al Qaeda on Sunni violence in Anbar

al Qaeda in Iraq targeted Sattar and an Imam who opposed the Islamic State of Iraq

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al Qaeda in Iraq has stepped up its campaign to eliminate the indigenous Sunni opposition in Anbar province. According to an American intelligence official and a military officer, al Qaeda in Iraq is attempting to destroy all effective Sunni opposition in the province. Over the past week, al Qaeda has conducted two major suicide attacks in Habbaniyah and Ramadi against two influence members of the Sunni opposition to al Qaeda in Iraq: Shiekh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, and the imam of a Habbaniyah mosque who spoke out against al Qaeda.

On February 19, al Qaeda in Iraq targeted the home of Shiekh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, the head of the Anbar Salvation Council, which is a grouping of Anbar tribes that oppose al Qaeda’s implementation of sharia law and murder of both Shia and Sunni alike. al Qaeda targeted Sattar’s home with two suicide strikes, the first of which breached the wall of the compound, and the second of which was designed to hit the building. Eleven were killed, including women, children and policemen.

al Qaeda used the same tactics in the Sattar attack as it did in the suicide attack on a U.S. outpost in Tarmiya, just north of Baghdad, which killed 2 soldiers and wounded 17. al Qaeda has used this method against U.S. and Iraq security forces, as well as against the media living in the Palestine Hotel, in the past.

Sattar escaped, but, as one military intelligence officer informed us, his loss would be a devastating blow to efforts to bring the Anbar Sunnis to secure the province. Sattar has organized 8 battalions of Emergency Response Units. These ERUs consist of local tribesmen whose mission is to provide security in Ramadi. Three of these battalions have already been formed and deployed. Sattar is seen as one of a handful effective leaders in Anbar province that are able to organize resistance to al Qaeda.

Saturday’s attack against the Habbaniyah imam demonstrates the extreme measures al Qaeda will take to murder its opponents. In order to get to the imam, who, according to Reuters “had spoken out against Sunni al Qaeda members during prayers on Friday,” al Qaeda targeted a mosque. The suicide bomber killed 39 and wounded 62. The explosion destroyed a nearby market, and many women and children are said to have been killed.

Habbaniyah is a strategic region of Anbar province, as it sits across the line of communication between the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah. The Iraqi brigade deployed to the region has had some success in rolling back the insurgency, and al Qaeda has a vested interest in eliminating the local opposition. An Imam speaking out against al Qaeda is a prime target for assassination.

al Qaeda in Iraq has been targeting political, religious and military leaders as well as tribal sheikhs who oppose al Qaeda’s vision for Iraq. This campaign has recently caused Mishan al-Jabouri, the owner and producer of al-Zawraa, or ‘Muj TV,’ to lash out against al Qaeda and threaten the terrorist group with violence from Sunni insurgents who have tired of al Qaeda’s attacks on civilians, Sunni nationalists either not aligned with the terrorists or who work with the government, and even the Shia.

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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12 Comments

  • RJ says:

    Let’s see: Kill enough of your neighbors and they will make some serious choices. 1)Leave the neighborhood, 2)join your side of the fight, or 3) resist you till one is declared the victor. Those who have the desire and the means leave first. Those who walk the fence enable the terror club as their new “slaves”. For those who remain, only fighting will do. I thought AQ is a Saudi/Egypt creation…more Sunni than Shia. Seems to me if they (AQ) are intent on killing Sunnis the tide may be turing to Shia’s favor…a corruption within it’s ranks. Sounds like more blood needs to be spilled before we Americans will discover if Iraq has a true identity, a true spine for democracy, and a true will for “our kind of freedom” kinda like the “land of the free, the home of the brave”. Time is on who’s side?

  • gm says:

    I rarely watch mainstream newscasts anymore, but happened to catch last night. This incident was described with no specifics. As far as ABC is concerned this is just more mindless anti-American violence. Guess its too much nuance and Bushian terror-vision to mention Al-queda and the Anbar province.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    How long until the 8xESU Battalions are organized into the Western Anbar INP Division?
    First three Battalions would be the Ramadi Brigade…

  • joe says:

    Its the brutal tactics like this massacre that finally turned the tide against islamic extremism in Algeria, hopefully the same will happen in anbar.

  • Neo-andertal says:

