Who was Abdullah Abu Azzam al-Iraqi?

The death of Abdullah Abu Azzam al-Iraqi at the hands of the Coalition has raised questions. What was his value to al Qaeda in Iraq, and was he captured last winter? Who was he?

Abdullah Abu Azzam al-Iraqi was also known as Abdallah Nahim, but his real name was Abdallah Mohammed al-Juhaari. He was a major figure in al Qaeda in Iraq, and he had not been captured prior to his death.

A major problem with the nom de guerres used by terrorists is that several operatives often take the same name. This generates much confusion in the intelligence community and among the media and the public.

The nom de guerre “Azzam” is a case in point. Abdallah Azzam (the original, deceased) was the ideological mentor of Osama bin Laden with whom he co-founded MAK, the foreign jihadi movement during the Afghan-Russian war. He advocated a global jihad against the West. Because of his connection with bin Laden and his vision for jihad, Azzam’s name is used extensively in jihadi circles. There is a terrorist group in the Palestinian territories called the Abdallah Azzam Brigade, which recently claimed responsibility for the Sharm el-Sheikh attack in Egypt (Azzam the Original was a Palestinian). There is an American al Qaeda operative called Azzam the American. In Iraq, there were two other terrorists that went by the name of Abu Azzam, both of whom have been captured.

• Abu Azzam: Captured January 05. Involved in rocket attacks on Mosul Air Field as well as other targeted Coalition Forces in Mosul.

• Abu Azzam: Captured 19 March 05. Responsible for conducting VBIED operations as well as coordinating logistics between the various cells in Mosul operating under Abu Talha.

Neither of these terrorists had the stature of the just-killed Abdullah Abu Azzam al-Iraqi. A CENTCOM arrest warrant and rewards bulletin describes him as follows:

Sheikh Abdalluh Abu ‘Azzam (aka Amir of Anbar)- is considered to be a lieutenant of the foreign terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He has issued a statement that threatened the Jama’at Al Tawhid would hunt down Iraqi officials and symbols of the current government; he has also claimed the attacks of Izz Al Din Salim, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior and the killing of the Mosul Governor. Sheikh Abdalluh Abu ‘Azzam is considered a grave threat to the Iraqi people and to the rebuilding of Iraq. The Multi National Force in Iraq is offering a reward of $50,000 for information leading to the capture of Abu Abdalluh ‘Azzam.

Blackanthem reports the just-killed Abu Azzam had “served as the Emir of Anbar Province for much of 2004 and led the largest group of al Qaeda in Iraq fighters in Fallujah during Autumn 2004 until they were defeated by Coalition forces during Operation Dawn. In Spring 2005, he assumed the position of Emir of Baghdad, where he reportedly directed and controlled all terrorist activity and operations in and around the city.”

Reuters states Azzam “commanded day-to-day operations in Baghdad and other cities, while also financing attacks and the passage of militants into Iraq from neighboring countries” as well as acting as a religious adviser to Zarqawi. Iraqi national security adviser Muwaffaq Rubaei estimates Azzam “must have killed 1,200 Baghdadis” via car bombings and other attacks.

Azzam’s direction of the terrorist attacks in Baghdad is significant in itself. Baghdad is a crucial theater for al Qaeda, as the attacks in and around the capitol provide the media attention and legitimacy al Qaeda seeks. Al Qaeda in Iraq would not allow a low level operative to command such an important operation.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.


  • Jimbo says:

    Bill I see you mentioned the name Abdul Rahman Hasan Shahin….who was he?

  • Jimbo says:

    I found this over at Blackanthem…..something I suspected….their is a mole inside AQ in Iraq’s ranks..

    Multiple intelligence sources and corroborating information from a close associate of Abu Azzam led Coalition and Iraqi security forces to the terrorist safe house where the al Qaeda in Iraq leader was hiding.

  • GK says:

    Sure, it is great that a terrorist is killed, but until Yesterday, 99% of the people had never heard of this person. So the PR value is limited.
    The question becomes, will terrorist attacks in Iraq drop by a significant percentage due to his absence, and the lack of experience of his successor? Also, does the removal of thsi person hep tighten the net around Zarqawi?

  • Ike says:

    Does anyone have a running tally of all the Zarqawi sightings and near captures?

