Islamic State of Iraq

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This article is about the group active during the Iraq War (2003–2011) and until 2013. For the current entity it became, see Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Islamic State of Iraq
دولة العراق الإسلامية  (Arabic)
Dawlat al-ʿIrāq al-ʾIslāmiyyah

Participant in the Iraq War, the Iraqi insurgency, and the Global War on Terrorism
AQMI Flag.svg
Active 15 October 2006 – 8 April 2013 (under various names)[clarification needed][1]
Ideology Salafist Islamism[citation needed]
Salafist Jihadism[citation needed]
Takfirism[citation needed]
Anti-Shia[citation needed]
Leaders Abu Omar al-Baghdadi (2006–2010)  (KIA)
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (2010–2013)
Area of operations Iraq
Part of Al-Qaeda
Originated as al-Qaeda in Iraq
Mujahideen Shura Council Iraq logo.jpg Mujahideen Shura Council
Became  Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Opponents Multi-National Force – Iraq
Republic of Iraq
Kurdish and Shia militias
Awakening Councils
Battles and wars Iraqi insurgency (Iraq War)
Iraqi insurgency (2011–present)

The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI; Arabic: دولة العراق الإسلاميةDawlat al-ʿIrāq al-ʾIslāmiyyah) was a Sunni Islamic 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 Iraqi insurgent groups, including Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn—‘Al-Qaeda in Iraq’—and its Mujahideen Shura Council allies.[2]

In 2006–2008, during the Iraq War, ISI had military units or strongholds in Mosul and in the governorates of Baghdad, Al Anbar and Diyala, and they claimed Baqubah as their capital.

In April 2013, ISI transformed itself into Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, ISIS, IS), which is still active today.

Background[edit]

General characteristics[edit]

Formation[edit]

On 13[3] and 15 October 2006, messages on Internet in the name of Iraqi Mujahideen Shura Council consisting of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and five smaller insurgent groups declared the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) which should encompass the governorates of Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Salaheddin, Niniveh and parts of Babel and Wasit – a swathe of central and western Iraq where most Sunni Arabs live.[2] In April 2007, International Herald Tribune called ISI ‘a coalition of eight Sunni factions’.[4]

Goals[edit]

In 2003–2004, under its earlier name Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, the group had chosen as its (killing) targets Shi'ite mosques and civilians, Iraqi government institutions, and the U.S.-led Multi-National Force in Iraq. In 2005, under its name Al Qaeda in Iraq, its goals were: expelling the U.S. from Iraq; turning Iraq into a (Sunni) Islamic state or caliphate; extending this program to neighboring countries. In 2009, these were still the goals of Islamic State of Iraq.[5]

Leadership[edit]

When ISI was formed, October 2006, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi was presented as its leader[6] or emir.[3] Since July 2007, the U.S. government however considered Omar al-Baghdadi to be fictitious, invented to try to put an Iraqi face on the leadership of ISI which in reality was only a front organization of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) which was a foreign-driven network.[6]

Abu Ayyub al-Masri (an Egyptian also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir[7]), since June 2006 leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, was therefore also the real, non-fictional, leader of ISI;[8] officially, he was only the military commander,[7] and from April 2007 Minister of War,[9] of Islamic State of Iraq.

Al-Masri and (fictitious) Omar al-Baghdadi were both reported killed 18 April 2010 in a raid by Iraqi and U.S. forces.[8] On 16 May 2010, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was announced as the new leader of the Islamic State of Iraq; his deputy to be Abu Abdallah al-Husseini al-Qurashi.[7]

‘Cabinet’[edit]

In April 2007, ISI on Internet declared to have formed a ‘cabinet’ of ten ‘ministers’, under its (fictitious) leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.[9] For most of those ‘ministers’, this was the first and the last thing the world ever heard about them, with only two exceptions:

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who in May 2010 would become the new leader of ISI, was before April 2010 the general supervisor of ISI’s provincial sharia committees and a member of its senior consultative council.[11]
(For ISI management after April 2010, see also section 2010 revival ISI, new attacks.)

