Inquiry and Analysis Series - No. 231
July 1, 2005 No.231
'The Sheikh of the Slaughterers': Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi and the Al-Qa'ida Connection
By: Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli*
after the occupation of
paper explores Al-Zarqawi's words and actions and his
linkage with al-Qa'ida under the leadership of Osama
bin Laden. Al-Zarqawi initially operated
independently of al-Qa'ida. But recently, bin Laden named
him the Amir, or commander, of Al-Qa'ida
the groups currently involved in
Murdering the leaders of the country and members of the security forces and terrorizing innocent civilians
Destroying the infrastructure and delaying reconstruction
report focuses on Al-Zarqawi's biographical
background including his terrorist activities in
Background – The Life of Al-Zarqawi
The London daily Al-Hayat recently published a three-part study of the Salafi Jihad movement in Jordan, authored by the daily's correspondent Hazem Al-Amin.Thanks to that study's particular focus on the city of Al-Zarqaa, the birthplace of Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, much is now known about Al-Zarqawi's earlier life and background. 
Al-Zarqawi – birth name, Ahmad Fadhil
Nazzal Al-Khalayla – was
born in 1966 into the Abu Al-Hassan tribe He spent
his formative years in the poor section of Al-Zarqaa
known as the Al-Ma'ssoum Quarter before moving, as a
teenager, to the New Al-Zarqaa Quarter. He was forced
to leave secondary school to assist his family. He is said to have seven
sisters and two brothers. His father practiced traditional medicine.  Al-Zarqawi's two families (two wives and their respective
children) are alleged to be in
Most accounts of the young Al-Zarqawi refer to his drinking habits and his inclination to engage in brawls, particularly when inebriated. In his 20s, impressed by the stories about the Jihad in Afghanistan, Al-Zarqawi began to show signs of religiosity, and in 1989, at the age of 23, he and a number of friends traveled to Afghanistan but arrived too late to participate in the Jihad against the Russians. To quote the Iraqi daily Al-Mada, Al-Zarqawi has transformed himself from extreme depravity to extreme Islamism. 
The Influence of the Muslim Brotherhood
to Al-Hayat, the events of September 1970 in
But it was the Salafi element of the Muslim Brotherhood known as "the Qutbis" named after the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Sayyid Qutb, author of the book Ma'alim 'ala al-tariq (Milestones on the Road), who provided the spiritual and ideological underpinnings for the Salafi movement.
head of the Muslim Brotherhood in
Impact of the
the defeat of Saddam and the liberation of
the returnees from
Al-Maqdisi went to
Despite close monitoring by the Jordanian intelligence services, supporters of the Salafi Jihad movement and of Al-Zarqawi gathered in Al-Zarqaa regularly to express their desire to join the fields of Jihad – if only the opportunity would present itself. Most of them were bearded and the length of their beard was in accordance with the Shari'a (Islamic law) – longer than the grasp of one's hand.
Al-Zarqawi's Imprisonment and Emergence as Amir
one of the most prominent of the clandestine organizations established in
Al-Hayat cites a man called Abu Othman who was in prison at the time Al-Maqdisi and Al-Zarqawi were incarcerated. According to him, Al-Maqdisi's personality was kind, gentle and non-confrontational. By contrast, Al-Zarqawi showed strength and toughness, in addition to being confrontational. Abu Othmam added that the tribal personality of Abu Mus'ab made it possible for him to extract oaths of allegiance (mubaya'a) from others within the prison. The youths surrounding him in prison, who were Jihad fighters, accepted Al-Zarqawi as Amir or commander because of his strength and determination, and the perception that he was a man of action; in contrast, Al-Maqdisi was perceived as the scholar. For this reason, Al-Maqdisi surrendered the Imara ("emirate") over the group to Al-Zarqawi in 1996. Under the rule of the Imara, the master, Al-Maqdisi, was obliged to receive the orders of his former student, Al-Zarqawi.
1999, Al-Zarqawi and many of his cohorts received a
royal amnesty, and shortly afterwards he traveled to
many of the Jihad fighters who went to
is not known when or by what means Al-Zarqawi entered
Provoking the Iraqi Shi'a to Civil War
From the September 2003 assassination of Ayatollah Al-Hakim to the present day, Al-Zarqawi has exerted all efforts, in word and action, to provoke the Shi'a of Iraq to retaliate against the Sunnis, thereby plunging the country into a civil war. Such a war could enhance his status as defender of the Sunnis.
