Suicide assault team kills Mosul emergency police chief

A team of al Qaeda in Iraq suicide bombers stormed a police headquarters in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul today and killed a senior police officer who has targeted al Qaeda’s top leaders.

Lieutenant Colonel Shamel Ahmed Ugla, the commander of the 1st Emergency Battalion in Mosul, and three other policemen were killed in the early morning attack after three members of a four-man suicide assault team penetrated security by slipping through a gap in the wall of the battalion’s headquarters in Bab Sinjar in western Mosul. Police killed a fourth member of the suicide team before he could enter the police headquarters and detonate his vest.

One or more of the al Qaeda in Iraq suicide bombers, who were dressed in black and armed with assault rifles, detonated their vests after entering Ahmed’s office. The blast leveled much of the building, trapping other policemen in the rubble.

In a statement issued on its website, the Islamic State of Iraq, al Qaeda’s front group, claimed credit for the attack and said it had targeted Ugla five previous times.

“This day was the decisive one,” the terror group said.

Ugla was targeted for his aggressive raids against al Qaeda’s network in Mosul. Ugla was behind the Dec. 21 raid that killed Munadel Salem, al Qaeda’s top leader in the northern city.

Since Salem was killed, Iraqi security forces have captured two top al Qaeda leaders in the area. Yesterday, police captured Dawoud Hassan Abdullah al Farhat, the leader of the Mohammed Rasul-Allah Brigades, an al Qaeda unit in Mosul. Farhat had previous held the rank of brigadier in the Iraqi police and commanded the police in the western city of Tal Afar.

On Dec. 27, police arrested Abdul Wahid Mustapha Ahmed Saed, al Qaeda’s top “administrative official in western Ninewa province.” Saed aided in suicide attacks in the region and provided false identities to al Qaeda operatives.

Today’s attack in Mosul takes place just two days after al Qaeda in Iraq suicide bombers carried out a deadly attack outside the provincial headquarters in Ramadi in Anbar province. The first suicide bomber detonated a bus packed with explosives, while the second suicide bomber, dressed as a policeman, detonated his vest shortly afterward. The attack killed 17 people.

Background on the state of al Qaeda in Iraq

Al Qaeda in Iraq has suffered significant blows to its leadership at the hands of the Iraqi security forces this year [see LWJ report, Al Qaeda in Iraq is ‘broken,’ cut off from leaders in Pakistan, says top US general, for a list of senior leaders killed and captured up until June 2010]. But while unable to hold territory, the terror group has been able to reorganize and launch high-profile terror attacks against the Iraqi security forces and government institutions. The attacks have been less frequent over the past two years, however, and have failed to threaten the Iraqi state.

The recent attacks are being directed by Nasser al Din Allah Abu Suleiman, al Qaeda’s new ‘war minister’ for Iraq. Suleiman was appointed in May after his predecessor, Abu Ayyub al Masri, was killed in a US raid along with Abu Omar al Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq. Also in May, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi al Hussieni al Qurshi was named the new emir of the Islamic State of Iraq, and Abu Abdullah al Hussieni al Qurshi, was named the deputy emir. [For more information on the identities of al Qaeda’s top two leaders, see LWJ report, Al Qaeda in Iraq’s security minister captured in Anbar.]

Al Qaeda in Iraq is supported primarily through its networks in eastern Syria. The al Qaeda ratlines, which move foreign fighters, money, and weapons, pass from eastern Syria through the northwestern Iraqi cities of Sinjar and Rabiah into Mosul.

Last year, al Qaeda’s central leadership based in Pakistan reportedly sent a senior ideologue to Syria to partner with a dangerous operative who ran the network that funnels foreign fighters, cash, and weapons into western Iraq. Sheikh Issa al Masri is thought to have left Pakistan’s tribal agency of North Waziristan and entered Syria in June 2009, where he paired up with Abu Khalaf, a senior al Qaeda operative who had been instrumental in reviving al Qaeda in Iraq’s network in eastern Syria and directing terror operations in Iraq, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.

Although the US killed Abu Khalaf during a Jan. 22 raid in the northern city of Mosul, Sheikh Issa is alive and is believed to be based in Damascus and is protected by the Mukhabarat, Syria’s secret intelligence service.

Sources:

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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1 Comment

  • blert says:

    Bagdad is kicking America out: no new agreement will extend our involvement.
    This may well be linked to removing American restrictions on counter-Syrian actions.
    At some point, Maliki is going to feel well able to spank Damascus. The chronic supply of Sunni unlawful combatants from Syria must come to an end.
    BTW, looking directly ahead, Iraq is going to surpass Iran as an oil exporter… and then keep on going.
    Bagdad already has a battalion of M-1 tanks and may have IOC next spring.

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