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AL-QA’IDA IN IRAQ

 

aka al-Qa’ida Group of Jihad in Iraq; al-Qa’ida Group of Jihad in the Land of the Two Rivers; al-Qa’ida in Mesopotamia; al-Qa’ida in the Land of the Two Rivers; al-Qa’ida of Jihad in Iraq; al-Qa’ida of Jihad Organization in the Land of The Two Rivers; al-Qa’ida of the Jihad in the Land of the Two Rivers; al-Tawhid; Jam'at al-Tawhid Wa’al-Jihad; Tanzeem Qa’idat al Jihad/Bilad al Raafidaini; Tanzim Qa’idat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn; The Monotheism and Jihad Group; The Organization Base of Jihad/Country of the Two Rivers; The Organization Base of Jihad/Mesopotamia; The Organization of al-Jihad’s Base in Iraq; The Organization of al-Jihad’s Base in the Land of the Two Rivers; The Organization of al-Jihad’s Base of Operations in Iraq; The Organization of al-Jihad’s Base of Operations in the Land of the Two Rivers; The Organization of Jihad’s Base in the Country of the Two Rivers; al-Zarqawi Network; Islamic State of Iraq; al-Nusrah Front; Jabhat al-Nusrah; Jabhet al-Nusrah; The Victory Front; al-Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant

Description: Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on December 17, 2004. In the 1990s, Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born militant, organized a terrorist group called al-Tawhid wal-Jihad to oppose the presence of U.S. and Western military forces in the Islamic world and the West's support for and the existence of Israel. In late 2004, he joined al-Qa’ida (AQ) and pledged allegiance to Usama bin Laden. After this, al-Tawhid wal-Jihad became known as AQI. Zarqawi traveled to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom and led his group against U.S. and Coalition Forces until his death in June 2006. In October 2006, AQI publicly re-named itself the Islamic State of Iraq and has since used that name in its public statements. In 2012, AQI was led by Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri, aka Abu Du’a, who was designated by the Department of State under Executive Order 13224 on October 4.

Since late 2011, AQI has also participated in the Syrian conflict through its alias, al-Nusrah Front, which has sought to portray itself as part of the legitimate Syrian opposition. A number of al-Nusrah Front’s leaders have been members of AQI and its facilitation network that operated in Syria and Iraq from 2004-2011. [In mid-April 2013, al-Nusrah leader Muhammad al-Jawlani publicly pledged al-Nusrah’s fealty to AQ and its leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri.] Al-Nusrah works with other U.S. designated terrorist organizations, such as Lebanon based Fatah al-Islam. Al-Nusrah Front’s base of operations is probably Damascus, but the group mirrors the organizational structure of AQI in Iraq, with regional military, administrative, and local media efforts. On December 11, the Department of State amended AQI’s designation to include al-Nusrah Front as an alias.

Activities: Since its founding, AQI has conducted high profile attacks, including improvised explosive device (IED) attacks against U.S. military personnel and Iraqi infrastructure; videotaped beheadings of Americans Nicholas Berg (May 11, 2004), Jack Armstrong (September 22, 2004), and Jack Hensley (September 21, 2004); suicide bomber attacks against both military and civilian targets; and rocket attacks. AQI perpetrates the majority of suicide and mass casualty bombings in Iraq using foreign and Iraqi operatives.

Since November 2011, al-Nusrah Front has claimed nearly 600 attacks, ranging from more than 40 suicide attacks to small arms and IED operations in major city centers including Damascus, Aleppo, Hamah, Dara, Homs, Idlib, and Dayr al-Zawr. For example, on September 28, 2012, al-Nusrah Front claimed responsibility for two suicide car bombs at a military complex in Damascus that killed four and wounded 14, including civilians. On October 3, 2012, the group claimed responsibility for four bombings in Aleppo, including two suicide attacks that killed more than 50 people. Al-Nusrah Front followed up those attacks with an October 9 suicide bomb attack on a Syrian Air Force Intelligence compound in a Damascus suburb that killed and wounded at least 100, including civilians.

AQI was also active in Iraq in 2012. In a series of coordinated attacks in March, AQI struck Shia pilgrims in the city of Karbala, set cars on fire near a police headquarters in Kirkuk, and targeted security forces and government officials in Baghdad. In all, AQI struck eight cities in just under six hours, killing 46 people and wounding 200. July was the bloodiest month of AQI attacks in two years, with 325 people killed over the span of multiple bombings and attacks. In August, the Islamic State of Iraq, AQI’s political front, released a video detailing a sophisticated attack in March on five locations in Haditha and neighboring Barwana that included dozens of fighters dressed as police commandos. During the raid, AQI fighters killed 27 Iraqi policemen, including two police commanders. In November, at least 166 Iraqi civilians, police, and soldiers were killed in violence across the country, according to the Government of Iraq.

Strength: In Iraq, membership is estimated between 1,000 and 2,000, making it the largest Sunni extremist group in Iraq. Membership in Syria is unknown, though it is likely a small force within the larger Syrian armed opposition.

Location/Area of Operation: AQI’s operations are predominately Iraq-based, but it has perpetrated attacks in Jordan. In Syria, al-Nusrah Front has claimed attacks in several major city centers. The group maintains a logistical network throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Iran, South Asia, and Europe.

Funding and External AidAQI receives most of its funding from a variety of businesses and criminal activities within Iraq.