The Islamic State of Iraq, al Qaeda’s political front in the country, recently released a video detailing a sophisticated attack in March that included dozens of fighters dressed as police commandos in the western city of Haditha in Anbar province. During the raid, al Qaeda in Iraq fighters killed 27 Iraqi policemen, including two police commanders.
Al Furqan, the official media arm of the Islamic State of Iraq, released the video on jihadist Internet forums on Aug. 16. The video is more than 49 minutes long and was shot in high definition, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which obtained and translated the video. A shorter version of the video, seen above, was published on LiveLeak.
The full video details an extremely brazen and sophisticated operation. Scores of fighters (al Qaeda in Iraq had previously stated that more than 90 fighters participated in the operation, and based on the video, the claim appears to be correct) dressed in police SWAT uniforms, including helmets and bullet-proof vests, and riding dozens of pickup trucks with flashing police lights, drove into Haditha and neighboring Barwana, targeted five locations, disarmed the local police, and brutally executed them.
The video begins with al Qaeda operatives training in the desert at the so-called “Sheikhein Camp” in Anbar province. The fighters are seen conducting live-fire exercises and target practice. The training ends with a night march in the desert; al Qaeda in Iraq’s banner was prominently displayed during the march.
The assault team is then given a briefing on the planned attack. The group is “divided into four battalions: the Battalion of Abu Bakr al Siddiq, the Battalion of Omar ibn al Khattab, the Battalion of Uthman bin Affan, and the Battalion of Ali bin Abu Talib,” according to SITE. The battalions are named after companions of the Prophet Mohammed. The briefer explains the operation and uses a white board to outline their movements. Five targets are to be hit by three of the battalions while the fourth, the Ali bin Abu Talib, is to provide security on the roads just outside the cities.
The al Qaeda fighters are then issued uniforms that are worn by SWAT teams in the Iraqi National Police. Later that night, the militants, disguised as police commandos, get in the pickup trucks, some which have heavy machine guns mounted in the bed. Lights flashing, the al Qaeda fighters cruise the desert highways before they hit their targets: police barracks, checkpoints, and two senior Iraqi police commanders.
The Iraqi policemen appear to be stunned by the raids and comply with the al Qaeda operatives, clearly believing them to be INP commandos.
The al Qaeda fighters flex-cuff the policemen, drag them outside of their positions, and line them up on the ground. The insurgents then walk down the line, and coldly shoot the policemen in the head with silenced pistols.
The al Qaeda operatives are shown shown capturing and executing two senior police commanders, Muhammad Hussein al Shufayr al Jughayfi and Khalid al Jughayfi.
The March 5 raid in Haditha was well-planned and executed, and was clearly designed to sow chaos and mistrust in the ranks of the Iraqi security forces. The raid was also likely intended to stir up Sunni-Shia tensions. Iraq’s National Police force is widely considered a Shia-dominated institution, while Anbar is a mostly Sunni province. Al Qaeda in Iraq’s spokesman indicated earlier this year that the terror group is seeking to revive sectarian tensions [see Threat Matrix report, Al Qaeda in Iraq rails at Shias, claims deadly attacks].
Al Qaeda in Iraq has stepped up attacks since the end of last year, when US forces completed their withdrawal from the country. While the terror group does not openly control territory as it did in 2007, before US and Iraqi forces drove it from strongholds throughout the country, al Qaeda in Iraq can still organize and execute large-scale attacks, such as the Haditha raid. The group has also launched coordinated attacks in multiple cities throughout the country. Al Qaeda in Iraq is estimated to have killed 404 Iraqis during the recent monthlong Ramadan holiday, according to AFP.