The beautiful coastal city of Laguna Niguel, California is considering cutting ties with its sister city, Al Qaim, Iraq, since the city was captured and taken over in June by ISIS terrorist forces.
Council member Robert Ming said, “We’d like to support the people of Qaim, but we don’t want to indicate that we’re supporting a terrorist regime,” the Orange County Register noted.
The two cities have been linked as sister cities since January 2008.
Tuesday’s Laguna Niguel City Council meeting will reportedly include discussion over Al Qaim and the relationship between the two cities.
Nearly 400 km northwest of Baghdad, Al Qaim, Iraq sits in close proximity to Syria. The city held approximately 250,000 residents before ISIS took it in June. With residents including the city’s mayor in exile, it is unclear how many now remain in the city.
Despite being in exile, Al Qaim’s mayor, Farhan Fetekhan Farhan, is reportedly still in communication with Laguna Niguel officials. Councilmember Ming said that “in recent years, as violence has increased, we’ve had less contact with them,” speaking of contacts that have gone into exile.
In 2008, Al Qaim’s mayor told the Los Angeles Times, “Laguna Niguel cares more about Al Qaim than the central government in Iraq does,” just after the mayor accepted an invite to visit Laguna Niguel.
“In 2005, insurgents had taken over the town, declaring it the “Islamic Republic of Qaim” and imposing a Taliban-style rule on the populace–no Western music, no Western clothing, severe restrictions of women, executions in the streets,” Register reported in August of last year. In 2006, a Marine counteroffensive regained the city and the region had been revitalizing.
The U.S. military presence on the ground had reportedly aided in maintaining the delicate balance that kept enemy forces in check, a Register reporter on the ground there reported.
Laguna Niguel’s support for the distant city began through the encouragement of Lt. Col. Jason Bohm, commander of the city’s adopted battalion from Camp Pendleton, the 1st Battalion 4th Marine Regiment, the Register reports.
Now, with the ISIS conquering of Al Qaim, city officials must decide whether they should sustain their connection to the city, alter the relationship or sever ties.
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Photo: City of Laguna Niguel