Funding and financing[edit]

Before 2008, according to Iraqi and U.S. spokesmen, AQI raised money through kidnappings of wealthy Iraqi people for ransom, car theft, hijacking fuel trucks, counterfeiting, raised supplies by commandeering rations and shaking down Iraqi soldiers for ammunition, and most lucratively stole oil in the region of Bayji (between Baghdad and Mosul) for the black market. The oil business yielded them $2 million a month, the other activities also brought in tens of millions of dollars.[12]

In addition, elements outside Iraq, like jihadists in Saudi Arabia and Syria, provided funding for AQI.[12]

After 2007, AQI lost considerable funding sources and popular support, U.S. authorities said in 2009.[5]

But in 2010, two Iraqi refugees in the U.S. are supposed to have planned to send money and weapons to AQI; they stood on trial for that charge, in August 2012, and one of them pleaded guilty.[13]

Structure[edit]

In 2006, Iraqis effectively ran Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in positions like security princes and brigade and battalion commanders, with foreign fighters’ roles relegated to canon fodder of suicide attacks, but the upper tiers of the organization were still dominated by non-Iraqis.[14]

In 2006, AQI was a well-oiled and bureaucratic organisation with a high degree of documentation of its activities, like pay records, death lists of opponents, verdicts and sentences on prisoners.[14]

In 2008, AQI appeared to have at least 80 execution videos, mostly beheadings, lying on the shelf that had never been distributed or released on Internet: a former al-Qaeda commander told CNN that they were used to verify the deaths to al Qaeda superiors and to justify continued funding and support.[14]

By the end of 2009, AQI was, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials, a mostly Iraqi network of small, roving cells, still relying on fighters and weapons smuggled through the Syrian border.[5]

For speculations about its later management structure, see section 2010, revival ISI.

Strength[edit]

In August 2006, ISI’s predecessor Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) (see above) had been considered by the United States as the dominant power in the Iraqi Al Anbar Governorate,[15] and Al-Qaeda in Iraq's core membership was estimated that year as "more than 1,000".[16]

In 2007, estimates of the group's strength ranged from just 850 to several thousand full-time fighters.[16][17]

Between the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in late 2011, and late 2012, al-Qaeda in Iraq more than doubled in strength, from 1,000 to 2,500 fighters.[18]

Topics 2006–2008[edit]

2006–2008 military presence or control[edit]

The Washington Post said that between 2005 and 2008 AQI came to control large parts of Iraq.[5]
Autumn 2006, AQI had taken over Baqubah, the capital of Diyala Governorate, and before March 2007 ISI claimed Baqubah as its capital.[19]
In 2006, AQI/ISI had strongholds in the Al Anbar Governorate, from Fallujah to Qaim,[20] and for some time they were the dominant power in Al Anbar, according to the U.S.[15]
In 2007, ISI seems to have had military units in the Baghdad Governorate.[21]
In 2007–2008, ISI seems to have had strongholds or at least military units in Mosul in the Ninawa Governorate.[12]

Between July and October 2007, al-Qaeda in Iraq or ISI seemed to have lost their secure military bases in Anbar province and the Baghdad area.[22]
Between April 2007 and April 2009, AQI lost considerable support, mobility and financial backing.[23]

2006–2007 attacks claimed by or attributed to AQI/ISI[edit]

The 23 November 2006 Sadr City bombings, killing 215 people, were blamed by the U.S. on Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).[24]

In February and on 16 and 27 March 2007, lethal attacks on Sunni Iraqi targets took place that were not claimed, but that either Western observers or Iraqi rivals blamed on AQI/ISI (see section 2007 conflicts with Sunni and nationalist Iraqi groups).

The 23 March 2007 assassination attempt on Sunni Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq Salam al-Zaubai was claimed by ISI: “We tell the traitors of al-Maliki’s infidel government, wait for what will destroy you”.[25]

The 12 April 2007 Iraqi Parliament bombing was reportedly also claimed by ISI.[26]

In May 2007, Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for an attack on a US military post that cost the live of seven Americans.

