Abu Qaswarah. Image courtsey of Multinational Forces Iraq.
US forces struck a major blow against al Qaeda in Iraq’s beleaguered network. Abu Qaswarah, al Qaeda in Iraq’s second in command, was killed in the northern city of Mosul during a targeted raid ten days ago.
Abu Qaswarah, who is also known as Abu Sara, was killed during an intelligence-driven raid on “a key command and control location” in Mosul on Oct. 5. He was the terrorist who detonated the suicide vest that killed three women and three children after being shot by Coalition Forces.
“Evidence after the operation indicates he was shot by Coalition forces who were acting in self defense and that he detonated his suicide vest after receiving mortal wounds from Coalition forces,” Lieutenant Commander David Russell, a Public Affairs Officer in Baghdad, told The Long War Journal. “The innocent Iraqi victims were three women and three children who were also killed during the operation. This deliberate disregard for the safety of innocent Iraqi lives is characteristic of Abu Qaswarah’s nefarious operations.”
The raid, likely carried out by the special operations hunter-killer teams of Task Force 88, resulted in five al Qaeda operatives killed, including Abu Qaswarah. Multinational Forces Iraq was able to positively identify Abu Qaswarah as being killed after the raid.
The US military described Abu Qaswarah as the senior operational commander and second in command to Abu Ayyub al Masri, al Qaeda’s leader in Iraq. Qaswarah was “a charismatic AQI [al Qaeda in Iraq] leader who rallied AQI’s northern network in the wake of major setbacks to the terrorist organization across Iraq,” Multinational Forces Iraq stated. Prior to being appointed al Masri’s deputy, he severed as al Qaeda’s emir, or leader, in northern Iraq.
Like al Masri and much of al Qaeda in Iraq’s senior leadership, Abu Qaswarah was a foreigner. Qaswarah was a Moroccan citizen “who trained with al Qaeda in Afghanistan.” He had “had historic ties to AQI founder Abu Musab al Zarqawi and senior al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” the US military stated.
Abu Qaswarah also “directed the movement of foreign terrorists into northern Iraq,” Multinational Forces Iraq said. Al Qaeda in Iraq has almost exclusively relied on ratlines from northwestern Iraq to move foreign fighters into the country. But that number has dwindled to about a dozen foreign fighters entering Iraq, down from a peak of almost 150 in 2006.
In addition to directed suicide attacks against civilians and the US and Iraqi military, Qaswarah also served as al Qaeda’s enforcer. “Abu Qaswarah reportedly killed foreign terrorists who wanted to return to their home countries instead of carrying out attacks against Iraqi citizens,” the US military stated.
The US military said Abu Qaswarah’s death will “cause a major disruption” to al Qaeda in Iraq’s network as he was a key link in coordinating al Qaeda’s operations and operatives. “His death will significantly degrade AQI operations in Mosul and Northern Iraq, leaving the network without a leader to oversee and coordinate its operations in the region.”
Al Qaeda in Iraq has attempted to regroup in Mosul and the surrounding areas since it was defeated in central and much of northern Iraq. The Iraqi and US military has heavily targeted al Qaeda’s senior leadership since late 2007. Much of al Qaeda in Iraq’s senior leadership is said to have fled to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Al Qaeda forums are suggesting jihadi recruits flock to Afghanistan instead of Iraq. The US military has intercepted communications between al Qaeda in Iraq and al Qaeda’s senior leadership in Pakistan that show al Qaeda has suffered a major setback during 2007 and 2008.
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