Every month brings more news of Al Qaeda in Iraq and their umbrella group the Islamic State of Iraq having their members, especially their leadership, being rounded-up or killed. The two groups have lost most of their popular support, and Al Qaeda central is no longer as interested in the struggle in Iraq compared to other hotspots in the world. Despite that, the Islamists have proven to be resilient, and keep on naming new leaders to replace the ones that they have lost.
Recently Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State’s top leadership were killed. That began with the arrest of Al Qaeda’s governor of Baghdad Manaf Abdul Rahi al-Rawi in March 2010. He gave the Iraqi government information on the entire Al Qaeda/Islamic State organization, which led to the deaths of their two leaders, Omar al-Baghdadi, real name Hamid Dawud Muhammad Khalil al-Zawi, and Abu Ayub al-Masri, real name Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, in Salahaddin in April 2010. Masri was the head of Al Qaeda in Iraq, and an Egyptian who was a follower of Ayman Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s number 2. Baghdadi was an Iraqi native and the Emir of the Islamic State. He was originally from the Shura Council of the Mujahedeen, an earlier Al Qaeda in Iraq umbrella organization. A few days after their deaths a joint U.S.-Iraq patrol killed Abu Suhabi Ahmad al-Obeidi in Mosul, Al Qaeda’s military commander for northern Iraq. By the beginning of June, the U.S. commander in Iraq General Ray Odierno told the press that 34 of Al Qaeda’s 42 leaders had been killed or captured, that it’s connection to Al Qaeda central had been severed, and questioned whether the organization could recover.
Successful anti-Al Qaeda operations have continued into June and July. From June 1 to July 5, 31 members, one of whom was a police captain, were rounded up in Wasit, Diyala, Tamim, Baghdad, and Ninewa provinces. Six unidentified leaders, and two financiers were arrested in Baghdad, Diyala, Anbar, and Ninewa, along with two emirs and an Islamic judge, the Islamic State’s emir of Mosul, Abdul Kareem al-Hamadani, and the Islamic State’s Interior Minister, Khalid al-Fahl. At the start of July, General Odierno told the Christian Science Monitor that he believed that Al Qaeda’s financial operations had been completely disrupted.
Despite all these setbacks, the Islamist militants have continued on. They have named the replacements to Baghdadi and Masri. Abu Baqir al-Baghdadi al-Qurashi is the new emir of the Islamic State. His deputy is Abu Abdullah al-Qurashi. The Minister of War is Nasser Lideen Allah Abu Sulaiman. Abu Baqir was a commander of one of the smaller groups that merged with Al Qaeda in Iraq when it formed the Islamic State, while Abu Abdullah is a Moroccan with contacts to Al Qaeda central. In Nasser’s first statement, he called for more attacks upon the country’s Shiites and security forces. There are reports that Al Qaeda is trying to recoup its lost fighters in Diyala, and it has taken claim for a series of high profile attacks such as the raid on the Central Bank of Iraq and a bombing outside the Trade Bank of Iraq, both in Baghdad.
Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State are a shadow of their former selves. The two groups have lost popular support, and Al Qaeda central’s attention has been taken up by other causes, leaving Iraq’s Islamists with little international backing. Most of the old guard of the group has been rounded up or killed in the last seven years, leaving less experienced and charismatic leaders to take their place. It no longer has any strongholds outside of Mosul and rural Diyala. Besides the headline grabbing attacks, the group has been reduced to small hit and run attacks and terrorist bombings. Al Qaeda and the Islamic State are definitely on the decline, but still have some fight left in them. It will probably be several more years until they are finally done.
Abdullah, Muhammed, “al-qaeda’s new-guard in diyala,” Niqash, 6/23/10
AK News, “Four al-Qaeda, members including two Emirs (princes) and a judge, arrested in Mosul,” 7/5/10
- “Qaeda military leader killed North of Baghdad,” 4/20/10
Arraf, Jane, “General Odierno: Al Qaeda in Iraq faces serious financial crunch,” Christian Science Monitor, 7/2/10
Ashour, Omar, “Al-Qaeda in Iraq: Eliminating Leaders Will Not Necessarily Cut Lifelines,” Arab Reform Bulletin, 6/30/10
Aswat al-Iraq, “2 al-Qaeda elements captured in Diala,” 6/7/10
- “3 al-Qaeda leaders arrested in Falluja,” 6/16/10
- “3 wanted AQI members captured in Wassit,” 6/1/10
- “4 al-Qaeda leaders detained in air drop in Diala,” 6/11/10
- “10 al-Qaeda suspects detained in al-Saadiya,” 6/2/10
- “ISI interior minister netted in Falluja,” 6/12/10
- “Key ISI member netted, arms cache seized in Mosul,” 6/4/10
- “Al-Qaeda leader detained in Baghdad,” 6/11/10
BNO News, “Iraqi Security Forces arrest suspected Al Qaeda in Iraq member,” 7/4/10
- “Ten suspected Al-Qaeda in Iraq criminal associates arrested during security operations in Iraq,” 6/28/10
Kimmage, Daniel, and Ridolfo, Kathleen, “Iraqi Insurgent Media: The War of Images And Ideas,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, June 2007
Lawrence, Monica, “Iraqi Security Forces arrest suspected Al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorist,” BNO News, 7/1/10
Myers, Steven Lee, “Arrest Led to Strike on Two Top Iraq Qaeda Leaders,” New York Times, 4/22/10
Roggio, Bill, “al Qaeda’s Grand Coalition in Anbar,” Long War Journal.org, 10/12/06
- “US and Iraqi forces kill Al Masri and Baghdadi, al Qaeda in Iraq’s top two leaders,” Long War Journal, 4/19/10
Salaheddin, Sinan, “Twin car bombs kill 27 near bank in Baghdad,” Associated Press, 6/20/10
Shanker, Thom, “Qaeda Leaders in Iraq Neutralized, U.S. Says,” New York Times, 6/4/10
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