June 30, 2005 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 231

‘The Sheikh of the Slaughterers’: Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi and the Al-Qaeda Connection

June 30, 2005 | By Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli*
Jordan, Iraq | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 231

Shortly after the occupation of Iraq in April 2003, Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi emerged as a leading terrorist in that country. While a number of terrorist organizations are operating in Iraq besides the insurgency movement led by Saddam's former intelligence and loyalist groups, Al-Zarqawi's organization combines terrorist activities with an ardent anti-Shi'ite zeal designed to instigate a civil war between the Iraqi Sunnis and the Shi'ites.

This paper explores Al-Zarqawi's words and actions and his linkage with al-Qaeda under the leadership of Osama bin Laden. Al-Zarqawi initially operated independently of al-Qaeda. But recently, bin Laden named him the Amir, or commander, of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. The meaning of this is not clear. Has bin Laden elevated Al-Zarqawi because of his increasing notoriety and his influence among potential Jihadist elements, hoping to forestall his emergence as the single most important terrorist figure? Or does Al-Zarqawi need bin Laden's endorsement to strengthen his grip on the terrorist activities in Iraq?

All the groups currently involved in Iraq as national insurgents or foreign, primarily Islamist, terrorists share a common purpose designed to destabilize the country by:

  • Murdering the leaders of the country and members of the security forces and terrorizing innocent civilians
  • Destroying the infrastructure and delaying reconstruction

This report focuses on Al-Zarqawi's biographical background including his terrorist activities in Iraq and their religious Islamist roots.

Background – The Life of Al-Zarqawi

The London daily Al-Hayat recently published a three-part study of the Salafi Jihad movement in Jordan, authored by the daily's correspondent Hazem Al-Amin.Thanks to that study's particular focus on the city of Al-Zarqaa, the birthplace of Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, much is now known about Al-Zarqawi's earlier life and background. [1]

Al-Zarqawi – birth name, Ahmad Fadhil Nazzal Al-Khalayla – was born in 1966 into the Abu Al-Hassan tribe He spent his formative years in the poor section of Al-Zarqaa known as the Al-Ma'ssoum Quarter before moving, as a teenager, to the New Al-Zarqaa Quarter. He was forced to leave secondary school to assist his family. He is said to have seven sisters and two brothers. His father practiced traditional medicine. [2] Al-Zarqawi's two families (two wives and their respective children) are alleged to be in Iraq in safe places, but Al-Zarqawi does not move around with them for security reasons. [3] He is said to have four children – two daughters and two sons C with his first wife. They are Amina (14), Rawdha (11), Muhammad (9), and Mus'ab (7). With his second wife he has one son, Khalid. [4]

Most accounts of the young Al-Zarqawi refer to his drinking habits and his inclination to engage in brawls, particularly when inebriated. In his 20s, impressed by the stories about the Jihad in Afghanistan, Al-Zarqawi began to show signs of religiosity, and in 1989, at the age of 23, he and a number of friends traveled to Afghanistan but arrived too late to participate in the Jihad against the Russians. To quote the Iraqi daily Al-Mada, Al-Zarqawi has transformed himself from extreme depravity to extreme Islamism. [5]

His trip to Afghanistan was facilitated by a recruiting office called "The Office of Services and Jihad," which was run by Sheikh AbdAl- Majid Al-Majali, a.k.a. Abu Qutaiba. Abu Qutaiba was a follower of Sheikh Dr. Abdallah Azzam, the leader and founder of the Arab volunteers' movement for the Jihad in Afghanistan, who managed the Maktab Khadamat Al-Mujahideen (Mujahideen Service Bureau) in Peshawar, Pakistan. The bureau served as the main clearing house for Jihad fighters heading to Afghanistan.

The city of Al-Zarqaa is located 15 miles northeast of Amman, the capital of Jordan, close to the Iraqi border and not too far from the Syrian border. The fact that it is also near the Al-Ruseifa Palestinian refugee camp may have led some observers to identify Al-Zarqawi as Palestinian. Of all the areas from which young Jihadists have come, the cities of Al-Zarqaa and the nearby city of Al-Salt and the Al-Ruseifah camp may have sent the largest number of youths to fight in Iraq. It is estimated that at least 300 left Al-Zarqaa and Al-Ruseifa to fight in Afghanistan and Chechnya as mujahideen. Many of those who returned from Afghanistan, the so-called "Afghani Arabs," proceeded to post-war Iraq to join the Jihad. Indeed, the occupation of Iraq has unleashed pent-up hatred for the U.S. among young Muslims who can easily traverse the border to Iraq. For many of these Jihad fighters, Al-Zarqawi has become "their Imam and their leader who spills the blood of the enemies of Islam like no other mujahid." [6]

The Influence of the Muslim Brotherhood

According to Al-Hayat, the events of September 1970 in Jordan, known as "Black September," played a significant role in the strengthening of the Salafi movement in Jordan, and particularly in al-Zarqaa. [7] King Hussein rewarded the Muslim Brotherhood for their support in the war against the Palestinian organizations with the post of ministry of education, which had great influence on the values of the young generation.

But it was the Salafi element of the Muslim Brotherhood known as "the Qutbis" named after the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Sayyid Qutb, author of the book Ma'alim 'ala al-tariq (Milestones on the Road), who provided the spiritual and ideological underpinnings for the Salafi movement.

As head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and a suspect in the attempt on the life of Gamal Abdul Nasser, Qutb was eventually executed in 1966. Years later, he was succeeded by Abdallah Azzam, who subsequently came to be known as the "teacher" of Osama bin Laden. Azzam, the reviver of Jihad in the twentieth century, was blown up in his car with his two sons in Peshawar in November 1989.

The Impact of the Kuwait War on the Al-Zarqawi Organization

Following the defeat of Saddam and the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 the Kuwaiti government expelled 250,000 Palestinians who had Jordanian citizenship, many of them teachers and other professionals. According to Hazem Al-Amin's Al-Hayat article, some 160,000 of these displaced persons came to Al-Zarqaa alone. A connection has been established, Al-Amin claims, between their return and the flourishing of the Salafi Jihad trend in Jordan, particularly in Al-Zarqaa. This trend was perceived by many in Jordan as "a turning point in social change." A survey conducted by the Jordan Center for Research at the University of Jordan found that beginning in 1993, the youth in Jordan "became more conservative than the youth of preceding generations, with a large percentage of them supporting polygamy and giving priority to educating boys rather than educating girls."

Among the returnees from Kuwait were also some who belonged to the Jihad movement, and they were headed by Issam Muhammad Taher Al-Burqawi, who acquired the name of Sheikh Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi. Al -Maqdisi, a Palestinian, became the spiritual teacher of this movement in Jordan and eventually the spiritual leader of Al-Zarqawi.