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    “Will terrorist attacks drop”
    IMHO, there will be a spike, cells which can reasonably assume that they have been compromised will go into a “use it or lose it” mode.

  • Annoy Mouse says:

    The Hit cell org-chart really illustrates how these cells can be “rolled up”

  • DWPittelli says:

    It seems to me that if the US coalition values Zarqawi at $25,000,000, but his #2 at just $50,000, then this 500 to 1 ratio tends to weaken any PR attempt to play up the good news that we are consistently killing AQ middle and upper management.
    A higher price for upper management might also, of course, lead to more tips of the sort that netted the latest #2. $50,000 is not enough to relocate one’s family and negate risk of reprisal, whereas $500,000 and a western-nation visa for a family would be.
    Finally, is this latest dead bad guy really THE #2, or was he one of several guys who were basically TIED for #2? Does the coalition make these ratings (as in the old deck of cards) beforehand, or do we have to trust their rating after the fact? Also, the news of “#2 in this province, that organization,” etc., is confusing; Does anyone have a country-wide listing of the current bad guys (as was the deck of cards)?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Look at the dates. The warrant was issued in February. Since then two runner ups for al Qaeda in Iraq – Darwish and Tahla – were killed/captured. The Coalition states he is number two, and I accept that. It isn’t wise for them to publish this information beforehand as it gives the enemy insight inot our intel. Again, his command of Baghdad certainly gives him weight within the organization.

  • Justin Capone says:

    The media is helping the war effort, except they are doing it for the wrong side.
    Zarqawi emerging as self-sustained force
    WASHINGTON, Sept 27 (Reuters) – Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s network of al Qaeda-linked insurgents is emerging as a self-sustaining force, despite repeated blows by U.S. forces and the reported death of his second-in-command, U.S. intelligence officials and other experts say.
    The Zarqawi network, responsible for some of the Iraqi insurgency’s bloodiest attacks, has grown into a loose confederation of mainly native Iraqis trained by former Baath Party regime officers in explosives, small arms, rockets and surface-to-air missiles.
    Since U.S. counter-insurgency assaults forced many of its operatives to exit Iraq’s cities, counterterrorism officials say al Qaeda has been trying to set up a safe haven for training and command operations in western Anbar province.
    “The suggestion is that this has shifted from being a terrorist network to a guerrilla army,” said Vali Nasr, a national security affairs expert at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.
    “If this were not checked, the insurgents would become not only militarily more powerful, but politically more powerful. We’re definitely trying to deny that milestone to Zarqawi.”
    “He has enough force in place to sustain operations,” the official added. “Al Qaeda in Iraq … regenerates very quickly. You knock off a guy who’s in charge in a certain area, another person steps into the gap.”
    Zarqawi’s network, believed to consist of 2,000 to 5,000 hardcore fighters and an equal number of active supporters, represents 10-15 percent of the Iraq insurgency in numbers of fighters, officials say.
    Defense and counterterrorism officials said Zarqawi’s insurgents have recently been joined by elements of Jaish Mohammad, a 4,000-member insurgent group loyal to Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime. The addition gives Zaraqwi new tactical skills inside Baghdad, a defense official said.
    Although the Jordanian-born Zarqawi has long been associated with foreign fighters, officials believe 85 to 90 percent of al Qaeda in Iraq’s members are Iraqi.

  • leaddog2 says:

    What is the difference between Reuters, the A.P. and the Terrorist channel, al-Jazeera?
    ?????? I can’t see any either!

  • Jamison1 says:

    Help me out here. Has Vali Nasr ever had anything positive to say about Iraq?

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    “What is the difference between Reuters, the A.P. and the Terrorist channel, al-Jazeera?”
    Al-Jazeera’s terrorist reporter is imprisoned in Spain
    Reuter’s terrorist reporters are imprisoned by MNF-Iraq(Every press briefing Reuters demand they be released, and every press briefing Gen Lynch quotes the UN Security Council resolution that gives him authority to continue holding them)
    CBS has become really,really quiet about it’s cameraman that is being “detained”.
    I don’t know about AP.

