Al Qaeda ‘s campaign against the Sunni tribal and insurgent leaders who oppose al Qaeda, or are considering it
Al Qaeda in Iraq is pressing hard with its assassination, terror and intimidation campaign against Sunni tribal leaders and insurgent groups who refuse to join the Islamic State of Iraq, al Qaeda’s political front designed to give the Sunni insurgency an Iraqi face. Today, al Qaeda conducted a suicide attack against the home of Sheikh Thahir al-Dhari, the leader of the al-Zuba’a tribe. Thahir was not killed in the attack, however his son, Harith al-Dhari, was killed along with two aides.
Harith al-Dhari, (who shares the name with the infamous Harith al-Dhari, who is his uncle and head of the insurgent-supporting Muslim Scholars Association), was a leader in the 1920s Revolution Brigades, a nationalist Sunni insurgent group. Elements of the 1920s Revolution Brigades are actively cooperating with the Anbar Salvation Council, the political and military front consisting of tribal leaders and insurgent groups.
As of last September, the leadership of 25 of the 31 Anbari tribes were cooperating with the government, while 6 tribes, know in some military intelligence circles as “The Sinister Six,” were aligned with al Qaeda. Two of the Sinister Six are the Albu Issa and the al-Zuba’a.
The Iraqi government, the Coalition and the Anbar Salvation Council are actively working to split off the Albu Issa and the al-Zuba’a from al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq. The efforts are showing progress. The Albu Issa are turning on al Qaeda in the Fallujah region, while the al-Zuba’a, which have a strong presence in Abu Ghraib, Zaidon and Fallujah, have begun to fight al Qaeda, along with the 1920s Revolution Brigades.
The assassination attempts against Sheikh Thahir al-Dhari and Salam al-Zubaie, one of Iraq’s two Deputy Prime Ministers. Ministers, as well as the chlorine strikes against the Albu Issa must be viewed in this context.
Al Qaeda is attempting to remove the leadership of the insurgent groups such as the 1920s Revolution Brigades and the leadership of these two tribes. Without leadership, the rank and file of the tribes and insurgent groups can be absorbed by al Qaeda’s Islamic State. Al Qaeda was successful in doing just this in 2006, which led to the dominance of al Qaeda over the insurgency in Anbar province.
Al Qaeda is waging a very real war against the Anbar Salvation Council and the tribes that are looking to join the political front. The major battles began this year in mid February, and include a suicide assault on the home of Shiekh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, the head of the Anbar Salvation Council; chlorine gas attacks; pitched battles in Amiriya; and an assassination attempt against Salam al-Zubaie.
Below is a list of the major al Qaeda attacks against the Anbar Salvation Council over the past month:
Al Qaeda conducted a multi-pronged suicide attack and assault on the home of al Qaeda in Iraq targeted the home of Shiekh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, the head of the Anbar Salvation Council. Eleven were killed in the attack but Sattar escaped.
Al Qaeda in Iraq destroyed a mosque in the Anbar city of Habbaniyah. opponents. The target was an imam who “had spoken out against Sunni al Qaeda members during prayers.” Sunni Sheikhs and insurgent leaders, including members of the Anbar Salvation Council, were present. The suicide bomber killed 39 and wounded 62. The explosion destroyed a nearby market, and many women and children are said to have been killed.
Over 300 al Qaeda attacked the the town of Amiriya in an attempt to assassinate a prominent leader of the Anbar Salvation Council. The leader of the Anbar Salvation Council was to attend the funeral of one of those killed in the February 24 suicide bombing in Habbaniyah. The Iraqi police in Amiriya held off the attack, radioed for backup from Iraqi Army, police and members of the Thurwa al-Anbar, the tribal militias assembled by the Anbar Salvation Council. U.S. air support also engaged in fighting. At least 50 al Qaeda were killed and 80 captured in the largest battles between al Qaeda and Iraqi police, Army and the Anbar Salvation Council in Anbar province this year.
Al Qaeda conducted a triple suicide chlorine gas attack in Amiriya, Fallujah and Ramadi. The Ramadi attack was stopped at a checkpoint, but the Fallujah and Amiriya attacks were aimed at civilian neighborhoods. The Fallujah attack aimed at the Albu Issa district. The target in Amiriya was a senior member of the Anbar Salvation Council. Al Qaeda successfully carried out two other chlorine attacks in Anbar, while two others were foiled. It is not known if these attacks were aimed at leadership targets.
In the second major battle in Amiriya in less than three weeks, a force of over 100 al Qaeda clashed with the Anbar Salvation Council, backed by Iraqi Security Forces. Thirty-nine al Qaeda were killed and 7 were captured during the battle. Again, the target is believed to be a senior leader of the Anbar Salvation Council.
Salam al-Zubaie, one of two Deputy Prime Ministers, was wounded after a suicide bomb was detonated in the courtyard of the mosque he was attending. Eight Iraqis have been reported killed including 5 of his bodyguards and a senior adviser. The lead suspect is a member of his security detail, a relative of Zubaie who was detained as an insurgent and subsequently released at Zubaie’s request. Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack.
Al Qaeda conducted a double chlorine gas suicide attack on the Fallujah Government Center. The Anbar Salvation Council is on the rise inside Fallujah, and members of the Albu Issa tribe are in prominent positions in the Fallujah Police. “Today’s attack coincided with yesterday’s appointment by the Fallujah City Council of a new mayor, Saad Awad Rahid Al-Dulaimi,” Major Jeffery Pool, the Public Affairs Director for Multinational Forces West informed us via email. “A Fallujah social studies teacher was elected in a democratic vote of 11 to 15.”