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Al Qaeda in Iraq -- A profile of Sunni jihadist organization Al Qaeda in Iraq


Shosei Koda, decapitated by Al Qaida in Iraq

Shosei Koda, decapitated by Al Qaida in Iraq

courtesy of Wikipedia


Al Qaeda in Iraq

"Al Qaeda in Iraq' is a shortening of the organization's original name Tanzim Qaidat Al Jihad fi Bilad Al Rafidin: Organization of Qaidat Al Jihad in the Land of Two Rivers.

There is some disagreement about how the name came about. Some think the name is combination of two organizations: Osama bin Laden's Al Qaida and Ayman Al Zawahiri's Al Jihad of Egypt. In contrast, the US State Department believes that Qaeda Al Jihad in Iraq means "the base of organized jihadist operations in Iraq" (The word "al qaeda" means "base").

Notable Attacks:

  • April 10, 2007: Female suicide bomber self-detonates in Muqdadiyah, killing 16 Iraqi police recruits
  • 2005-2006: Multiple suicide bombings in Iraq, killing and injuring hundreds. Targets included Iraqi police, Iraqi recruitment centers and Shiite gatherings and mosques.
  • November 3, 2004: Kidnapped and beheaded Japanese national Shosei Koda in Iraq, in an effort to persuade the Japanese government to withdraw humanitarian troops from Iraq. The group recorded Koda's beheading on videotape.


The ultimate goal of the group is a role in the governance of Iraq. In August, 2006, U.S. Major General William Caldwell gave a briefing on the group's objectives. These views were collected from detainees in Iraq:

In regards to al-Qaida in Iraq, their leadership has outlined the end state towards which their propaganda efforts are currently working. Specifically … they seek to portray al-Qaida in Iraq as a legitimate political organization to be viewed as the alternative to the legitimate, duly-elected government of Iraq.

Their primary goal in discrediting the government of Iraq is the expulsion of the U.S. from Iraq in order to remove support for the government of Iraq and impose themselves, al-Qaida in Iraq, as the power.

Detainees have also begun to divulge how al-Qaida in Iraq is attempting to achieve these goals. Al-Qaida in Iraq brings in other foreign fighters and terrorists for the sole purpose of killing innocent Iraqis ... They do not care about this nation. Al-Qaida in Iraq encourages Sunni and Shi'a in-fighting and believes a widespread sectarian divide will force the United States into neutrality and ultimately departure.


Leadership of Al Qaeda in Iraq was turned over to Abu Ayyub Al Masri following the 2006 death of its former leader, Musab Al Zarqawi. Al Masri, according to some jihadist sources, is "described …as a poor military commander, while his real strengths lie in his intellectual abilities. Al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, apparently was brought in to repair al Qaeda's organization in Iraq and mend the group's relations with Sunni tribal leaders whom al-Zarqawi had recklessly alienated, much to the dismay of deputy al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri."

Backing & Affiliation:

Al Qaeda in Iraq is made up, at this point, of both Sunni Iraqi members and foreigners who made their way to Iraq to wage jihad. It is also considered to have some elements of Ansar Al Islam, a Kurdish Islamist group prominent in the northern area where the original group landed.

The degree of the group's current connection to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan/ Pakistan is disputed and highly politicized. The Bush Administration maintains that there are deep connections between different Al Qaeda groups. Others argue that Al Qaeda in Iraq does not have wide membership or support:

Numerous estimates show that the group called Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and its foreign fighters comprise only 5 to 10 percent of the Sunni insurgents' forces. Most Sunni insurgents are simply what Wayne White -- who led the State Department's intelligence effort on Iraq until 2005 -- calls POIs, or "pissed-off Iraqis," who are fighting because "they don't like the occupation."


Al Qaeda in Iraq was founded in 2004.

Some believe the organization was developed by (now deceased) Musab Al Zarqawi.

Others hold that Al Qaeda in Iraq grew out of Osama bin Laden's group following the U.S. attacks in 2001 in Afthanistan. Bin Laden's organization was divided into tow, following the fall of the Afghan Taliban government. One group retreated to the mountainous area between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The second group was the seed of Al Qaeda in Iraq. First, they went to Iran, then to Suleimaniya, a northeastern Kurdish province in Iraq. In 2003, they allied themselves with the Baathist government's intelligence services to prepare for the upcoming war with the U.S.. They were, at that time, led by Muhammad Makkawi, an Al Qaeda military strategist who was better known as Sayf Al Adel ("Sword of Justice"). This group met up with Zarqawi's group and, with foreign fighters from Syria, Iran and elsewhere, they joined to fight the American occupation.

Also see:

  1. About.com
  2. News & Issues
  3. Global Terrorism
  4. Groups & Tactics
  5. Al Qaeda in Iraq -- A profile of jihadist organization Al Qaeda in Iraq

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