comparison to what it used to be like, it is nothing in comparison to what used to happen before.”
Al-Qaeda operatives with “sick minds” were targeting both Sunni and Shia areas, he said. “Al-Qaeda is still the biggest threat for Iraq and the region,” he said.
And he added: “Everyone agrees on this. It is not a threat towards only one part of the population.
“They are carrying out killings and crimes in Sunni areas in the same way they target Shia areas…they have sick minds. They believe that anyone who works for the government deserves to be killed.”
A poll of more than 2,000 Iraqis commissioned by the BBC and three other international media organisations to mark the date showed that 86 percent expressed concern about someone in their household being a victim of violence.
In addition, some 78 percent opposed the presence of coalition forces and 69 percent said their presence made the security situation worse.
But Maliki said that most Iraqis were “happy and delighted” because “this mysterious sectarian killing and kidnapping is over in their neighbourhoods”.