UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Al-Qaeda in Iraq [AQI]
al-Qaida in Iraq
al-Qaida in Mesopotamia
The al-Zarqawi Network
al-Qaida of Jihad in Iraq
al-Qaida Group of Jihad in Iraq
Jam’at al Tawhid wa’al-Jihad
The Monotheism and Jihad Group
The Organization Base of Jihad/Mesopotamia
Tanzeem qa’idat al Jihad/Bildad al Raafidaini
Tanzim Qa‘idat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn
al-Qaida in the Land of the Two Rivers
al-Qaida of the Jihad in the Land of the Two Rivers
al-Qaida of Jihad Organization in the Land of the Two Rivers
The Organization of al-Jihad’s Base of Operations in Iraq
al-Qaida Group of Jihad in the Land of the Two Rivers
The Organization Base of Jihad/Country of the Two Rivers
The Organization of Jihad’s Base in the Country of the Two Rivers
The Organization of al-Jihad’s Base in the Land of the Two Rivers
The Organization of al-Jihad’s Base of Operations in the Land of the Two Rivers

Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) is also known as al-Qa’ida Group of Jihad in Iraq; al-Qa’ida Group of Jihad in the Land of the Two Rivers; al-Qa’ida in Mesopotamia; al-Qa’ida in the Land of the Two Rivers; al-Qa’ida of Jihad in Iraq; al-Qa’ida of Jihad Organization in the Land of The Two Rivers; al-Qa’ida of the Jihad in the Land of the Two Rivers; al-Tawhid; Jam’at al-Tawhid Wa’al-Jihad; Tanzeem Qa’idat al Jihad/Bilad al Raafidaini; Tanzim Qa’idat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn; The Monotheism and Jihad Group; The Organization Base of Jihad/Country of the Two Rivers; The Organization Base of Jihad/Mesopotamia; The Organization of al-Jihad’s Base in Iraq; The Organization of al-Jihad’s Base in the Land of the Two Rivers; The Organization of al-Jihad’s Base of Operations in Iraq; The Organization of al-Jihad’s Base of Operations in the Land of the Two Rivers; The Organization of Jihad’s Base in the Country of the Two Rivers; al-Zarqawi Network.

Al-Qa’ida in Iraq was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on December 17, 2004. In the 1990s, Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born militant, organized a terrorist group called al-Tawhid wal-Jihad as an opposition to the presence of U.S. and Western military forces in the Islamic world and also the West’s support for and the existence of Israel. He traveled to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom and led his group against U.S. and Coalition forces there until his death in June 2006. In late 2004 he joined al-Qa’ida and pledged allegiance to Usama bin Ladin. After this al-Tawhid wal-Jihad became known as al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI), and al-Zarqawi was given the al-Qa’ida title, “Emir of al-Qa’ida in the Country of Two Rivers.”

AQI’s predecessor group, led by al-Zarqawi, was established in 2003 and swiftly gained prominence, striking numerous Iraqi, Coalition, and relief agency targets such as the Red Cross. In August 2003, AQI carried out major terrorist attacks in Iraq when it bombed the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad, which was followed 12 days later by a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attack against the UN Headquarters in Baghdad that killed 23, including the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Since its founding, AQI has conducted high profile attacks, including improvised explosive device (IED) attacks against U.S. military personnel and Iraqi infrastructure throughout 2004, videotaped beheadings of Americans Nicholas Berg (May 11, 2004), Jack Armstrong (September 22, 2004), and Jack Hensley (September 21, 2004), suicide bomber attacks against both military and civilian targets, and rocket attacks. AQI perpetrates the majority of suicide and mass casualty bombings in Iraq, using foreign and Iraqi operatives.

In January 2006, in an attempt to unify Sunni extremists in Iraq, AQI created the Mujahidin Shura Council (MSC), an umbrella organization meant to encompass the various Sunni terrorist groups in Iraq. AQI claimed its attacks under the MSC until mid-October 2006, when Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi’s successor, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, took the first step toward al-Qa’ida’s (AQ’s) goal of establishing a caliphate in the region by declaring the “Islamic State of Iraq” (ISI), under which AQI now claims its attacks.

Iraqis comprise over 90 percent of the group’s membership. While a disproportionate percentage of AQI’s senior leadership was foreign-born earlier in the organizational history, today AQI leadership is predominantly Iraqi. In an attempt to give AQI a more Iraqi persona, the AQI-led ISI was created with Iraqi-national Abu Umar al-Baghdadi named its leader. Al-Baghdadi and AQI’s other top leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri were killed in a raid in April 2010, after which AQI subsequently named Abu Baker al-Baghdadi al-Husseini al-Qurashi as ISI’s head and Abu Ibrahim al-Issawi as his Minister of War.

Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) continued to be politically marginalized as its constituency dwindled further. Though AQI remained capable of carrying out occasional sizable attacks, its violent tactics failed to ignite the sectarian violence the group sought. Instead, there were two successful elections in Iraq and a decision by Sunni leaders in the country to participate in the political process.

US military estimated in 2007 that between 80 and 90 percent of suicide attacks in Iraq were carried out by foreign-born al Qaeda terrorists brought into the country for the sole purpose of blowing themselves up and killing innocent Iraq civilians. In 2006 Anbar Province was al Qaeda’s base in Iraq, but U.S. and Iraqi forces teamed with Sunni sheiks who have turned against al Qaeda and driven the terrorists from most of the population centers.

While there is a debate in Washington in 2007 about al Qaeda’s role in Iraq, the facts are that al Qaeda in Iraq is an organization founded by foreign terrorists, led largely by foreign terrorists, and loyal to Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda In Iraq Was Founded By Foreign Terrorists Linked To Senior Al Qaeda Leadership. Al Qaeda in Iraq founder Abu Musab al Zarqawi was not an Iraqi and neither was his successor Abu Ayyub al-Masri.

Jordanian Terrorist Abu Musab Al Zarqawi founded Al Qaeda In Iraq And pledged allegiance to Osama Bin Laden. Before 9/11, Zarqawi ran a terrorist camp in Afghanistan. According to the US intelligence community, Zarqawi had longstanding relations with senior al Qaeda leaders and had met with Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri. In 2001, Zaraqawi left Afghanistan and eventually went to Iraq to set up operations with terrorist associates after Coalition forces destroyed his Afghan training camp. In 2004, Zarqawi and his terrorist group formally joined al Qaeda, pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden, and promised to “follow his orders in jihad.” Bin Laden publicly declared Zarqawi the “Prince of Al Qaeda in Iraq” and instructed terrorists in Iraq to “listen to him and obey him.”

Zarqawi’s Successor Abu Ayyub Al-Masri was an Egyptian who also had deep and longstanding ties to al-Qaeda senior leadership. Abu Ayyub had collaborated with Ayman Zawahiri for more than two decades. Before 9/11, Abu Ayyub spent time with al Qaeda in Afghanistan and taught classes indoctrinating others in al Qaeda’s radical ideology. In 2006 Osama bin Laden tried to send a terrorist leader named Abd al-Hadi al Iraqi to help Abu Ayyub. According to the US intelligence community, Abd al-Hadi was a senior advisor to bin Laden who served as his top commander in Afghanistan. Abd al-Hadi never made it to Iraq. He was and held at Guantanamo Bay.

The US intelligence community reports that many off al-Qaeda In Iraq’s other senior-most leaders were also foreign terrorists. These foreign terrorists included [of of mid-2007] a Syrian who was al Qaeda in Iraq’s emir in Baghdad; a Saudi who was al Qaeda in Iraq’s top spiritual and legal advisor; an Egyptian who fought in Afghanistan in the 1990s and had met with Osama bin Laden; a Tunisian believed to play a key role in managing foreign fighters.

On 04 July 2007, Coalition forces captured a senior al Qaeda in Iraq leader named Khalid Abdul Fattah Da'ud Mahmoud al-Mashadani, the highest ranking Iraqi in the organization. Mashadani said the foreign leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq went to extraordinary lengths to promote the fiction that al Qaeda in Iraq is led by Iraqis. Mashadani said al Qaeda in Iraq went so far as to create a figurehead whom they named “Omar al-Baghdadi” so that Iraqi fighters would think they were following the orders of an Iraqi instead of a foreigner. Mashadani said Abu Ayyub and his team of foreign leaders, not Iraqis, made most of the operational decisions for al Qaeda in Iraq.

Having been ejected from Baghdad and its environs during the surge of forces, by the end of 2007 al Qaeda in Iraq was attempting to re-establish itself in regions north of the capital city. Yet, while al Qaeda scrambles to reorganize itself, the terrorist group was being pressured by a triple threat consisting of coalition and Iraqi security forces and local concerned citizens’ groups. The 70,000 members of Iraqi concerned citizens’ groups that have sworn to fight al Qaeda have proven to be powerful allies.

AQI adapted to changing conditions and remained capable of large-scale and coordinated attacks. However, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) also improved its capabilities in combating terrorist networks with better targeting and capture and detention of terrorists. AQI operated primarily in regions with majority Sunni Arab populations, particularly focusing its efforts in and around Baghdad and Ninewa. The group targeted the ISF, government infrastructure, and sectarian groups in an effort to induce them to emigrate and to erode Iraqi security and governance capabilities.

AQI, acting through its front organization ISI, was highly active in 2010, perpetrating almost daily attacks on Coalition forces, Iraqi civilian targets, and military assets. Many of these attacks had significant casualty counts. For example, on October 31 and November 2, 2010 alone, ISI attacked locations in Baghdad using mortars, VBIEDs, and IEDs, resulting in 122 deaths and 430 wounded. In all, ISI either claimed responsibility for, or was suspected of, being responsible for almost 350 attacks inside Iraq in 2010.

Sunni leaders in Iraq have overwhelmingly rejected AQI and its extremist ideology. The Sons of Iraq (SOI) who cooperated with the security authorities continued to be a valuable asset in countering AQI. Some of AQI’s members have defected, and the group has lost support in key mobilization areas, disrupting its infrastructure. On 23 December 2010, the ISF arrested 93 suspects in a crackdown of AQI bases in Anbar province.

Between March and May 2010, AQI suffered some of its most significant leadership losses since the 2006 death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. During this period, Iraqi and U.S. forces killed or captured 34 of the top 42 AQI leaders, including the group’s top two leaders – Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Umar al-Baghdadi – in security operations conducted on April 18, 2010. Moreover, on May 3, 2010, U.S. and Iraqi forces captured Abu Abdallah al Shafi’i, the leader of Ansar al Islam and the longest serving and most senior Sunni extremist leader detained in Iraq. Al Shafi’i’s leadership status, knowledge of current operational planning and international networks, and historic connections to al-Qaeda senior leaders make him one of the most important detainees held in U.S. custody in Iraq.

AQI still retained some capability, as demonstrated by its HPAs targeting embassies in Baghdad on April 4, 2010, the bombings of residential buildings in primarily Shi’a neighborhoods on April 6, 2010 and of Shi’a mosques on April 23, 2010, and the coordinated attacks across Iraq on May 10, 2010. The flow of foreign fighters into Iraq remains at historical lows, and current estimates place AQI’s makeup at 95% Iraqi.

AQI continued to focus its rhetoric and attacks against the GoI and Shi’a in an effort to discredit the GoI and incite sectarian violence as U.S. Forces drew down. AQI will likely attempt additional HPAs in an effort to prove their viability and delegitimize the Iraqi government in the post-election environment. AQI will also take advantage of detainee releases and the increased ISF responsibility for security in an effort to reassert its presence in some areas of Iraq. AQI continues to attempt to incite ethno-sectarian violence, though its attacks have so far failed to ignite ethno-sectarian tensions.

AQI maintains a presence in Baghdad and the surrounding areas, though it continues to lack the freedom of movement and operation it previously enjoyed in 2006-2007. AQI uses this presence to execute HPAs. AQI and Shi’a extremist elements remain responsible for most violent activity within the Baghdad Security Districts. The difficult operating environment has caused many Shi’a extremist leadership figures to stay in Iran, while encouraging subordinates to prepare for operations in Baghdad as U.S. Forces completed the transition to stability operations.

During 2010 there was an increase in AQI attacks against Sunnis cooperating with the government--the SOI and Sunni tribal leaders. On April 20, gunmen killed five family members, beheading three, of the local anti-AQI militia in Tarmiyah. On June 17, gunmen killed Khudair Hamad al-Issawi, his wife, and two sons in a village outside Falluja. On July 18, a suicide bomber killed at least 45 anti-al-Qaida Sunni fighters waiting for their paychecks. On August 18, gunmen killed an SOI member at an official checkpoint in Madaen; a bomb attached to a vehicle killed another SOI member in Baquba. On December 18, Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha, head of the Anbar Awakening Council, survived an assassination attempt when police defused a bomb concealed in a laptop.

As of 2011 Membership was estimated at 1,000-2,000, making it the largest, most potent Sunni extremist group in Iraq. AQI’s operations are predominately Iraq-based, but it has perpetrated attacks in Jordan. The group maintains a logistical network throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Iran, South Asia, and Europe. In Iraq, AQI conducted the majority of its operations in Ninawa, Diyala, Salah ad Din, and Baghdad provinces and is working to re-establish its capabilities in Al Anbar. AQI probably receives most of its funding from a variety of businesses and criminal activities within Iraq.

At the time of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate publication, al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) was the only al Qaeda affiliate known to have expressed a desire to strike the US homeland. Within Iraq, AQI inflicted thousands of casualties on coalition forces and Iraqi civilians. Beyond the country’s borders, AQI fanned the flames of the global jihadist movement and claimed credit for the June 2007 failed vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attack on Glasgow Airport in Scotland.

The al-Qaida's regional affiliates - al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI), al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and al-Shabaab - remain committed to the group's ideology, and in tenns of threats to US interests will surpass the remnants of core al-Qa'ida in Pakistan.

AQI remained focused on overthrowing the Shia-Ied government in Baghdad in favor of a Sunni-led Islamic caliphate. It probably will attempt attacks primarily on local Iraqi targets, including government institutions, Iraqi Security Forces persOIUlel, Shia civilians, and recalcitrant Sunnis, such as members of the Sons of Iraq, and will seek to re-build support among the Sunni population. In its public statements, the group also supports the goals of the global jihad. and the was watchful for indications that AQI aspired to conduct attacks in the West.

AI-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) exhibited resiliency through its sustained ability to conduct periodic coordinated and complex attacks throughout Iraq. The group directs the majority of its propaganda and attacks against Iraqi government, security, and Shia civilian targets, hoping to destabilize the government and inflame sectarian tensions. With the departure of U.S. forces, AQI will seek to exploit a more permissive security environment to increase its operations and presence throughout the country. Al Qaeda in Iraq doubled in size in the year since U.S. troops left the country.

High-profile attacks in 2009 and 2010 demonstrated the group’s relevance in the wake of the Coalition withdrawal from Iraqi cities in 2009 and efforts to posture itself to take advantage of the changing security environment, although Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Umar al-Baghdadi were killed in April 2010, marking a significant loss for the organization.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi became AQI’s next leader, and the group has continued conducting high-profile attacks in Iraq and participating in global violent extremism. The most violent day of attacks claimed by AQI in more than a year occurred on 5 January 2012, when terrorists employing suicide bombers and car bombs killed at least 72 people and wounded at least 147. The group’s official spokesperson in January 2012 made vague threats against Americans everywhere.

AQI reaffirmed its support for al-Qa‘ida and Ayman al-Zawahiri following Usama Bin Ladin’s death in May 2011. The arrests the same month of two AQI-affiliated Iraqi refugees in Kentucky highlight the potential threat inside the United States from people associated with AQI.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 13-06-2014 15:03:54 ZULU