Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Iraq’s Islamic Mujahideen Profiled by Jihadi Websites: Part One

November 26, 2008


The profiles of a number of Iraqi jihadi groups were prepared and
released by al-Haq news agency (haqnews.net August 7). According to
al-Haq, the material was collected through interviews with field
commanders, jihadi forums and pertinent websites. The files
accumulated by al-Haq, entitled, “The Media Jihad: a Reading of the
Jihadi Media in Iraq,” were also distributed in some jihadi forums,
prompting forum participants to add their corrections, additions and
revisions (alboraq.info, November 8). Al-Haq decided to release these
profiles in the jihadi forums after Arab media refused to publish
them. Terrorism Focus will cover these profiles in two issues. Part
One will discuss the Islamic Resistance Movement / 1920 Revolutionary
Brigades, the Ansar al-Sunna Army, and al-Jaysh al-Islami in Iraq.

Islamic Resistance Movement / 1920 Revolutionary Brigades

The core members of this group are a mixture of Salafis, Muslim
Brothers and independent Islamists, backed by a few Iraqi tribesmen
and the Association of Muslim Scholars. The group claims no alliance
with any political party and has an independent decision-making
process. The political wing, the Islamic Resistance Movement (IRM),
includes a political office, an Islamic decrees office, a jihad
security office and a media section. The military wing is called the
1920 Revolutionary Brigades (1920-RB) and is comprised of over thirty
battalions (according to al-Haq). The name of each brigade and its
field of operations are given. The profile does not give the name of
the group’s general leader, called only “the Amir,” but names the
head of the political office, Mujahid Abdul Rahman, and the official
spokesman, Abdullah al-Omari.

• Ideology

The group emphasizes its Islamic identity and religious justification
for fighting the occupiers by relying on the teachings of the holy
Quran and Sunna as a source of guidance in their religiously
mandatory “defensive jihad” to evict the enemy from Iraq before
moving on to “occupied” neighboring Muslim countries. The main
objectives of the group are to expel the enemy and establish an
Islamic Caliphate in Iraq.

The IRM reiterates that its jihad is complimentary to other groups’
jihads against occupiers. The group says, “We don’t claim to be the
only jihadi group, but ask all our members to obey the leadership.”
Abu Qodama, one of the field commanders of 1920-RB, says, “We
cooperate with all jihadi groups, except the Baathist groups whom we
deem non-Islamic polytheists.” Although an al-Qaeda onslaught on the
IRM/1920-RB resulted in the death of some of the group’s leaders, the
movement opted not to retaliate (ktb-20.com July 3, 2007).

The movement rejects the political process in Iraq and does not
recognize the Iraqi government that resulted from this process. The
group’s Amir believes peace is not possible in Iraq under U.S.
occupation; therefore, any elections or referendums are irrelevant.
Along with four other jihadi organizations, the IRM/1920-RB released
a statement declaring any Iraqi government illegal during American
occupation.

The movement affirms that their jihad is conditioned on not harming
any civilians and rejects the principle of “the end justifies the
means.” The group aborts any attack on U.S. forces that might result
in killing innocent bystanders. The group also renounces all forms of
sectarianism and judges people individually on the degree of their
collaboration with the occupiers.

• Military activities

1920-RB fighters are deployed in the Sunni governorates of Iraq,
using rocket and mortar attacks, light weapons ambushes, sniper
attacks and roadside bomb attacks. The group also claims the downing
of a British C130 Hercules in February, 2005, and the kidnapping of
the American director of the Baghdad airport in April 2005
(Telegraph, February 2, 2005).

• Media activities

The group’s statements and video messages are broadcast by
Arabic-language satellite channels such as al-Jazeera, al-Zawra and
al-Rafidayn. The group also releases communiqués, video clips and
al-Katayb, an internet magazine covering its military and political
activities. Besides using jihadi websites such as al-hesbah.info,
alboraq.info, hanein.info and muslm.net, 1920-RB has websites of its
own - kataeb20.com and ktb-20.com.

Ansar al-Sunna Army

Founded in 2003 as a Salafi-Jihadi movement, this group is considered
an outgrowth of the Kurdish-Sunni Arab Ansar al-Islam. The group
includes former members of Ansar al-Islam and volunteers from Arab
countries, although the original core was formed from members of
al-Taifa al-Mansoura Mujahideen Brigades (TMMB). The TMMB later
withdrew from Ansar al-Sunna and joined al-Jaysh al-Islami (see
below). Abu Abdullah al-Hassan Bin Mahmoud is the Amir of the group
and Shaykh Abdul Wahab al-Sultan is the religious mentor.