Al-Zarqawi adheres to the strictest version of Islam -
a letter written in Arabic which was discovered on a CD, apparently by the
According to Al-Zarqawi, the Shi'a are "the most evil of mankind." They are "the lurking snake, the crafty and malicious scorpion, the spying enemy, and the penetrating venom." They have been "a sect of treachery and betrayal throughout history." Echoing the fourteenth century Sheikh ibn Taymiyya, whose writings are considered the fountainhead of Wahhabism and Salafi Islam, Al-Zarqawi says: "Beware of [the Shi'a]. Fight them. By God, they lie." Reflecting the common Wahhabi doctrine, he delivers the ultimate blow: "Shi'ism is a religion that has nothing in common with Islam except in the way that Jews have something in common with Christians under the banner of the People of the Book." Their crime is "patent polytheism, worshipping at graves, and circumambulating shrines."
Quoting the major Islamic figure Al-Bukhari, who in the 9th century compiled the most authoritative collection of traditions of the Prophet Muhammad's sayings and deeds (Hadith), Al-Zarqawi wrote, "Not in the house [of prayer] have I prayed behind a Shi'i or behind Jews or Christians. They [Shi'a] are not to be greeted. They are not to be congratulated on holidays. They are not to be taken in marriage. They cannot bear witness. The animals they slaughter are not to be eaten."
In the same letter, Al-Zarqawi divided Iraqis into several categories of enemies:
Kurds: Criticized as paying tribute to the Americans and providing them with logistical support. They are "a thorn whose time to be clipped has yet to come."
Rafidha, or "renegades" (a euphemism for Shi'a): Described as blasphemous for worshipping graves and deserting the Companions of the Prophet. When the Saddam regime collapsed, the Rafidha displayed their pent-up hatred of Sunnis by dominating the government's vital security, military and economic establishments and dismissing Sunni technocrats and intellectuals.
Soldiers and police: The eyes, ears and hands of the occupier, through which he sees, hears, and delivers violent blows. "Allah willing," wrote Al-Zarqawi, "we are determined to target them strongly in the coming period…"
Clerics and sheiks: Mostly hypocrite Sufis falsely calling for Jihad.
Americans: "The most cowardly of God's creatures."
Al-Zarqawi did not spare the Sunnis, whom he characterized in the letter as "more wretched than orphans at the tables of the depraved."
After denouncing the Shi'a in the most disparaging of terms, he proceeded to provoke them "to show the Sunnis their rabies…and bare the teeth of the hidden rancor working in their breasts." If we succeed, he intoned, in "dragging them into the arena of sectarian war, it will become possible to awaken the inattentive Sunnis as they feel imminent danger and annihilating death at the hands of these Sabeans." 
is not surprising that the Shi'ite press in
The attack on the Iraqi Shi'a suggests that the relationship between Al-Zarqawi and Al-Qa'ida was tenuous at best because there is nothing on record to suggest the existence of overt anti-Shi'a statements by either bin Laden or his deputy Ayman Al-Zawahiri.
By its own admission, the Al-Tawheed wal-Jihad group lacked a solid base of operation. A rather revealing report by Abu-Anas Al-Shami, one of Al-Zarqawi's closest associates who was later killed, stated: "We have discovered that after one year of Jihad we have not accomplished anything on the ground. None of us could find a piece of land [the size of the palm of the hand] to use as a shelter or a place to retire to safety amongst some members of [his] group…we would hide at day light and sneak like a cat at night…homes were raided and the heroes were chased. It was a dark picture and everyone felt a sense of terrible failure."
Given their predicament, the group decided to use Fallujah as "a safe haven and a strong shield for the people of Islam." And, thus, Fallujah had become "the Republic of Al-Zarqawi."  This may also explain his desperate appeal for help to the Islamic nation.
