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Vijay Prashad

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Al-Qaeda’s Corridor Through Syria

Syria Rebels

On Tuesday night, suicide bombers and gunmen attacked Iraqi checkpoints along Highway 11, which runs from Baghdad to Syria via Ramadi. They bombed the checkpoint at Rutba as well as points just west of Ramadi. Thirty-seven people were killed in these attacks, a majority of them security officers. Highway 11 is Iraq’s southern route into Syria. The other road from Baghdad to Syria is Highway 12, which runs from Ramadi northwards to the towns of Anan and Rawah, along the Euphrates River and into the Syrian city of Raqqa. Last week, gunmen of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) attacked the towns of Anan and Rawah, destroying a bridge and trying to destroy the electricity transmission towers. The Iraqi army was able to deter the ISIS attack on Rawah, and so held off ISIS’s attempt to take the towns that would give it effective control of Highway 12. Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq said that last week’s attack was a “hopeless attempt by al Qaeda [ISIS] to establish a foothold in Iraq.” It seems likely that ISIS decided to try and take Highway 11 after its attack on Highway 12 was repulsed.
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