• Ideology

As the name implies, Ansar al-Sunna is a Sunni group following the
Salafist path. The legitimacy of its insurgency operations is based
on the religious duty of “defensive jihad.” In the founding
declaration of the group, Amir Abu Abdullah Mahmoud said, “after the
occupation of Iraq, jihad became a divine obligation on every Muslim.
The objective of jihad is to expel the enemy and implement an Islamic
Sharia government.”

Ansar al-Sunna’s operations and objectives are in conformity with all
other Sunni jihadi groups, and, like many other groups, Ansar
al-Sunna refrained from retaliating against al-Qaeda’s attacks on the
group members.

In a statement released in June 25, 2006, Ansar al-Sunna rejected the
democratic process in Iraq as illegitimate and blasphemous,
condemning Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s national reconciliation
initiative and identifying members of Iraq’s parliament as apostates.

• Military activities

The group is militarily active in northern Iraq, the Sunni
governorates and in some southern cities, where it targets national
guards, police and the militias of the two Kurdish parties led by
Jalal al-Talibani and Masoud Barazani. The group claims the bombing
of offices belonging to Kurdish political parties in February 2004;
the bombing of an American military base in Mosul on December 21,
2004; and the bombing of the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad in October
2003.

• Media activities

Like many other Iraqi jihadi groups, Ansar al-Sunna does not have
continuous coverage of its activities in major news channels other
than al-Jazeera, al-Zawra and al-Rafidayn satellite television
channels. The group publishes Ansar al-Sunna magazine, the Mujahideen
Harvest news bulletin and has its own website (ansar11.org). Ansar
al-Sunna posts almost daily reports of allegedly successful attacks
on U.S. forces in Iraq, along with other political and religious
statements. Ansar al-Sunna rejected the U.S.-Iraqi security agreement
in a religious decree released by the group on November 20.

Al-Jaysh al-Islami in Iraq

The existence of this Salafi-Jihadi group backed by Sunni tribes and
ex-military officers was first announced in late 2003, but the group
claims it was actually formed before the occupation of Iraq. The
group’s “defensive jihad” aims to rid Iraq of the U.S. occupation
before setting up an Islamic Sharia government. Regardless of discord
with some jihadi groups and internal fighting with al-Qaeda, al-Jaysh
al-Islami declares it has no animosity with any jihadi group, but
rather endeavors to unite with them under a single leadership. Dr.
Ibrahim Yusuf al-Shamari is the group’s official spokesman, Dr. Ali
al-Naimi the media spokesman, and Imad al-Din Abdullah the director
of central media information.

• Ideology

Like many other Sunni groups, al-Jaysh al-Islami rejects the current
political process in Iraq but accepts any process within the
framework of Islamic constraints. It also believes the occupier
should compensate Iraqis for moral and physical damage inflicted by
the occupation.

• Military activities

Al-Jaysh al-Islami is considered the biggest jihadi group in Iraq and
deploys in the Sunni governorates in Baghdad, al-Anbar, Salah al-Din,
Mosul, Kirkuk, Diyala, Babel, central Basra, and al-Amara. The
group’s military targets include U.S. forces, the Iraqi military,
Iraqi police and the Badr (Shiite) militias. The group is well-known
for it use of roadside bombs, snipers and rocket attacks. The
intelligence unit of the group is responsible for a number of
notorious hostage-takings and the kidnapping and killing of American
civilians working with Iraq’s housing ministry. Abu Moshtaq
al-Zebaidi is the group’s military commander.

• Media activities

The group has a number of regular publications of its military
operations under names such as Aydo (Prepare); Sout al-Jihad (Voice
of Jihad); Fi thikra al-ihtilal (On the Anniversary of Occupation)
and Alyoum wa ghadan ya Amerika (Today and Tomorrow, O America).
Special publications of the group cover unique subjects, such as
weapons of mass destruction and the activities of the “Baghdad
Sniper.” The different formations of al-Jaysh al-Islami also release
their own accounts of attacks on the occupiers with videos bearing
titles such as Sawaeq al-Fallujah (al-Fallujah Detonators) and
Istamiro Ya Asood al-Anbar (Continue al-Anbar Lions). The group’s
best-known regular publication is al-Fursan magazine, with 16 issues
so far. Al-Jaysh al-Islam probably leads all Iraqi jihad groups in
the number of websites and internet forums it maintains. Its official
website, iaisite.org, is run by the group’s media corps, along with
alboraq.info, alboraqmedia.org, baghdadsniper.net and lee-flash.com.

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