Al-Maqdisi went to Afghanistan with the Palestinian Sheikh Omar Mahmoud Abu Omar, (known as Abu Qatadah). When Al-Maqdisi returned to Kuwait and, eventually, to Jordan, Abu Qatadah found refuge in London (he is currently under house arrest). These two figures became the main sources of authority of the Salafi Jihad ideology in Jordan. Prior to his return to Jordan, Al-Maqdisi was either connected with or a member of Jam'iyat Al-Turath Al-Islami (The Society of Islamic Heritage), considered the principal Salafi organization in Kuwait. The Society was directed by Sheikh Abd Al- Rahman Abd Al-Khaleq, an Egyptian who came to Kuwait in the 1960s a nd helped bring "Jihadi thought" to the Palestinian youth in Kuwait. Among the other returnees from Kuwait were Abu Anas Al-Shami, the Shari'a authority of Al-Zarqawi's group, who was killed in Baghdad; Abu Qutaybah, senior military official in Al-Zarqawi group; and Ghazi Al-Tawbah, whose exact expertise is not known. These three, together with Al-Zarqawi, were the nucleus of the Jihadi movement in Al-Zarqaa.

Arriving in Jordan from Kuwait in 1991, Al-Maqdisi embarked upon organizing a Salafi movement among the Palestinians and Jordanians who had returned from the Jihad in Afghanistan. Among them was Al -Zarqawi. For those involved in this effort, says Al-Hayat, the period was known as "the beginning of the Da'wa (Islamic propagation) – an intensive effort to introduce young men to the concepts of Salafi Jihad.

Despite close monitoring by the Jordanian intelligence services, supporters of the Salafi Jihad movement and of Al-Zarqawi gathered in Al-Zarqaa regularly to express their desire to join the fields of Jihad – if only the opportunity would present itself. Most of them were bearded and the length of their beard was in accordance with the Shari'a (Islamic law) – longer than the grasp of one's hand.

Al-Zarqawi's Imprisonment and Emergence as Amir

Perhaps one of the most prominent of the clandestine organizations established in Jordan was the Tawheed (Monotheism) organization, later renamed Bay'at Al-Imam. It was founded by Al-Maqdisi in 1992 and joined by Al-Zarqawi in 1993, shortly after his return from his first visit to Afghanistan. In 1994, Jordanian security services uncovered weapons in the possession of these two men. They were imprisoned in the Al-Sawwaqa desert prison until 1999. During the period of their incarceration, the two managed to organize a sizable number of activists. In their activity among the prisoners, the two relied on Al-Zarqawi's strong-arm tactics and on his familiarity with the world of the hoodlums, among whom he had lived in his youth. [8]

Al-Hayat cites a man called Abu Othman who was in prison at the time Al-Maqdisi and Al-Zarqawi were incarcerated. According to him, Al-Maqdisi's personality was kind, gentle and non-confrontational. By contrast, Al-Zarqawi showed strength and toughness, in addition to being confrontational. Abu Othmam added that the tribal personality of Abu Mus'ab made it possible for him to extract oaths of allegiance (mubaya'a) from others within the prison. The youths surrounding him in prison, who were Jihad fighters, accepted Al-Zarqawi as Amir or commander because of his strength and determination, and the perception that he was a man of action; in contrast, Al-Maqdisi was perceived as the scholar. For this reason, Al-Maqdisi surrendered the Imara ("emirate") over the group to Al-Zarqawi in 1996. Under the rule of the Imara, the master, Al-Maqdisi, was obliged to receive the orders of his former student, Al-Zarqawi.

The Herat Camp in Afghanistan – The Melting Pot of the Zarqawiyoon ["Zarqawis"]

In 1999, Al-Zarqawi and many of his cohorts received a royal amnesty, and shortly afterwards he traveled to Peshawar, Pakistan, intending to proceed to Chechnya which was becoming a hot spot for Jihadists. However, before he could fulfill his wish he was arrested by the Pakistani police. At this point, he decided to proceed to Afghanistan for the second time rather than return to Jordan. [9]

While many of the Jihad fighters who went to Afghanistan took the oath of allegiance (mubaya'a) to Osama bin Laden, Al-Zarqawi, with the approval of the Taliban government, chose to operate his own camp in Herat. It was in Herat, says Al-Hayat, that Al-Zarqawi established himself as a leader of his group known as Jund Al-sham, or the Army of the Sham (historically, the area known as Al-Sham covered Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine).The camp's leadership nucleus, besides Al-Zarqawi, consisted mostly of those from the city of Al-Zarqaa, such as Abd Al-Hadi Daghlas, a Palestinian who was killed in Iraq; Khalid Al-'Arouri (Abu Al-Qassim) currently being held in Iran; and Yassin Jarrad (Sheikh Yassin), the father of Al-Zarqawi's second wife who, according to the Jihad fighters in Al-Zarqaa, carried out the September 2003 suicide attack that killed Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), and dozens of other Iraqis in the city of Najaf. [10]

Zarqawi in Iraq: Al-Tawheed wal Jihad (Monotheism and Jihad)

It is not known when or by what means Al-Zarqawi entered Iraq. Accounts of Al-Zarqawi's movements suggest that after the fall of the Taliban, Al-Zarqawi went to Iran and it was from Iran that he entered northern Iraq. Former Iraqi interim prime minister Ayad Allawi speculated that Al-Zarqawi may have "infiltrated" into Iraq in 1999. [11] If he was indeed in Iraq in 1999, it would have been between his release from prison in Jordan and his departure to Pakistan.

King Abdallah of Jordan told the press that in 2002, Jordan had asked Iraq to extradite Al-Zarqawi following the murder of the U.S. diplomat Lawrence Foley, but the Saddam regime had ignored the request. Most agree that Al-Zarqawi was definitely in Iraq at the end of 2002, and that he was given shelter by the terrorist group Ansar Al-Islam(see below) which operated from northern Iraq. At some point, most likely after the occupation of Iraq in April 2003, he split from Ansar Al-Islam and created his own organization, which he called Al-Tawheed wal Jihad ("Monotheism and Jihad"), an Islamist organization devoted to the destruction of the apostate regimes in Islamic countries and the creation of Islamist forms of government founded on strict adherence to the rules of the Shari'a. This organization first came to world attention when U.S. citizen Nicholas Berg was beheaded in April 2004, under the banner of Al-Tawheed wal Jihad, allegedly by Al-Zarqawi himself, and the event was videotaped and posted on Islamist websites.

Provoking the Iraqi Shi'a to Civil War

From the September 2003 assassination of Ayatollah Al-Hakim to the present day, Al-Zarqawi has exerted all efforts, in word and action, to provoke the Shi'a of Iraq to retaliate against the Sunnis, thereby plunging the country into a civil war. Such a war could enhance his status as defender of the Sunnis.

Al-Zarqawi adheres to the strictest version of Islam - Saudi Arabia's Wahhabism, which considers the Shi'a to be apostates because they prefer the House of 'Ali, Muhammad's son-in-law and the fourth Caliph in Islam, over the Hashemite House of Muhammad. Driven by religious fervor, Al-Zarqawi directs most of his invective, and often acts of terror, against Shi'ite targets.

