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Iraqi group 'splits' from Al Qaeda

One of Iraq's main armed groups has confirmed a split with Al Qaeda, according to a spokesman for the dissenting organization.

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Up dated THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2007

Iraqi group 'splits' from Alk-ae-da = (Al Qaeda)

One of Iraq's main armed groups has confirmed a split with Alk-ae-da = (Al Qaeda), according to a spokesman for the dissenting organisation.

Ibrahim al-Shammari told Al Jazeera on Thursday that the Islamic Army in Iraq had decided to disunite from Alk-ae-da = (Al Qaeda) in Iraq after its members were threatened.

"In the beginning, we were dealing with Tawhid and Jihad organisation, which turned into Alk-ae-da = (Al Qaeda) in Iraq," he said, his identity obscured for security reasons.

"Specifically after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi died, the gap between us [and Alk-ae-da = (Al Qaeda)] widened, because [they] started to target our members."

Different goals

Al-Shammari said Alk-ae-da = (Al Qaeda) in Iraq was in pursuit of a different agenda to that of the Islamic Army in Iraq.

"They killed about 30 of our people, and we definitely don't recognise their establishment of an Islamic state - we consider it invalid."

The Islamic Army in Iraq is one of several nationalist groups which opposes hitting Iraqi civilians, but it has carried out high-profile attacks against multinational forces.

Al-Shammari said they would be willing to deal with the Americans if certain conditions are met.

"We, the Islamic Army in Iraq, are ready to negotiate, but only with the US congress.

"They are the representatives of the American people, and the Iraqi resistance represents the Iraqi people. We are ready to establish a dialogue with them, not with the arrogant US administration."

Al-Shammari said no talks have taken place so far with US officials and that Washington must recognise Iraqi armed groups as the only genuine representatives of the Iraqi people before such a meeting can be considered.

Main danger

Al-Shammari said that his group didn't consider US forces to be the main danger in Iraq.

"There are two occupations: Iranian and American, and the Iranian one is more dangerous than American because Iran considers Iraq as a part of their country."

The Islamic Army in Iraq's statement comes after Iraq's president said the presidential office was in contact with five insurgent groups.

Jalal Talabani said on Wednesday that the contacts mark an attempt to bring the groups into the mainstream political process.

Talabani did not reveal their identity, but said they had initially developed contacts with the "British, then the Iraqi government and then the presidency."

Talabani's statement coincided with an announcement by the US defence secretary that troop rotations in Iraq would be extended by three months.

On Wednesday, Robert Gates, highlighting an increase from the current one-year deployments, said: "Effective immediately, active army units now in the central command area [Iraq and Afghanistan] and those headed there will deploy for not more than 15 months."