BAGHDAD - Al-Qaida plans to turn the Sunni-dominated parts of Iraq into a militant Islamic state once U.S. troops withdraw, it was reported Sunday.
There is a power struggle between the Islamic State of Iraq, an insurgent group set up by al-Qaida, and more moderate Sunni groups, the Times of London reported.
Each side seeks long-term control of central and western areas they want to see break away from Kurdish and Shiite-dominated provinces once the Americans depart, the Times said.
U.S. intelligence agencies say the Islamic State wants to create a terrorist enclave in the Iraqi provinces of Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala, Salah al-Din, Nineveh and parts of Babil, the Times said.
"Al-Qaida are on the way to establish their first stronghold in the Middle East," an unidentified U.S. official told the Times. "If they succeed, it will be a catastrophe and an imminent danger to Saudi Arabia and Jordan."
The Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility Sunday for killing four American troops in a predawn attack in Iraq Saturday. The group also claimed to have kidnapped three U.S. soldiers during the raid who remained missing Sunday.
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