Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad

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Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad
(Organization of Monotheism and Jihad)
Participant in the Iraq War
Flag of JTJ.svg
Flag in use by Jama'at al-Tawhid wal Jihad in late 2004
Active 1999[1]–17 October 2004[2]
Leaders Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Headquarters Fallujah
Area of operations Iraq, limited in Jordan
Became Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (aka Al-Qaeda in Iraq)
Allies Ansar al-Islam
Opponents Multinational force in Iraq,
Iraq (Iraqi security forces, Kurdish and Shia militias),
United Nations
Battles and wars Iraqi insurgency

Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (Arabic: جماعة التوحيد والجهاد‎, Organization of Monotheism and Jihad) was a militant Islamist group led by the Jordanian national Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. This group's name may be abbreviated as JTJ or shortened to Tawhid and Jihad, Tawhid wal-Jihad, Tawhid al-Jihad, Al Tawhid or Tawhid. The group started in Jordan, then became a decentralized network during the Iraq insurgency in which foreign fighters were widely thought to play a key role,[3] though some analysts said that it may have also had a considerable Iraqi membership.[4] Following al-Zarqawi's pledge of allegiance to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network on October 17, 2004, the group became known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq (official name Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn).[2][5][6][7] After several rounds of name changes and mergers with other groups, the organization is now known as ISIL (or ISIS) or The Islamic State.


Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad was started in 1999 by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and a combination of Jordanian and other Islamist militants.[1] Al-Zarqawi was a Jordanian Salafi Jihadist who had traveled to Afghanistan to fight in the Soviet-Afghan War, but he arrived after the departure of the Soviet troops and soon returned to his homeland. He eventually returned to Afghanistan, running an Islamic militant training camp near Herat.

Al-Zarqawi started the network with the intention of overthrowing the Kingdom of Jordan, which he considered to be un-Islamic according to the four schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence. For this purpose he developed numerous contacts and affiliates in several countries. Although it has not been verified, his network may have been involved in the late 1999 plot to bomb the Millennium celebrations in the United States and Jordan. Al-Zarqawi and his operatives are held responsible by the US for the assassination of US diplomat Laurence Foley in Jordan in 2002.[8]

Involvement in the Iraq War[edit]

Following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, al-Zarqawi moved westward into Iraq, where he reportedly received medical treatment in Baghdad for an injured leg. It is believed that he developed extensive ties in Iraq with Ansar al-Islam ("Partisans of Islam"), a Kurdish Islamic militant group based in the extreme northeast of the country.[citation needed] Ansar allegedly had ties to Iraqi Intelligence; Saddam Hussein's motivation would have been to use Ansar as a surrogate force to repress secular Kurds fighting for the independence of Kurdistan.[9] In January 2003, Ansar's founder Mullah Krekar denied any connection with Saddam's government.[10]

The consensus of intelligence officials has since been that there were no links whatsoever between al-Zarqawi and Saddam, and that Saddam viewed Ansar al-Islam "as a threat to the regime"[11] and his intelligence officials were spying on the group. The 2006 Senate Report on Pre-war Intelligence on Iraq concluded: "Postwar information indicates that Saddam Hussein attempted, unsuccessfully, to locate and capture al-Zarqawi and that the regime did not have a relationship with, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward al-Zarqawi."[11] According to Michael Weiss, Ansar entered Iraqi Kurdistan through Iran as part of Iran's covert attempts to destabilize Saddam's government.[12]

Following the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, JTJ developed into an expanding militant network for the purpose of resisting the coalition occupation forces and their Iraqi allies. It included some of the remnants of Ansar al-Islam and a growing number of foreign fighters. Many foreign fighters arriving in Iraq were initially not associated with the group, but once they were in the country they became dependent on al-Zarqawi's local contacts.[13]

Goals and tactics in Iraq[edit]

A pair of armed anti-American insurgents in Iraq in 2006

The stated goals of JTJ were: (i) to force a withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq; (ii) to topple the Iraqi interim government; (iii) to assassinate collaborators with the occupation regime; (iv) to remove the Shia population and defeat its militias because of its death-squad activities; and (v) to establish subsequently a pure Islamic state.[14]

JTJ differed considerably from the other early Iraqi insurgent groups in its tactics. Rather than using only conventional weapons and guerrilla tactics in ambushes against the US and coalition forces, it relied heavily on suicide bombings, often using car bombs. It targeted a wide variety of groups, especially the Iraqi Security Forces and those facilitating the occupation. Groups of workers who were targeted by JTJ included Iraqi interim officials, Iraqi Shia and Kurdish political and religious figures, the country's Shia Muslim civilians, foreign civilian contractors, and United Nations and humanitarian workers.[13] Al-Zarqawi's militants are also known to have used a wide variety of other tactics, including targeted kidnappings, the planting of improvised explosive devices, and mortar attacks. Beginning in late June 2004, JTJ conducted urban guerrilla-style attacks using rocket-propelled grenades and small arms. They also gained worldwide notoriety for beheading Iraqi and foreign hostages and distributing video recordings of these acts on the Internet.

