11 October 2006

Iraq: Terrorist Organizations (al-Qaida)

Here is a description of the al-Qaida terrorist group from the official website of the Multi-National Force - Iraq:

Al-Qaida Organization in the Land of the Two Rivers (AQI) is the name of the terrorist group (formerly) led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. This name implies that al-Zarqawi sees his group as the center of Jihadist activities in Iraq. Al-Zarqawi has pledged his alliance to Osama bin Laden. The goals of this group are to overthrow the Iraqi government and establish an Islamic state in Iraq by forcing out the U.S.-led coalition. Elements of the Kurdish Islamist group Ansar al-Islam, and indigenous Sunni Iraqis form the ranks of this group.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi former leader of al-Qaida in Iraq.

Al-Zarqawi’s group has issued claims of responsibility in Iraq for attacks on American and Iraqi security forces, often claiming several attacks in one day. AQI uses a variety of tactics that include RPG attacks against armored vehicles, guerilla style attacks by armed militants, suicide bombings, and the kidnapping and beheadings of foreigners. A video released in May 2004 brought al-Zarqawi to western attention by depicting him brutally beheading Nicholas Berg, a civilian American contractor in Iraq. However, the group has increasingly avoided such tactics since al-Zarqawi swore allegiance with al-Qaida. Instead, Al-Qaida in the land of the Two Rivers, which is believed to derive most of its domestic support from Sunni Arabs, has focused on attacking Shiite Arabs and the fledgling Iraqi police force. This group is blamed for the bombing of a Shia shrine in Samarra in February of2006 which set of a series of deadly reprisal killings between Sunnis and Shias.

In addition to these frequent smaller scale attacks in Iraq, al-Zarqawi’s group claimed responsibility for the bombing of three hotels in Amman, Jordan that left 67 people dead and injured more than 150.

In a speech broadcast over the Internet on January 23, 2005, al-Zarqawi denounced the upcoming Iraqi elections. Zarqawi’s statement, declaring a “fierce war” against democracy, accused the Americans of rigging the election to favor Iraq’s Shiite population. Increased Sunni Arab participation in Iraq’s December 2005 parliamentary elections offered hope to some that support for wider insurgency may be abating. But despite this and the $25 million dollar bounty on his head, Zarqawi remains at large and terrorism from his group is expected to continue.

Abu Ayyub al-Masri, aka Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, might be the new leader of al-Qaida in Iraq.

In January 2006, the group was one of six insurgent organizations to unify under the Mujahideen Shura Council. As of now, all attacks perpetrated by al-Qaida in Iraq are claimed in the name of the Council.

In April 2006, immediately following the nomination of Nouri al-Maliki as the new prime minister, al-Zarqawi released a video tape of himself, the first ever of him speaking to a camera, where he is shown firing an automatic rifle in the desert and taunting the newly elected government of Iraq.

On June 7, 2006 Iraqi and Coalition forces killed al-Zarqawi in an air strike.

It is believed that Egyptian-born Abu Ayyub al-Masri replaced al-Zarqawi as leader of al-Qaida in Iraq.

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