Ansar al Islam (AAI), a jihadist group founded in northern Iraq in September 2001, has released a set of photographs purportedly showing its ongoing operations. Since the latest rebel offensive against the Iraqi government began earlier this month, AAI has launched attacks against the military and police. In posts on its official Twitter feed on June 12, AAI claimed 14 attacks. [See LWJ report, Ansar al Islam claims attacks against Iraqi military, police.]
On June 22, the group posted a new set of 10 photos on its Twitter page. While the photos are part of AAI’s propaganda campaign, they are generally consistent with what is known from other sources about AAI’s operations in northern Iraq. Still, The Long War Journal could not independently verify AAI’s specific claims.
The first photo shows the “spoils,” Iraqi tanks, which AAI claims to have captured after “the brothers took control over” an Iraqi Army brigade’s compound in Kirkuk.
In the second photo, AAI shows a “liberated” region in Kirkuk and claims that nine “brothers” were wounded in its operations there.
The third photo shows the “lions” of AAI on their way “to raid the apostates’ headquarters.” The hashtags accompanying this tweet indicate that the pictured operations targeted sites in Kirkuk and Tikrit.
A fourth photo allegedly shows an AAI member raising the group’s flag (described as the “banner of monotheism”) above an entrance to Tikrit.
AAI claims to be in “full control” of a road between Tikrit and Kirkuk. A fifth photo allegedly shows AAI forces patrolling the road.
A sixth photo shows an AAI checkpoint. The accompanying text in the tweet says that the “brothers control the area of Jabal Hamrayn,” which is north of Baghdad, and “set up checkpoints there.”
The seventh photo purports to demonstrate AAI’s control over the highway between Tikrit and Kirkuk.
AAI fighters celebrate in this eighth photo.
In this photo, the ninth in the series, AAI fighters man a checkpoint on the highway between Tikrit and Kirkuk. The picture is intended to further demonstrate the “brothers’ control over the highway.”
The tenth and final photo is accompanied by text that reads, “Forgiveness [granted] to a large number of apostates after the announcement of their repentance for working with the apostate security forces.” The hashtags accompanying the tweet identify the security members as being from Mosul, Kirkuk, and Salahaddin, a province in northern Iraq.
This piece of propaganda may be intended to demonstrate another point of difference between AAI and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS). The two organizations have long been rivals. In its own propaganda videos, the ISIS has shown members of the Iraqi security forces being beheaded and shot.
Oren Adaki, an Arabic language specialist and research associate at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, contributed to this article.
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Jabal Hamrayn identified in the tweet revealing photo six is in the eastern part of Diyala Province between Khanaqin and Muqdadiya. This is notable because Khanaqin is the major border station between Diyala and Iran. It is also where Iran, the Kurdish “Green Line” and Diyala come together. It is a one hour run from there to the provincial capitol, Baquba. The next further south border crossing is in Mandeli which is due East of Baghdad. If Ansar or ISIS can cut this, Baghdad will be increasingly isolated.
and now Medium.com is reporting that ISIS has attacked the Iranian border post across the border from Khanaqin at Qasre Shirin. It raises several questions. First, if ISIS attacked the Iranian post, the photo in the article is supposed to be Ansar al Islam so who really is occupying eastern Diyala Province. The border crossing is about 10k E of Khanaqin. Second, this is an interesting shot across the bow that will bear watching. Will the Iranians cross into Diyala to reprise?
I’m anticipating photographic evidence of ISIS conquest of the Haditha dam soon. This would be significant, because this dam can be used to flood/starve shiite areas to the south. Hmmm, lets see, shiite have oil but no water. Which would you have? Get the picture.
Poor Sunnis to have these psychos lording over them. Wait till they show their true colors Maliki will seem like ab=n angel after that!
The Gulf rulers supporting these psychos appear to want other Muslim countries to become like what they were like without oil. Remember their great economies then???
Wondering about the AAI claim of being in Kirkuk, since at last report, the Kurds had taken control of the city, and there has been no definitive reports of fighting between ISIS and the Kurds.
Attack helicopters should be able to lift those 4×4 cars, quelling resistance if any, and transport it back home. Troops on ground will be dangerous though. It is waste of resources to blast all those vehicles from air. That will reduce civilian casualties and also give option to enemy to surrender.
I hope those guys go home before the CBU-97 or 105s start incinerating their vehicles. Sucks even to be a good guy on the “wrong” team. Not sure who to blame for the impending tragedy. The world doesn’t need another Iraqi Highway of Death, but it may very well be about to get one.