Disrupting an Insurgent Group

Coalition and Iraqi forces arrest Abu Ayman, the commander of the Secret Islamic Army

Abu Ayman before his capture, click to enlarge.

The Iraqi Security Forces arrested Muhammed Hila Hammad Ubaydi, aka Abu Ayman, the leader of the Secret Islamic Army, on March 7. His arrest was announced today. According to the Multinational Forces-Iraq press release, “Ayman’s capture was the result of a determined manhunt conducted by Iraqi intelligence professionals and several intelligence agencies within the Coalition.” Ayman is described as follows (note his ties to Saddam’s regime and al Qaeda in Iraq):

Abu Ayman, the former aide to the Chief of Staff of Intelligence during the Saddam Hussein regime, was the leader of the Secret Islamic Army in the Northern Babil Province. Abu Ayman has strong ties to terror leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, still considered the head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Abu Ayman is the prime suspect in the kidnapping of Italian journalist Guiliana Sgrena and for assassination attempts on Iraqi Government and Iraqi Security Forces officials. Abu Ayman is also the prime suspect in the kidnapping and killing of several hostages in Iraq and for committing some of the most lethal IED attacks on Coalition and Iraqi Forces and on Iraqi citizens since the fall of the regime.

In the arrest warrant issued in October of 2005, Ayman’s insurgent group was described as operating in the regions of Baghdad, Salman Pak, and Mahmudiyah. These are three of the most dangerous areas in Iraq, riddled with a deeply rooted Sunni-led insurgency.

The Multinational Forces-Iraq press release also highlights how Qataba’s capture provided intelligence on the operations of the Secret Islamic Army, and eventually led to Abu Ayman’s capture. The announcement of Ayman’s capture was delayed for one month in order to exploit intelligence likely gained during interrogation. His capture was facilitated by the arrest and interrogation of Abu Qatada, who is described as “a Syrian born terrorist who was wanted for multiple IED attacks, the assassinations of two Iraqi government council members, and the murders of several truck drivers.”

The roll-up of the Secret Islamic Army network mirrors the destruction of the al-Ahwal Brigade last summer in the city of Hit. The capture of a key member of an insurgent network can go far in dismantling a terrorist group.

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

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  • Matthew says:

    Great, Great news!
    I just KNOW that Coalition forces are chafing at the bit to go after Sadr’s Shiite militia and fellow ilk of sorts.
    Hmm, I wonder if the thought of extracting the knowledge of the 18 people (plus one hostage) detained during the much publicized and widely successful Special (Iraqi) Forces raid is contributing to the destabilizing effect going on right now of Sadr and Co.’s (and thus Iran’s) plans to dominate Iraqi politics.
    I think it is just a matter of time before such militias are “disarmed” one way or another.

  • the crog says:

    Great reporting as usual, Bill. But I just noticed that your 1,500,00th visitor will arrive in the next day. Maybe only a mother keeps track of these things, but the family, your friends, and your readers are proud to see you reach this landmark with a serious blog. Imagine, you got here without Britney Spears, Tom Cruise or NASCAR. Keep going, son.

  • tblubrd says:

    Great report Bill. Haven’t seen it anywhere in Antique Media – too much good news. Makes me wonder who will fall next with his capture. I would imagine that it’s been under wraps for so long in an attempt to get Zarqawi. I’m disappointed that didn’t happen but happy one butcher was caught.
    Thanks and keep up the excellent work.

  • ctc says:

    Speaking of good news there is some interesting info up at regarding casualty and attrition rates in iraq. The trends are down across the board.

  • PeterArgus says:

    You bring up two interesting points I have wondered about too.
    I don’t think it is likely that US casualties are down because our soldiers are staying on base (whether they are or not is another issue). As the link to the Brookings data indicates there has been a decrease in Iraqi Security forces casualites, car bomb attacks, & civilian casualties. This across the board decrease is because the terrorists are unwilling or unable to attack.
    Which brings up your point about moving to Afghanistan. This seems quite possible to me. For foreign terrorists the very high likelihood of death and low likelihood of effectiveness that the Iraq situation presents may persuade them to move to Waziristan where the situation appears more promising.

  • Marlin says:

    StrategyPage doesn’t believe that terrorists are migrating from Iraq to Afghanistan.
    There were rumors of “Iraqi experts” coming to Afghanistan, or Afghans going to Iraq for training, but neither of these appear to be true. It’s basically amateur hour in Afghanistan, with the Taliban sending suicide bombers to a lonely death, as the support teams try to learn to be as efficient at killing people as their Arab brothers in Iraq are, or were. Iraqi suicide bomb support teams have taken a major beating over the past two years, and many Iraqi operations are as ineffective as those in Afghanistan.
    StrategyPage: Amateur Hour For Suicide Bombers

  • irishguard says:

    I find it interesting that his name was released a full month after being caught. Makes me wonder whether we waited until he spilled all the good names and locations before telling the world we had him. Some break and some don’t but if we waited a month, I’m betting we had a reason.

  • mark says:

    great news Bill. I’d love to get my hands on the any phone numbers, letters, paperwork this guy had on him. Sounds like he’s just another guy in the IIS with links to Zarqawi. It’s pretty naive to think that all of these links began AFTER the invasion.

  • Rob says:

    In Afghanistan when you talk to people about bombing, they always say it is coming from Pakistan. If you look at the places that these guys are caught or go off it mostly seems close to the border with Pakistan. Al Qaeda is unwelcome in Afghanistan and as foreigners they are often caught if they do come in.

  • Lisa,
    “I believe this is not the time to let our guard down in either place.”
    Normal police density, is somewhere between 3 and 6 per thousand residents. The ISF is now at 9 per thousand residents, headed to 12 per thousand residents by the end of the year.
    THe Brits topped out at 11 per thousand during the “troubles” in Northern Ireland.
    Pakistan and Afghanistan are still potential problems, as the density of the security forces is quite light.

  • Michael says:

    Mark said,
    “Sounds like he’s just another guy in the IIS with links to Zarqawi. It’s pretty naive to think that all of these links began AFTER the invasion.”
    It would be a first priority I’m sure to know how he attained his connections, when and where. Its a great capture – live info. Hopefully he’s singing. It should give us insight on other Baathist, prior intelligence missions. Great news and hope it leads to more insight possibly even Syria, Sudan connections as well. I’d suspect if he had connections outside Iraq, it would be another reason to keep quiet. Plus, time required to see if the song he’s singing is in tune.
    Soldiers Dad, thanks for that info. It helps put the street in perspective for me. I had no idea they were already at that level. Is this police or all forces?

  • Michael,
    It is the Iraqi Army plus police. Still a bit green, still needs some weeding, but the numbers are there.

  • Neo-andertal says:

    Abu Ayman is a good catch. My guess is that his organization will need major restructuring. When a cell is compromised everyone has to go scrambling. Any attacks that are ready have to be launched immediately or cancelled. Everyone runs for cover while they assess how much the cell has been compromised and how much they have to stand down from active operations while their cell is being restructured.
    He was a big fish and South Baghdad and right in the middle of the fight. I wonder if they replace him with a lesser follower from inside, or move someone experienced into the job. Of course moving more assets into South Baghdad means pulling resources away from other areas.


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