The 25 June 2007 suicide bombing of a meeting of Al Anbar tribal leaders and officials at Mansour Hotel, Baghdad, killing 13 people, including six Sunni sheikhs and other prominent figures,[27] was claimed by ISI who in a statement on Internet said this attack was revenge for raping a girl by “members of the apostate police force at Anbar”.[28] Security at the hotel, which is 100 meters outside the Green Zone, was provided by a British contractor.[29]

For the August 2007 Yazidi communities bombings, which killed some 800 people, U.S. military and government sources named al-Qaeda as the “prime suspect”, but there was no claim of responsibility for those attacks.

On 13 September 2007, ISI killed Sunni sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, and on 25 September, another lethal attack on Sunni as well as Shiite leaders was blamed on ISI (for both, see section 2007 conflicts with Sunni and nationalist Iraqi groups).

ISI expelling Christians[edit]

After in autumn 2004 Sunni militants had bombed churches and kidnapped Christians in Dora, a district in Baghdad, and U.S. military in autumn 2006 had ‘cleared’ Dora, Sunni militants tied to Al Qaeda in Iraq in late 2006 quickly reestablished themselves in Dora and began harassing Christians.[30] By January 2007, ISI proclamations appeared on walls in Dora and leaflets were circulated: women should wear veils; shorts and cellphones were prohibited.[30] Christians were given the choice: either pay a tax, or become a Muslim, or leave the district. By May 2007, 500 Christian families had indeed left Dora.[30]
Continued Christian assailing would appear in ISI’s 2010 Baghdad church massacre.
For continued persecution of (Christian) Assyrians in 2014 by ISIL, see: Persecution of Assyrians by ISIL.

Defying Iran[edit]

In July 2007, ISI’s supposed leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi threatened Iran with war: "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.[31]

2007 conflicts with Sunni and nationalist Iraqi groups[edit]

See also: Sons of Iraq

(See preceding events in: Conflicts between Al Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni Iraqi groups, 2005–2006.)
By the beginning of 2007, Sunni tribes and nationalist insurgents were still battling with AQI trying to retake control of Sunni communities,[32] and some Sunni groups agreed to fight Al Qaeda in exchange for American arms, ammunition, cash, pick-up trucks, fuel and supplies (see also section 2007 U.S. arming militias against AQI).[33][34]

Sometime February 2007, a truck bomb exploded near a mosque near Fallujah where the imam had criticised AQI, and killed 35 people—the BBC suggested, this attack may have been a retaliation from AQI.[35] 16 March 2007, three attacks near Fallujah and Ramadi (50 km west of Fallujah) killed eight people: a BBC correspondent assumed two of those attacks to have been targeting tribal leaders who had spoken out against AQI.[35]

27 March 2007, the leader of Sunni Arab insurgent group 1920 Revolution Brigades was killed. An official of the group blamed AQI for the attack, but did not say how he arrived at that conclusion. The 1920 Revolution Brigades had for some time been rumored to have taken part in secret talks with American and Iraqi officials who tried to draw Sunni groups away from AQI.[36]

Around 10 April 2007,[4] a spokesman of Islamic Army in Iraq (IAI), a significant Sunni Arab insurgent group fighting Iraqi and U.S. forces,[37] on television accused AQI of killing 30[38] members of his group,[4] and also members of the Army of the Mujahideen and of the Ansar Al-Sunna resistance group,[38] and called on AQI to review its behaviour: “Killing Sunnis has become a legitimate target for them, especially rich ones. Either they pay them what they want or they kill them”, their statement said; “They would kill any critic or whoever tries to show them their mistakes. Assaulting people’s homes became permitted and calling people infidels became popular”.[37] In reaction, leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi of Islamic State of Iraq on 17 April released a 42-minute audiotape, saying: “To my sons of the Islamic Army (…) We swear to you we don’t shed the protected blood of Muslims intentionally”, and, calling for unity: “One group is essential to accomplish victory”.[4]

