Saddam’s deputy: Baghdad will soon be liberated
The fugitive former powerful deputy of Iraq’s executed President Saddam Hussein has released an audio recording urging all Iraqis to join efforts to “liberate” the country and praised Sunni militants who led last month’s dramatic offensive through northern Iraq.
The recording features a 15-minute speech in a raspy voice purported to be that of 72-year-old Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, who was Iraq’s vice-president when U.S.-led coalition forces invaded in 2003.
The recording, which could not be immediately confirmed to be that of al-Douri, was released on a website loyal to Saddam’s ousted Baath Party.
“Join the ranks of the rebels who liberated half the country,” said the voice on the recording, which sounded much like previous tapes released in Douri’s name.
“The liberation of Baghdad is around the corner. Everyone should contribute, to the extent of his ability, to complete the liberation of the beloved country, because there is no honor or dignity without its liberation.”
The voice in the recording also praised the “heroes and knights of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS)” as well as other groups fighting the “Persian, Safavid colonization” of Iraq, a reference to the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
But he also hinted at the increasingly evident divisions among the various groups fighting Maliki’s forces, saying it was important to put off their differences in the interests of unity.
Within three weeks of taking control of the northern city of Mosul, ISIS militants began arresting senior ex-military officers and members of the Baath Party, residents and relatives said.
Militants try to reach Baghdad
Meanwhile, militants seized part of the Iraqi town of Dhuluiyah Sunday in fighting that killed six people, an official said, as a new drive towards the capital entered its third day, Agence France-Presse reported.
Four policemen were among the dead in the fighting for the town, which the militants took in a lightning offensive last month before its recapture by government forces in one of their rare successes of the conflict, district official Marwan Mitaab said.
The assault on the town, just 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad, began early on Sunday and has since overrun more than half of it, including the police station and two local government buildings, Mitaab said.
A Dhuluiyah resident said that a large part of the town has been overrun, reversing gains made by police and residents, who expelled militants from the town last month.
After a period in which battle lines have been relatively stagnant, jihadist-led militants seem to be making a renewed push to gain ground, after overrunning a vast swathe of northern and north-central Iraq in their offensive that began in second city Mosul on June 9.