In a letter written in Arabic which was discovered on a CD, apparently by the U.S., and issued in English in January 2003, the author, said to be Al-Zarqawi, provides clearly articulated views of his ideology. The identity of the person who was carrying the letter when it was intercepted was not revealed by the U.S. officials, but it is alleged that the discovery of the CD coincided with the arrest in Pakistan of Hassan Al-Ghull, described as a courier of Al-Qaeda. [12]

According to Al-Zarqawi, the Shi'a are "the most evil of mankind." They are "the lurking snake, the crafty and malicious scorpion, the spying enemy, and the penetrating venom." They have been "a sect of treachery and betrayal throughout history." Echoing the fourteenth century Sheikh ibn Taymiyya, whose writings are considered the fountainhead of Wahhabism and Salafi Islam, Al-Zarqawi says: "Beware of [the Shi'a]. Fight them. By God, they lie." Reflecting the common Wahhabi doctrine, he delivers the ultimate blow: "Shi'ism is a religion that has nothing in common with Islam except in the way that Jews have something in common with Christians under the banner of the People of the Book." Their crime is "patent polytheism, worshipping at graves, and circumambulating shrines."

Quoting the major Islamic figure Al-Bukhari, who in the 9th century compiled the most authoritative collection of traditions of the Prophet Muhammad's sayings and deeds (Hadith), Al-Zarqawi wrote, "Not in the house [of prayer] have I prayed behind a Shi'i or behind Jews or Christians. They [Shi'a] are not to be greeted. They are not to be congratulated on holidays. They are not to be taken in marriage. They cannot bear witness. The animals they slaughter are not to be eaten."

In the same letter, Al-Zarqawi divided Iraqis into several categories of enemies:

  • Kurds: Criticized as paying tribute to the Americans and providing them with logistical support. They are "a thorn whose time to be clipped has yet to come."
  • Rafidha, or "renegades" (a euphemism for Shi'a): Described as blasphemous for worshipping graves and deserting the Companions of the Prophet. When the Saddam regime collapsed, the Rafidha displayed their pent-up hatred of Sunnis by dominating the government's vital security, military and economic establishments and dismissing Sunni technocrats and intellectuals.
  • Soldiers and police: The eyes, ears and hands of the occupier, through which he sees, hears, and delivers violent blows. "Allah willing," wrote Al-Zarqawi, "we are determined to target them strongly in the coming period…"
  • Clerics and sheiks: Mostly hypocrite Sufis falsely calling for Jihad.
  • Americans: "The most cowardly of God's creatures."

Al-Zarqawi did not spare the Sunnis, whom he characterized in the letter as "more wretched than orphans at the tables of the depraved."

After denouncing the Shi'a in the most disparaging of terms, he proceeded to provoke them "to show the Sunnis their rabies…and bare the teeth of the hidden rancor working in their breasts." If we succeed, he intoned, in "dragging them into the arena of sectarian war, it will become possible to awaken the inattentive Sunnis as they feel imminent danger and annihilating death at the hands of these Sabeans." [13]

It is not surprising that the Shi'ite press in Iraq refers to Al-Zarqawi's network as "the Group of Apostasy and Atheism" (Jama'at Al-Takfir wal-Ilhad). [14] It has become even more common in the Shi'ite Karbala News Network agency to refer to the various foreign terrorists as wahhabiyoun (Wahhabis). [15] The same network has accused the Saudis as "stoking the fire of terrorism in Iraq." [16]

The attack on the Iraqi Shi'a suggests that the relationship between Al-Zarqawi and Al-Qaeda was tenuous at best because there is nothing on record to suggest the existence of overt anti-Shi'a statements by either bin Laden or his deputy Ayman Al-Zawahiri.

Fallujah – The Republic of Zarqawi

By its own admission, the Al-Tawheed wal-Jihad group lacked a solid base of operation. A rather revealing report by Abu-Anas Al-Shami, one of Al-Zarqawi's closest associates who was later killed, stated: "We have discovered that after one year of Jihad we have not accomplished anything on the ground. None of us could find a piece of land [the size of the palm of the hand] to use as a shelter or a place to retire to safety amongst some members of [his] group…we would hide at day light and sneak like a cat at night…homes were raided and the heroes were chased. It was a dark picture and everyone felt a sense of terrible failure."

Given their predicament, the group decided to use Fallujah as "a safe haven and a strong shield for the people of Islam." And, thus, Fallujah had become "the Republic of Al-Zarqawi." [17] This may also explain his desperate appeal for help to the Islamic nation.

An Appeal for Help

On September 11, 2004, Al-Zarqawi delivered a speech to the Islamic nation (Al -Umma Al-Islamiyya) appealing for help. The speech was delivered in the ornate style of classical Arabic and the entire speech was inlaid with Koranic verses and poetry. The speech singled out Iraq's outgoing Prime Minister Ayad Allawi as a primary target.

The tone of the speech seemed to reflect the difficult circumstances under which the foreign mujahideen were operating. Some of the expressions used by Al-Zarqawi, such as "a call for help from the depths," and references to the Islamic nation being in a state of apathy or slumber, may indicate that Al-Zarqawi felt he had not received enough support from Muslims outside Iraq:

"My nation, the nation of the sword and the pen, why is it that your sword is now broken and your pen has been laid down? You used to be prouder than the stars, and have now become downtrodden under the feet of the invaders and under the hooves of the usurpers' horses. My dear nation – my words to you today are laden with sorrow. Don't you hear the serpents, hissing as they wind their way in the darkness of your apathy in order to assassinate your dawn?...Let me tell you about our state of affairs, for we are at the turning point, so that you may understand the right course and combine forces, lest we regret, and this is no time for regrets. Both those who are far away and those who are near acknowledge the truth of the tripartite satanic coalition of heresy and deceit in the land of the two rivers [bilad al-rafidain, or Mesopotamia]. The first are the Americans who carry the banner of the cross; the second are the Kurds through their Peshmerga forces, under the command of the two collaborators, [Mass'oud Al-] Barazani and [Jalal Al-] Talabani, which are reinforced by Jewish military cadres; the third are the Shi'tes, the Sunnis' enemies, represented by the Army of Treachery, the Badr Corps [associated with SCIRI] – the Party of Satan." [18]

Resorting to apocalyptic language, Al-Zarqawi told his listeners: "…you are facing fierce civil strife [fitna], but then victory shall be yours, Allah willing…Behold, the spark has been lit in Iraq and its flames will blaze, Allah willing, until they consume the Armies of the Cross in Dabiq…" [19]

Earlier in that year, in January 2004, Al-Zarqawi challenged the Arab masculinity to rise or surrender to women: "Oh people, the wheels of war have begun to spin; the caller has already declared Jihad and the gates of heaven are open [to the martyrs]. If you are unwilling to be one of the knights of war, make way for the women so they can run the war, and you take the cooking utensils and makeup [brushes] in their stead. If you are not women in turbans and beards, go the horses and seize their harnesses and their reins…" [20]