The first week of June 2007, in several Baghdad neighborhoods, AQI fighters exchanged heavy fire with Sunni insurgents, including some of Islamic Army in Iraq (IAI).[39] 6 June 2007, Islamic Army in Iraq “reached an agreement with al-Qaeda in Iraq, leading to an immediate cessation of all military operations between the two sides”, as the IAI statement on some jihadist website said. An IAI commander explained to TIME: IAI and ISI still disagree on some things, but “the most important thing is that it’s our common duty to fight the Americans”.[39]

ISI on 14 September 2007 claimed responsibility for the killing of Sunni sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha the previous day, leader of the Anbar Salvation Council that cooperated with U.S. to push al Qaeda out of Anbar Province, and vowed to assassinate more tribal leaders who cooperate with U.S. and Iraqi government forces.[40]

On 23 September 2007, ‘Islamic State of Iraq’ in a statement accused Hamas of Iraq and the 1920 Revolution Brigades of killing numerous Al-Qaeda-recruited fighters. On 25 September, a bomb in a Shiite mosque in the city of Baqubah, during a meeting between tribal, police and guerilla leaders, killed the leaders of Hamas of Iraq and the 1920 Revolution Brigades and other leaders: local reports said the attack was the work of ISI.[41]

U.S.' rhetorical focusing on “al Qaeda (in Iraq)”[edit]

During 2007, US authorities and President George W. Bush strongly emphasized the role of “Al Qaeda (in Iraq)” in violence, insurgency and attacks on U.S. troops, and the threat of them acquiring ‘real power’ in Iraq.[42][43] While some 30 groups now claimed responsibility for attacks on U.S. troops and on Iraqi government targets, U.S. military authorities mentioned the name ‘al-Qaida (in Iraq)’ 51 times against only five mentionings of specific other groups, in an examined period in May 2007.[42] Observers and scholars (like U.S. Middle East specialist Steven Simon,[42] U.S. terrorism analyst Lydia Khalil,[42] Anthony H. Cordesman of the U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies[43]) suggested that the role played by AQI in violence, insurgency and attacks on U.S. troops was being unduly stressed.

In March 2007, the US-sponsored Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty analyzed attacks in Iraq in that month and concluded that AQI 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.[16] According to National Intelligence Estimate and Defense Intelligence Agency reports in July 2007, AQI accounted for 15% percent of the attacks in Iraq. 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.[16][44]

At a press conference, 29 December 2007, U.S. General David Petraeus again said that “the vast majority” of attacks in Iraq are still carried out by AQI.[32]

2007 U.S. arming militias against AQI[edit]

See also: Sons of Iraq

Starting early in 2007 in Anbar Province, according to American commanders and officials, Sunni groups in several Iraqi provinces, that had grown disillusioned with ‘Al Qaeda (in Mesopotamia)’ tactics like suicide bombings killing thousands of Iraqi civilians, had agreed to fight Al Qaeda in exchange for American arms, ammunition, cash, pick-up trucks, fuel and supplies, and in some cases had agreed to alert American troops on locations of roadside bombs and booby traps.[33][34] Apparently, this practice of negotiating arms deals with “Sunni insurgents” was approved of by the US high command in June 2007.[34]

By December 2007, the so-called “Awakening movement” (see also Conflicts between Al Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni Iraqi groups, 2005–2006), a Sunni Arab force paid by the American military to fight ‘Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia’, started in Anbar Province but spread over all Iraq, had grown to 65,000–80,000 fighters.[45] Iraqi government and Shiites expressed their worry that this would lead to tens of thousands of armed Sunnis in hardly controlled tribal ‘Awakening groups’, exciting Shiite militias to grow too, finally leading to civil war.[45]

2007 U.S. and others fighting AQI/ISI[edit]

US Marines in Ramadi, May 2006, conducting a snap vehicle checkpoint patrol to disrupt insurgent activity

In January 2007, U.S. President George W. Bush ordered an extra 20,000 soldiers into Iraq (‘the surge’), most into Baghdad and Al Anbar Governorate, to help provide security and support reconciliation between communities, and motivated that decision predominantly by pointing at “outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis” by “Al Qaeda terrorists”.[46]

