The vicious infighting between al Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic Army in Iraq manifested south of Samarra in Salahadin province yesterday. The Islamic Army in Iraq, one of the largest insurgent groups allied with al Qaeda in the past, attacked al Qaeda in a village south of the provincial capital on Friday. Eighteen al Qaeda fighters were killed and 16 captured during the hours-long battle, according to an Islamic Army commander.
Abu Ibrahim, an Islamic Army commander in the region, told the Associated Press that he informed the Iraqi Police in the region that his fighters intended to attack al Qaeda. Ibrahim requested US forces stay out of the fight, as the insurgent groups could not be distinguished by uniform.
“We found out that al-Qaida intended to attack us, so we ambushed them at 3 p.m. on Friday,” Abu Ibrahim told the AP. The battle raged for over four hours.
The last major clash between al Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic Army of Iraq occurred on October 22 in Khannasa, just south of the city of Baghdad near Salman Pak. Over 60 were reported killed during the three-day battle that kicked off after al Qaeda kidnapped a leader of the insurgent group.
The Islamic Army in Iraq has issued numerous statements denouncing al Qaeda’s tactics. The Islamic Army in Iraq and al Zawraa, its propaganda wing, have feuded with al Qaeda in Iraq over the terror group’s brutality and attempts to dominate the Sunni insurgency.
Recently, two new insurgent councils were formed, both of which ignored al Qaeda and its Islamic State of Iraq. Wanted Baathist Izzat Ibrahim al Douri formed the Supreme Command for Jihad and Liberation, a grouping of largely unknown and defunct Sunni insurgent groups.
Days after that formation, elements of the Islamic Army of Iraq, the Mujahideen Army, Ansar al Sunna, the Fatiheen Army, the Islamic Front for the Iraqi Resistance (JAMI), and the Islamic Movement of Hamas-Iraq formed a political council. The formation of these councils is a direct affront to al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and has sparked a series of reprisals by al Qaeda.
In Osama bin Laden’s latest speech on Iraq, he ordered al Qaeda’s leadership to be more accepting to rival insurgent groups and to stop alienating Iraq’s influential Sunni tribal leaders. Bin Laden was concerned about alienating their natural Sunni allies.
But al Qaeda in Iraq has continued its assassination campaign against sheikhs and insurgents who have resisted al Qaeda’s attempts to impose its Islamic State. In Diyala province, al Qaeda assassinated yet another influential tribal leader involved in the Awakening, the grouping of tribal leaders and former insurgents who have banded together to form security forces and resist al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda detonated a bomb inside the home of Sheikh Fayez Lafta, “an influential leader in ongoing reconciliation efforts” and a leader in the Obeidi tribe in Khalis. Latfa and two others were killed in the blast.