Al-Zarqawi Designated Commander (Amir) of Al-Qaeda in Iraq

As far as can be established, Al-Zarqawi had initially operated in Iraq independently of Al-Qaeda. However, in October 2004, Al-Zarqawi, eager to extend his authority over all Jihadists in Iraq, pledged his allegiance (mubaya) to bin Laden and changed the name of his organization from Al-Tawheed wal Jihad to Tandhim Qaedat Al-Jihad fi bilad Al-Rafidain (The Al-Qaeda Jihad Organization in the Land of the Two Rivers). [21] In what appears to be a package deal, bin Laden announced, shortly afterwards, the designation of Al-Zarqawi as the head of Al-Qaeda's Iraq operations. In a message to the Iraqi people on the eve of the elections that were scheduled for January 30, 2005, bin Laden said it was forbidden to participate in them and, at the same time, designated Al-Zarqawi as Amir, or commander of Al-Qaeda in Iraq:

"The warrior commander [and] honored comrade Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi and the groups who joined him are the best of the community that is fighting for the sake of the word of Allah. Their courageous operations against the Americans and against the apostate Allawi government have gladdened us…

"We in Al-Qaeda organization very much welcome their union with us. This is a tremendous step on the part of the unification of the efforts in fighting for the establishment of a State of Truth and for the uprooting of the State of the Lie…

"Know that the warrior comrade Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi is the commander [Amir] of Al-Qaeda organization in the land of the Tigris and the Euphrates, and the comrades in the organization there must obey him…" [22]

In the same message, bin Laden permitted the killing of members of the Iraqi security forces: "Personnel of the [Iraqi] military, security apparatuses, and the National Guard their blood is permitted. They are apostates who should not be prayed over upon their deaths. They cannot inherit, and they must not be inherited from [after their deaths]. Their wives are divorced from them, and they must not be buried in Muslim cemeteries." [23]

Islamist sources in Britain criticized bin Laden's designation of Al-Zarqawi as Amir of the group because Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers was smaller than other terrorist organizations operating in Iraq, such as Jaysh Ansar Al-Sunna or Al-Jaysh Al-Islami. One anonymous speaker, known for his sympathy for bin Laden, said the designation of Al-Zarqawi as "Amir" caused "disappointment, envy and jealousy in the minds of others." Another Islamist, the Egyptian Hani Al-Siba'i who heads Al-Maqrizi Studies Center in the U.K.,said that bin Laden had designated Al-Zarqawi as Amir over one organization rather than over the entire armed groups in Iraq and even this limited designation is qualified. He is Amir over those "Islamists who swear allegiance to him [bin Laden] and who believe in the rules of Al-Qaeda in thought and program." [24]

The Iraqi Al-Qaeda Organization: A Self-Portrait

The chief of Al-Qaeda's media in Iraq, known as Abu Maysara Al-Iraqi, discussed the identity of the Iraqi Al-Qaeda organization and outlined its aims. His piece was published on-line in the first issue of the "Department of Indoctrination" of the Al-Qaeda organization in Iraq under the title of "The Crest of the Summit of Islam (dhurwat sanam Al-Islam)" – an expression commonly used to designate Jihad. [25]

According to Abu-Maysara, Al -Qaeda in Iraq "comprises a group of Muslims from amongst the followers of the tradition and the community of believers [Ahl al-Sunna wal Jama'a] who try to please Allah by committing themselves to keep Allah's orders and proscriptions and to see to it that others do so [as well]…. It has set itself a number of central goals which are mutually interrelated and complementary." In sum,, these goals seek to:

  • Renew pure monotheism which was sullied by the filth of polytheistic elements
  • Wage Jihad for the sake of Allah, so that His message be supreme, and in order to recapture all of the lands of the Muslims from the hands of the infidels
  • Come to the aid of Muslims everywhere and reclaim the Islamic dignity which has been soiled by the [foreign] invaders
  • Re-establish the Rightly-Guided Caliphate in accordance with the Prophet's example

Underscoring one of the prohibitions against spilling of "even a drop of Muslim blood unjustly," Abu-Maysara excludes from this prohibition the spilling of the blood of Muslim security forces as religiously permissible. Thus, he condones operations that "kill those whose character has become impure and who have joined the ranks of the infidels in their fight against the Muslims in Iraq, that is members of the Iraqi army and the police and spies who strengthen the Americans and help them commit crimes and rape our sisters in the Abu Ghraib prison and other places…"

Al-Zarqawi: Collateral Killing of Muslims is Legitimate

In a 90-minute audio heard on the Internet on May 18, Al-Zarqawi provided the legitimacy for the collateral killing of Muslims in the act of killing the infidels. He relies on Muslim jurists for the legitimacy he provides for such killing:

"The [collateral killing] is justified under the principle of dharura [overriding necessity], due to the fact that it is impossible to avoid them and to distinguish between them and those infidels against whom war is being waged and who are the intended targets. Admittedly, the killing of a number of Muslims whom it is forbidden to kill is undoubtedly a grave evil; however, it is permissible to commit this evil – indeed, it is even required – in order to ward off a greater evil, namely, the evil of suspending Jihad."

Al-Zarqawi argues that the evil of heresy is greater than the evil of collateral killing of Muslims. Thus: "Islamic law states that the Islamic faith is more important than life, honor, property." Not letting an opportunity escape without railing against the Shi'a, Al-Zarqawi said they were worse than the Crusaders and that their "perfidy is engraved in the forehead of history." [26]

In the same audio, Al-Zarqawi announced the beheading of the chief of intelligence of the Badr Brigade (a militia associated with the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) which he characterized as "the brigade of perfidy, the brigade of apostasy and the brigade of agents for Jews and Crusaders… His stinking head was severed to expedite his departure to hell."

The Glorification of Beheadings of Captives

The method of killing of captives in Iraq varies, but the most horrendous is the beheading of captives. [27] Videos posted on Islamist websites normally show a group of militants, clad in black, in front of the banner of Al-Zarqawi's Al-Tawheed wal Jihad, with their victims kneeling before them. After reading a statement, a member of the group leans over the bound and blindfolded victim and severs his head with a knife. In one video, a Bulgarian was beheaded and his bloody head set atop his prone corpse.

Writing in Al-Qaeda-related journal under the heading "O Sheikh of the Slaughterers, Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, Go Forth in the Straight Path, Guided by Allah," Abd Al-Rahman ibn Salem Al-Shammari praised the beheading of an Egyptian citizen in Iraq. He emphasized that a Muslim is obligated to be loyal to his religion only, and not to his national identity or his country. Therefore, all non-believers are the same, even if they are Arabs. The author went on to glorify the act of beheading in the name of Allah:

"A spy has been slain…and the Jihad fighter [who slew him] has come closer to Allah by way of [the spy's] blood. Yet what is unique in this lowly spy whose slaying we have seen these very days? What is unique, and we ask of Allah that there be more [like him], is that a spy has been slain, and this spy looked like an Arab, had an Arab name, and spoke Arabic! The uniqueness lies in the triumph of the faith in the one God and in the raising of the banner of 'There is no God but Allah' over and above all other allegiances, be they of ethnicity, language, identity, or nationality." [28]

After condemning "the apostate tyrant Saddam Hussein," and "the wicked rulers of the Arabian peninsula," the author, identifying his location as Saudi Arabia, went on to extol Al-Zarqawi's feast of beheadings:

"O sheikh of the slaughterers, Abu Mus'ab, go forth in the straight path with Allah's help, guided by Allah, fight together with the monotheists against the idol-worshippers, together with the warriors of Jihad against the collaborators, the hypocrites and the rebellious. We are awaiting the beheading of a Saudi apostate and this is the will and testament of all the monotheists in the land of Al-Haramain [i.e., the two holy places of Mecca and Medina]." [29]

The Infallible Abu Mus'ab

Nothing demonstrates the loyalty and devotion of Al-Zarqawi's followers to their leader more than their reaction to what appeared to be a critical article by his former prison mentor Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi. In July 2004, Al-Maqdisi posted on his website an article titled "Al-Zarqawi-Aid and Advice," in which he wrote:

"I say and stress that I am listening to and following the chaos that rages today in Iraq… blowing up cars or setting roadside explosives, by firing mortars in the streets and marketplaces, and other places where Muslims congregate. The hands of the Jihad fighters must remain clean so that they will not be stained by the blood of those who must not be harmed even if they are rebellious and shameless…You must also beware of entanglement by choosing means [of warfare] that are not illegal in the Shari'a."

