Islamic State of Iraq
|Islamic State of Iraq|
|دولة العراق الإسلامية (Arabic)
Dawlat al-ʿIrāq al-ʾIslāmiyyah
Participant in Iraq War and Iraqi insurgency
Flag of the Islamic State of Iraq
|Active||15 October 2006 – 8 April 2013 (under various names)|
|Leaders||Abu Omar al-Baghdadi (KIA)
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
|Originated as||Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn
Mujahideen Shura Council
|Became||Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant|
|Opponents||Multinational force in Iraq,
Iraq (Iraqi security forces, Kurdish, Shia militias) and Awakening Councils
|Iraqi insurgency (Iraq War)
Iraqi insurgency (2011–present)
The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI; Arabic: دولة العراق الإسلامية Dawlat al-ʿIrāq al-ʾIslāmiyyah) was a Sunni jihadist group that aimed to establish an Islamic state in Sunni Arab-majority areas of Iraq. It was formed on 15 October 2006 from the merger of a number Iraq insurgent groups, including al-Qaeda in Iraq and its Mujahideen Shura Council allies, Jeish al-Fatiheen, Jund al-Sahaba, Katbiyan Ansar Al-Tawhid wal Sunnah and Jeish al-Taiifa al-Mansoura, with representatives of a number of Sunni Arab tribes pledging support.
During the Iraqi War, it had a presence in the governorates of Baghdad, Al Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Salah ad Din, Nineveh, parts of Babil and Wasit, and initially claimed Baqubah as its capital.
Strength and activity
|Islamic State of Iraq|
|دولة العراق الإسلامية|
The ISI claimed areas of Iraq with a significant Sunni-Arab presence.
|-||2006–2010||Abu Omar al-Baghdadi|
|-||2010–2013||Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi|
|-||Established||13 October 2006|
|-||Last major strongholds fall||2008|
In 2006, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research estimated that Al-Qaeda in Iraq's core membership was "more than 1,000". These figures do not include the other six[irrelevant citation] AQI-led Salafi groups in the Islamic State of Iraq. In 2007, estimates of the group's strength ranged from just 850 to several thousand full-time fighters. The group was said to be suffering high manpower losses, including those from its many "martyrdom" operations, but for a long time this appeared to have little effect on its strength and capabilities, implying a constant flow of volunteers from Iraq and abroad. However, Al-Qaeda in Iraq more than doubled in strength, from 1,000 to 2,500 fighters, after the US withdrawal from Iraq in late 2011.
In 2007, some observers and scholars suggested that the threat posed by AQI was being exaggerated and that a "heavy focus on al-Qaeda obscures a much more complicated situation on the ground". According to National Intelligence Estimate and Defense Intelligence Agency reports in July 2007, AQI accounted for 15% percent of attacks in Iraq. However, the Congressional Research Service noted in its September 2007 report that attacks from al-Qaeda were less than 2% of the violence in Iraq. It criticized the Bush administration's statistics, noting that its false reporting of insurgency attacks as AQI attacks had increased since the surge operations began in 2007. In March 2007, the US-sponsored Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty analyzed AQI attacks for that month and concluded that the group had taken credit for 43 out of 439 attacks on Iraqi security forces and Shia militias, and 17 out of 357 attacks on US troops.
According to a US Government report in 2006, this group was most clearly associated with foreign jihadist cells operating in Iraq and had specifically targeted international forces and Iraqi citizens; most of Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)'s operatives were not Iraqi, but were coming through a series of safe houses, the largest of which was on the Iraq–Syria border. AQI's operations were predominately Iraq-based, but the United States Department of State alleged that the group maintained an extensive logistical network throughout the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and Europe. In a CNN special report in June 2008, Al-Qaeda in Iraq was called "a well-oiled … organization … almost as pedantically bureaucratic as was Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party", collecting new execution videos long after they stopped publicising them, and having a network of spies even in the US military bases. According to the report, Iraqis—many of them former members of Hussein's secret services—were now effectively running Al-Qaeda in Iraq, with "foreign fighters' roles" seeming to be "mostly relegated to the cannon fodder of suicide attacks", although the organization's top leadership was still dominated by non-Iraqis.
