Global Policy Forum

An Inventory of Iraqi Resistance Groups: "Who Kills Hostages in Iraq?"


By Samir Haddad and Mazin Ghazi

Al Zawra
September 19, 2004

US soldiers guard the wreckage of a military armored vehicle destroyed by the Iraqi resistance. In Iraq, the issues are even more confused now than they were before. This happened after an armed group abducted two French journalists, and threatened to kill them if France did not rescind the law banning religious symbols at schools, including the veil, and another group abducted two Italian women in Baghdad. The issues became even more confused when a third group killed 12 Nepalese workers, claiming that they were serving the US forces.

It is our duty now to clarify the picture with regard to who targets civilians and foreigners, who abducts hostages indiscriminately, and who makes the US occupation and its soldiers his main preoccupation. After the fall of Baghdad into the hands of the Anglo-American occupation on 9 April 2003, as a natural reaction, several sectors of Iraqi society confronted the occupation. Resistance cells were formed, the majority of which were of Islamic Sunni and pan-Arab tendencies. These cells started in the shape of scattered groups, without a unifying bond to bind them together.

These groups and small cells started to grow gradually, until they matured to some extent and acquired a clear personality that had its own political and military weight. Then they stated to pursue combining themselves into larger groups. The majority of these groups do not know their leadership, the sources of their financing, or who provides them with weapons. However, the huge amounts of weapons, which the Saddam Husayn regime left behind, are undoubtedly one of the main sources for arming these groups. These weapons include mortars, RPGs, hand grenades, Kalashnikovs, and light weapons.

Their intellectual tendencies are usually described as a mixture of Islamic and pan-Arab ideas that agree on the need to put an end to the US presence in Iraq. These groups have common denominators, the most important of which perhaps are focusing on killing US soldiers, rejecting the abductions and the killing of hostages, rejecting the attacks on Iraqi policemen, and respecting the beliefs of other religions. There is no compulsion to convert to Islam, this stems from their Islamic creed, their reading of the jurisprudence texts and historical events, and their respect for the directives and appeals of the Islamic organizations and religious dignitaries.

These groups believe the Iraqis are divided into two categories. One category -- the majority - is against the occupation, and the other -- the minority -- is on the side of the occupation. The resistance considers those who reject the occupation, whatever their description might be, to be on its side. The resistance considers those who are on the side of the occupation to be as spies and traitors who do not deserve to remain on Iraqi territory, and hence they should be liquidated.

As for their view of the political parties, it depends on the stance of these parties toward the occupation. If these parties are dealing with the United States on the basis that it is an occupation force that should be evicted and that Iraq should be liberated from any military occupation or constrictions, and if these parties choose to deal with the United States and to engage in political action within this context, then these parties are free to continue with their efforts. Moreover, in general, these groups do not target the political powers that deal, but do not cooperate with the United States within the political framework established by the occupation.

The following is a review of the resistance groups and the armed groups in Iraq:

First, the main Sunni resistance groups that primarily target the US occupation:

1. The Iraqi National Islamic Resistance, "The 1920 Revolution Brigades:"

-- It emerged for the first time on 16 July 2003. Its declared aim is to liberate Iraqi territory from foreign military and political occupation and to establish a liberated and independent Iraqi state on Islamic bases. It launches armed attacks against the US forces. The attacks primarily are concentrated in the area west of Baghdad, in the regions of Abu-Ghurayb, Khan Dari, and Al-Fallujah. It has other activities in the governorates of Ninwi, Diyali, and Al-Anbar. The group usually takes into consideration the opinions of a number of Sunni authorities in Iraq.

-- The group's statements, in which it claims responsibility for its operations against the US occupation, are usually distributed at the gates of the mosques after the Friday prayers.

-- A recent statement issued by the group on 19 August 2004 explained that the group, during the period between 27 July and 7 August 2004, carried out an average of 10 operations every day, which resulted in the deaths of dozens of US soldiers and the destruction of dozens of US armored vehicles.

-- The most prominent operations of the group during that period were the shooting down of a helicopter in the Abu-Ghurayb region by the Al-Zubayr Bin-al-Awwam Brigade on 1 August 2004, and the shooting down of a Chinook helicopter in the Al-Nu'aymiyah region, near Al-Fallujah, by the Martyr Nur-al-Din Brigade on 9 August 2004.

2. The National Front for the Liberation of Iraq:

-- The front includes 10 resistance groups. It was formed days after the occupation of Iraq in April 2003. It consists of nationalists and Islamists. Its activities are concentrated in Arbil and Karkuk in northern Iraq; in Al-Fallujah, Samarra, and Tikrit in central Iraq, and in Basra and Babil Governorates in the south, in addition to Diyali Governorate in the east.

-- Generally speaking, its activities are considered smaller than those of the 1920 Revolution Brigades.

3. The Iraqi Resistance Islamic Front, 'JAMI':

The front is the newest Sunni resistance group to fight the US occupation. It includes a number of small resistance factions that formed a coalition. Its political and jihad program stems from a jurisprudence viewpoint that allows it to fight the occupiers. Its activities against the occupation forces are concentrated in the two governorates of Ninwi and Diyali. It announced its existence for the first time on 30 May 2004.

In its statements, JAMI warns against the Jewish conspiracies in Iraq.

According to statements issued by the front, JAMI's military wing, the Salah-al-Din and Sayf-Allah al-Maslul Brigades, has carried out dozens of operations against the US occupation forces. The most prominent of these operations were in Ninwi Governorate. These operations included the shelling of the occupation command headquarters and the semi-daily shelling of the Mosul airport. Further more, JAMI targets the members of US intelligence and kills them in the Al-Faysaliyah area in Mosul and also in the governorate of Diyali, where the front's Al-Rantisi Brigade sniped a US soldier and used mortars to shell Al-Faris Airport.

4. Other Small Factions:

There are other factions that claim responsibility for some limited military operations against the US forces. However, some of these factions have joined larger brigades that are more active and more experienced in fighting. These factions include:

Hamzah Faction: A Sunni group that appeared for the first time on 10 October 2003 in Al-Fallujah and called for the release of a local shaykh known as Shaykh Jamal Nidal, who was arrested by the US forces. There is no other information available about this group.

Iraqi Liberation Army: The first appearance of this group was on 15 July 2003. It warned the foreign countries against sending troops to Iraq and pledged to attack those troops if they were sent.

Awakening and Holy War: A group of Arab Sunni mujahidin. It is active in Al-Fallujah. It filmed an operation on videotape and sent the tape to Iranian television on 7 July 2003. On the tape, the group said that Saddam and the United States were two sides of the same coin. The group said that it carried out operations against the US occupation in Al-Fallujah and other cities.

The White Banners: A group of local Arab Sunni mujahidin that is active in the Sunni triangle and probably in other areas. Originally, they were opposed to Saddam Husayn, and in alliance with the Muslim Youths and Muhammad's Army. The group criticized the bombing of the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad. So far, there is no information about their operations.

Al-Haqq Army: There is not much information about this group, apart from that it consists of Arab Sunni Muslims, it has some nationalistic tendencies, and it is not loyal to Saddam.

5. Ba'thist Factions:

These factions are loyal to the Ba'th Party and the previous regime of Saddam Husayn. They do not constitute a proportion of the actual resistance in Iraq. Their activities are more or less restricted to financing of resistance operations. The factions that still exist secretly in the Iraqi arena include:

Al-Awdah (The Return): This faction is concentrated in northern Iraq -- Samarra, Tikrit, Al-Dur, and Mosul. It consists of members of the former intelligence apparatus.

Saddam's Fedayeen: The faction was formed by the Saddam regime before the US invasion. Now, it is rumored that many of its members have abandoned their loyalty to Saddam and have joined Islamic and national groups on the side of the 11 September Revolutionary Group and the Serpent's Head Movement.

Second, Shiite resistance against the occupation:

Al-Sadr group: The Al-Mahdi Army is considered the only militia experiment to emerge after the occupation. In July 2003, Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr announced the formation of the Al-Mahdi Army, but not as a force directed against the occupation. Within a short period, Al-Sadr gathered between 10,000 and 15,000 well-trained youths, the majority of whom were from the poor of the Al-Sadr City, Al-Shu'lah, and the southern cities.

Recent events -- starting with the closure of Al-Sadr's Al-Hawzah newspaper in March 2004; the arrest of Al-Sadr assistant Mustafa al-Ya'qubi against a background of suspicions about his involvement in the killing of Imam Abd-al-Majid al-Khu'i, and crowned with the writ to arrest Muqtada al-Sadr in April on charges of assassinating Al-Khu'i inside the Al-Haydari mosque in Al-Najaf on 10 April 2003 -- placed the Al-Mahdi Army in confrontation with the occupation forces in Baghdad and the southern governorates.

The greatest confrontation between this militia and the occupation forces erupted in Al-Najaf in August 2004. The confrontation continued for nearly three weeks, and it ended with the signing of a cease-fire agreement between the two sides. The observers believe that these confrontations bestowed upon the Al-Sadr tendency the mark of an armed resistance to the occupation.

Imam Ali Bin-Abi-Talib Jihadi Brigades: This Shiite group appeared for the first time on 12 October 2003. It vowed to kill the soldiers of any country sending its troops to support the coalition forces, and threatened to transfer the battleground to the territories of such countries if they were to send troops. The group also threatened to assassinate all the members of the Interim Governing Council and any Iraqi cooperating with the coalition forces. The group also announced that Al-Najaf and Karbala were the battlegrounds in which it would target the US forces.

Third: Factions that adopt abductions and killing:

In addition to the groups resisting occupation, other armed groups have emerged and resorted to operations of abducting and killing foreigners as a method, in their opinion, that would terrorize the enemy and as a political pressure card to achieve their specific demands. This was what happened when Philippine President Gloria Macapagol-Arroyo decided to withdraw the Philippine forces acting under US command in Iraq after the abduction of her compatriot Angelo del Cruz on 7 July 2004 and his release at a later time.

The most prominent of these groups are:

Assadullah Brigades: The brigades said in a statement, number 50, "The mujahid is entitled to capture any infidel that enters Iraq, whether he works for a construction company or in any other job, because he could be warrior, and the mujahid has the right to kill him or take him as a prisoner."

The activities of this group are concentrated in Baghdad and its suburbs. The group detained the third most senior diplomat at the Egyptian Embassy to Iraq, Muhammad Mamduh Hilmi Qutb, in July 2004 in response to statements by Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmad Nazif, who announced that Egypt was prepared to offer its security expertise to the interim Iraqi Government. The diplomat was released after nearly a week.

Islamic Retaliation Movement: One of the movements that adopt the course of abductions. It abducted the US Marine of Lebanese origin, Wasif Ali Hassun, on 19 July 2004, and then released him.

Islamic Anger Brigades: The group that abducted 15 Lebanese in June 2004 and then released them, with the exception of Husayn Ulayyan, an employee of a communications company, whom it killed.

Khalid-Bin-al-Walid Brigades and Iraq's Martyrs Brigades: They are believed to be the ones who abducted Italian journalist Enzo Bladoni in August 2004 and killed him.

The Black Banners Group: A battalion of the Secret Islamic Army. The group abducted three Indians, two Kenyans, and an Egyptian working for a Kuwaiti company operating in Iraq. The aim was to compel the company to stop its activities in Iraq. The hostages were later released.

The Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi Group.

The Al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad Group.

The Islamic Army in Iraq: A secret organization that adopts the ideology of Al-Qa'ida. The organization abducted Iranian Consul Feredion Jahani and the two French journalists, Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot.

Ansar al-Sunnah Movement: The movement abducted 12 Nepalese on 23 August 2004 and killed them.

The last four groups are clearly intellectually close to the beliefs and thinking of Al-Qa'ida Organization and its leader, Usama Bin Ladin.

The first case of slaughter was that of US national Nicholas Berg in May 2004, and the Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi group claimed responsibility for it.

After that, the Al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad Group killed South Korean Kim Il, who was working for a Korean company providing the US Army with military installations.

Following that, the operations of abducting hostages cascaded in Iraq. Some of the hostages were slaughtered, and others were released. And the phenomenon came to the surface.

The total number of hostages killed so far is: two Italians, two US nationals, two Pakistanis, one Egyptian, one Turk, one Lebanese, one Bulgarian, one South Korean, and 12 Nepalese.

More Information on Iraq
More Information on Resistance to the Occupation


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