US adds Al Qaeda Kurdish Battalions to list of terror groups

Today under Executive Order 13224, the US State Department added al Qaeda Kurdish Battalions (AQKB) to the list of specially designated global terrorist entities. The designation allows the US to freeze any assets owned by AQKB and prohibits others from engaging in financial transactions with the terror group.

Al Qaeda Kurdish Battalions was “established in 2007 from the remnants of other Kurdish terrorist organizations,” and “has sworn allegiance publicly to other terrorist groups, including al Qaeda and al Qaeda in Iraq,” according to the State Department’s press release.

“AQKB is comprised of former elements of Ansar al Islam, and other Kurdish Islamic movements loyal to the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) – also known as AQI [al Qaeda in Iraq],” Jason Blazakis, the Director of the Bureau of Counterterrorism’s Office of Terrorist Designations and Sanctions, told The Long War Journal.

The name of the leader of AQKB has not been disclosed. The terror group has released statements in the past but has not named its leader.

AQKB operates “along the border between Iran and Iraq,” the press release said. The terror group “believes the leaders of the Kurdistan Regional Government are traitors and has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks against Kurdish targets in Iraq.”

The terror group has carried out several attacks in the northern Kurdish provinces, including a car bombing at the Kurdish Ministries of the Interior and Security in Erbil that killed 19 people; an ambush in Penjwan that killed seven border guards and one Patriotic Union of Kurdistan security personnel; and a failed suicide attack in Sulaymaniyah that wounded two policemen.

The Islamic state of Iraq, al Qaeda in Iraq’s political front, also claimed that “a group of mujahideen from the Sharpaz Brigade in the battalions of Kurdistan, which belong to the Islamic State of Iraq” killed several border guards in Sulaymaniyah, according to a translation of a statement released in March 2007 by the SITE Intelligence Group.

The designation of AQKB occurred just one day after Ansar al Islam, another Kurdish-based terror group that is linked to al Qaeda, announced the name of its new leader. Ansar al Islam has not joined with al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq due to rivalries between the groups’ leaders. But Ansar al Islam’s leaders have sworn allegiance to al Qaeda’s central command.

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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