IEDs prepared for terrorist attacks by operatives belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq, a loose umbrella organization of radical Islamic organizations, the main of which is Al-Qaeda (Islamic forum website, May 17, 2010)1
New Al-Qaeda leaders appointed
1. On April 18, 2010, two senior Al-Qaeda leaders, Abu Umar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri, were killed in a joint American-Iraqi operation.2 On May 15, more than a month after they were killed, an umbrella organization called the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) announced the appointment of two senior commanders to replace the killed leaders.
2. The ISI published an announcement on online Islamic forums according to which the supreme council (majles shura) of the organization chose Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Husseini al-Qarshi for leader of ISI3 instead of Abu Umar al-Baghdadi. Abu Abdallah al-Husni al-Qarshi4 was appointed Al-Baghdadi’s senior deputy. The announcement noted that "We [ISI] ask Allah to help them make the right decisions, to provide them with loyal supporters, call them to follow the path of righteousness and to avoid sin”. It was also reported that two days later (May 17, 2010) a pledge of allegiance (bay’ah) to the new leader took place.5
3. In addition to the appointment of the two new leaders, ISI announced (May 13, 2010) a new "warlord" (wazir harb in Arabic) named Al-Nasser li-Din Allah Abu Suleiman. The new warlord replaced Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the former Al-Qaeda commander in Iraq (one of the two senior leaders killed on April 19). As soon as he entered office, the new warlord announced on Islamic forums an all-out attack on Iraqi security forces due to the arrest of many members of the organization and due to their part in the killing of Al-Baghdadi and Al-Ayyubi, and the continuation of operations against the US forces in Iraq.6
4. An article published in the London-based Al-Hayat on May 16, 2010, based on a source defined as reliable, notes that the new warlord is an Al-Qaeda operative of Moroccan descent, who has a Syrian passport (which may be forged). He trained in Afghanistan, acquired knowledge from the senior assistants of Osama Bin Laden, and is known for his extremism. The new warlord entered Iraq only twice: in 2006 he stayed in Iraq for two months during which he perpetrated several terrorist attacks. He came to Iraq again in 2007 and stayed for several months. He entered Iraq through the Syrian border. The article says that the new warlord speaks French and Russian, because he studied in a Russian college. He also speaks Persian.
5. According to the article in Al-Hayat, the new warlord intends to focus on sectarian warfare (meaning against the Shi'ites). The source of the article said that it is natural that the new warlord and his men are located in the region of Al-Anbar (west of Baghdad, a region considered to be the Al-Qaeda stronghold in Iraq). The article also notes that in messages published on Islamic forums in recent days, ISI claimed responsibility for attacks on Iraqi security forces' positions as revenge for the killing of the two organization leaders, and that according to the messages, it was the new warlord who had led the attacks. When asked about the identity of the new warlord, "an Iraqi security source" refused to comment but noted that the organization (ISI) uses a similar tactic to the one it used in the past, that is, appointing a person of Arab descent who is close to the Al-Qaeda organization in Afghanistan and to Al-Qaeda leaders, Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.7
Series of deadly terrorist attacks perpetrated by Al-Qaeda in Iraq
Group photo of ISI operatives
(from an Islamic forum, February 18, 2010)8
Poster of the World Islamic Media Front, Al-Qaeda's propaganda body, published on Maktub, an Islamic forum website (April 18, 2008). The poster says: "The state of Islam [i.e., ISI] remains [standing], for it was built on the skulls of the crusaders and the infidels".
6. On May 10, 2010, Al-Qaeda in Iraq perpetrated a series of attacks against Shi'ite targets and Iraqi security forces, in different cities in Iraq. Over one hundred people were killed and at least 300 were injured in the attacks. The attacks were probably a retaliation for the killing of the two leaders about three weeks prior to that, in an effort to show Al-Qaeda's resolve and recovery after the blows it suffered.
7. The deadliest terrorist attacks took place in the Shi'ite city of Hila in southern Iraq, where two car bombs blew up on a crowded street. The number of dead reached 45. Three car bombs blew up in the predominantly Shi'ite city of Basra, killing about 20 people. In the morning of the same day, six roadblocks of the Iraqi police in Baghdad were attacked, killing about ten Iraqi policemen. Less deadly terrorist attacks took place in other cities on the same day.
8. No organization claimed responsibility for the attacks; however, the Iraqi government blamed Al-Qaeda.9 Messages on Islamic forums said that the new warlord of ISI was the one who had led the attacks on the Iraqi security forces as revenge for the deaths
of the two organization leaders.10
Summary and assessment
9. The new appointments of Al-Qaeda leaders and the series of deadly terrorist attacks demonstrate, in our assessment, Al-Qaeda's ability to make a relatively quick recovery from the blow it suffered when two of its leaders were killed. Choosing Shi'ite citizens and Iraqi security forces as targets for the attacks indicates that Al-Qaeda is making efforts to destabilize the internal situation in Iraq. In doing so, it seeks to create difficulties for the new Iraqi administration and the US forces, and to prove Al-Qaeda's firm stand despite the blows that it suffered.
2 For details, see our May 9 Information Bulletin: "The killing of two Al-Qaeda leaders in Iraq and its implications".
3 An Arabic nickname of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is amir al-mu’minin, i.e., the head of the believers.
4 In Arabic, wazir awwal, i.e., the first minister, a prime minister of sorts.
5 Reuters, May 16, 2010, https://www.siteintelgroup.com/Pages/Default.aspx, May 17, 2010. http://www.aawsat.com/details.asp?section=4&issueno=11493&article=569876, May 17, 2010.
6 Reuters, May 16, 2010. http://www.muslm.net/vb/showthread.php?p=2544007, May 15, 2010. https://www.siteintelgroup.com/Pages/Default.aspx, May 13, 2010. http://www.aawsat.com/details.asp?section=4&issueno=11493&article=569876, May 17, 2010. http://www.alriyadh.com/2010/05/15/article525712.html.
9 http://www.news-israel.net/Article.asp?Code=20862, http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART2/105/314.html