Al-Maqdisi went on to warn against means and methods such as abducting or killing Muslims on pretexts not based on Islamic law such as the claim that they work for the infidels "where such acts do not reach the [level] of aid to the infidels or aid in harming Muslims." Quite interestingly, Al-Maqdisi warned against attacks on Christian churches, because this strengthens the will of the infidels against Muslims everywhere. [30]

The Jihad fighters were enraged by the article, for they see Al-Zarqawi as "a divine grace," and believe it heresy for anyone – even Al-Zarqawi's teacher and guide, Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi – to think he made a mistake.

Al-Zarqawi Denounces Democracy and Constitutionalism in Iraq

A week before the elections were to take place on January 30, 2005, Al-Zarqawi addressed the Iraqi people in a speech denouncing democracy and the elections as heresy. In the speech, delivered January 23 and posted on Islamist websites, Al-Zarqawi presented seven aspects of the heretical nature of democracy:

  • In a democracy, legislative authority is performed by representatives who act as proxies for the people. As such, man must be obeyed, not Allah – which is "the very essence of heresy, polytheism, and error."
  • Democracy allows freedom of religion, including the conversion to another religion. According to Islam, "if a Muslim apostatizes from Islam to heresy, he should be killed." He added that "One may not make a [peace] treaty with an apostate, nor grant him safe passage or protection."
  • Democracy renders the people the ultimate source of sovereignty and the ultimate arbiter on conflicts. In Islam, Allah is the ultimate arbiter. Allah said: "And in whatever thing you disagree, the judgment thereof belongs to Allah [Koran 42:10]."
  • "Freedom of expression" in democracy would allow the use of language that might be hurting and reviling the Divine Being [i.e., Allah]
  • The principle of separation between religion and state means secularism and the restricting of Allah only to places of worship
  • The principle of freedom of association ought to be rejected because it could allow membership in a heretical parties, which implies acquiescence in heresy
  • The principle of the rule of majority is "totally wrong and void because truth according to Islam is that which is in accordance with the Koran and the Sunna [i.e., the tradition of the Prophet], whether its supporters are few or many."

Three days later, Al-Zarqawi issued a dire warning:

"1. Oh enemies of Islam! Prepare yourselves and fortify whatever you like, wear as much armor as you can. We have men who love death as you love life. Our fallen [go to] heaven and yours to hell…

"2. Take care not to go near the centers of heresy and abomination [i.e., polling booths]

"3. Oh gardens [of Eden], prepare yourselves; oh black-eyed [virgins], approach; oh brigade of martyrs, say 'There is no God but Allah." …The martyrs' wedding is at hand." [31]

In the same message, Al-Zarqawi characterized Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani as "the devil" and the "imam of apostasy and atheism" and called on his people to be patient because Allah had promised victory against the American "tyrant." [32]

A group calling itself "The Assassination Unit in the Monotheism and Jihad Organization" sent a letter to elections committee chief Farid Ayyar, threatening the murder of elections committee members and their families if they remained in their posts. [33]

About a month before Al-Zarqawi issued his statement against participation in the Iraqi elections, bin Laden issued a similar warning, that "anyone who participates in these elections has committed apostasy against Allah." It is apostasy because the Iraqi constitution is "a jahiliyya constitution that is made by man" and because the elections are "ordered by America, under their airplanes, bombs, and tanks." [34]

Following the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Iraq in mid-May 2005, and her subsequent appeal to the Iraqi government to give the Sunnis a bigger role in the drafting of the constitution than had been envisaged, Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers reacted. It warned the Sunnis against participating in the drafting of the constitution because those who did so would be "sell[ing] their religion for the vanities of the world." Al-Qaeda in Iraq referred to Rice as "a hag who came to defile the land of the Caliphate." The statement, dated May 16, threatened Rice: "Our religion dictates that the sword and the bullets is the dialogue between us and you, O worshippers of the cross." [35]

The Union between Al-Tawheed and Al-Qaeda

Al-Qaeda was greatly weakened after the loss of its base in Afghanistan. Its two principal leaders, bin Laden and his deputy Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, have been on the run, with a heavy prize placed on their heads. Their ability to communicate with their followers has been curtailed by intelligence and hot pursuit.

In the meantime, the attention of all potential Jihadists was drawn to the exploits of Al-Zarqawi in Iraq, which has become the sublime location for those seeking martyrdom. It has become the preferred and, indeed, the ideal place for Jihad against the Americans. Each perceived success on the ground by Zarqawi's group generated more Jihadists and more money, primarily from wealthy Saudi and other Gulf individuals. Porous borders with Syria made it possible for both money and people to move with ease.

Al-Zarqawi's oath of allegiance (mubaya'a) to bin Laden and the latter's designation of Al-Zarqawi as the Amir of Al-Qaeda in Iraq may have helped the cause of both men, although one tends to consider Al-Zarqawi as getting the better end of the deal:

Benefits for Al-Zarqawi:
  • Higher prestige and greater legitimacy vis-à-vis other terrorist organizations operating in Iraq
  • Access to bin Laden's traditional sources of funding, particularly in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries
  • A global reach (hitherto it was local or, at best, regional) [36]
  • Expanded base of volunteers, particularly from Saudi Arabia (recent figures show that 61 percent of the 490 terrorists killed in Iraq were of Saudi origin).
Benefits for bin Laden
  • Forestalling the emergence of Al-Zarqawi as the leader of global Jihad movement
  • Associating Al-Qaeda with an organization that has established a record of "accomplishments" and, as a result, has increased Al-Qaeda's exposure and its intrinsic stature among the Jihadists. This has come at a time when Al-Qaeda has been silenced by successive blows, which have constrained its ability to operate except with a fraction of freedom that it had enjoyed under the Taliban.
The Strength of the Union

An examination of Al-Zarqawi's behavior in the last decade will cast a heavy shadow on his new partnership with bin Laden:

  • In the Al-Sawaqa desert prison in Jordan in 1994-99, Al-Zarqawi was a member of a group of prisoners under the imara of his spiritual mentor Sheikh Abu-Muhammad Al-Maqdisi. In 1996, Al-Zarqawi engineered a coup that expelled and replaced Al-Maqdisi as Amir. Henceforth, the teacher was to receive orders from his former student. Al-Maqdisi was relegated to the status of a scholar.
  • When he went to Afghanistan with a group of his friends and supporters, he insisted, and the Taliban acquiesced to his demand, that he would operate his camp independently of bin Laden. During his time in Afghanistan, he, unlike all Arab Jihadists, refused to swear allegiance to bin Laden who was at that time at the zenith of his power and influence.
  • When he arrived in Iraq in 2002, he was given shelter and support by Ansar Al-Islam. He soon broke away to establish his own organization, Al-Tawheed wal-Jihad.

