Al Qaeda, Islamic Army clash south of Baghdad

Banner of the Islamic State of Iraq. Click to view.

The divisions between al Qaeda and their erstwhile Sunni allies in the insurgency intensified over the weekend as the Islamic Army of Iraq and the terror group battled in Khannasa, just south of the city of Baghdad near Salman Pak. Over 60 were reported killed in the three-day battle after al Qaeda kidnapped a leader of the insurgent group.

Al Qaeda continues to overstep its boundaries and kills, kidnaps, and coerces Sunni insurgent groups for failing to follow its rules. “The attacks took place in the past few days after terrorists from al-Qaeda kidnapped the head of the Islamic Army in Madain, Wahid Arzuqi,” Adnkronos reported. “Various witnesses said Arzuqi was kidnapped after receiving various threats, in particular a fierce verbal attack in a meeting organized with other Iraqi guerillas. Tensions between al-Qaeda and the rival militant organisation have reportedly been ignited in recent weeks after the deaths of several members of the Islamic Army in Samarra, Kirkuk and al-Duluiya.”

The fighting between the Islamic Army of Iraq and al Qaeda is the latest in a series of clashes and verbal disagreements between the terror group and the Sunni insurgency. The Islamic Army in Iraq and Al Zawraa, its propaganda wing, have feuded with al Qaeda in Iraq over the terror group’s brutality and attempts to dominate the Sunni insurgency.

Al Qaeda’s predicament in Iraq was compounded this past month when insurgent groups began to issue harsh statements against the terror group. The 1920s Revolution Brigades in Anbar province accused al Qaeda of numerous crimes, including attacking “Ameriyyat [al-Fallujah] with a car bomb packed with chlorine gas canisters, and they even laid siege to the area to prevent food and fuel from getting to people. Finally, they killed several men at the local market and smashed their heads against boxes of food.”

Al Qaeda battled the Anbar Salvation Council, including significant elements of the 1920s Revolution Brigades, during the winter and spring of 2007. During this time, al Qaeda launched over 10 chlorine-bomb attacks against leaders in the 1920s Revolution Brigades in Anbar province and attacked mosques, apartment complexes, and funerals while its leaders were present. Also, elements of the 1920s Revolution Brigades joined forces with Iraqi Security Forces and the US military to battle al Qaeda in Diyala province.

Other insurgent groups have begun to turn on al Qaeda. Asaeb al Iraq al Jihadiya (aka the Iraqi Jihad Union) up until a few months ago had conducted several operations in conjunction with al Qaeda. But now Asaeb al Iraq al Jihadiya is accusing the terror group and puppet political government, the Islamic State of Iraq, of murdering and desecrating the bodies of its members in Diyala province. “To make things worse, they dug up their bodies from the graves, further mutilated them, beheaded them, and showed them off from their vehicles while driving through the towns. [The Islamic State of Iraq] even killed our men’s wives and children.”

Recently, two new insurgent councils were formed, both of which ignored al Qaeda and its Islamic State of Iraq. Wanted Baathist Izzat Ibrahim al Douri formed the Supreme Command for Jihad and Liberation, a grouping of largely unknown and defunct Sunni insurgent groups.

Days after that formation, elements of the Islamic Army of Iraq, the Mujahideen Army, Ansar al Sunna, the Fatiheen Army, the Islamic Front for the Iraqi Resistance (JAMI), and the Islamic Movement of Hamas-Iraq formed a political council. Both groups issued demands that are unlikely to be met by the Iraqi government or the US, but both signaled a willingness to negotiate. The formation of these councils is a direct affront to al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and has sparked a series of reprisals by al Qaeda.

As the Sunni insurgency continues to fragment, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has urged the insurgency to unite against the US and the Iraqi government. In a tape titled “Message to the people of Iraq,” bin Laden called on the “mujahideen in Iraq” to reject nationalism and tribal affiliations.

“The interest of the Islamic nation surpasses that of a group … the interest of the (Islamic) nation is more important than that of a state,” bin Laden said. “The strength of faith is in the strength of the bond between Muslims and not that of a tribe, nationalism or an organization. I advise … our brothers, particularly those in al Qaeda wherever they may be, to avoid fanatically following a person or a group.”

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



  • Winger says:

    This is good news Bill.
    The more they fight each other, the less time and energy they have to fight us. One problem I see is that the insurgent groups are still meeting to resist the occupation. They were still conducting operations with Al Qaeda. They are still arming and killing.
    Although it is good that they are fragmenting, I hope to see more of the reconciliation talk and willingness to negotiate with the government.
    According to Bin Laden, there will never be a reconciliation because of the “heretic” status of the Shia and they essentially are the government. I find that very ironic. In his speech he talks about “the bond between Muslims and not that of a tribe, nationalism or an organization.” However, he does not consider Shia to be Muslims. How does that work?
    He also urges insurgents to “avoid fanatically following a person or a group.” I wish his followers would heed his advice and stop following Osama and Al Qaeda. After all, he is a person and he started a group. That guy is really delusional. I see that as a weakness that we should exploit.
    It seems the pressure is really on these guys now. Perhaps we should rachet up the pressure while we have them on their heels. However, I wouldn’t want us to overplay our own hand and create some animosity by sending more troops, killing/capturing more people etc. It a fine line to walk. I hope we are on our game in that regard.
    When will the Iraqi Government really step up and make a major breakthrough thay will turn this war on it’s head? Every day, their troop levels should increase while the insurgents troop level decreases. How much more attrition will all sides suffer before the insurgents recognize the futility of their situation? We are almost there.

  • crosspatch says:

    “I advise … our brothers, particularly those in al Qaeda wherever they may be, to avoid fanatically following a person or a group.”
    That sounds to me like he is attempting to undermine Zawahiri. Maybe he is worried that he is losing his grip. That sentence sounds like it is intentionally broader in scope than just Iraq.

  • Hamidreza says:

    Incredible – 3 days of internecine clashes, 60 dead, and the future of Iraq in the balance, and the MSM has absolutely no interest in reporting this. One Iraqi wounded by Blackwater is more newsworthy to them than tectonic realignments in Iraqi security and politics.
    The ideology of Post-colonialism (which irrationally blames America for each and every evil on this planet) has thoroughly hollowed out their brains.
    BTW al-Khannasa is north of Baghdad.

  • Facing Defeat in Iraq…

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