The high-profile attacks linked to the group continued through early 2007, as AQI claimed responsibility for attacks such as the March assassination attempt on Sunni Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq Salam al-Zaubai, the April Iraqi Parliament bombing, and the May capture and subsequent execution of three American soldiers. Also in May, ISI leader al-Baghdadi was declared to have been killed in Baghdad, but his death was later denied by the insurgents; later, al-Baghdadi was even declared by the US to be non-existent. There were conflicting reports regarding the fate of al-Masri. From March to August, coalition forces fought the Battle of Baqubah as part of the largely successful attempts to wrest the Diyala Governorate from AQI-aligned forces. Through 2007, the majority of suicide bombings targeting civilians in Iraq were routinely identified by military and government sources as being the responsibility of al-Qaeda and its associated groups, even when there was no claim of responsibility, as was the case in the 2007 Yazidi communities bombings, which killed some 800 people in the deadliest terrorist attack in Iraq to date.
By late 2007, violent and indiscriminate attacks directed by rogue AQI elements against Iraqi civilians had severely damaged their image and caused loss of support among the population, thus isolating the group. In a major blow to AQI, many former Sunni militants who had previously fought alongside the group started to work with the American forces (see also below). The US troops surge supplied the military with more manpower for operations targeting the group, resulting in dozens of high-level AQI members being captured or killed. Al-Qaeda seemed to have lost its foothold in Iraq and appeared to be severely crippled. Accordingly, the bounty issued for al-Masri was eventually cut from $5 million to $100,000 in April 2008.
As of 2008, a series of US and Iraqi offensives managed to drive out the AQI-aligned insurgents from their former safe havens, such as the Diyala and Al Anbar governorates and the embattled capital of Baghdad, to the area of the northern city of Mosul, the latest of the Iraq War's major battlegrounds. The struggle for control of Ninawa Governorate—the Ninawa campaign—was launched in January 2008 by US and Iraqi forces as part of the large-scale Operation Phantom Phoenix, which was aimed at combating al-Qaeda activity in and around Mosul, and finishing off the network's remnants in central Iraq that had escaped Operation Phantom Thunder in 2007. In Baghdad a pet market was bombed in February 2008 and a shopping centre was bombed in March 2008, killing at least 98 and 68 people respectively; AQI were the suspected perpetrators.
AQI has long raised money, running into tens of millions of dollars, from kidnappings for ransom, car theft—sometimes killing drivers in the process—hijacking fuel trucks and other activities. According to an April 2007 statement by their Islamic Army in Iraq rivals, AQI was demanding jizya tax and killing members of wealthy families when it was not paid. According to both US and Iraqi sources, in May 2008 AQI was stepping up its fundraising campaigns as its strictly militant capabilities were on the wane, with especially lucrative activity said to be oil operations centered on the industrial city of Bayji. According to US military intelligence sources, in 2008 the group resembled a "Mafia-esque criminal gang".
Conflicts with other groups
The first reports of a split and even armed clashes between Al-Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni groups date back to 2005. In the summer of 2006, local Sunni tribes and insurgent groups, including the prominent Islamist-nationalist group Islamic Army in Iraq (IAI), began to speak of their dissatisfaction with al-Qaeda and its tactics, openly criticizing the foreign fighters for their deliberate targeting of Iraqi civilians. In September 2006, 30 Anbar tribes formed their own local alliance called the Anbar Salvation Council (ASC), which was directed specifically at countering al-Qaeda-allied terrorist forces in the province, and they openly sided with the government and the US troops.
By the beginning of 2007, Sunni tribes and nationalist insurgents had begun battling with their former allies in AQI in order to retake control of their communities. In early 2007, forces allied to Al-Qaeda in Iraq committed a series of attacks on Sunnis critical of the group, including the February 2007 attack in which scores of people were killed when a truck bomb exploded near a Sunni mosque in Fallujah. Al-Qaeda supposedly played a role in the assassination of the leader of the Anbar-based insurgent group 1920 Revolution Brigade, the military wing of the Islamic Resistance Movement. In April 2007, the IAI spokesman accused the ISI of killing at least 30 members of the IAI, as well as members of the Jamaat Ansar al-Sunna and Mujahideen Army insurgent groups, and called on Osama bin Laden to intervene personally to rein in Al-Qaeda in Iraq. The following month, the government announced that AQI leader al-Masri had been killed by ASC fighters. Four days later, AQI released an audio tape in which a man claiming to be al-Masri warned Sunnis not to take part in the political process; he also said that reports of internal fighting between Sunni militia groups were "lies and fabrications". Later in May, the US forces announced the release of dozens of Iraqis who were tortured by AQI as a part of the group's intimidation campaign.