Notable attacks in Iraq[edit]

The UN headquarters building in Baghdad after the Canal Hotel bombing, on 22 August 2003

JTJ claimed credit for a number of attacks that targeted Iraqi forces and infrastructure, such as the October 2004 ambush and killing of 49 armed Iraqi National Guard recruits, and for a series of attacks on humanitarian aid agencies such as the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.[15] It conducted attacks against US military personnel throughout 2004,[citation needed] and audacious suicide attacks inside the high-security Green Zone perimeter in Baghdad.[16] Al-Zarqawi's men reputedly succeeded in assassinating several leading Iraqi politicians of the early post-Saddam era, and their bomb attack on the United Nations Mission's headquarters in Iraq led the UN country team to relocate to Jordan and continue their work remotely.

The group took either direct responsibility or the blame for many of the early Iraqi insurgent attacks, including the series of high-profile bombings in August 2003, which killed 17 people at the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad,[13] 23 people, including the chief of the United Nations Mission to Iraq Sérgio Vieira de Mello, at the UN headquarters in Baghdad,[13] and at least 86 people, including Ayatollah Sayed Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, in the Imam Ali Mosque bombing in Najaf,[17] and 27 people, mostly Italian paramilitary policemen, in the November 2003 truck bombing at the Italian base in Nasiriyah.[13] The attacks connected with the group in 2004 include the series of bombings in Baghdad and Karbala which killed 178 people during the holy Day of Ashura in March;[18] the failed plot in April to explode chemical bombs in Amman, Jordan, which was said to have been financed by al-Zarqawi's network;[19] a series of suicide boat bombings of the oil pumping stations in the Persian Gulf in April, for which al-Zarqawi took responsibility in a statement published by the Muntada al-Ansar Islamist website; the May car bomb assassination of Iraqi Governing Council president Ezzedine Salim at the entrance to the Green Zone in Baghdad;[20] the June suicide car bombing in Baghdad which killed 35 civilians;[21] and the September car bomb which killed 47 police recruits and civilians on Haifa Street in Baghdad.[22]

Foreign civilian hostages abducted by the group in 2004 included: Americans Nick Berg, Eugene Armstrong and Jack Hensley; Turks Durmus Kumdereli, Aytullah Gezmen and Murat Yuce; South Korean Kim Sun-il; Bulgarians Georgi Lazov and Ivaylo Kepov; and British Kenneth Bigley. Most of them were beheaded using knives. Al-Zarqawi personally beheaded Berg and Armstrong, while Yuce was shot dead by Abu Ayyub al-Masri, and Gezmen was released after "repenting."[citation needed]

Inciting sectarian violence[edit]

Alleged sectarian attacks by the organization included the Imam Ali Mosque bombing in 2003 and the 2004 Day of Ashura bombings (Ashoura massacre) and Karbala and Najaf bombings in 2004. These were precursors to a more widespread campaign of sectarian violence after the organization transitioned to become al-Qaida in Iraq,[23][24] with Al-Zarqawi purportedly declaring an all-out war on Shias[25][26] while claiming responsibility for the Shia mosque bombings.[27]



Car bombings were a common form of attack in Iraq during the Coalition occupation

JTJ took responsibility or was blamed for some of the biggest early insurgent attacks, including:

JTJ claimed credit for a number of attacks targeting Coalition and Iraqi forces, including the October 2004 massacre of 49 unarmed Iraqi National Guard recruits, and humanitarian aid agency targets such as the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.[15] The group conducted numerous attacks against U.S. military personnel[citation needed] and Iraqi infrastructure throughout 2004,[citation needed] including suicide attacks inside the Green Zone perimeter in Baghdad.[29]

Foreign hostages[edit]


US Navy Seabees in Fallujah, November 2004.

The group officially pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network in a letter in October 2004 and changed its official name to Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (تنظيم قاعدة الجهاد في بلاد الرافدين, "Organization of Jihad's Base in Mesopotamia").[2][5][6] That same month, 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.