    Of course Al-Quada attacks their fellow Sunni’s. This is nothing new. They have systematically eliminated opponents, coerced the population, and even killed in a semi-random fashion to demonstrate absolute ruthless control. This way of controlling a population is also nothing new or incredible. Absolute tyranny is an effective and time proven way to rule. If you don’t think so, try reading a little pre-colonial history, or even some colonial history, or even modern histories of non-westernized countries.
    This is an argument I have been in for the last two years. During 2004 – 2005 as Al-Quada systematically pushed the Shiite population into a fight. It also systematically coerced and controlled on the Sunni population and the insurgency with fear. In the months before the Samara Shrine bombing, retaliation strikes from Shiite groups against Sunni populations were becoming far more common. Al-Quada used these as cover to clean house in Baghdad. I maintained at the time, that as much as ΒΌ to 1/3 of attacks attributed to Shiite militia’s was actually Al-Quada mimicking their enemies tactics in order to gain control of neighborhoods in Baghdad and the surrounding area. In stating this, I wasn’t trying to understate the problem with Shiite militias. I was stating that Al-Quada was playing both sides of the fence including mimicking the enemy in a (successful) attempt to wrest political control of Sunni neighborhoods.
    There were far too many attacks in the wrong places and against the wrong types of targets for all these attacks to be Shiite reprisals. The Mahdi army was definitely not systematically attacking and threatening Sunni government workers. Also, what are we to make of brazen Shiite death squad attacks in areas north of Baghdad in Sunni areas controlled by Al-Quada. How do Shiite militiamen attack Sunni’s and fade away into a hostile local population. (Once again, I must state that I believe Al-Quada on Sunni attacks to be a minority of such attacks, though a very significant minority because they were specifically aimed to gain greater control of the Sunni population.)
    After the Samara Shrine attack things changed. The Shiite reaction was convulsive, they attacked the nearest available targets in an orgy of reprisals. Apparently, Al-Quada was well prepared to take advantage and quickly moved to invest itself as the defender of Baghdad’s Sunni neighborhoods. The great majority of the attacks after the Shine bombing were in fact sectarian. There were certainly a good number of masked Al-Quada attacks in among these. The situation with Al-Quada on Sunni attacks during this period is a bit muddy. After that date there was little reason for Al-Quada to play both sides. They simply had to provoke the Mahdi army to get the results they needed. This too was largely successful. US forces were prematurely drawing down numbers and were in no position to control a situation spiraling out of control. They did make some efforts. Enough to protect vital interests within the city and also succeeded in defending the approaches to Baghdad to the south and west of the city. Efforts to the North East of the city were ineffective because not enough troops were available to adequately stretch operations into the area. The last year was a bit of trial by fire for the IA and IP who were tried past their limitations. Predictably, they broke down.
    The most recent operations have wrested control of the neighborhoods from direct Al-Quada control. They are still there, but must now fight to keep their own population under their thumb.
    Back to square one. We’ve made it back to where we were a year ago. In many ways we are ahead. The development of the Iraqi army is continuing at a faster pace and the situation in the provinces has improved. Conversely, the situation in Baghdad and Diyala province is worse than a year ago. The other bad political development is that Iran now seems determined to escalate the fight within Iraq. The extremists we face are utterly cynical. They will do anything to win. They also seem to be very impressed with their own capacity for ruthlessness. You also need to keep in mind that there are other players in the shadows, and that the relationships between people in the world of terrorism are very incestuous.

  • ECH says:

    Why the heck aren’t we providing security for our best allies in Anbar like Sattar?
    The fact we don’t have US Marines protecting Sattar is almost unbelievable.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    ECH
    He would refuse it.
    Can’t be seen to be a US puppet and still be effective…
    Best we could do is ensure he has his own and provide descrete overwatch.

  • ECH says:

    Clearly he doesn’t have good enough security.
    It reminds me too much of the rational some commander last year gave on CNN for why US troops didn’t provide security for key sites in Iraq like the Samarra mosque, that if we did that we would look more and more like the occupier and we didn’t want that.

  • al-Qaeda on Sunni violence in Anbar

    Courtesy of The Fourth Rail:
    al-Qaeda in Iraq targeted Sattar and an Imam who opposed the Islamic State of Iraq
    Al-Qaeda in Iraq has stepped up its campaign to eliminate the indigenous Sunni opposition in Anbar province. According to an American int…

  • Mark says:

    Bill,
    Do you know if the Iraqi Sunni population is being made aware that al Qaeda is not defending them from Americans but actually killing Sunnis? If both Sunnis and Shia could fully unite against AQIZ it would obviously be huge but fully gaining the Sunni population as an ally is going to take a consistent media campaign to make sure they know this.
    Do you know if this is being done? Or do the Sunnis already know?

  • David M says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 02/26/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

  • Tim Solan says:

    Bill,
    Great report. AQIZ is definitely feeling the heat and not only in Anbar, although they remain a dangerous threat. Since the launch of the Baghdad Security Plan, named Fardh Al-Qanoon on Feb 14th, along with operations in other provinces, AQIZ has suffered the following losses (source: MNF press releases).
    31 killed
    150 captured. Those captured includes the following leadership:
    An Emir and associate (Baghdad)
    //www.mnf-iraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=10198&Itemid=21
    Senior VBIED cell leader and two associates (Baghdad)
    IED & sniper cell networks leader (Ramadi)
    Senior level leader in bombing network (Mosul)
    Senior cell leader (Mosul)
    Cell leader (Mosul)
    VBIED cell leader (Amiriyah)
    Cell leader (Muqdadiyah)
    Also, citizens are taking action against AQIZ.
    //www.mnf-iraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=10098&Itemid=21

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