31 May 2007, in Baghdad’s Amariyah district,, at 11 a.m., gunmen—identified as al-Qaida by residents—shooted randomly in the air, claiming through loudspeakers that Amariyah was under control of Islamic State of Iraq. Armed residents are said to have resisted, set al-Qaida men’s cars on fire, and called the Americans for help; the Americans came in the afternoon, and “it got quiet for a while”, as a resident said.[21]

Between March and August 2007, U.S. and Iraqi government forces fought the Battle of Baqubah in the Diyala Governorate against AQI, "to eliminate Al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists operating in Baqubah and its surrounding areas",[47] resulting in 227 AQI fighters being killed and 100 arrested, 31 U.S. and 12 Iraqi soldiers being killed. While in July 7,000 U.S. troops and 2,500 Iraqi troops were fighting AQI/ISI in that battle, the U.S. army admitted that 80 percent of AQI leaders had fled the area.[48]

The U.S. Iraq War troop surge of 2007 (see above) went into full effect in June 2007, and supplied the military with more manpower for operations targeting Islamic State of Iraq. In July, 19 senior ‘al Qaeda in Iraq’ operatives were killed or captured by U.S. and Iraqi Security Forces; in August 25; in September 29; in October 45, said U.S. Colonel Donald Bacon.[49]

By October 2007, U.S. military believed to have dealt devastating, perhaps irreversible, blows to AQI. But a senior intelligence official advised against a declaration of victory over the group, because, he said, AQI retains the ability for surprise and for catastrophic attacks.[22]

2008 U.S. and others fighting AQI/ISI[edit]

In Operation Phantom Phoenix, January–July 2008, the multi-national force in Iraq attempted to hunt down the last 200 Al-Qaeda extremists in the eastern Diyala Governorate, which resulted in 900 (non-descript) ‘insurgents’ being killed and 2,500 captured, and 59 U.S., 776 Iraqi, three Georgian and one UK soldiers killed.

By May 2008, according to Newsweek, US and Iraqi military offensives had driven AQI from Al Anbar and Diyala Provinces, leaving AQI holed up in and around the northern city of Mosul.[12]

US soldiers and Sunni Arab tribesmen scan for enemy activity in a farm field in southern Arab Jibor, January 2008

The effect of the U.S. Iraq War troop surge of 2007 (see above), between June 2007 and January 2009, together with creating American-funded Sunni groups fighting AQI (see section 2007 U.S. arming militias against AQI), was—according to The Washington Post—that ‘scores of AQI leaders’ were killed or detained.[50]

Topics 2009–2010[edit]

2009 attacks (possibly) by ISI/AQI; revival[edit]

3 January 2009, a suicide bomb attack in Yusufiyah, 25 miles from Baghdad, killed 23 people; The Christian Science Monitor suggested the hand of AQI, but presented no evidence. A local Sons of Iraq spokesman said: “There are still some tribes who are trying to hide AQI members”.[51]

After the Iraqi provincial elections in January 2009, AQI offered an olive branch to other Sunni extremist groups, and even extended “a hand of forgiveness” to those who had worked with the Americans.[50] Some Sunni groups responded positively to this invitation.[50]

Beginning of April 2009, ‘Sunni insurgent groups’ warned that they would step up attacks against U.S. troops and Iraq’s Shiite-led government.[23] Between 7 and 22 April, 10 bomb attacks killed 74 people.[52] Two more suicide attacks on 23 April 2009, with 76 deaths, were without evidence attributed to ‘AQI-affiliated’ groups. Some more unclaimed suicide bombings in April brought the number of Iraqis killed in bombings that month on 350.[53]

In the 20 June 2009 Taza bombing near a mosque, 73 Shias were killed; Western media, like Reuters, hinted at “…Sunni Islamist insurgents, including al Qaeda…”.[54]

On 19 August 2009, three car bombs exploded in Baghdad, targeting the Iraqi Finance and Foreign Ministries, a hotel and a commercial district, killing 101 and injuring 563 people. The attacks were claimed, two months later, by Islamic State of Iraq, calling the targets “dens of infidelity”.[55]

