‘Al Qaeda in Kurdistan’ breaks ranks with ISIS over Syria

A group calling itself “al Qaeda in Kurdistan” sided with al Qaeda’s emir against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham in the ongoing dispute over control of the jihad in Syria. In doing so, the group also renewed its pledge of “allegiance” to Ayman al Zawahiri and Mullah Mohammad Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, and said it would fight the ISIS if needed.

Al Qaeda in Kurdistan released its statement on a jihadist forum on April 25, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which obtained and translated it.

“We give the glad tidings to the Ummah of the renewal of pledging allegiance to the Sheikh of the Mujahideen, the wise man of the Ummah [Muslim community], Doctor Ayman al Zawahiri, may Allah make his foothold firm, and on top the Emir of the Believers Mullah Muhammad Omar, may Allah preserve him, to listen and obey in enthusiasm and reluctance for jihad in the cause of Allah,” the al Qaeda in Kurdistan statement said, according to SITE.

Al Qaeda in Kurdistan offered to “disavow from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Sham,” the former al Qaeda affiliate that was recently denounced by al Qaeda’s General Command.

“[T]here is nothing between us and them but the sword. We consider the disavowal from the group of the State to be like a surgical operation on the body and the structure of Qaedat al-Jihad and, Allah permitting, it will be a healing for us and an increase in our life,” al Qaeda in Kurdistan said.

The group also expressed its “condolences and consolation” for Abu Khalid al Suri, Zawahiri’s personal representative to Syria who was killed in a suspected ISIS suicide attack earlier this year.

The composition of al Qaeda in Kurdistan is unclear, but this may be the group that the US calls “Al Qaeda Kurdish Battalions.”

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,” the ISIS’s predecessor, according to the US State Department’s designation of the terrorist group in January 2012.

“QKB [Al Qaeda Kurdish Battalions] 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 at the time of the designation.

Al Qaeda in Kurdistan’s split with the ISIS emerges as rumors have surfaced that the Al Nusrah Front for the people of the Levant, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, will establish a branch inside Iraq.

The Al Nusrah Front’s emir, Abu Muhammad al Julani, has been at odds with Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the leader of the ISIS, after the latter attempted to subsume the Al Nusrah Front into the Islamic State in April 2013. Al Julani refused, and was backed by Zawahiri.

Al Qaeda has attempted to mediate the dispute and has called on the ISIS to submit to sharia, or Islamic, courts in order to resolve the problems. Al Baghdadi has refused, and the ISIS and Al Nusrah began clashing in late 2013.

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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  • Rojava2014 says:

    The kurds are being killed by both Al-Qaeda and ISIS.They have declared Kurd as “kafir” and want to kill them all.They have surrendered their cities for month under daily attacks.The Kurdish civilians have been beheaded or taken as prisioners by both groups.So to claim that ‘Al Qaeda in Kurdistan’ is unimaginable and totally nonsense.The Kurds are against all the extermists.There have been many attempts to radicalize the Kurdish youngs by neigboor countries so that they can control them and use them agains Kurdish freedom struggle.They have used some as gang paid to kill Kurdish people. They definitely do not have any root in Kurdish society.The Kurdish People strugle for freedom with respect to other religious,democraty and against all extermists!

  • Caleb says:

    Rojava (I like the username btw), I wouldn’t say that there are not Kurds sympathetic to AQ. One must remember Ansar al-Islam, which both operated in Iraqi Kudistan and is/was known to have Kurdish members. It stands to reason to think that there might be enough Kurds to field an entire affiliate of AQ in Kudistan (since, as the article points out, is comprised of former Ansar al-Islam and other Kurdish group members).

  • Frank S says:

    For all we know though, al Qaeda in Kurdistan could be a solitary Nusrah fighter who’s trying to make ISIS look even more isolated on the discussion boards, right?

  • Stephanie says:

    I agree with Rojava in the sense that I have not met any Kurds who are sympathetic to AQ, Islamic extremism, or any of what are perceived as “Arab” causes. This is due probably mostly to anti-Arab bias and the different face that Islam takes in Kurdistan versus Egypt for example. However, as Caleb says, I’m sure they exist.

  • Alan Kurd says:

    Yes. There are some invisible and isolated individuals who have affiliation with AlQaeda from the Iraqi Kurdistan remote mountainous areas. Some other s from Kurdistan of Turkey who usually come from less educated and more isolated background in Turkey. These individuals usually tolerated by the Turkish governments to be so extreme in order to make threat for nationalist Kurds. However, no even 1 in 100.000 Syrian Kurd has affiliation with AlQaeda (except the possibility that few crazy Kurds might join AlQaeda against their own people). On the contrary, Syrian Kurds fight bravery against AlQaeda and try to establish a multi-religious society. Unfortunately, the NATO allies not supportive for Kurds in their war against AlQaeda. Instead, they keep tolerating the support of Turkey for AlQaeda against Kurds. American and other people of the Free World need to study about the Kurds and their question more thoroughly in order to understand them better and to publish about them. The number of AlQaeda affiliated Kurds from Iraqi Kurdistan according to the last reports of security forces is not equivalent to 5% to those joined alQaeda recently from Turkey including 60% Turks, and the rest from other origins (Arabs, Chechen, Kosovers, Albanian, Bosnian, Azeri, and others) trained or facilitated through Turkey and assisted by some wings inside the Turkish intelligence service MIT and other so-called Islamic relief Turkish organizations.


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