These instances demonstrate Al-Zarqawi's inability, or unwillingness, to work under a superior authority, whether spiritual or organizational. One suspects that sooner or later he will also break away from bin Laden and perhaps even seek to replace him as the supreme leader of Al-Qaeda. In fact, given the two men's difficulties in communicating on a regular basis, it is not clear how bin Laden would control Al-Zarqawi even if he tried to do so.

Collapse of the Ba'th in Iraq – Good Omen for Islamists

Anti-democratic convictions are not new for Al-Qaeda, which considers man-made rule as inherently contradictory to the rule of Allah. In a book titled The Future of Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula after the Fall of Baghdad, published on an Al-Qaeda website, author Yusuf bin Saleh Al-'Ayiri (subsequently killed by Saudi security forces) wrote:

"The collapse of the Ba'th government is good for Islam and the Muslims because it is a collapse of the apostate nationalist slogans that have permeated the Islamic nation. For after communism, Arab nationalism, secularism and modernity, the Islamic banner, which has remained steadfast through history, will replace all the failed non-Islamic appeals regardless of their principles."

In short, the collapse of the Ba'th is good for Islam, and democracy is "the most wicked of the all types of secularism; it means bestiality." [37]

The Size of the Al-Zarqawi Group

The size of the Al-Zarqawi group is not known, although it is most likely changing with the influx of would-be "martyrs" and the demise of others through the acts of suicide bombing, death through clashes with the multinational and Iraqi forces, and capture.

Some estimates put the group in the thousands. The Iraqi daily Al-Mada estimates the number of the group in the hundreds, and this may be closer to reality than some other wild estimates. [38] The reason this lower estimate seems more likely to be accurate is that a much larger group would require a much more formal command and control structure that would be made more vulnerable to counter-terrorism efforts. Besides, car bombs and suicide bombers are primarily individualist activity, rather than group activity.

Intensification of Violence

The expectations that violence would subside following the elections have not materialized. On the contrary, it has intensified. It has been reported that at least 60 car bombs exploded in Baghdad a week after the new Iraqi government was formed. [39] There is no single explanation for the intensification of violence in recent weeks, although one can speculate about some of the causes:

First, the leading political parties failed to take advantage of the impressive voting momentum to form a new government. The protracted negotiations following the elections had left a political vacuum which was exploited by the terrorists and the insurgents.

Second, the insurgents are encouraged by their mastery of new tactics and by the logistical support they have been receiving from some segments of the Iraqi population.

Third, the neighboring countries have not stopped the tide of volunteer Jihadists determined to achieve martyrdom in Iraq.

Closing in on Al-Zarqawi

In a series of raids on Al-Qaeda bases in Iraq, many key Al-Zarqaqi aides were either killed or captured. Some of those captured were able to provide useful information on Al-Zarqawi's movements, mode of operation, finances, and hiding places. Among those who provided important information on Al-Zarqawi was one of his key aides, Fadhil Hussein Ahmad Al-Kurdi (26), also known as Abu Ubaida Al-Kurdi, who was arrested in January 15, 2005 in Baghdad. His brother, Omar Bazyani, a member of the same terrorist network, was arrested May 2004 by the multinational forces. [40] Al-Kurdi is accused of coordinating the movement of terrorists inside and outside Iraq. Also arrested was Hassan Hamad Abdullah Muhsin Al-Dulaimi, who was in charge of the propaganda activities for the network. [41] Two other aides, arrested in January, are 'Inad Muhammad Qais, Al-Zarqawi's senior military adviser, and Saleh Suleiman Al-Lehaybi, who was in charge of Al-Zarqawi's network in Baghdad.

The Iraqi security forces arrested Heikal Lobus, known as Abu Ali Al-Lubnani, who was a leader of a group of 48 terrorists in the Latifiya area. The terrorists were nationals of Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Iran. Heikal Lobus is the husband of Al-Zarqawi's sister. [42]

Al-Zarqawi's Amir in the northern city of Mosul is Muhammad Khalaf Shakir, a.k.a. Abu Talha. His assistant, Abd Al-Aziz Sa'doun Ahmad Hamdouni (35), known as Agha Abu Ahmad, was arrested on December 30, 2004. [43] Abu-Talha himself was arrested in Mosul by the American forces with the help of the Kurdish Peshmerga. It was also reported that documents and material that could be used for the construction of chemical and biological weapons were also confiscated. [44] About a week later, the arrest of Maj. General (Liwaa) Abd Daoud Suleiman, one of the founders of Jaish Muhammad (Army of Muhammad) and a military adviser to Al-Zarqawi, was reported. [45]

A significant arrest was that of Al-Zarqawi's driver, who was captured after his boss jumped out of a car and fled. However, Al-Zarqawi's laptop computer was seized; this could provide valuable information on his network and sources of funding. [46] It has been reported that the hard drive contained information about Al-Zarqawi's medical condition and a trove of valuable information. [47]

The Medical Status of Al-Zarqawi

Major General Fu'ad Hani Fares, commander of the 5th Brigade of the Iraqi Army, has told the press that Al-Zarqawi suffered a serious injury, or may have been killed, in an air raid on his hideout in the city of Al-Qa'im. [48] The Sunday Times reported that the American forces were questioning a physician in a Ramadi hospital (in the capital of Al-Anbar province, in the Sunni triangle) about providing medical assistance to Al-Zarqawi. [49] Al-Zarqawi was reported bleeding profusely from an injury sustained in the battle at Al-Qa'im, on the Syrian border, where Iraqi and multinational forces clashed with Al-Zarqawi's supporters.