An Appeal for Help
September 11, 2004, Al-Zarqawi delivered a speech to
the Islamic nation (Al -Umma Al-Islamiyya)
appealing for help. The speech was delivered in the ornate style of classical
Arabic and the entire speech was inlaid with Koranic
verses and poetry. The speech singled out
The tone of the speech seemed to reflect the difficult circumstances under which the foreign mujahideen were operating. Some of the expressions used by Al-Zarqawi, such as "a call for help from the depths," and references to the Islamic nation being in a state of apathy or slumber, may indicate that Al-Zarqawi felt he had not received enough support from Muslims outside Iraq:
nation, the nation of the sword and the pen, why is it that your sword is now
broken and your pen has been laid down? You used to be prouder than the stars,
and have now become downtrodden under the feet of the invaders and under the
hooves of the usurpers' horses. My dear nation – my words to you today are
laden with sorrow. Don't you hear the serpents, hissing as they wind their way
in the darkness of your apathy in order to assassinate your dawn?...Let me tell
you about our state of affairs, for we are at the turning point, so that you
may understand the right course and combine forces, lest we regret, and this is
no time for regrets. Both those who are far away and those who are near
acknowledge the truth of the tripartite satanic coalition of heresy and deceit
in the land of the two rivers [bilad al-rafidain, or
Resorting to apocalyptic language, Al-Zarqawi told his listeners: "…you are facing fierce civil strife [fitna], but then victory shall be yours, Allah willing…Behold, the spark has been lit in Iraq and its flames will blaze, Allah willing, until they consume the Armies of the Cross in Dabiq…" 
Earlier in that year, in January 2004, Al-Zarqawi challenged the Arab masculinity to rise or surrender to women: "Oh people, the wheels of war have begun to spin; the caller has already declared Jihad and the gates of heaven are open [to the martyrs]. If you are unwilling to be one of the knights of war, make way for the women so they can run the war, and you take the cooking utensils and makeup [brushes] in their stead. If you are not women in turbans and beards, go the horses and seize their harnesses and their reins…" 
Al-Zarqawi Designated Commander (Amir)
of Al-Qa'ida in
far as can be established, Al-Zarqawi had initially
"The warrior commander [and] honored comrade Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi and the groups who joined him are the best of the community that is fighting for the sake of the word of Allah. Their courageous operations against the Americans and against the apostate Allawi government have gladdened us…
in Al-Qa'ida organization very much welcome their
union with us. This is a tremendous step on the part of the unification of the
efforts in fighting for the establishment of a State of
that the warrior comrade Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi is the commander [Amir]
of Al-Qa'ida organization in the land of the Tigris
In the same message, bin Laden permitted the killing of members of the Iraqi security forces: "Personnel of the [Iraqi] military, security apparatuses, and the National Guard their blood is permitted. They are apostates who should not be prayed over upon their deaths. They cannot inherit, and they must not be inherited from [after their deaths]. Their wives are divorced from them, and they must not be buried in Muslim cemeteries." 
The Iraqi Al-Qa'ida Organization: A Self-Portrait
chief of Al-Qa'ida's media in
According to Abu-Maysara, Al -Qa'ida in Iraq "comprises a group of Muslims from amongst the followers of the tradition and the community of believers [Ahl al-Sunna wal Jama'a] who try to please Allah by committing themselves to keep Allah's orders and proscriptions and to see to it that others do so [as well]…. It has set itself a number of central goals which are mutually interrelated and complementary." In sum,, these goals seek to:
Renew pure monotheism which was sullied by the filth of polytheistic elements
Wage Jihad for the sake of Allah, so that His message be supreme, and in order to recapture all of the lands of the Muslims from the hands of the infidels
Come to the aid of Muslims everywhere and reclaim the Islamic dignity which has been soiled by the [foreign] invaders
Re-establish the Rightly-Guided Caliphate in accordance with the Prophet's example
Underscoring one of the prohibitions against spilling of "even a drop of Muslim blood unjustly," Abu-Maysara excludes from this prohibition the spilling of the blood of Muslim security forces as religiously permissible. Thus, he condones operations that "kill those whose character has become impure and who have joined the ranks of the infidels in their fight against the Muslims in Iraq, that is members of the Iraqi army and the police and spies who strengthen the Americans and help them commit crimes and rape our sisters in the Abu Ghraib prison and other places…"
Al-Zarqawi: Collateral Killing of Muslims is Legitimate
In a 90-minute audio heard on the Internet on May 18, Al-Zarqawi provided the legitimacy for the collateral killing of Muslims in the act of killing the infidels. He relies on Muslim jurists for the legitimacy he provides for such killing:
"The [collateral killing] is justified under the principle of dharura [overriding necessity], due to the fact that it is impossible to avoid them and to distinguish between them and those infidels against whom war is being waged and who are the intended targets. Admittedly, the killing of a number of Muslims whom it is forbidden to kill is undoubtedly a grave evil; however, it is permissible to commit this evil – indeed, it is even required – in order to ward off a greater evil, namely, the evil of suspending Jihad."
Al-Zarqawi argues that the evil of heresy is greater than the evil of collateral killing of Muslims. Thus: "Islamic law states that the Islamic faith is more important than life, honor, property." Not letting an opportunity escape without railing against the Shi'a, Al-Zarqawi said they were worse than the Crusaders and that their "perfidy is engraved in the forehead of history." 
the same audio, Al-Zarqawi announced the beheading of
the chief of intelligence of the Badr Brigade (a
militia associated with the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in
The Glorification of Beheadings of Captives
method of killing of captives in
in Al-Qa'ida-related journal under the heading
"O Sheikh of the Slaughterers, Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, Go Forth in the Straight Path, Guided by
Allah," Abd Al-Rahman ibn
"A spy has been slain…and the Jihad fighter [who slew him] has come closer to Allah by way of [the spy's] blood. Yet what is unique in this lowly spy whose slaying we have seen these very days? What is unique, and we ask of Allah that there be more [like him], is that a spy has been slain, and this spy looked like an Arab, had an Arab name, and spoke Arabic! The uniqueness lies in the triumph of the faith in the one God and in the raising of the banner of 'There is no God but Allah' over and above all other allegiances, be they of ethnicity, language, identity, or nationality." 
After condemning "the apostate tyrant Saddam Hussein," and "the wicked rulers of the Arabian peninsula," the author, identifying his location as Saudi Arabia, went on to extol Al-Zarqawi's feast of beheadings:
sheikh of the slaughterers, Abu Mus'ab, go forth in
the straight path with Allah's help, guided by Allah, fight together with the
monotheists against the idol-worshippers, together with the warriors of Jihad
against the collaborators, the hypocrites and the rebellious. We are awaiting the beheading of a Saudi apostate and this is the
will and testament of all the monotheists in the
The Infallible Abu Mus'ab
Nothing demonstrates the loyalty and devotion of Al-Zarqawi's followers to their leader more than their reaction to what appeared to be a critical article by his former prison mentor Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi. In July 2004, Al-Maqdisi posted on his website an article titled "Al-Zarqawi-Aid and Advice," in which he wrote:
say and stress that I am listening to and following the chaos that rages today
Al-Maqdisi went on to warn against means and methods such as abducting or killing Muslims on pretexts not based on Islamic law such as the claim that they work for the infidels "where such acts do not reach the [level] of aid to the infidels or aid in harming Muslims." Quite interestingly, Al-Maqdisi warned against attacks on Christian churches, because this strengthens the will of the infidels against Muslims everywhere. 
The Jihad fighters were enraged by the article, for they see Al-Zarqawi as "a divine grace," and believe it heresy for anyone – even Al-Zarqawi's teacher and guide, Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi – to think he made a mistake.
Al-Zarqawi Denounces Democracy and Constitutionalism in
A week before the elections were to take place on January 30, 2005, Al-Zarqawi addressed the Iraqi people in a speech denouncing democracy and the elections as heresy. In the speech, delivered January 23 and posted on Islamist websites, Al-Zarqawi presented seven aspects of the heretical nature of democracy:
In a democracy, legislative authority is performed by representatives who act as proxies for the people. As such, man must be obeyed, not Allah – which is "the very essence of heresy, polytheism, and error."
Democracy allows freedom of religion, including the conversion to another religion. According to Islam, "if a Muslim apostatizes from Islam to heresy, he should be killed." He added that "One may not make a [peace] treaty with an apostate, nor grant him safe passage or protection."
Democracy renders the people the ultimate source of sovereignty and the ultimate arbiter on conflicts. In Islam, Allah is the ultimate arbiter. Allah said: "And in whatever thing you disagree, the judgment thereof belongs to Allah [Koran 42:10]."
"Freedom of expression" in democracy would allow the use of language that might be hurting and reviling the Divine Being [i.e., Allah]
The principle of separation between religion and state means secularism and the restricting of Allah only to places of worship
The principle of freedom of association ought to be rejected because it could allow membership in a heretical parties, which implies acquiescence in heresy
The principle of the rule of majority is "totally wrong and void because truth according to Islam is that which is in accordance with the Koran and the Sunna [i.e., the tradition of the Prophet], whether its supporters are few or many."
Three days later, Al-Zarqawi issued a dire warning:
"1. Oh enemies of Islam! Prepare yourselves and fortify whatever you like, wear as much armor as you can. We have men who love death as you love life. Our fallen [go to] heaven and yours to hell…
"2. Take care not to go near the centers of heresy and abomination [i.e., polling booths]
Oh gardens [of
In the same message, Al-Zarqawi characterized Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani as "the devil" and the "imam of apostasy and atheism" and called on his people to be patient because Allah had promised victory against the American "tyrant." 
A group calling itself "The Assassination Unit in the Monotheism and Jihad Organization" sent a letter to elections committee chief Farid Ayyar, threatening the murder of elections committee members and their families if they remained in their posts. 
a month before Al-Zarqawi issued his statement
against participation in the Iraqi elections, bin Laden issued a similar
warning, that "anyone who participates in these elections has committed
apostasy against Allah." It is apostasy because the Iraqi constitution is
"a jahiliyya constitution that is made by
man" and because the elections are "ordered by
the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to
Al-Qa'ida was greatly weakened after the loss of its base in
the meantime, the attention of all potential Jihadists
was drawn to the exploits of Al-Zarqawi in
Al-Zarqawi's oath of allegiance (mubaya'a) to bin Laden and the latter's designation of Al-Zarqawi as the Amir of Al-Qa'ida in Iraq may have helped the cause of both men, although one tends to consider Al-Zarqawi as getting the better end of the deal:
Benefits for Al-Zarqawi:
prestige and greater legitimacy vis-à-vis other terrorist organizations
to bin Laden's traditional sources of funding,
A global reach (hitherto it was local or, at best, regional) 
base of volunteers, particularly from
Benefits for bin Laden
Forestalling the emergence of Al-Zarqawi as the leader of global Jihad movement
Associating Al-Qa'ida with an organization that has established a record of "accomplishments" and, as a result, has increased Al-Qa'ida's exposure and its intrinsic stature among the Jihadists. This has come at a time when Al-Qa'ida has been silenced by successive blows, which have constrained its ability to operate except with a fraction of freedom that it had enjoyed under the Taliban.
Strength of the
An examination of Al-Zarqawi's behavior in the last decade will cast a heavy shadow on his new partnership with bin Laden:
the Al-Sawaqa desert prison in
he went to
he arrived in
These instances demonstrate Al-Zarqawi's inability, or unwillingness, to work under a superior authority, whether spiritual or organizational. One suspects that sooner or later he will also break away from bin Laden and perhaps even seek to replace him as the supreme leader of Al-Qa'ida. In fact, given the two men's difficulties in communicating on a regular basis, it is not clear how bin Laden would control Al-Zarqawi even if he tried to do so.
of the Ba'th in
Anti-democratic convictions are not new for Al-Qa'ida, which considers man-made rule as inherently contradictory to the rule of Allah. In a book titled The Future of Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula after the Fall of Baghdad, published on an Al-Qa'ida website, author Yusuf bin Saleh Al-'Ayiri (subsequently killed by Saudi security forces) wrote:
"The collapse of the Ba'th government is good for Islam and the Muslims because it is a collapse of the apostate nationalist slogans that have permeated the Islamic nation. For after communism, Arab nationalism, secularism and modernity, the Islamic banner, which has remained steadfast through history, will replace all the failed non-Islamic appeals regardless of their principles."
In short, the collapse of the Ba'th is good for Islam, and democracy is "the most wicked of the all types of secularism; it means bestiality." 
The Size of the Al-Zarqawi Group
The size of the Al-Zarqawi group is not known, although it is most likely changing with the influx of would-be "martyrs" and the demise of others through the acts of suicide bombing, death through clashes with the multinational and Iraqi forces, and capture.
Some estimates put the group in the thousands. The Iraqi daily Al-Mada estimates the number of the group in the hundreds, and this may be closer to reality than some other wild estimates.  The reason this lower estimate seems more likely to be accurate is that a much larger group would require a much more formal command and control structure that would be made more vulnerable to counter-terrorism efforts. Besides, car bombs and suicide bombers are primarily individualist activity, rather than group activity.
Intensification of Violence
expectations that violence would subside following the elections have not
materialized. On the contrary, it has intensified. It has been reported that at
least 60 car bombs exploded in
First, the leading political parties failed to take advantage of the impressive voting momentum to form a new government. The protracted negotiations following the elections had left a political vacuum which was exploited by the terrorists and the insurgents.
Second, the insurgents are encouraged by their mastery of new tactics and by the logistical support they have been receiving from some segments of the Iraqi population.
the neighboring countries have not stopped the tide of volunteer Jihadists determined to achieve martyrdom in
Closing in on Al-Zarqawi
a series of raids on Al-Qa'ida bases in
Iraqi security forces arrested Heikal Lobus, known as Abu Ali Al-Lubnani,
who was a leader of a group of 48 terrorists in the Latifiya
area. The terrorists were nationals of
Al-Zarqawi's Amir in the northern
A significant arrest was that of Al-Zarqawi's driver, who was captured after his boss jumped out of a car and fled. However, Al-Zarqawi's laptop computer was seized; this could provide valuable information on his network and sources of funding.  It has been reported that the hard drive contained information about Al-Zarqawi's medical condition and a trove of valuable information. 
The Medical Status of Al-Zarqawi
General Fu'ad Hani Fares,
commander of the 5th Brigade of the Iraqi Army, has told the press that Al-Zarqawi suffered a serious injury, or may have been killed,
in an air raid on his hideout in the city of
On May 24, a man identifying himself as "Abu-Maysara Al-Iraqi from the Information Section of Al-Qa'ida in the Land of the Two Rivers" posted an appeal to Muslims to pray for Al-Zarqawi who had sustained injuries whose nature was not revealed. Here are some phrases in the appeal posted on the website of Al-Qal'ah (associated with Al-Qa'ida):
"O nation of Islam, nation of monotheism. Pray for the healing of our Sheikh Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi from an injury he suffered in the path of Allah. You are [Al-Zarqawi] the beloved of the mujahideen, and may Allah heal you and make you steadfast. Our Sheikh has taught us that nothing is worthy compared to Islam." 
much confusion about Al-Zarqawi's medical condition,
Al-Zarqawi denied he was seriously injured in an
audio message attributed to him and addressed to bin Laden. He told bin Laden:
"I would like to assure you that these are all rumors [about his serious
injury] and they are entirely baseless. My wounds were light."
Uncharacteristically, he signed his message, "from jundi
to Amir" (i.e. from a private to a commander).
The Use of Internet and Television as Instruments of Warfare
One of the ironies of Islamist movements is that while they advocate an Islamic society governed entirely by the Shari'a, they do not hesitate to use the technical marvels of Western civilization – Internet and television – to propagate their causes. Al-Sharq Al-Awsat underscores the paradox when it refers to the demands by "the extremist Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qa'ida in the Land of the Two Rivers" who calls for a return to doctrines of Islam but depends on the technology of the 21st century…." 
Al-Jazeera TV has also played a significant role in extolling
the heroism of the fighters, mainly Al-Zarqawi
supporters, in the city of Fallujah when it was
attacked by the Iraqi and multinational forces last November. According to
Iraqi sources cited in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, the battle of Fallujah in
November 2004 was led by Omar Hadeed, who had been
one of Saddam's private guards. In the early 1990s, Hadeed
had become associated with Islamist groups, and fled to
the battle of Fallujah, Al-Jazeera
TV often aired what might be considered biased coverage alleging the killing of
women and children by the American forces, but kept silent about the casualties
suffered by the multinational and Iraqi forces seeking to clear the city of the
terrorist elements. It was later realized that the Al-Jazeera's
station manager in
The Terrorist's Last Night
of the surprising aspects of Al-Zarqawi's operations
is the availability of almost endless number of volunteers prepared to commit acts
of martyrdom. These individuals are deeply, perhaps fanatically, religious.
They are determined to seek martyrdom and reach the gates of heaven as soon as
an opportunity presents itself. Some of these volunteers spend their last night
on Earth reading the Koran and praying. Others seek solitude. In some instance,
the volunteers participate in ceremony known as "the wedding of the
martyr," as they celebrate the ascendancy of the groom to heaven and into
the arms of 72 Houries.  In one such event, which
took place post-mortem, involved a suicide bomber from Salt Jordan who caused
the death of more than 100 Iraqis in the city of
only time Al-Zarqawi was heard in public was during
his trial before the
Al-Zarqawi's speeches are characterized by the preponderance of verses from the Koran and elements of the Hadith, using both as a means of justifying whatever he was doing as an act rooted in Islam. From reading his speeches, one can discern a number of messages:
The inevitability of the creation of the Islamic state governed only by the Koran and the Sunna [the religious rules established by the Prophet]. In an Islamic state, there will be no parliament, rules, or laws other than those of the Koran.
The belief in ultimate victory because Allah has so promised
A call for monotheism. Secular rulers are tyrants and apostates (in Islam, an apostate must be killed). Monotheism will turn Muslims and all the deprived people from a state of weakness and backwardness into a recognizable force that will restore justice and defeat all manifestations of oppressions practiced by the great powers.
Exhortative calls for mobilizing soldiers to fight the enemies of Islam
Calls for Jihad until martyrdom. A martyr is destined for heaven.
Criticism of Muslim clerics for failing to play a leading role in mobilizing the believers to fight the heretics and the enemies of Islam
Deep hostility toward the Shi'a as a branch of Islam.
Regarding the last message, it should be noted that nowhere in the writings and speeches of either bin Laden or Al-Zawahiri is there an anti-Shi'a message. This alone may give further credence to the theory that Al-Zarqawi operated independently from Al-Qa'ida whose declared enemies are "Jews and Crusaders" (i.e., Christians).
I: Major Armed Islamic Groups in
Qa'idat Al-Jihad Fi Bilad Al-Rafidain (Al-Qa'ida for Jihad in the Land of the Two Rivers)
key terrorist organization headed by Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, born as Ahmad Fadhil Al-Khalaila in
for a large number of car bombs and suicide bombers as well beheadings of
captives. Draws mainly on Jihadist
fighters from outside
The organization remains the primary target of the multinational and the Iraqi security forces.
Ansar Al-Islam (Defenders of Islam)
Established on December 10, 2001 by the merger of three Islamist groups – Jund Al-Islam (The Soldiers of Islam), Kurdish Hamas, and Harakat Al-Tawheed (the Monotheism Movement). The key leader was Mullah Fateh Kraikar (his real name is Najm Al-Din Faraj).
Al-Islam is a Jihadist Salafi
movement influenced by the writing of Sayyid Qutb and the military program of the
an interview with the
According to a study by Dr. Hani Al-Siba'i, the head of the Maqrizi Center for Historical Studies in the U.K, the organizational chart of this group shows one Amir and two deputies in addition to the Military Committee, the Legal (Shari'a) committee, the public relations committee and the security committee.
9/11, Mullah Kraikar sought a ceasefire with the
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) with which it had had many bloody clashes.
However, the ceasefire was ruptured following an attempt on the life of Dr. Barham Saleh, who was at the time
prime minister of the PUK region. Saleh, a
The group's main camp, which was located in Biyara, Iraqi Kurdistan, had been bombed by the U.S. Air Force in March 2003. Many were killed. Survivors were taken to Assayish Prison in Suleimaniyya, Iraqi Kurdistan.
The group took responsibility for the suicide bombings at the headquarters of the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in February 2004 which resulted in the death of 109 people.
Al-Islam sheltered Al-Zarqawi when he fled from
The group has allegedly experimented with chemical weapons.
Kraikar is currently in
Jaysh Ansar Al-Sunna (The Army of the Defenders of the Prophet's Conduct)
Believed to be a splinter group of Ansar
as a Salafi group five months after
group took responsibility for the December 2004 suicide bombing at the
Kurds arrested in
Al-Jaysh Al-Islami Al-Iraqi – Fayaliq Khalid Ibn Al-walid (The Iraqi Islamic Army – Khalid ibn Al-Walid Brigades)
organization threatened to execute a Filipino hostage unless the
mid-July 2004, the group issued "a warning to the Italian people"
demanding the withdrawal of the Italian military from
Al-Kata'ib Al-Salafiya Al-Mujahida Fi Bilad Al-Rafidain (Salafite Jihadist Brigades in the Land of the Two Rivers)
The announcement about the creation of this organization was issued in early March 2005, shortly before the first meeting of the recently elected Iraqi National Assembly.
The organization declared that it was founded on the pure Salafi program. It distanced itself from "excessiveness, secularists, Ba'thists, Saddamists, and from those who seek to re-establish the buried Ba'thist state." It did say that it was a Sunni organization.
* Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli is Senior Analyst of MEMRI's Middle East Economic Studies Program
Excerpts from two of the three articles were translated by MEMRI and published
as Special Dispatch No. 848, January 17, 2005
articles were originally published by Al-Hayat (
 Al-Hayat, July 14, 2004.
 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, February 9, 2005.
 Al-Quds Al-Arabi, May 15, 2005.
 Loc. cit.
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (
This section draws on a book called Al-Zarqawi – The
Second Generation of Al-Qa'ida, serialized in 14
installments in the
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (
 A transcript of the speech was posted the following day on many Islamic websites. The person who posted the transcript called himself the "Glimmer of the Swords" and referred to Al-Zarqawi as "The Sheikh and Commander of Slaughterers." The speech was translated by MEMRI, in Special Dispatch No. 785, September 15, 2004.
A prophetic tradition (Hadith), which is often quoted
in the Islamic apocalyptic literature, states that one of the events heralding
the Last Day of Judgment will take place in Dabiq.
The Mahdi (Muslim Messiah) will destroy the armies of
the infidels that will have assembled in A'maq and Dabiq. The traditional explanation is that these are two
places in the area of northern
Coalition Provisional Administration,
 MEMRI, Special Dispatch No. 837, December 30, 2004.
 Loc. cit.
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (
 http://www.islam-minbar.net/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?topicid=1688&forum=3 and translated by MEMRI, Special Dispatch No. 884, March 24, 2005.
Translated by MEMRI, Special Dispatch No. 917, June 7, 2005. A book titled Haqiqat Al-harb Al-salibiyya Al-jadidah (The Truth
about the New Crusading War) by a Gulf cleric associated with bin Laden
provides a number of conditions justifying the killing of hostages. Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (
See Timothy Furnish, "Beheading in the Name of Islam,"
 Sawt Al-Jihad (The Voice of the Jihad), Issue No. 23 (August-September 2004), pp. 36-38
 Loc cit.
http//www.Abu-qatada.com/r?=2979&a=p See also Al-Zaman (
 MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 856, February 1, 2005.
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (
 Jahiliyya refers to the pre-Islamic era. A reference to a Jahiliyya constitution would suggest a constitution that is not founded on Islamic values and jurisprudence. The full version of the speech can be found at http://www.dazzled.com/soiraq/index.htm. MEMRI possesses an audio recording of this message.
Al-Quds Al-Arabi (
The Spanish police arrested 16 Islamists (14 Moroccans and two Algerians), with
a base in
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (
 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, December 31, 2004.
 Al-Mada, January 25, 2005.
 Al-Mada, April 14, 2005.
 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, January 7, 2005.
 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, June 8, 2005.
 Al-Sabah, May 7, 2005.
 The Christian Science Monitor, April 27, 2005.
 Reported in Al-Mada, May 17, 2005.
 Karbalanews, June 1, 2005.
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (
MEMRI, "Iraqi-Jordanian Tension Over the Most Lethal Suicide Bombing in
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (