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.
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