On May 24, a man identifying himself as "Abu-Maysara Al-Iraqi from the Information Section of Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers" posted an appeal to Muslims to pray for Al-Zarqawi who had sustained injuries whose nature was not revealed. Here are some phrases in the appeal posted on the website of Al-Qal'ah (associated with Al-Qaeda):

"O nation of Islam, nation of monotheism. Pray for the healing of our Sheikh Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi from an injury he suffered in the path of Allah. You are [Al-Zarqawi] the beloved of the mujahideen, and may Allah heal you and make you steadfast. Our Sheikh has taught us that nothing is worthy compared to Islam." [50]

After much confusion about Al-Zarqawi's medical condition, Al-Zarqawi denied he was seriously injured in an audio message attributed to him and addressed to bin Laden. He told bin Laden: "I would like to assure you that these are all rumors [about his serious injury] and they are entirely baseless. My wounds were light." Uncharacteristically, he signed his message, "from jundi to Amir" (i.e. from a private to a commander). [51] The London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat quotes CIA experts who confirm that the voice on the message was that of Al-Zarqawi. [52]

The Use of Internet and Television as Instruments of Warfare

One of the ironies of Islamist movements is that while they advocate an Islamic society governed entirely by the Shari'a, they do not hesitate to use the technical marvels of Western civilization – Internet and television – to propagate their causes. Al-Sharq Al-Awsat underscores the paradox when it refers to the demands by "the extremist Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers" who calls for a return to doctrines of Islam but depends on the technology of the 21st century…." [53]

Al-Jazeera TV has also played a significant role in extolling the heroism of the fighters, mainly Al-Zarqawi supporters, in the city of Fallujah when it was attacked by the Iraqi and multinational forces last November. According to Iraqi sources cited in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, the battle of Fallujah in November 2004 was led by Omar Hadeed, who had been one of Saddam's private guards. In the early 1990s, Hadeed had become associated with Islamist groups, and fled to Afghanistan for training in Al-Qaeda camps. He may have returned to Iraq in 2001 after Saddam issued his blanket amnesty to both those who were in prison and those who were being sought by the justice system. Hadeed and another member of Al-Zarqawi group were killed in Fallujah after, according to the Al-Zarqawi audio, helping to kill American soldiers "like flies." [54]

During the battle of Fallujah, Al-Jazeera TV often aired what might be considered biased coverage alleging the killing of women and children by the American forces, but kept silent about the casualties suffered by the multinational and Iraqi forces seeking to clear the city of the terrorist elements. It was later realized that the Al-Jazeera's station manager in Baghdad was Hamid Hadeed, the brother of Omar. A third brother and his family were killed after their house was bombed shortly after Omar Hadeed visited them. [55] The Iraqi government has since shut down Al-Jazeera's offices in Iraq, accusing the station of propagating violence.

The Terrorist's Last Night

One of the surprising aspects of Al-Zarqawi's operations is the availability of almost endless number of volunteers prepared to commit acts of martyrdom. These individuals are deeply, perhaps fanatically, religious. They are determined to seek martyrdom and reach the gates of heaven as soon as an opportunity presents itself. Some of these volunteers spend their last night on Earth reading the Koran and praying. Others seek solitude. In some instance, the volunteers participate in ceremony known as "the wedding of the martyr," as they celebrate the ascendancy of the groom to heaven and into the arms of 72 Houries. [56] In one such event, which took place post-mortem, involved a suicide bomber from Salt Jordan who caused the death of more than 100 Iraqis in the city of Hila, in Southern Iraq. His parents celebrated the occasion with a big feast that brought the Iraqi-Jordanian relationship to rupture. [57]


The only time Al-Zarqawi was heard in public was during his trial before the State Security Court in Jordan in 1994. During the subsequent decade, he has either been in prison, in Afghanistan, or somewhere in Iraq. Since 2004, he has sent many messages and delivered many speeches, all of which were pre-recorded and posted on the Internet.

Al-Zarqawi's speeches are characterized by the preponderance of verses from the Koran and elements of the Hadith, using both as a means of justifying whatever he was doing as an act rooted in Islam. From reading his speeches, one can discern a number of messages:

  • The inevitability of the creation of the Islamic state governed only by the Koran and the Sunna [the religious rules established by the Prophet]. In an Islamic state, there will be no parliament, rules, or laws other than those of the Koran.
  • The belief in ultimate victory because Allah has so promised
  • A call for monotheism. Secular rulers are tyrants and apostates (in Islam, an apostate must be killed). Monotheism will turn Muslims and all the deprived people from a state of weakness and backwardness into a recognizable force that will restore justice and defeat all manifestations of oppressions practiced by the great powers.
  • Exhortative calls for mobilizing soldiers to fight the enemies of Islam
  • Calls for Jihad until martyrdom. A martyr is destined for heaven.
  • Criticism of Muslim clerics for failing to play a leading role in mobilizing the believers to fight the heretics and the enemies of Islam
  • Deep hostility toward the Shi'a as a branch of Islam.

Regarding the last message, it should be noted that nowhere in the writings and speeches of either bin Laden or Al-Zawahiri is there an anti-Shi'a message. This alone may give further credence to the theory that Al-Zarqawi operated independently from Al-Qaeda whose declared enemies are "Jews and Crusaders" (i.e., Christians).

ANNEX I: Major Armed Islamic Groups in Iraq
Qaedat Al-Jihad Fi Bilad Al-Rafidain (Al-Qaeda for Jihad in the Land of the Two Rivers)

The key terrorist organization headed by Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, born as Ahmad Fadhil Al-Khalaila in Al-Zarqaa, Jordan. Previously known as Monotheism and Jihad [Al-Tawheed wal-Jihad].

Responsible for a large number of car bombs and suicide bombers as well beheadings of captives. Draws mainly on Jihadist fighters from outside Iraq for the suicide bombings. However, it was reported by an American senior military official that Al-Zarqawi's network has been expanding with the enrollment of Iraqi Islamists into its ranks. [58]

The organization remains the primary target of the multinational and the Iraqi security forces.

Ansar Al-Islam (Defenders of Islam)

Established on December 10, 2001 by the merger of three Islamist groups – Jund Al-Islam (The Soldiers of Islam), Kurdish Hamas, and Harakat Al-Tawheed (the Monotheism Movement). The key leader was Mullah Fateh Kraikar (his real name is Najm Al-Din Faraj).

Ansar Al-Islam is a Jihadist Salafi movement influenced by the writing of Sayyid Qutb and the military program of the Egypt terrorist group Al-Gamaah Al-Islamiyya at a time when it adhered to Jihad.

In an interview with the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Mullah Kraikar said that he had met with bin Laden only once, in a stately villa in Peshawar, Pakistan, which belonged to a Saudi prince. Seven other Saudis were present in the meeting. He claimed in the interview that the purpose of the meeting was to seek financial help for the victims of Halabja. [59]

According to a study by Dr. Hani Al-Siba'i, the head of the Maqrizi Center for Historical Studies in the U.K, the organizational chart of this group shows one Amir and two deputies in addition to the Military Committee, the Legal (Shari'a) committee, the public relations committee and the security committee.

Following 9/11, Mullah Kraikar sought a ceasefire with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) with which it had had many bloody clashes. However, the ceasefire was ruptured following an attempt on the life of Dr. Barham Saleh, who was at the time prime minister of the PUK region. Saleh, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was accused by Kraikar of being the key CIA man in Kurdistan. He is currently the Minister of Planning and Development in the Iraqi government.

The group's main camp, which was located in Biyara, Iraqi Kurdistan, had been bombed by the U.S. Air Force in March 2003. Many were killed. Survivors were taken to Assayish Prison in Suleimaniyya, Iraqi Kurdistan.

The group took responsibility for the suicide bombings at the headquarters of the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in February 2004 which resulted in the death of 109 people.

Ansar Al-Islam sheltered Al-Zarqawi when he fled from Iran before the occupation of Iraq. There is no information on the level of collaboration, if any, between the Ansar and Al-Zarqawi.

