"Weapons of Mass Deception"


Feared group behind Mosul carnage

By B Raman

At least fourteen American troops and several others were killed on Tuesday in an attack on an improvised dining hall of a US military base at Mosul in northern Iraq. An organization called Jaish Ansar al-Sunnah (JAAS) has claimed responsibility for the attack.

While JAAS has projected the attack as a suicide bombing, thereby giving the impression that it has been able to penetrate the US military base, local US Army spokesmen have described it as a mortar attack, similar to the mortar attacks on the Green Zone in Baghdad, which one witnesses frequently.

JAAS, which came to notice for the first time in February after a major terrorist strike in the Kurdish areas, has claimed responsibility for many killings of kidnapped hostages, including 12 Nepalis, and a number of daring attacks - not only in and around Mosul, but also in different areas of the Sunni triangle. The incidents outside Mosul show that it has a wide reach in the Sunni-majority areas of Iraq.

It advocates hardline fundamentalism, similar to that of the Afghan Taliban. It describes its objectives as not only the defeat of the US-led occupation troops and the liberation of Iraq from their subjugation, but also the establishment of orthodox Islamic rule in Iraq after its liberation. It says that those Iraqis who had willingly sacrificed their lives in the jihad against the occupiers would have died in vain if a secular government was to be restored in Iraq after the defeat of the occupying forces.

A statement of December 6 attributed to JAAS said:

It is known that jihad in Iraq has become the obligatory required duty of every Muslim after the infidel enemy fell upon the land of Islam. It was the followers of the Prophet's Sunnah and Jammah, the people of unification and following of ancestors, who raised the blessed banner of jihad and acted in groups, each in their area but spontaneously, receiving the directions and orders for their jihad from the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Noble Prophet. They included clerics, sheikhs, and military fighters.

The task is great and the situation is momentous. It concerns the nation's fate and does not terminate by the end of the occupation. The aim does not end with their defeat, but with the upholding of Allah's religion and the application of the Sharia of Allah to rule this Islamic land. What is the use of shedding Muslim mujahideens' blood to throw out the forces of occupation if, after that, the fruits are enjoyed by a secular Iraqi or a puppet agent of the Americans working to fulfill their plans and programs? Then, we return to the control of a puppet government that rules with the laws of infidels in the name of Islam and is, in fact, controlled by the Jews and the Christians.

A faithful does not get bitten twice. Because of this, a group of resistance fighters and knowledgeable people, who have the political and military savvy and who have the record in managing the Islamic struggle against the enemies of Islam, have brought together a number of divided groups and platoons of resistance that operated in the field from the north to the south to make up a huge army that comes under a unified command. A command that will establish a locally devised unimported practical plan based on their knowledge of the battlefield and on the basis of the Sharia in the Koran and the Sunnah. We called it the Ansar al-Sunnah Army. We call on our brethren in faith and jihad to come together under the banner of this army to fulfill the hope of an Islamic nation that honors Islam and Muslims. Allah's hand is with the group; the devil is in the company of the single. The wolf attacks the straggler sheep.

Its projection of itself as "a group of resistance fighters and knowledgeable people, who have the political and military savvy and who have the record in managing the Islamic struggle against the enemies of Islam", is significant. This seeks to show that it is a mixed group of local resistance fighters and others who had participated in jihad elsewhere. However, it also projects itself as an indigenous organization carrying out a jihad against the occupation troops on the basis of a "locally devised unimported practical plan".

JAAS's statements generally refer to one Abu-Abdullah al-Hassan bin-Mahmud as its Amir. Not much is known about him except that he is an Arab who used to be a member of the Ansar al-Islam (Defenders of Islam) until October last year. It is said that after he broke away from the organization he formed JAAS. The reasons for the split are not known.

Before their invasion of Iraq last year, the Americans, without credible evidence, had projected Ansar al-Islam, an anti-US group operating in the Kurdish areas of Iraq, as the local branch of al-Qaeda. Some reports also projected it as being aided by Iran, again without any credible evidence.

On February 1, 105 persons were killed when an Arab and a Kurd carried out simultaneous twin suicide bombings directed respectively at the offices of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, both in the Kurdish city of Arbil. This was the terrorist strike for which the Ansar al-Sunnah had first claimed responsibility. Hawlani, a Kurdish newspaper, had identified at that time Abu-Abdullah al-Hassan bin-Mahmud as the Amir of the organization.

This is apparently his assumed name; his real name is not known. The newspaper described him as the brother of one Abdullah al-Shami, an Ansar al-Islam leader, who, according to it, was killed last year while fighting against the PUK near the Iranian border. Kurdish sources describe bin-Mahmud as a Jordanian, like the infamous Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and not an Iraqi Arab, and as a close associate of Osama bin Laden. He is assisted by one Abdullah Shafi, who is also projected by Kurdish sources as an al-Qaeda operative, who had lived for some time in Afghanistan.

# After February, the following are some of the strikes for which JAAS has claimed responsibility: December 5: Machine-gun attack in Tikrit, killing 17 Iraqi civilians working for the US military.
# December 1: Kidnapping and killing of three Iraqis working for the US Marine Corps.
# November 25: A mortar attack on Baghdad's Green Zone that killed four Gurkha security guards and 12 others.
# November 20: The killing of two hostages identified as members of a Kurdish political group in Mosul.
# November 4: Beheading of a captured major of the new Iraqi army raised by the Americans.
# October 28: Kidnapping and killing of 11 Iraqi soldiers south of Baghdad.
# October 18: Killing of nine Iraqi policemen returning after training in Jordan.
# August 31: Kidnapping and killing of 12 Nepalese construction workers.

According to knowledgeable Iraqi sources, after the defeat of Iraq in the first Gulf War of 1991, a group of fundamentalist Sunni clerics had tried to organize a Salafi movement in Iraq for the overthrow of Saddam Hussain's Ba'athist regime with the aim of setting up an Islamic state. On coming to know of it, Saddam crushed their movement and jailed some leaders, while others managed to escape to Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan. Among the leaders of this Salafi movement were Omar Hussein Hadid, reportedly a former electrician turned mullah; Sheikh Abdullah al-Janabi; Sheikh Zafir al-Ubaidi; Moyaed Ahmed Yasseen, reportedly arrested by the Iraqi army on November 14; and Abu-Abdullah al-Hassan bin-Mahmud. These sources claim these Salafi elements are in the forefront of the anti-US insurgency.

B Raman is additional secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, government of India, New Delhi, and currently director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai, and distinguished fellow and convenor, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter. E-mail

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Milton Frihetsson, 20:01


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