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Advanced Article Archive: Counter Terrorism Events - Middle East
Terror Analysis: The Continuing Downfall of Ansar al-Islam in Iraq

06.08.09

The Continuing Downfall of Ansar al-Islam in Iraq

A joint operation by US and Iraqi forces in Mosul led (July 24th) to the arrest of key leaders of Ansar al-Islam (AAI), the Iraqi-Kurdish terror group linked to Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Among the 10 operatives detained are the organization's deputy commander, Fakri Hadi Gari (AKA Abu Abbas and Mullah Halgurd), and AAI's financial chief ("Amir").

These arrests represent another blow for the organization, one in a series of events since late 2006, which led to a significant deterioration of AAI's capabilities.

Ansar al-Islam used to be, during 2004-2006, one of the most dangerous and active insurgent groups in Iraq, threatening Al-Qaeda's role as the leading terror organization in the country. During that time, the group mostly operated under the name "Ansar al-Sunna" (due to a partial split and an expansion of its domestic agenda), but has re-adopted its original name, "Ansar al-Islam", in late 2007. The group's well trained and organized Kurdish cadre conducted throughout this duration many complicated and deadly attacks, presenting a serious threat to the stability of Iraq.

Starting at the end of 2006, AAI experienced a severe downfall in two main aspects.

  • On the operational level, Coalition Forces have managed to kill/capture a vast number of AAI's operatives from all ranks, continuously pushing the organization's presence to the northern parts of Iraq and reducing the organization's operational capabilities to a significantly lower rate.
  • On the Ideological and social level, a breakaway group from AAI, composed of former leaders (Sheikh Sajjad and Sheikh Abu Hind, both were AAI senior Sharia council members), presented a non-violent alternative to AAI, while collaborating with Coalition Forces. That, along with the growing resistance to the Global Jihad ideology by the local tribes and the Reformation and Jihad Front (RJF), helped decrease the level of support AAI enjoyed in the past from the local population.

The abovementioned arrest of AAI's second in command and other operatives is yet another hit for AAI, and signifies the relative success of the Coalition Forces in the struggle against the organization. Mullah Halgurd was among the few veteran AAI operatives at large. Nevertheless, it is assessed that AAI will continue its attempt to target CF and the Iraqi Army, yet with even lower capabilities, and is likely to increase its tactical cooperation with Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

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