By June 2007, the growing hostility between foreign-influenced jihadists and Sunni nationalists had led to open gun battles between the groups in Baghdad. The Islamic Army soon reached a ceasefire agreement with AQI, but refused to sign on to the ISI. There were reports that Hamas of Iraq insurgents were involved in assisting US troops in their Diyala Governorate operations against Al-Qaeda in August 2007. In September 2007, AQI claimed responsibility for the assassination of three people including the prominent Sunni sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, leader of the Anbar "Awakening council". That same month, a suicide attack on a mosque in the city of Baqubah killed 28 people, including members of Hamas of Iraq and the 1920 Revolution Brigade, during a meeting at the mosque between tribal and guerilla leaders and the police. Meanwhile, the US military began arming moderate insurgent factions when they promised to fight Al-Qaeda in Iraq instead of the Americans.
By December 2007, the strength of the "Awakening" movement irregulars—also called "Concerned Local Citizens" and "Sons of Iraq"—was estimated at 65,000–80,000 fighters. Many of them were former insurgents, including alienated former AQI supporters, and they were now being armed and paid by the Americans specifically to combat al-Qaeda's presence in Iraq. As of July 2007, this highly controversial strategy proved to be effective in helping to secure the Sunni districts of Baghdad and the other hotspots of central Iraq, and to root out the al-Qaeda-aligned militants.
Transformation and resurgence
In early 2009, US forces began pulling out of cities across the country, turning over the task of maintaining security to the Iraqi Army, the Iraqi Police Service and their paramilitary allies. Experts and many Iraqis were worried that in the absence of US soldiers the ISI might resurface and attempt mass-casualty attacks to destabilize the country. There was indeed a spike in the number of suicide attacks, and through mid- and late 2009, the ISI rebounded in strength and appeared to be launching a concerted effort to cripple the Iraqi government. During August and October 2009, the ISI claimed responsibility for four bombings targeting five government buildings in Baghdad, including attacks that killed 101 at the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Finance in August and 155 at the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works in September; these were the deadliest attacks directed at the new government in more than six years of war. These attacks represented a shift away from the group's previous efforts to incite sectarian violence, although a series of suicide attacks in April targeted mainly Iranian Shia pilgrims, killing 76, and in June, a mosque bombing in Taza killed at least 73 Shias from the Turkmen ethnic minority.
In late 2009, the commander of the US forces in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, stated that the ISI "has transformed significantly in the last two years. What once was dominated by foreign individuals has now become more and more dominated by Iraqi citizens". Odierno's comments reinforced accusations by the government of Nouri al-Maliki that al-Qaeda and ex-Ba'athists were working together to undermine improved security and sabotage the planned Iraqi parliamentary elections in 2010. On 18 April 2010, the ISI’s two top leaders, Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, were killed in a joint US-Iraqi raid near Tikrit. In a press conference in June 2010, General Odierno reported that 80% of the ISI’s top 42 leaders, including recruiters and financiers, had been killed or captured, with only eight remaining at large. He said that they had been cut off from Al Qaeda's leadership in Pakistan, and that improved intelligence had enabled the successful mission in April that led to the killing of al-Masri and al-Baghdadi; in addition, the number of attacks and casualty figures in Iraq for the first five months of 2010 were the lowest since 2003. In May 2011, the Islamic State of Iraq's "emir of Baghdad" Huthaifa al-Batawi, captured during the crackdown after the 2010 Baghdad church attack in which 68 people died, was killed during an attempted prison break, during which an Iraqi general and several others were also killed.
On 16 May 2010, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was appointed the new leader of the Islamic State of Iraq; he had previously been the general supervisor of the group's provincial sharia committees and a member of its senior consultative council. Al-Baghdadi replenished the group's leadership, many of whom had been killed or captured, by appointing former Ba'athist military and intelligence officers who had served during the Saddam Hussein regime. These men, nearly all of whom had spent time imprisoned by American forces, came to make up about one-third of Baghdadi's top 25 commanders. One of them was a former Colonel, Samir al-Khlifawi, also known as Haji Bakr, who became the overall military commander in charge of overseeing the group's operations.
In July 2012, al-Baghdadi’s first audio statement was released online. In this he announced that the group was returning to the former strongholds that US troops and their Sunni allies had driven them from prior to the withdrawal of US troops. He also declared the start of a new offensive in Iraq called Breaking the Walls which would focus on freeing members of the group held in Iraqi prisons. Violence in Iraq began to escalate that month, and in the following year the group carried out 24 waves of VBIED attacks and eight prison breaks. By July 2013, monthly fatalities had exceeded 1,000 for the first time since April 2008. The Breaking the Walls campaign culminated in July 2013, with the group carrying out simultaneous raids on Taji and Abu Ghraib prison, freeing more than 500 prisoners, many of them veterans of the Iraqi insurgency.