The 25 October 2009 twin bombings again targeting Iraqi government buildings in Baghdad killed 155 people and injured 721,[56] and were also claimed by Islamic State of Iraq, calling the targets “dens of infidelity”.[55]

In November 2009, Islamic State of Iraq issued another plea on Internet (see also January), calling for Sunnis to rally around a common end goal.[50] Iraqi (Shi'ite) Prime Minister Nouri al-Malikiinstalled December 2006—assumed in November 2009 that Al Qaeda in Iraq and former Ba'athists together tried to undermine security and elections of January 2010.[57]

8 December 2009, ISI committed five bomb attacks in Baghdad targeting government buildings and a police patrol, killing 127 people and injuring 448 more. ISI declared the targets “headquarters of evil, nests of unbelief”.[58]

2010 revival ISI, new attacks[edit]

After on 18 April 2010 Abu Ayyub al-Masri, leader of AQI, and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, leader of Islamic State of Iraq, had been killed in a joint US-Iraqi raid near Tikrit,[8] on 16 May 2010 Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was announced to be the new leader of the Islamic State of Iraq; his deputy would be Abu Abdallah al-Husseini al-Qurashi.[7]

Leader Bakr al-Baghdadi —according to The New York Times—had a preference for former Ba'ath Party military and intelligence officers who had served during the Hussein regime who knew how to fight[59] as his deputies, and built a management structure of those, mostly middle-aged, Hussein-era Iraqi officers overseeing departments of finance, arms, local governance, military operations and recruitment.[60] These leaders added terrorist techniques, refined through years of fighting American troops, to their traditional military skill, and so made ISI a hybrid of terrorists and army.[60] Analysts believe, a Hussein-era officer, known as Hajji Bakr, was appointed as military commander of ISI, heading a military council including three other former Hussein-regime officers.[59]

13 June 2010, suicide bombers disguised in military uniforms attacked the Central Bank of Iraq, killing 18 people and wounding 55. 16 June, ISI in a message on the Hanein jihadist forum claimed the attack.[61]

17 August 2010, ISI executed a suicide bomb attack on army recruits queuing outside a recruiting centre in Baghdad, killing 60 people. 19 or 20 August, ISI claimed the attack, saying it targeted “a group of Shias and apostates who sold their faith for money and to be a tool in the war on Iraqi Sunnis”.[62]

On 31 October 2010, members of ISI attacked Our Lady of Salvation Syrian Catholic church in Baghdad with the purpose to kill Christians—purportedly in revenge for an American Christian burning of the Qur'an that hadn’t actually happened yet. 58 worshippers, priests, policemen and bystanders got killed, many badly wounded. This attack can be seen as reprisal of the 2004 Iraq churches attacks blamed on the future leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and continuation of the Christian-expulsion taken up by ISI early 2007 (see section ISI expelling Christians).

2009–2010 U.S. and others fighting ISI/AQI[edit]

In May 2009, Iraqi officials said they again needed U.S. troops support in Diyala Governorate, because of suicide bomb attacks.[53]

18 April 2010, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, leader of AQI, and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, presumably fictitious leader of Islamic State of Iraq, were killed in a joint US-Iraqi raid near Tikrit.[8]

In June 2010, while the U.S. had 88,000 soldiers on Iraqi soil down from an earlier 175,000, US commander General Ray Odierno said that 34 of 42 top leaders of AQI had been killed or captured, not specifying the period in which that had happened, and proudly announced that AQI had “lost connection” with its leadership in Pakistan and would have difficulties in recruiting, finding new leaders, establishing havens, or challenging the Iraqi government.[63][64][65]

In November 2010, 12 suspects, including Huthaifa al-Batawi, al-Qaeda (in Iraq)’s "Emir of Baghdad", were arrested in connection with the 31 October 2010 assault on Our Lady of Salvation Syrian Catholic church in Baghdad.
Batawi was locked up in a counter-terrorism jail complex in Baghdad’s Karrada district. During an attempt to escape in May 2011, Batawi and 10 other senior al-Qaeda militants were killed by an Iraqi SWAT team.[66][67]

Topics 2011–2013[edit]

Revival ISI/ISIL in Iraq[edit]

According to the United States Department of State, AQI operated in 2011 predominantly in Iraq but it also attacked in Jordan, and it maintained a logistical network throughout the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and Europe.[68]

In a speech on Internet on 22 July 2012, Al-Baghdadi announced a return of ISI to Iraqi strongholds they had been driven from by U.S. forces and allied militias in 2007 and 2008 (see section 2007–2008, U.S. and others fighting AQI/ISI), and a campaign to free imprisoned AQI members, and urged Iraqi tribal leaders to send their sons “to join the ranks of the mujahideen (fighters) in defense of your religion and honor … The majority of the Sunnis in Iraq support al-Qaida and are waiting for its return”.[69] In that speech, Baghdadi also predicted a wave of 40 attacks across Iraq the next day,[70] in which 100 were killed and 300 wounded.[citation needed]

Between July 2012 and July 2013, ISI (renamed on 8 April 2013 as "Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham"[71]) carried out 24 waves of car bomb attacks and eight prison breaks in Iraq.[72] In 2013, Sunni militants like ISI/ISIL regained momentum in their fight against Iraq’s supposedly Shi'ite government. The Sunni minority increasingly resented Shi'ite domination, insurgents regrouped, carried out many violent attacks, and drew new Sunni recruits.[73]

Expansion into Syria[edit]

In August 2011, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and al Qaeda’s central command authorized the Syrian Abu Mohammad al-Golani to set up a Syrian offshoot of al Qaeda, to bring down the Syrian Assad regime and establish an Islamic state there. Golani with some colleagues snuck over the border into Syria, and reached out to cells of men released since May–June 2011 from the Syrian Sednaya military prison already active in armed battle against Assad’s security forces, and to others. Golani’s group on 23 January 2012 formally announced itself under the name " Jabhat al-Nusra l’Ahl as-Sham " (Support Front for the People of the Sham).[71][74]

On 22 July 2012, Al-Baghdadi placed a 33-minute speech on Internet, mostly devoted to the Syrian uprising or civil war: “Our people there have fired the coup the grace at the terror that grasped the nation [Syria] for decades … and taught the world lessons of courage and jihad and proved that injustice could only be removed by force”, he said.[69]

The second half of 2012, Jabhat al-Nusra stood out among the array of armed groups emerging in Syria as a disciplined and effective fighting force.[71]

In December 2012, the U.S. designated Nusra a terrorist organization and an alias of al Qaeda in Iraq.[71] By January 2013, Nusra was a formidable force with strong popular support in Syria.[71] On 8 April 2013, ISI-leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced—what had never been made public—that he had once spawned Jabhat al-Nusra and was now merging them with ISI again into one group, "Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham" (ISIL or ISIS), under his command.[71][75] Golani rejected the merger. Nusra split up. Some fighters, especially the foreign fighters (muhajiroon), followed Baghdadi’s edict and joined ISIL, others stayed with Golani.[71]

Poking up Egypt[edit]

On 8 February 2011, when the Egyptian protests—which would end in revolution—ran in their 15th consecutive day, ISI called on Egyptian protesters to wage jihad and strive for truly Islamic government: “The market of jihad (has opened) … the doors of martyrdom have opened … (Egyptians must ignore the) ignorant deceiving ways of rotten pagan nationalism … Your jihad is for every Muslim touched by oppression of the tyrant of Egypt and his masters in Washington and Tel Aviv”.[76]

2011 U.S. interfering[edit]

On 4 October 2011, the United States Department of State listed ISI leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and announced a reward of US$10 million for information leading to his capture or death.[77]

Changing name to ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant‘[edit]

On 8 April 2013, having expanded into Syria (see above), ISI adopted the name "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL), also known as "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" or "Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)."[75][78][79]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b Stephen Negus: "Call for Sunni state in Iraq". ft.com, 15 October 2006. Retrieved 15 January 2015. (Free) registration required.
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