The Iraqi Sunni insurgent group Ansar al-Islam (Partisans of Islam; AI), which is primarily based north of the capital city of Baghdad, released the third installment of its video series Defenders of the Homeland on February 17. I've been meaning to write a post about this for some time, but other topics kept popping up. The full video is embedded below, via my BlipTV blogging account.
AI, which is composed of a mix of Iraqi Arabs and Kurds, was originally founded in the Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region but was largely pushed out by militia forces loyal to the two major Iraqi Kurdish leaders, Masoud (Massoud) Barzani and Jalal Talabani, following the spring 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq by a United States and Great Britain-led coalition. The group's stronghold remains in northern Iraq, particularly in Kirkuk and Salah al-Din (Saladin), Arbil (Irbil), Sulaymaniyyah, and Ninawa (Nineveh) Provinces.
The video shows an AI attack on an Iraqi military position in Kirkuk Province carried out during last year's (in both the Islamic lunar and Gregorian calendar) Ramadan, the Islamic lunar month when Muslims abstain from food and drink during the daytime hours. Before setting out, the AI fighters conduct a planning session using a blackboard and a television, on which footage of the Iraqi military base is shown. A leader, whose voice is distorted, discusses the target and strategy. They also pray for success.
During the attack, the AI fighters kill a number of Iraqi soldiers in the attack in a firefight. After killing the checkpoint-base's small garrison, they it and the soldiers' vehicles on fire. Footage of the destruction and dead soldiers is shown, as a narrator extols the victory of "those who believe in absolute monotheism (Tawhid)", the "Muwahideen", thanks to God. The defeated are the apostates and tyrants (Taghut).
Immediately following their successful attack, the AI fighters return to their hideout, where they offer a prayer of thanks to God for their success. They then display weapons captured during the attack, including a heavy machine gun and several automatic rifles and ammunition for both.
Footage of Iraqi soldiers arriving at the destroyed base and examining the damage done and the casualties inflicted by AI follows.
A written message from AI to "the apostates" who have allied themselves with U.S. occupation forces ends the video.
AI's videos remain some of the best-produced and highest-quality, in terms of their editing and overall production, of jihadi videos, rivaling even those produced by the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI)/Al-Qa'ida in the Land of the Two Rivers/Iraqi (AQI), and other Al-Qa'ida Central (AQC) affiliates. In fact, some of AI's recent major video productions rival those of AQC's Al-Sahab Media Foundation.
The group was founded in Iraqi Kurdistan by Mullah Krekar (Faraj Ahmad Najmuddin), an Iraqi Kurd, in late 2001, reportedly with financial and logistical support from al-Qa'ida Central. The group drew on members of the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan, a party opposed to the secular socialism of Iraqi Kurdistan's dominant political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Shortly after the American and British-led invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, AI was targeted by the U.S. air force and militiamen (Peshmerga) of the KDP and PUK, and its members were uprooted from their bases in northern Iraq. In late 2003, Krekar was replaced as AI leader by Abu 'Abdullah al-Shafi'i. Krekar was in exile in Norway and then under house arrest. AI maintained a strong presence near the border of Iraqi Kurdistan with the rest of Iraq, near the cities of Kirkuk and Mosul.
In 2003, a large segment of its members formed a "new" group, Ansar al-Sunnah (AS, "Partisans of Tradition"). AS and several other small insurgent groups reformed as AI in the autumn of 2007. Although its origins were in the Iraqi Kurdish Islamist movement, AI currently is believed to have both Iraqi Kurdish and Arab members. It was and remains one of the largest and most potent of the insurgent groups operating in Iraq. Its leader, Abu 'Abdullah al-Shafi'i, did not join the "Islamic State of Iraq" when that umbrella organization was founded in October 2006. In a 2007 interview with AQC's Al-Sahab Media Foundation, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri called on him to join the ISI, a call that was ignored.