Syrian Civil War
In August 2011, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi began sending Syrian and Iraqi ISI members, experienced in guerilla warfare, across the border into Syria to establish an organization inside the country. Led by a Syrian known as Abu Muhammad al-Jawlani, the group began to recruit fighters and establish cells throughout the country. On 23 January 2012, the group announced its formation as Jabhat al-Nusra li Ahl as-Sham—Jabhat al-Nusra—more commonly known as al-Nusra Front. Al-Nusra grew rapidly into a capable fighting force with popular support among Syrian opposition. In April 2013, al-Baghdadi released an audio statement in which he announced that the two groups were merging under the name "Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham".
The Islamic State of Iraq announced in 19 April 2007 that it had set up a provisional government, termed "the first Islamic administration" of post-invasion Iraq. The emirate was stated to be headed by Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and his cabinet of ten ministers. All names listed were believed to be noms de guerre.
|Name (English transliteration) and notable pseudonyms||Arabic name||Post||Notes|
|Abu Omar al-Baghdadi
d. 18 April 2010
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (aka Abu Du'a)
|أبو عمر البغدادي، أبو بكر البغدادي الحسيني القرشي||Emir||Abu Du'a, also known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is the second leader of the group.|
|Abu Abdullah al-Husseini al-Qurashi al-Baghdadi||أبو عبدالله الحسيني القرشي البغدادي||Vice Emir|
|Abu Abdul Rahman al-Falahi||أبو عبد الرحمن الفلاحي
ʾAbū ʿAbd ar-Raḥmān al-Falāḥī
|"First Minister" (Prime Minister)|
|Abu Hamza al-Muhajir (aka Abu Ayyub al-Masri)
d. 18 April 2010
Al-Nasser Lideen Allah Abu Suleiman (aka Neaman Salman Mansour al Zaidi)
|أبو حمزة المهاجر||War|
|Abu Uthman al-Tamimi||أبو عثمان التميمي
ʾAbū ʿUṯmān at-Tamīmī
|Abu Bakr al-Jabouri
(aka Muharib Abdul-Latif al-Jabouri)
d. 1/2 May 2007
|أبو بكر الجبوري
ʾAbū Bakr al-Ǧabūrī
(aka محارب عبد اللطيف الجبوري
Muḥārib ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Ǧabūrī)
|Public Relations||Common spelling variants: al-Jubouri, al-Jiburi.|
|Abu Abdul Jabar al-Janabi||أبو عبد الجبار الجنابي||Security||Established "Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice"|
|Abu Muhammad al-Mashadani||أبو محمد المشهداني
ʾAbū Muḥammad al-Mašhadānī
|Abu Abdul Qadir al-Eissawi||أبو عبد القادر العيساوي
ʾAbū ʿAbd al-Qādir al-ʿĪsāwī
|Martyrs and Prisoners Affairs|
|Abu Ahmed al-Janabi||أبو أحمد الجنابي
ʾAbū ʾAḥmad al-Ǧanābī
|Mustafa al-A'araji||مصطفى الأعرجي
|Agriculture and Fisheries|
|Abu Abdullah al-Zabadi||أبو عبد الله الزيدي||Health|
|Mohammed Khalil al-Badria||محمد خليل البدرية
Muḥammad Ḫalīl al-Badriyyah
|Education||Announced on 3 September 2007|
- 15 October 2006 group was formed from the merger of a number Iraq insurgent groups, including Al-Qaeda in Iraq and its Mujahideen Shura Council allies, Jeish al-Fatiheen, Jund al-Sahaba, Katbiyan Ansar Al-Tawhid wal Sunnah and Jeish al-Taiifa al-Mansoura, with representatives of a number of Sunni Arab tribes pledging support.
- Between late 2006 and May 2007, the ISI brought the Dora neighborhood of southern Baghdad under its control. Numerous Christian families left, unwilling to pay the jizya tax. US efforts to drive out the ISI presence stalled in late June 2007, despite streets being walled off and the use of biometric identification technology. By November 2007, the ISI had been removed from Dora, and Assyrian churches could be re-opened.[not in citation given] In 2007 alone the ISI killed around 2,000 civilians, making that year the most violent in its campaign against the civilian population of Iraq.
- 9 March 2007: The Interior Ministry of Iraq said that Abu Omar al-Baghdadi had been captured in Baghdad, but it was later said that the person in question was not al-Baghdadi.
- 3 May 2007: Iraqi sources claimed that Abu Omar al-Baghdadi had been killed a short time earlier. According to The Long War Journal, no evidence was provided to support this and US sources remained skeptical. The Islamic State of Iraq released a statement later that day which denied his death.