  • Rookie says:

    Thank you Bill for putting all this info regarding Azzam all together.
    One fact is clear, beyond any speculation: in the last months, the number of killed/captured terrorist and terrorist leaders increased tenfolds. It’s the first time I heard that some jihadi leader actually surrendered to US forces, and this is a clear sign of a change in Iraq: foreign/jihadi “insurgency” is taking a crushing beating, the capture/killing of Z goat-man will put the last nail in their coffin.
    There were some opinions here expressing doubts on this successes.. yes, defeating foreign terrorism does not mean the end of violence in Iraq: in the future, it will remain the conflicts between secular Baath forces and Shiite religious militias, and also an increase in activity by the Iranian supported groups.
    In all cases, most of these groups will target US forces as well. How well US and Iraqi government will cope with this internal conflicts, we can only know after the October elections.

  • Justin Capone says:

    Insurgents seize 5 towns near Syria
    Camp al Qaim, Iraq — A senior U.S. Marine commander said Monday that insurgents loyal to militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had taken over at least five key western Iraqi towns on the border with Syria and were forcing local residents to flee.
    In an interview with The Chronicle, Lt. Col. Julian Alford, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines Regiment stationed outside the western Iraqi town of al Qaim, said insurgents in the area had been distributing flyers they called “death letters,” in which they ordered residents of this western corner of volatile Anbar province to leave — or face death.
    “Basically, the insurgents say if they don’t leave they will … behead them,” said Alford, who took command this month of about 1,000 Marines stationed in the dusty desert area populated by roughly 100,000 Sunni Arabs.
    “It appears that al Qaeda in Iraq is kicking out local people from a lot of these towns out there,” he said. Alford said he did not know why the insurgents were forcing townspeople to leave, but he estimated that as many as 100 families per day were passing through a Marine checkpoint just east of the troubled area, their cars packed with their belongings as they flee east alongside the Euphrates River on the ancient Silk Road.

  • Justin Capone says:

    The Iraqis are dealing with this one on their own for the first time.
    Iraqi commandos to launch anti-terror operation in Qa’em
    BAGHDAD, Sept 27 (KUNA) — Iraqi Chief of Interior Ministry Commandos, Major General Rashid Flaih said on Tuesday that the force will execute an anti-terror sweeping campaign in Qa’em, nearby the Iraqi-Syrian borders, similar to that executed in Tal Afar.
    Flaih told reporters that the forces will cordon the town to cut terrorists’ supplies in Qa’em and surrounding areas, noting that the Iraqi Commando force will execute the operation instead of the US forces starting on Tuesday.

  • leaddog2 says:

    Soldier’s Dad,
    I guess the A.P. terrorists have not been caught YET!

  • Robert Jewett says:

    The Key is that now the Iraqi people identify themselves as with the Current Iraqi goverment, because it is their own elected goverment, The colition is supporting their goverment, The Terrorist are foreigners, and killing Iraqi civilians. Same for Iranian, they are not Iraqi, and not arab.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    “The Iraqis are dealing with this one on their own for the first time.”
    I would be surprised if some of our Special Forces guys with laser designator’s were not included in the party.

  • Justin Capone says:

    Of course we usually have SF guys around and advisors. But, its one of the first times I can remember Iraqi forces without a large American troop presence with them conducted a mission against a Sunni city.
    Back in May of this year US troops did operation Matador on their own. And, then we started doing US lead mission with Iraqis (they went something like: 800 US troops 200 Iraqis). Now we have a mission that is all Iraqi except a handful in the same area as operation Matador.

  • Caerdroia says:

    Dead Men Train no Terrorists

    The problem with the theory that the enemy is gaining experience in Iraq and that is why it’s bad that we fight there, is that dead men take their experience with them, and lots of high-level enemy have been dying in Iraq lately. And as long as that ke…

  • Jamison1 says:

    Can someone reconcile post #14 and post #15 for me.

  • cjr says:

    “insurgents in the area had been distributing flyers they called “death letters,” in which they ordered residents of this western corner of volatile Anbar province to leave — or face death.
    “Basically, the insurgents say if they don’t leave they will … behead them,” said Alford, who took command this month of about 1,000 Marines stationed in the dusty desert area populated by roughly 100,000 Sunni Arabs.
    “It appears that al Qaeda in Iraq is kicking out local people from a lot of these towns out there,” he said. Alford said he did not know why the insurgents were forcing townspeople to leave”
    I could be wrong but I think this is one of the most important developments in a while. The answer to “why” may be the following.
    Insurgents arent safe with people around. Intellegents on them has gotten so good that, wherever they begin to congragate, they are being turned in by the locals.
    Since the insurgents own intellegents is bad. Wherever they are, they dont know who will turn them in, so, best to get rid of everyone.
    The problem is that, once they do that, it becomes obvious where they are anyway. So why do it? The only thing that makes logical sense to me is… if they are preparing for their last stand……

  • Jamison1 says:

    Remember that crack z-man made about a last battle a week ago. What was that about?

  • vucommodore says:

    The Right Wing hate speech here is unbelievable. AP, Reuters and CBS DO NOT support terrorists. Al Jazeera only supports them because it gets them good ratings because most people in the Middle East support terrorists. These news organizations don’t know everything about the background of every single person they hire. I bet you the radio stations that carry Rush Limbaugh never knew that he had a drug problem. The people who carried Martha Stewart living had no idea she was an insider trader either. Give the Western media a break. The reason the population is turning against the war is because of the unending casualties and lack of political progress. The media doesn’t even report American deaths anymore. If they wanted to stir up anti-war sentiment, they would report every single death.

  • Kartik says:

    You don’t seem to be particularly happy that a notable terrorist has been removed from the equation, do you?

  • vucommodore says:

    No, I’m happy this guy was caught but I don’t think it’s as significant as most of you think. There are many components of the insurgency and getting rid of one guy probably isn’t going to change much. Overall violence does appear to be on a bit of a downtrend. But I’m not optimistic of this War ending until a political solution and the political situation in Iraq is terrible right now.
    I just don’t like all the attacks on the media. 99% of what Reuters reports is correct. 99% of what Fox News reports is correct. There’s no difference between “Left Wing” and “Right Wing” media. It’s all the same stories. People shouldn’t say things like “Reuters supports terrorists” without actual proof.

  • U.S. Special Forces kill al Qaeda’s # 2 in Iraq

    Abu Azzam, the top al Qaeda deputy of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has been killed in Iraq by U.S. special forces during an early morning raid on Monday in Baghdad. According to sources, Azzam was the Emir of Baghdad, in charge of financing terror cells and …

  • RDub says:

    Not sure where you got the idea that the media no longer reports US & Coalition casualties.
    Also, would it be fair to say that the organizations mentioned employ people who are (perhaps without the news organizations awareness) openly sympathetic of the terrorist mindset? That’s proven. Granted, they don’t know everything about the background of the stringers they employ, as you say. But to deny that there are employees (and in some cases a general overall tone) that show admiration for the “courage” of the terrorists is pretty silly.

  • exhelodrvr says:

    THe issue is generally not the factual accuracy of the reports, it is whether or not the reporting, based on the which facts are chosen, presents an accurate picture. And clearly FOX does a vastly better job at that than Reuters, CNN, et al. When you report the two U.S. deaths that occurred from a roadside bombing on the front page, and put the story of 25 insurgents/terrorists killed, based on info provided by an Ieaqi informant, on page 4, you are being factually accurate. But absolutely not presenting an accurate picture to the readers.

  • Logic says:

    Hi Vudore,
    Well, your quick accusation of “Right Wing” to people who are not, who don’t care about left or right, just tells me you BELIEVE you associate yourself “Left Wing”, and disagree with the war, but please don’t appologize for the press!
    You said “These news organizations don’t know everything about the background of every single person they hire.”
    So how are you so sure they don’t support the terrorist? Especially when these new orgs are trying to get the inside story from the closest source. Maybe this is a small percentage?
    Attacking the government is just sexy now adays and that’s what reporters feed off to make sales.
    Here’s a wake up call. The truth isn’t in a news story, it’s happening here and now.
    Read this:
    Iraqi national security adviser Muwaffaq Rubaei estimates Azzam “must have killed 1,200 Baghdadis”

  • News flash – Zarqawi is now the primary threat in Iraq

    This Washington Post story with its sub-head “U.S. General Says Foreign Fighters Now Seen as Main Threat” was more than a little amusing to me, given that I had seen him as such since at…


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram