Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn

Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn
(Organization of Jihad's Base in Mesopotamia)
Participant in the Iraq War

One of the flags used by AQI in their video releases. Variants used white text for the circle and the shahada.
Active 17 October 2004[1]–January 15, 2006
Ideology Sunni Islam[2]
Leaders Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (KIA)
Abu Ayyub al-Masri (KIA)
Headquarters Fallujah
Area of operations Iraq
Part of Al-Qaeda
Originated as

Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad

Ansar al-Islam (associate)

Mujahideen Shura Council

Islamic State of Iraq
Opponents Multinational force in Iraq
 Iraq (Iraqi security forces, Kurdish and Shia militias)
 United Nations
Battles and wars Iraqi insurgency (2003–06)
Civil war in Iraq (2006–07)

Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (TQJBR)[3] ("Organization of Jihad's Base in Mesopotamia", Arabic: تنظيم قاعدة الجهاد في بلاد الرافدين), also referred to as Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) or Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, was an Iraqi Sunni Islamic Jihadist organization[2] affiliated with al-Qaeda. It was a major combatant actor in the Iraqi insurgency and played a central role in the establishment of the Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq and the Islamic State of Iraq.[4]


The group was founded by the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 1999 under the name Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (Arabic: جماعة التوحيد والجهاد, "Group of Monotheism and Jihad").

The group is believed to have started bomb attacks in Iraq as of August 2003, five months after the coalition invasion and occupation of Iraq, targeting UN representatives, Iraqi Shiite institutions, the Jordanian embassy, provisional Iraqi government institutions.

After it pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network in October 2004, its official name became Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn.[1][5][6][7]


On 7 June 2006, the leader of AQI, al-Zarqawi, and his spiritual adviser Sheik Abd-Al-Rahman, were both killed by a U.S. airstrike with two 500 lb (230 kg) bombs on a safe house near Baqubah. The group's leadership was then assumed by the Egyptian militant Abu Ayyub al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir.[8]


In a letter to al-Zarqawi in July 2005, Al-Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri outlined a four-stage plan beginning with taking control of Iraq. Step 1: expulsion of US forces from Iraq. Step 2: establishing in Iraq an Islamic authority—a caliphate. Step 3: "the jihad wave" should be extended to "the secular countries neighbouring Iraq". Step 4: "the clash with Israel".[9][10]

Violent activities

US Navy Seabees during the Second Battle of Fallujah (November 2004)


At the end of October 2004, Al-Qaeda in Iraq kidnapped Japanese citizen Shosei Koda. In an online video, AQI gave Japan 48 hours to withdraw its troops from Iraq, otherwise Koda's fate would be "the same as that of his predecessors, [Nicholas] Berg and [Kenneth] Bigley and other infidels".[11] While Japan refused to comply with this demand, Koda was beheaded, and his dismembered body found on 30 October.

AQI claimed responsibility for the car bomb attacks on 19 December 2004 in the Shiite holy cities Najaf and nearby Karbala, killing 60 people.[12]


According to internal documents seized in 2008, AQI began in 2005 systematically killing Iraqi tribesmen and nationalist insurgents wherever they began to rally against it.[13]

Attacks in 2005 claimed by AQI include:


Autumn 2006, AQI took over Baqubah, the capital of Diyala Governorate, and before March 2007, AQI or its umbrella organization 'Islamic State of Iraq' (ISI) claimed Baqubah as its capital.[23]

Further violent activities in Iraq after 13 October 2006 blamed on 'al Qaeda (in Iraq)' are listed in article Islamic State of Iraq (ISI).

War: Sunnis against Shias

September 2005, after a U.S.-Iraqi offensive on the town of Tal Afar, al-Zarqawi declared "all-out war" on Shia Muslims in Iraq.[25]

Conflicts between Al Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni Iraqi groups

In September–October 2005, there were signs of a split between homegrown Iraqi Sunni Arab insurgents who wanted Sunni influence in national politics restored,[26] and therefore supported a "no" vote in the 15 October 2005 referendum on a constitution,[27] and al-Zarqawi's Al Qaeda in Iraq, which strove for a theocratic state and threatened to kill those who engaged in the national political process with Shiites and Kurds,[26] including those who would take part in that referendum.[27]

From mid-2006, AQI began to be pushed out of their strongholds in rural Anbar Province, from Fallujah to Qaim, by tribal leaders in open war. That campaign was assisted by the Iraqi government paying cash gifts and alleged salaries to tribal sheikhs of up to $5,000 a month.[28] In September 2006, 30 tribes in Anbar Province formed an alliance called the "Anbar Awakening" to fight AQI.[29]

January 2006: Tanzim (AQI) creates Mujahideen Shura Council

Shosei Koda before his beheading

AQI's efforts to recruit Iraqi Sunni nationalist and secular groups were undermined by its violent tactics against civilians and by its fundamentalist doctrine. In January 2006 it created an umbrella organization called the Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC), in an attempt to unify Sunni insurgents in Iraq.[21]

Strength AQI in 2004–2006

Western media suggested that foreign fighters continued to flock to AQI.[30] A secret U.S. Marine Corps intelligence report of August 2006 wrote that Iraq's Sunni minority had been increasingly abandoned by their religious and political leaders who had fled or been assassinated, was "embroiled in a daily fight for survival", feared "pogroms" by the Shiite majority, and was increasingly dependent on Al-Qaeda in Iraq as its only hope against growing Iranian dominance across Baghdad.

In western Iraq, AQI was entrenched, autonomous and financially independent, and therefore the death of AQI leader Al-Zarqawi in June 2006 had little impact on the structure or capabilities of AQI. Illicit oil trading provided them with millions of dollars, and their popularity was rising in western Iraq.[31]

In Anbar, most government institutions had disintegrated by August 2006, and AQI was the dominant power, the U.S. Marine Corps intelligence report said.[31] In 2006, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research estimated that Al-Qaeda in Iraq's core membership was "more than 1,000".[32]

October 2006: Tanzim (AQI) creates Islamic State of Iraq

On 13 October 2006, the MSC declared the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), comprising Iraq's six mostly Sunni Arab governorates: Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din, Ninawa, and "other parts of the governorate of Babel", with Abu Omar al-Baghdadi being announced as the self-proclaimed state's Emir.[4] A Mujahideen Shura Council leader said: "God willing we will set the law of Sharia here and we will fight the Americans"; the Council urged on Sunni Muslim tribal leaders to join their separate Islamic state "to protect our religion and our people, to prevent strife and so that the blood and sacrifices of your martyrs are not lost".[33]

Following the announcement, scores of gunmen took part in military parades in Ramadi and other Anbar towns to celebrate. In reality, the group did not control territory in Iraq.[33][34]

In November, a statement was issued by Abu Ayyub al-Masri, leader of Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC), announcing the disbanding of the MSC, in favor of the ISI. After this statement, there were a few more claims of responsibility issued under the name of the Mujahideen Shura Council, but these eventually ceased and were totally replaced by claims from the Islamic State of Iraq.

In April 2007, Abu Ayyub al-Masri was given the title of 'Minister of War' within the ISI's ten-member cabinet.[35]

Car bombings were a common form of attack in Iraq during the Coalition occupation

According to a report by US intelligence agencies in May 2007, the ISI planned to seize power in the central and western areas of the country and turn it into a Sunni Islamic state.[36]

By June 2007, the uncompromising brand of extreme fundamentalist Islam of AQI and the ISI had alienated more nationalist Iraqi strands of insurgency.[37]

U.S. fighting Tanzim (Al-Qaeda in Iraq)

In November 2004, al-Zarqawi's network was the main target of the US Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, but its leadership managed to escape the American siege and subsequent storming of the city.

On 7 June 2006, al-Zarqawi and his spiritual adviser Sheik Abd-Al-Rahman, were both killed by a U.S. airstrike with two 500 lb (230 kg) bombs on a safe house near Baqubah. The group's leadership was then assumed by Abu Ayyub al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir.[8]

Criticisms from al-Zawahiri

U.S. intelligence in October 2005 published an intercepted letter purportedly from Ayman al-Zawahiri questioning AQI's tactic of indiscriminately attacking Shias in Iraq.[38]

In a video that appeared in December 2007, al-Zawahiri defended AQI, but distanced himself from the crimes against civilians committed by "hypocrites and traitors" that he said existed among its ranks.[39]

Operations outside Iraq and other activities

On 3 December 2004 AQI attempted unsuccessfully to blow up an Iraqi–Jordanian border crossing. In 2006 a Jordanian court sentenced al-Zarqawi and two of his associates to death in absentia for their involvement in the plot.[40] AQI claimed to have carried out three attacks outside Iraq in 2005. In the most deadly, suicide bombs killed 60 people in Amman, Jordan on 9 November 2005.[41] They claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks which narrowly missed the American naval ships USS Kearsarge and USS Ashland in Jordan, and also targeted the city of Eilat in Israel, and for the firing of several rockets into Israel from Lebanon in December 2005.[9] The affiliated groups were linked to regional attacks outside Iraq which were consistent with their stated plan, one example being the 2005 Sharm al-Sheikh bombings in Egypt, which killed 88 people, many of them foreign tourists.

The Lebanese-Palestinian militant group Fatah al-Islam, which was defeated by Lebanese government forces during the 2007 Lebanon conflict, was linked to AQI and led by al-Zarqawi's former companion who had fought alongside him in Iraq.[42] The group may have been linked to the little-known group called "Tawhid and Jihad in Syria",[43] and may have influenced the Palestinian militant group in Gaza called Jahafil Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad fi Filastin.[44]

See also


  1. 1 2 Pool, Jeffrey (16 December 2004). "Zarqawi's Pledge of Allegiance to Al-Qaeda: From Mu'Asker Al-Battar, Issue 21". Terrorism Monitor. 2 (24): The Jamestown Foundation. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 30 July 2014.
  2. 1 2 "The War between ISIS and al-Qaeda for Supremacy of the Global Jihadist Movement" (PDF). Washington Institute for Near East Policy. June 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
  3. "Govt bans al-Zarqawi terror group". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 20 May 2015.
  4. 1 2 "The Rump Islamic Emirate of Iraq". The Long War Journal. 16 October 2006. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  5. Middle East and North Africa Overview Archived December 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine., Country Reports on Terrorism, U.S. State Department, 28 April 2006
  6. "Zarqawi pledges allegiance to Osama". Dawn. Agence France-Presse. 18 October 2004. Archived from the original on 29 December 2007. Retrieved 13 July 2007.
  7. "Al-Zarqawi group vows allegiance to bin Laden". NBC News. Associated Press. 18 October 2004. Retrieved 13 July 2007.
  8. 1 2 "Al-Qaeda in Iraq names new head". BBC News. 12 June 2006. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 "Country Reports on Terrorism". United States Department of State. 28 April 2006. Archived from the original on 11 March 2007. Retrieved 25 July 2014.
  10. Whitaker, Brian (13 October 2005). "Revealed: Al-Qaida plan to seize control of Iraq". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  11. "Group seizes Japanese man in Iraq". BBC. 27 October 2004. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 "Fast Facts: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi". Fox News Channel. Associated Press. 8 June 2006. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  13. Ware, Michael (11 June 2008). "Papers give peek inside al Qaeda in Iraq". CNN. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  14. "Al-Qaeda claims to have killed Egyptian envoy". The New York Times. 7 July 2005.
  15. Caroll, Rory; Borger, Julian (8 July 2005). "Egyptian envoy to Iraq killed, says al-Qaida". The Guardian. London.
  16. "Al-Qaeda threatens to kill abducted Egyptian envoy". Middle East Online. July 6, 2005. Retrieved 30 December 2014.
  17. Howard, Michael (18 July 2005). "Three days of suicide bombs leave 150 dead". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 30 December 2014.
  18. 1 2 "Another wave of bombings hit Iraq". International Herald Tribune. 15 September 2005. Archived from the original on 28 October 2007.
  19. 1 2 3 Tavernise, Sabrina (17 September 2005). "20 die as insurgents in Iraq target Shiites". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 27 January 2008.
  20. Insurgents Kill 140 as Iraq Clashes Escalate. Washington Post, 6 January 2006. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  21. 1 2 DeYoung, Karen; Pincus, Walter (18 March 2007). "Al-Qaeda in Iraq May Not Be Threat Here". The Washington Times. Retrieved 28 November 2014.
  22. "Al Qaeda leader in Iraq 'killed by insurgents'". ABC News. 1 May 2007. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
  23. "TASK FORCE 5-20 INFANTRY REGIMENT OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM 06-07 (under section 'A Commander's Perspective')". U.S. Army 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment. Archived from the original on 18 November 2008. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  24. "U.S. says Iraq chlorine bomb factory was al Qaeda's". Reuters. 24 February 2007. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  25. "Al-Zarqawi declares war on Iraqi Shia". Al Jazeera. September 14, 2005. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  26. 1 2 Caroll, Rory; Mansour, Osama (7 September 2005). "Al-Qaida in Iraq seizes border town as it mobilises against poll". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  27. 1 2 Abdul-Ahad, Ghaith (27 October 2005). "We don't need al-Qaida". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  28. Beaumont, Peter (3 October 2006). "Iraqi tribes launch battle to drive al-Qaida out of troubled province". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  29. Klein, Joe (23 May 2007). "Is al-Qaeda on the Run in Iraq?". Time. Archived from the original on 6 July 2007. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  30. Het Nieuwsblad edition Oostende-Westhoek (Belgian newspaper), 26 March 2016.
  31. 1 2 "Anbar Picture Grows Clearer, and Bleaker". Washington Post, 28 November 2006. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  32. Tilghman, Andrew (October 2007). "The Myth of AQI". Washington Monthly. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  33. 1 2 "Gunmen in Iraq's Ramadi announce Sunni emirate". Reuters. 18 October 2006. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  34. "Iraqi Insurgents Stage Defiant Parades". The Washington Post. 20 October 2006. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  35. "Islamic State of Iraq Announces Establishment of the Cabinet of its First Islamic Administration in Video Issued Through al-Furqan Foundation". SITE Institute. 19 April 2007. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 20 July 2014.
  36. Mahnaimi, Uzi (13 May 2007). "Al-Qaeda planning militant Islamic state within Iraq". The Sunday Times. London. Archived from the original on 24 May 2011.
  37. Muir, Jim (11 June 2007). "US pits Iraqi Sunnis against al-Qaeda". BBC News. Retrieved 28 November 2014.
  38. "Al-Qaeda disowns 'fake letter'". BBC News. 13 October 2005. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  39. "British 'fleeing' claims al-Qaeda". Adnkronos. 17 December 2007. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
  40. Aloul, Sahar (19 December 2005). "Zarqawi handed second death penalty in Jordan". The Inquirer. Agence France-Presse. Archived from the original on 29 October 2007.
  41. "Al Qaeda claims responsibility for Amman blasts". The New York Times. 10 November 2005.
  42. "Fatah Islam: Obscure group emerges as Lebanon's newest security threat". International Herald Tribune. Associated Press. 20 May 2007. Archived from the original on 25 May 2007.
  43. "Al-Qaida inspired militant group calls on Syrians to kill country's president". International Herald Tribune. Associated Press. 28 May 2007. Archived from the original on June 1, 2007. Retrieved 6 August 2007.
  44. New Gaza Organization Vows Loyalty to Al-Qaeda, MEMRI 10-11-2008
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