Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn
|Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn
(Organization of Jihad's Base in Mesopotamia)
|Participant in the Iraq War|
One of the flags used by AQI in their video releases. Variants used white text for the circle and the shahada.
|Active||17 October 2004-October 2006|
|Leaders||Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (KIA)
Abu Ayyub al-Masri (KIA)
Mujahideen Shura Council
|Originated as||Ansar al-Islam (associate)
Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad
|Became||Islamic State in Iraq|
|Opponents||Multinational force in Iraq,
Iraq (Iraqi security forces, Kurdish and Shia militias),
Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn, (TQJBR), ("Organization of Jihad's Base in Mesopotamia", Arabic: تنظيم قاعدة الجهاد في بلاد الرافدين), also known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), or al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia was an Iraqi Salafi jihadi militant organization affiliated with al-Qaeda. It was a major combatant actor in the Iraqi insurgency and played a central role in the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq. Foreign fighters from outside Iraq were widely thought to play a key role in its network.
The group was founded by the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi under the name Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (Arabic: جماعة التوحيد والجهاد, "Group of Monotheism and Jihad"). It became especially active in 2003 as a reaction to the American-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. After pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network in October 2004, its official name became Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn.
In a letter to al-Zarqawi in July 2005, Al-Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri outlined a four-stage plan to expand the Iraq War, which included expelling US forces from Iraq, establishing an Islamic authority—a caliphate—spreading the conflict to Iraq's secular neighbors, and engaging in the Arab–Israeli conflict.
Involvement in Iraqi Insurgency
The same month as it’s October 2004 pledge of allegiance, the group, now popularly referred to as Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), kidnapped and killed Japanese citizen Shosei Koda. In November, al-Zarqawi's network was the main target of the US Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, but its leadership managed to escape the American siege and subsequent storming of the city. In December, in two of its many sectarian attacks, AQI bombed a Shia funeral procession in Najaf and the main bus station in nearby Karbala, killing at least 60 people in those two holy cities of Shia Islam. The group also reportedly took responsibility for the 30 September 2004 Baghdad bombing which killed 41 people, mostly children.
In 2005, AQI largely focused on executing high-profile and coordinated suicide attacks, claiming responsibility for numerous attacks which were primarily aimed at Iraqi administrators. The group launched attacks on voters during the Iraqi legislative election in January, a combined suicide and conventional attack on the Abu Ghraib prison in April, and coordinated suicide attacks outside the Sheraton Ishtar and Palestine Hotel in Baghdad in October. In July, AQI claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and execution of Ihab Al-Sherif, Egypt's envoy to Iraq. Also in July, a three-day series of suicide attacks, including the Musayyib marketplace bombing, left at least 150 people dead. Al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for a single-day series of more than a dozen bombings in Baghdad in September, including a bomb attack on 14 September which killed about 160 people, most of whom were unemployed Shia workers. They claimed responsibility for a series of mosque bombings in the same month in the city of Khanaqin, which killed at least 74 people.
The attacks blamed on or claimed by AQI continued to increase in 2006 (see also the list of major resistance attacks in Iraq). In one of the incidents, two US soldiers—Thomas Lowell Tucker and Kristian Menchaca—were captured, tortured and beheaded by AQI. In another, four Russian embassy officials were abducted and subsequently killed. al-Qaeda in Iraq and its umbrella groups were blamed for multiple attacks targeting the country's Shia population, some of which AQI claimed responsibility for. The US claimed without verification that the group was at least one of the forces behind the wave of chlorine bombings in Iraq, which affected hundreds of people, albeit with few fatalities, after a series of crude chemical warfare attacks between late 2006 and mid-2007. During 2006, several key members of AQI were killed or captured by American and allied forces. This included al-Zarqawi himself, killed on 7 June 2006, his spiritual adviser Sheik Abd-Al-Rahman, and the alleged "number two" deputy leader, Hamid Juma Faris Jouri al-Saeedi. The group's leadership was then assumed by the Egyptian militant Abu Ayyub al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir.
