An Iraqi man was awarded US$85,000 for informing security forces of a car bomb in Baghdad, the first such reward after funds were dramatically upped for tip-offs, a military spokesman said yesterday.
“The prime minister decided to reward a citizen who provided information regarding the presence of a car bomb in Jamaa, giving him 100 million Iraqi dinars,” said Major General Qassim Atta, the spokesman for Baghdad operations command.
On Dec. 16, the Iraqi government approved plans to offer rewards of up to US$85,000 for tip-offs about car bombs.
The decision came after Iraqi Defense Minister Abdel Qader Obeidi asked parliament for funds to recruit informers, saying that the authorities lacked sufficient intelligence about insurgents.
In related news, national security adviser Safa Hussein told reporters that al-Qaeda in Iraq was a far smaller force than at its peak three years ago, but still posed a threat ahead of March elections.
Hussein said the group had fallen under the influence of diehard elements of the ousted Baathist regime of former president Saddam Hussein who were using it to try to undermine the credibility of the Shiite-led government ushered in by the US-led invasion of 2003.
“Recently, during the last six months, there has been a change” in al-Qaeda’s strategy, Hussein said, speaking in his office in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone government and diplomatic compound. “We think that this change comes also through the influence and effect of them being closer to the Baathists.”
Hussein said that after the US-led invasion overthrew Saddam, Baathists had joined a range of insurgent groups, including al-Qaeda, as they offered a more potent force against the occupation troops than the Baath’s own unpopular party apparatus.
Although initially al-Qaeda in Iraq restricted former Baathists to lower ranks, it allowed them to gain positions of power after its most notorious leader, Jordanian volunteer Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in a 2006 US air strike, Hussein said.
“So there were the right circumstances and environment for the Baath party to promote their strategy within al-Qaeda,” he said. “Before, the influence was on lower levels.”
Iraqi officials have blamed Baathists working with al-Qaeda for a series of coordinated bombings in recent months.
Asked whether he expected further waves of bombings like those of August, October and this month that killed nearly 400 people, Hussein said: “Their intention continues in this direction.”
“I think during the election period, it will continue this way,” he added, referring to the run-up to the March 7 general election.