BAGHDAD — A shadowy group of Saddam Hussein loyalists calling itself al Awda, meaning “the Return,” is forming an alliance with Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda for a full-scale uprising against the U.S.-led occupation in mid-July.
The information comes from leaflets circulating in Baghdad, as well as a series of extended interviews with a former official in Saddam’s security services who held the rank of brigadier general.
Al Awda is aiming for a spectacular attack and uprising on or about July 17 to mark the anniversary of the Ba’athist revolution in 1968, the former general said.
The Islamists have indicated they are willing to join forces to battle the Americans, even though they dislike Saddam and his secular Ba’ath Party ideology.
A leaflet by Jaish Mohammed, one of two Islamist groups operating in Iraq, said it was willing to work with the Ba’athists despite Saddam’s repression of Islamic fundamentalism.
The leaflet, obtained by The Washington Times, makes a direct appeal for former intelligence officers, security personnel, Fedayeen Saddam members, Republican Guard troops and Ba’ath Party members to join forces.
“The first act will be spectacular, possibly smashing an oil refinery near Baghdad,” said the former general, who has been urged by al Awda to join the leadership of the planned anticoalition front.
The former officer said the effort goes well beyond the sporadic shootings in the past three weeks that have left at least 10 Americans dead.
Al Awda is well-financed, he said. It uses money stashed away by Saddam and his supporters well before the coalition’s invasion, and its funds are enhanced by bank robberies and the removal of huge quantities of cash from the central bank early in the conflict.
The former officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he had agreed to join al Awda, though still may avoid full commitment, because “otherwise they’ll come tomorrow and throw hand grenades into my house and at my wife and kids.”
Among al Awda’s membership were a considerable number of former Iraqi commandos and well-trained soldiers, who now had no jobs or prospects of employment, the informant said.
“The coalition pushed them into the Ba’athists’ arms by disbanding the whole army and security services.
“That left these men with despair and hatred and so easy pickings for Ba’athists with money and propaganda,” he said.
He claimed that his own growing contempt for the American occupation led him a week and a half ago to shoot a U.S. solider through the neck using a Russian-made sniper rifle.