BAGHDAD: Al Qaeda’s front group called on Iraq’s protesters on Thursday to take up arms against the authorities and dismissed the country’s minority community’s ministers as weak and corrupt.
An audio message, purportedly read by Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) spokesman Abu Mohammed Al Adnani, encouraged the minority community to continue with weeks of demonstrations but said Sunnis would not gain dignity without bloodshed.
It came as the group issued statements claiming 82 attacks on security forces and government officials from Oct. 17 to Dec. 12 south and west of Baghdad.
“You have two options,” Adnani said in the message posted on a jihadist Internet forum.
“You can kneel to them (the government), and this is impossible, or carry weapons and you will be the superior.”
He continued: “Obtaining dignity and freedom, and rejecting oppression, will not happen one day without the raining of bullets and blood.”
“This is a tax; we have to pay it for our dignity. The tax of being subjects and humiliation is much heaver than this. Continue with your blessed demonstrations, and prepare to hold weapons, which the apostate will force you to carry...Only at that time will we restore our dignity.”
Weeks of protests in Sunni-majority areas of the north and west have railed against the alleged targeting of their community by the Shiite-led authorities and have, more recently, called for Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki to resign.
The rallies were sparked by the Dec. 20 arrest of at least nine guards of Finance Minister Rafa Al Essawi, a top Sunni leader.
In a major escalation of tensions, eight demonstrators were killed by troops last week in Fallujah, west of Baghdad, the first deaths of protesters at the hands of security forces since the rallies began.
Thursday’s message also dismissed Sunni ministers in Maliki’s national unity government as corrupt and self-serving, saying “your politicians did not get angry even once for the violations against you.”
“The Safavid government remained his political partner,” Adnani said, in an apparent reference to Sunni ministers as one.
He also made a pejorative swipe at the government, implying that it was under the domination of neighbouring Iran, ruled by the Safavid dynasty from the 16th to 18th centuries. Adnani also dismissed a recent cross-sectarian gesture by powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, who joined with Sunni leaders to pray together at a major Sunni mosque in Baghdad.