Al Qaeda in Iraq posted a video Monday begging fighters who switched sides during the "Sunni Awakening" to switch back, the Associated Press reports. The terrorist group promises that fighters who return will be forgiven. The hour-long video comes less than a month after the group asked for fundraising help online, saying it desperately needed money to pay for the widows of insurgents who'd died fighting.
The movement, also called "Sons of Iraq," began in 2005 as the Sunni-Shia civil war intensified and gained momentum in 2007 as thousands more American soldiers surged into Iraq. The Sunni Awakening is considered a major turning point in the Iraq war. As the AP explains:
Tens of thousands of Sunni fighters, mostly members or sympathizers of al-Qaida, switched sides and joined U.S. and government forces at the height of Iraq's insurgency. Their support created a crucial turning point in the war against al-Qaida in 2007.
"We call upon you to repent truly and come back to your religion and he who returns will be accepted by us and his blood will be conserved even if he had killed a thousand Muslims," announced Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, spokesman of the Islamic State of Iraq, a front group for al Qaeda in Iraq. But he wasn't desperate enough to refrain from taunting the fighters. Referring to U.S. plans to withdraw from Iraq, al-Adnani said, "Now who will protect you from our blows after your masters, the Americans, abandoned you and left you alone and the government filled its prisons with your men after you handed them the land of the Sunnis."
A Sunni Awakening member said his group's No. 1 goal was to destroy al Qaeda in Iraq.
*Photo: In February, Iraqi security forces arrested 29 al Qaeda insurgents, and displayed the men for the press.