Al-Qaida making comeback in Iraq, officials say

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Associated Press

Posted on October 9, 2012 at 12:02 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 9 at 12:04 PM

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi and U.S. officials say al-Qaida is rebuilding in Iraq.

The officials say the extremist group has set up training camps for insurgents in the nation's western deserts, seizing on regional instability and government security failures.

Iraq has seen a jump in al-Qaida attacks over the last 10 weeks, and officials believe most of the fighters are former prisoners who have either escaped from jail or were released by Iraqi authorities for lack of evidence after the U.S. military withdrawal last December. Many are said to be Saudi or from Sunni-dominated Gulf states.

During the war and its aftermath, U.S. forces, joined by allied Sunni groups and later by Iraqi counterterror forces, managed to beat back al-Qaida's Iraqi branch.

But now, Iraqi and U.S. officials say, the insurgent group has more than doubled in numbers from a year ago to about 2,500 fighters. And Pentagon data shows it is carrying out an average of 140 attacks a week.

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APPHOTO BAG503: FILE - In this file photo taken on Friday, July 20, 2012, blindfolded and handcuffed suspected al-Qaida members are led away to detention centers in an Iraqi army base in Hillah, about 60 miles (95 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq. Al-Qaida is slowly resurging in Iraq, and has set up training camps for insurgents in the nation's western deserts as the extremist group seizes on regional instability and government security failures to regain strength, officials say. (AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani File) (9 Oct 2012)

<<APPHOTO BAG503 (10/09/12)>>

APPHOTO BAG501: FILE - EDS NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT - In this file photo taken on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, soldiers from the 17th Iraqi Army Division, 55th Brigade, 1st battalion stand guard near bodies of suspected al-Qaida fighters killed in clashes with Iraqi Army soldiers in Youssifiyah, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq. Al-Qaida is slowly resurging in Iraq, and has set up training camps for insurgents in the nation's western deserts as the extremist group seizes on regional instability and government security failures to regain strength, officials say. (AP Photo/Loay Hameed, File) (9 Oct 2012)

<<APPHOTO BAG501 (10/09/12)>>

APPHOTO BAG502: FILE - In this photo file taken on Friday, July 20, 2012, blindfolded and handcuffed suspected al-Qaida members are guarded by Iraqi army soldiers in an Iraqi army base in Hillah, about 60 miles (95 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq. Al-Qaida is slowly resurging in Iraq, and has set up training camps for insurgents in the nation's western deserts as the extremist group seizes on regional instability and government security failures to regain strength, officials say. (AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani File) (9 Oct 2012)

<<APPHOTO BAG502 (10/09/12)>>

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