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.[31] The group may have been linked to the little-known group called "Tawhid and Jihad in Syria",[32] and may have influenced the Palestinian resistance group in Gaza called Tawhid and Jihad Brigades.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The War between ISIS and al-Qaeda for Supremacy of the Global Jihadist Movement". Washington Institute for Near East Policy. June 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, translated by Jeffrey Pool (18 October 2004). "Zarqawi's pledge of allegiance to al-Qaeda". Jamestown Foundation. Retrieved 16 September 2014. 
  3. ^ Peter Grier, Faye Bowers (May 14, 2004). "Iraq's bin Laden? Zarqawi's rise". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2007-07-13. 
  4. ^ a b c "Guide: Armed groups in Iraq". BBC. August 15, 2006. Retrieved 2007-07-13. 
  5. ^ a b "Zarqawi pledges allegiance to Osama". Dawn. October 18, 2004. Retrieved 2007-07-13. 
  6. ^ a b "Al-Zarqawi group vows allegiance to bin Laden". MSNBC. October 18, 2004. Retrieved 2007-07-13. 
  7. ^ Gordon Corera (16 December 2004). "Unraveling Zarqawi's al-Qaeda connection". Jamestown Foundation. Retrieved 16 September 2014. 
  8. ^ Richard Boucher (15 October 2004). "Foreign Terrorist Organization: Designation of Jama'at al-Tawhid wa'al-Jihad and Aliases". United States Department of State. Archived from the original on 11 July 2007. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  9. ^ Ram, Sunil (April 2003). "The Enemy of My Enemy: The odd link between Ansar al-Islam, Iraq and Iran". The Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies. Archived from the original on 30 March 2004. Retrieved 26 July 2014. 
  10. ^ O'Toole, Pam (31 January 2003). "Mullah denies Iraq al-Qaeda link". BBC News. Retrieved 13 July 2007. 
  11. ^ a b "Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Postwar Findings About Iraq’s WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism and How They Compare with Prewar Assessments. 109th Congress, 2nd Session.". Senate Report on Pre-war Intelligence on Iraq. 8 September 2006. Retrieved 24 July 2014. (See III.G, Conclusions 5 and 6, p.109.)
  12. ^ Weiss, Michael (23 June 2014). "Trust Iran Only as Far as You Can Throw It". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h Gambill, Gary (16 December 2004). "Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi: A Biographical Sketch". Terrorism Monitor 2 (24): The Jamestown Foundation. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 30 July 2014. 
  14. ^ Abu Mohammad. "Letter dated 9 July 2005". Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Retrieved 22 July 2014.  See page 2 onwards.
  15. ^ a b "Iraq: 2004 overview". MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base. Archived from the original on 27 August 2007. Retrieved 13 July 2007. 
  16. ^ "Country Reports on Terrorism". United States Department of State. 28 April 2006. Archived from the original on 11 March 2007. Retrieved 25 July 2014. [dead link]
  17. ^ a b Bazzi, Mohamad (7 February 2005). "Zarqawi kin reportedly bombed shrine in Iraq". Newsday. Archived from the original on 1 October 2007. Retrieved 13 July 2007. 
  18. ^ a b Hunt, Emily (15 November 2005). "Zarqawi's 'Total War' on Iraqi Shiites Exposes a Divide among Sunni Jihadists". The Washington Institute. Archived from the original on 4 July 2007. Retrieved 13 July 2007. 
  19. ^ a b Leiken, Robert; Brooke, Steven (18 May 2004). "Who Is Abu Zarqawi?". The Weekly Standard. CBS News. Retrieved 13 July 2007. 
  20. ^ a b c d e f "Fast Facts: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi". Fox News. Associated Press. 8 June 2006. Retrieved 25 July 2014. 
  21. ^ a b "Car bomb kills 35 in Baghdad". CNN. 18 June 2004. Retrieved 13 July 2007. 
  22. ^ a b Cave, Peter (14 September 2004). "Car bomb kills dozens in Baghdad". ABC News. Archived from the original on 30 December 2007. Retrieved 13 July 2007. 
  23. ^ Atwan, Abdel Bari (20 March 2006). "Al Qaeda's hand in tipping Iraq toward civil war". The Christian Science Monitor. 
  24. ^ "Al Qaeda leader in Iraq 'killed by insurgents'". ABC News. 1 May 2007. 
  25. ^ "Al-Zarqawi declares war on Iraqi Shia". Al Jazeera. September 14, 2005. Retrieved October 22, 2009. 
  26. ^ "Another wave of bombings hit Iraq". International Herald Tribune. 15 September 2005. Archived from the original on 28 October 2007. [dead link]
  27. ^ Tavernise, Sabrina (17 September 2005). "20 die as insurgents in Iraq target Shiites". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 27 January 2008. 
  28. ^ Aloul, Sahar (19 December 2005). "Zarqawi handed second death penalty in Jordan". The Inquirer. Agence France-Presse. Archived from the original on 29 October 2007. 
  29. ^ "Country Reports on Terrorism". United States Department of State. April 28, 2006. Retrieved July 13, 2007. [dead link]
  30. ^ "Turkish hostage shot to death in Iraq". China Daily. August 3, 2004. Retrieved 2007-07-13. 
  31. ^ "Fatah Islam: Obscure group emerges as Lebanon's newest security threat". International Herald Tribune. Associated Press. 20 May 2007. Archived from the original on 25 May 2007. 
  32. ^ "Al-Qaida inspired militant group calls on Syrians to kill country's president". International Herald Tribune. Associated Press. 28 May 2007. Retrieved 6 August 2007. 
  33. ^ "Palestine: Reporter is dead, claims terror group". The Straits Times. 17 April 2007. Archived from the original on 15 July 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2014. 

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