Al Qaeda in Iraq’s second in command was a Swedish citizen


Abu Qaswarah. Image courtsey of Multinational Forces Iraq.

Abu Qaswarah, al Qaeda in Iraq’s second in command who was killed by US forces in Mosul, was a naturalized Swedish citizen who was wanted by United States, according to information obtained by The Long War Journal.

Abu Qaswarah al Skani (the Swede), whose real name is Mohamed Moumou, was killed in Mosul during an Oct. 5 raid on an al Qaeda command center. He detonated his vest after being mortally wounded and killed three women and three children.

The US military said Abu Qaswarah was a Moroccan who trained in al Qaeda camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the 1990s. He had close connections with Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the slain leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, and commanded al Qaeda forces in northern Iraq before being appointed second in command.

Today, a Swedish newspaper reported that Abu Qaswarah was a naturalized Swedish citizen. Abu Qaswarah was “born in Morocco and became a Swedish citizen in the 1990s,” The Local reported. He was tied in with the notorious Brandbergen Mosque in Stockholm, which has been linked to other terror suspects.

The US military could neither confirm nor deny Abu Qaswarah’s citizenship. “He had many aliases but I cannot confirm any of them,” Technical Sergeant Chris Stagner, a Public Affairs Officer serving in Baghdad told The Long War Journal. “And for clarification, MNF-I [Multinational Forces Iraq] never said he was Swedish. Our operational information is confirming that Abu Qaswarah was Moroccan-born.”

But in an inquiry with a senior US military intelligence official who is familiar with al Qaeda in Iraq’s command structure, it was confirmed that Abu Qaswarah was indeed a Swedish citizen, and in fact is none other than Mohamed Moumou, a wanted terrorist who trained in the al Qaeda-run Khalden terrorist training camp in Afghanistan.

A look at Mohamed Moumou’s history, provided by the US Treasury Department, and Abu Qaswarah, as provided by the US military and the Swedish press, shows their background is nearly identical. Mohamed Moumou was classified by the Treasury as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on Dec. 7, 2007.

Both Abu Qaswarah and Moumou have been identified as Moroccan nationals with Swedish citizenship. Both are said to have traveled to Afghanistan in the 1990s to train and maintained close ties to senior al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Both were part of Zarqawi’s inner circle (the US Treasury described Moumou as “Zarqawi’s representative in Europe for issues related to chemical and biological weapons).

Qaswarah and Moumou have been described as senior leaders in the Brandbergen Mosque (the US Treasury described Moumou as “the uncontested leader of an extremist group centered around the Brandbergen Mosque”).

Ansar al Sunnah / Ansar al Islam connections

Qaswarah/Moumou was a leader in Ansar al Islam, a radical Kurdish terrorist group that has aligned itself with al Qaeda. The group, which renamed itself Ansar al Sunnah after the US invasion of Iraq, and then renamed back to Ansar al Islam earlier this year, operates in northern Iraq. Ansar al Islam was officially designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US Department of State on March 22, 2004

Ansar al Islam was founded by Mullah Krekar in December 2001. The group seized a series of villages in northeastern Iraq along the border with Iran and imposed a Taliban-like style of government. Ansar al Islam established a series of camps and crude chemical weapons factory in the town of Halabja. Zarqawi is thought to have run a camp with the approval of Ansar al Islam. These camps were later destroyed during the US invasion in April 2003. US and Kurdish forces killed an estimated 250 members of Ansar al Islam during the assaults.

The group survived the US onslaught and was taken over by Abu Abdallah al Shafi in late 2003. Mullah Krekar entered Norway during the summer of 2004 where he has been funneling money to fund terrorist activities in Iraq. Krekar has traveled to Iraq several times since 2005, according to the US Treasury Department. “During one of his longer stays in northern Iraq, Krekar appears to have recruited and trained combatants,” the agency said.

The US Treasury Department identified Krekar as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on Dec. 7, 2006. But Norway has been unable to deport Krekar to the US as his case has been tied up in Norwegian courts.

Ansar al Islam has been behind major terror attacks against the two secular Kurdish political parties. As the insurgency grew, Ansar al Islam conducted bombing and suicide attacks against Iraqi civilians as well as US and Iraqi forces.

Sweden is thought to be a haven for Ansar al Sunnah and other terrorist groups. In 2006, Ansar al Sunnah released video clips of what it claimed was “a small isolated training camp in southern Sweden,” the Christian Science Monitor reported in 2005.

“We wish to inform the Ummah [Muslim community] that the Army of Ansar Al-Sunnah in Sweden are well-trained to defend our holy countries … having established a Mujahideen training camp, located in Skane … with the help from Allah,” the group said on its Web site.

In June 2008, a Moroccan court sentenced Ahmed Essafri for being part of “a 27-man ‘terrorist structure’ which was recruiting volunteers to fight in Iraq,” The Local reported. Essafri also was born in Morocco. He holds Swedish citizenship, lived in the country for 30 years, and attended the Brandbergen Mosque. Moroccan intelligence reportedly questioned Essafri about Moumou during his interrogation.

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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