The group has allegedly experimented with chemical weapons.

Mullah Kraikar is currently in Norway, but the Norwegian government announced recently that it would extradite him to Iraq as soon as conditions permit.

Jaysh Ansar Al-Sunna (The Army of the Defenders of the Prophet's Conduct)

Believed to be a splinter group of Ansar Al-Islam. Created as a Salafi group five months after Iraq's occupation. It is headed by Abu Abdullah Al-Hassan bin Mahmud. He was the one who deceptively announced on the Internet that he had beheaded the Marine of Lebanese origin, Wassif Ali Hassoon. He also alleged responsibility for the attack on branches of the two main Kurdish parties which resulted in the death of 109 people and the injury of many, including American soldiers. All its statements are signed by "the military body of Jaysh Ansar Al-Sunna."

This group took responsibility for the December 2004 suicide bombing at the U.S. army mess.

The Kurds arrested in Erbil (Iraqi Kurdistan) 40 members of a network which belongs to Ansar Al-Sunna. They were planning big operations in Kurdistan, to turn the territory into another Baghdad. [60]

Al-Jaysh Al-Islami Al-Iraqi – Fayaliq Khalid Ibn Al-walid (The Iraqi Islamic Army – Khalid ibn Al-Walid Brigades)

The organization threatened to execute a Filipino hostage unless the Philippines withdrew its small contingent of about 60 soldiers from Iraq. The Philippines capitulated to the threat, and the individual in question was released. The video was shown on Al-Jazeera TV on July 7, 2004.

In mid-July 2004, the group issued "a warning to the Italian people" demanding the withdrawal of the Italian military from Iraq or face "fleets of car bombs."

Al-Kata'ib Al-Salafiya Al-Mujahida Fi Bilad Al-Rafidain (Salafite Jihadist Brigades in the Land of the Two Rivers)

The announcement about the creation of this organization was issued in early March 2005, shortly before the first meeting of the recently elected Iraqi National Assembly.

The organization declared that it was founded on the pure Salafi program. It distanced itself from "excessiveness, secularists, Ba'thists, Saddamists, and from those who seek to re-establish the buried Ba'thist state." It did say that it was a Sunni organization.

The London daily Al-Hayat which published the group's announcement on March 24, 2005, has hinted that there may be "suspicious fingers" behind this organization.

* Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli is Senior Analyst of MEMRI's Middle East Economic Studies Program

[1] Excerpts from two of the three articles were translated by MEMRI and published as Special Dispatch No. 848, January 17, 2005 Al-Hayat Inquiry: The City of Al-Zarqaa in Jordan – Breeding Ground of Jordan's Salafi Jihad Movement. The articles were originally published by Al-Hayat (London) on December 14 and 15, 2004.

[2] Al-Hayat, July 14, 2004.

[3] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, February 9, 2005.

[4] Al-Quds Al-Arabi, May 15, 2005.

[5] Al-Mada (Baghdad) May 17, 2005.

[6] Al-Hayat (London), November 17, 2005.

[7] Loc. cit.

[8] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 14, 2004.

[9] This section draws on a book called Al-Zarqawi – The Second Generation of Al-Qaeda, serialized in 14 installments in the London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi between May 15 and June 7, 2005.

[10] Al-Hayat (London), December 14, 2004.

[11] Al-Hayat (London), May 23, 2005.

[12] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 10, 2004.

[13] U.S. Department of State, Zarqawi Letter (February 2004).

[14] Karbala Network, December 22, 2004.

[15] Karbala Network, May 29, 2005.

[16] Karbala Network, June 10, 2005.

[17] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 13, 2004.

[18] A transcript of the speech was posted the following day on many Islamic websites. The person who posted the transcript called himself the "Glimmer of the Swords" and referred to Al-Zarqawi as "The Sheikh and Commander of Slaughterers." The speech was translated by MEMRI, in Special Dispatch No. 785, September 15, 2004.

[19] A prophetic tradition (Hadith), which is often quoted in the Islamic apocalyptic literature, states that one of the events heralding the Last Day of Judgment will take place in Dabiq. The Mahdi (Muslim Messiah) will destroy the armies of the infidels that will have assembled in A'maq and Dabiq. The traditional explanation is that these are two places in the area of northern Aleppo, in northern Syria. Al-Zarqawi is clearly referring to this apocalyptic tradition.

[20] Coalition Provisional Administration, Baghdad Local Press Summary. Special Edition: Recent Statements by Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, Feburary 19, 2004.

[21] Al-Hayat (London), October 20, 2004.

[22] MEMRI, Special Dispatch No. 837, December 30, 2004.

[23] Loc. cit.

[24] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London) January 1, 2005.

[25] and translated by MEMRI, Special Dispatch No. 884, March 24, 2005.

[26] Translated by MEMRI, Special Dispatch No. 917, June 7, 2005. A book titled Haqiqat Al-harb Al-salibiyya Al-jadidah (The Truth about the New Crusading War) by a Gulf cleric associated with bin Laden provides a number of conditions justifying the killing of hostages. Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 4, 2003.

[27] See Timothy Furnish, "Beheading in the Name of Islam," Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2005.

[28] Sawt Al-Jihad (The Voice of the Jihad), Issue No. 23 (August-September 2004), pp. 36-38

[29] Loc cit.

[30] http// See also Al-Zaman (Baghdad), October 30, 2004.

[31] MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 856, February 1, 2005.

[32] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), January 21, 2005.

[33] Al-Shiraa (Baghdad), November 1, 2004.

[34] Jahiliyya refers to the pre-Islamic era. A reference to a Jahiliyya constitution would suggest a constitution that is not founded on Islamic values and jurisprudence. The full version of the speech can be found at MEMRI possesses an audio recording of this message.

[35] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), May 17, 2005.

[36] The Spanish police arrested 16 Islamists (14 Moroccans and two Algerians), with a base in Syria, including 11 suspected of association with Al-Zarqawi's group. Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, June 15, 2005.

[37] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 29, 2003.

[38] Al-Mada (Baghdad), January 14, 2005.

[39] Al-Hayat (London), May 5, 2005.

[40] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, December 31, 2004.

[41] Al-Mada, January 25, 2005.

[42] Al-Mada, April 14, 2005.

[43] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, January 7, 2005.

[44] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, June 8, 2005.

[45] Al-Sabah (Baghdad), June 17, 2005.

[46] Al-Sabah, May 7, 2005.

[47] The Christian Science Monitor, April 27, 2005.

[48] Al-Zaman (Baghdad), May 14, 2005.

[49] Reported in Al-Mada, May 17, 2005.


[51] Karbalanews, June 1, 2005.

[52] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 1, 2005.

[53] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 2, 2005.

[54] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), January 20, 2005.

[55] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), November 19, 2004.


[57] MEMRI, "Iraqi-Jordanian Tension Over the Most Lethal Suicide Bombing in Iraq," Inquiry and Analysis No. 214, March 29, 2005.

[58] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 11, 2004.

[59] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 1, 2003.

[60] Al-Hayat (London), June 5, 2005.

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