Al Qaeda in Iraq appointed a new ‘war minister’ for its Islamic State after the group’s top two leaders were killed by Iraqi and US forces one month ago.
Al Qaeda in Iraq announced the appointment of Nasser al Din Allah Abu Suleiman as the new minister of war for its political front, the Islamic State of Iraq. Abu Suleiman’s appointment was announced in a statement released on jihadist Internet forums.
In the announcement, Abu Suleiman vowed to wage a new military campaign directed at Iraqi security forces as well as against the country’s Shia, which al Qaeda views as “apostates” for practicing a different version of Islam. The attacks would be launched to avenge the death of top al Qaeda leaders as well as for the “men and women in prisons of the apostates in Baghdad, Mosul and Diyala.”
Abu Sulieman also promised his forces would subject the Iraqi Shia to “a long and gloomy night and darker days colored in blood.”
Al Qaeda has long advocated a strategy that calls for stoking sectarian violence between the majority Shia and minority Sunnis. Al Qaeda and the Shia Mahdi Army had brought Iraq to the edge of civil war in 2006 by carrying out a wave of murders against opposing sects and even their own.
Al Qaeda in Iraq’s founder, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who was killed in a US strike in June 2006, had insisted from the very beginning that al Qaeda’s best chance at destroying the Iraqi government and imposing an Islamic state was to fan the sectarian flames. Zarqawi made the argument to al Qaeda’s central leadership that the Shia must be viciously targeted, even if it meant a full-blown war against the Shia.
“I come back and again say that the only solution is for us to strike the religious, military and other cadres among the Shia with blow after blow until they bend to the Sunnis,” Zarqawi said in a letter to Osama bin Laden. The letter was written by Zarqawi in 2004 and intercepted by US intelligence.
Little is known about Abu Sulieman. Al Qaeda in Iraq’s top leadership has been decimated by US and Iraqi forces over the past five months. Abu Ayyub al Masri, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, and Abu Omar al Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, were killed in an operation outside of Tikrit on April 18. Abu al Walid Abd al Wahhab al Mashadani, the group’s sharia minister, confirmed the two leaders were killed in a statement released on the Internet six days later.
Several other top leaders of the group have been killed or captured since January. Most recently, Iraqi police captured Abu Abdullah al Shafi, the top leader of al Qaeda ally Ansar al Islam, during a raid in Baghdad. [For a list of top al Qaeda leaders killed or captured since Jan. 1, 2010, see LWJ report, “Iraqi forces arrest leader of Ansar al Islam.”]
The position of war minister in the Islamic State of Iraq was previously held by al Masri, a long time al Qaeda and Egyptian Islamic Jihad member who was appointed by Ayman al Zawahiri. While technically the war minister was subordinate to the emir, or leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, in reality al Masri was the group’s leader. The Islamic State of Iraq was established to put an Iraqi face on the foreign-led terror group. Al Qaeda has yet to announce a new leader of the Islamic State of Iraq.