- 12 May 2007: In what was apparently the same incident, it was announced that "Minister of Public Relations" Abu Bakr al-Jabouri had been killed on 12 May 2007 near Taji.[verification needed] The exact circumstances of the incident remain unknown. The initial version of the events at Taji, as given by the Iraqi Interior Ministry, was that there had been a shoot-out between rival Sunni militias. Coalition and Iraqi government operations were apparently being conducted in the same area at about the same time and later sources implied that they were directly involved, with al-Jabouri being killed while resisting arrest. (See Abu Omar al-Baghdadi for details.)
- 12 May 2007: The ISI issued a press release claiming responsibility for an ambush at Al Taqa, Babil on 12 May 2007, in which one Iraqi soldier and four US 10th Mountain Division soldiers were killed. Three soldiers of the US unit were captured and one was found dead in the Euphrates 11 days later. After a 4,000-man hunt by the US and allied forces ended without success, the ISI released a video in which it was claimed that the other two soldiers had been killed and buried, but no direct proof was given. Their bodies were found a year later.
- 18 June: The US launched Operation Arrowhead Ripper, as "a large-scale effort to eliminate Al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists operating in Baquba and its surrounding areas". (See also Diyala province campaign.)
- 25 June: The suicide bombing of a meeting of Al Anbar tribal leaders and officials at Mansour Hotel, Baghdad killed 13 people, including six Sunni sheikhs and other prominent figures. This was proclaimed by the ISI to have been in retaliation for the rape of a Sunni woman by Iraqi police. Security at the hotel, which is 100 meters outside the Green Zone, was provided by a British contractor which had apparently hired guerrilla fighters to provide physical security.[not in citation given] There were allegations that an Egyptian Islamist group may have been responsible for the bombing, but this has never been proven.
- In July 2007, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi released an audio tape in which he issued an ultimatum to Iran. He said: "We are giving the Persians, and especially the rulers of Iran, a two-month period to end all kinds of support for the Iraqi Shia government and to stop direct and indirect intervention ... otherwise a severe war is waiting for you." He also warned Arab states against doing business with Iran. Iran supports the Iraqi government which many see as anti-Sunni.
- Resistance to coalition operations in Baqubah turned out to be less than anticipated. In early July, US Army sources suggested that any ISI leadership in the area had largely relocated elsewhere in early June 2007, before the start of Operation Arrowhead Ripper.
|This section requires expansion. (September 2014)|
- In the 25 October 2009 Baghdad bombings 155 people were killed and at least 721 were injured, and in the 8 December 2009 Baghdad bombings at least 127 people were killed and 448 were injured. The ISI claimed responsibility for both attacks.
- The ISI claimed responsibility for the 25 January 2010 Baghdad bombings that killed 41 people, and the 4 April 2010 Baghdad bombings that killed 42 people and injured 224. On 17 June 2010, the group claimed responsibility for an attack on the Central Bank of Iraq that killed 18 people and wounded 55. On 19 August 2010, in a statement posted on a website often used by Islamist radicals, the ISI claimed responsibility for the 17 August 2010 Baghdad bombings. It also claimed responsibility for the bombings in October 2010.[verification needed]
- According to the SITE Institute, the ISI claimed responsibility for the 2010 Baghdad church attack that took place during a Sunday Mass on 31 October 2010.
- 8 February 2011: According to the SITE Institute, a statement of support for Egyptian protesters—which appears to have been the first reaction of any group affiliated with al-Qaeda to the protests in Egypt during the 2011 Arab Spring Movement—was issued by the Islamic State of Iraq on jihadist forums. The message addressed to the protesters was that the "market of jihad" had opened in Egypt, that "the doors of martyrdom had opened", and that every able-bodied man must participate. It urged Egyptians to ignore the "ignorant deceiving ways" of secularism, democracy and "rotten pagan nationalism". "Your jihad", it went on, is in support of Islam and the weak and oppressed in Egypt, for "your people" in Gaza and Iraq, and "for every Muslim" who has been "touched by the oppression of the tyrant of Egypt and his masters in Washington and Tel Aviv".
- 4 October 2011: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was declared a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the US State Department, with an announced reward of US$10 million for information leading to his capture or death.
- 23 July 2012: About 32 attacks occurred across Iraq, killing 116 people and wounding 299. The ISI claimed responsibility for the attacks, which took the form of bombings and shootings.
- In August 2012, two Iraqi refugees who have resided in Kentucky were accused of assisting AQI by sending funds and weapons; one has pleaded guilty.
- On 8 April 2013, having expanded into Syria, the group adopted the name "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant", also known as "Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham."
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