Inciting sectarian violence
Attacks against militiamen often targeted the Iraqi Shia majority in an attempt to incite sectarian violence. Al-Zarqawi purportedly declared an all-out war on Shias while claiming responsibility for the Shia mosque bombings. The same month, a letter allegedly written by Ayman al-Zawahiri—later rejected as a "fake" by the AQI—appeared to question AQI's tactic of indiscriminately attacking Shias in Iraq. In a video that appeared in December 2007, al-Zawahiri defended the AQI, but distanced himself from the crimes against civilians committed by "hypocrites and traitors" that he said existed among its ranks.
US and Iraqi officials accused the AQI of trying to slide Iraq into a full-scale civil war between Iraq's majority Shia and minority Sunni Arabs via an orchestrated campaign of massacres and provocative attacks against high-profile religious targets. With attacks purportedly mounted by the AQI such as the Imam Ali Mosque bombing in 2003, the Day of Ashura bombings and Karbala and Najaf bombings in 2004, the first al-Askari Mosque bombing in Samarra in 2006, the deadly single-day series of bombings in November 2006 in which at least 215 people were killed in Baghdad's Shia district of Sadr City, and the second al-Askari bombing in 2007, the AQI provoked Shia militias to unleash a wave of retaliatory attacks. The result was a plague of death squad-style killings and a spiral into further sectarian violence, which escalated in 2006 and brought Iraq to the brink of violent anarchy in 2007. In 2008, sectarian bombings blamed on al-Qaeda killed at least 42 people at the Imam Husayn Shrine in Karbala in March and at least 51 people at a bus stop in Baghdad in June.
Operations outside Iraq and other activities
On 3 December 2004, AQI attempted to blow up an Iraqi–Jordanian border crossing, but failed to do so. In 2006, a Jordanian court sentenced to death al-Zarqawi in absentia and two of his associates for their involvement in the plot. AQI increased its presence outside Iraq by claiming credit for three attacks in 2005. In the most deadly of these attacks, suicide bombs killed 60 people in Amman, Jordan on 9 November 2005. They claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks which narrowly missed the American naval ships USS Kearsarge and USS Ashland in Jordan and also targeted the city of Eilat in Israel, and for the firing of several rockets into Israel from Lebanon in December 2005. The affiliated groups were linked to regional attacks outside Iraq which were consistent with their stated plan, one example being the 2005 Sharm al-Sheikh bombings in Egypt, which killed 88 people, many of them foreign tourists.
The Lebanese-Palestinian militant group Fatah al-Islam, which was defeated by Lebanese government forces during the 2007 Lebanon conflict, was linked to AQI and led by al-Zarqawi's former companion who had fought alongside him in Iraq. The group may have been linked to the little-known group called "Tawhid and Jihad in Syria", and may have influenced the Palestinian militant group in Gaza called Jahafil Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad fi Filastin.
In January 2006, Al-Qaeda in Iraq created an umbrella organization called the Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC), in an attempt to unify Sunni insurgents in Iraq. Its efforts to recruit Iraqi Sunni nationalists and secular groups were undermined by the violent tactics it used against civilians and its extreme Islamic fundamentalist doctrine. Because of these impediments, the attempt was largely unsuccessful.
On 13 October 2006, the MSC declared the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), comprising Iraq's six mostly Sunni Arab governorates, with Abu Omar al-Baghdadi being announced as the self-proclaimed state's Emir. Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who had been the leader of the MSC, was given the title of Minister of War within the ISI's ten-member cabinet. Following the announcement, scores of gunmen took part in military parades in Ramadi and other Anbar towns to celebrate. According to report by US intelligence agencies in early 2007, the ISI planned to seize power in the central and western areas of the country and turn it into a Sunni Islamic state.
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