Moussa to visit Baghdad amid threats

AFP, Saturday 8 Jan 2011

Amr Moussa is to visit the Iraqi capital amid threats made against an upcoming Arab League summit

Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, (R) and Amr Moussa (C) at an earlier date in Cairo 20 October 2010. (AP)

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa is to begin a two-day visit to Iraq Saturday amid threats issued against countries that take part in an Arab summit planned for Baghdad next March.

The threat was made by an Islamist group, Ansar al-Islam, in a statement posted on a so called jihadist website on Friday.

"The meeting of these tyrants in Baghdad forms part of American plans to normalise relations with the occupation government" in Iraq, the statement read. "Everyone must know Iraq is under the occupation of the Crusaders and that only the non-believers can legitimise the impious government," it said, referring to the administration of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

"Every commercial or political building of the Arab countries in Baghdad is a military target," said Ansar al-Islam, a group formed in September 2001 by Afghan war veterans and based in northern Iraq near the border with Iran.

Iraq has not hosted an Arab League summit since 1978, though an extraordinary meeting of leaders took place there in 1990.

The government has announced a programme to refurbish the capital Baghdad, still suffering from the effects of years of war, and has earmarked 300 million dollars to renovate six palaces for the summit.

Ansar al-Islam was created in 2001 by veterans of the 1980s Soviet war in Afghanistan and had its headquarters in Iraqi Kurdistan, near the border with Iran.

Shortly before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, US special forces and fighters from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan fought Ansar al-Islam whose fighters fled their headquarters.

In September 2003, many Ansar al-Islam members formed the soon-to-be renowned militant group Ansar al-Sunna.

In May 2010, the US Army announced that Iraqi troops had arrested the head of Ansar al-Islam in Baghdad.

A statement said the man, Abu Abdullah al-Shafil, was "believed to have served the terrorist organisation since its inception" and "held association with Osama Bin Laden."

Ansar al-Islam "is allegedly responsible for funding and terrorist operations in Europe and the United Kingdom and is a prominent extremist propaganda distributor," the statement said.

Short link: