Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)

From: "Chapter 8; Foreign Terrorist Organizations," Country Reports on Terrorism 2005, US Department of State, April 30, 2006.

a.k.a. Al-Qaida Group of Jihad in Iraq;
Al-Qaida Group of Jihad in the Land of the Two Rivers;
Al-Qaida in Mesopotamia;
Al-Qaida in the Land of the Two Rivers;
Al-Qaida of Jihad in Iraq;
Al-Qaida of Jihad Organization in the Land of The Two Rivers;
Al-Qaida of the Jihad in the Land of the Two Rivers;
Al-Zarqawi Network;
Jam'at al-Tawhid Wa'al-Jihad;
Tanzeem Qaidat al Jihad/Bilad al Raafidaini;
Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn;
The Monotheism and Jihad Group;
The Organization Base of Jihad/Country of the Two Rivers;
The Organization Base of Jihad/Mesopotamia;
The Organization of al-Jihad's Base in Iraq;
The Organization of al-Jihad's Base in the Land of the Two Rivers;
The Organization of al-Jihad's Base of Operations in Iraq;
The Organization of al-Jihad's Base of Operations in the Land of the Two Rivers;
The Organization of Jihad's Base in the Country of the Two Rivers

Since its official statement declaring allegiance to the al-Qaida terrorist network in October 2004, the group identifying itself as Tanzim Qaidat Al-Jihad in Bilad al-Rafidayn (Organization of Jihad's Base in the Country of the Two Rivers), better known as the Zarqawi Network or al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), has lost dozens of lieutenants and high-ranking network members through Coalition and Iraqi security force operations. This group is most clearly associated with foreign terrorist cells operating in Iraq and has specifically targeted Coalition forces and Iraqi citizens. In a July 2005 letter to al-Qaida deputy Zawahiri, AQI leader Abumusab al-Zarqawi outlined a four-stage plan to expand the Iraq war to include expelling U.S. forces, establishing an Islamic authority, spreading the conflict to Iraq's secular neighbors and engaging in battle with Israel. Consistent with their stated plan, groups affiliated with Zarqawi also were linked to regional acts of terrorism, such as the Sharm al-Sheikh bombings in Egypt in July, the Aqaba rocket attack on the USS Ashland in August, and the multiple hotel bombings in Amman in November. In addition to Zarqawi's foreign recruiting efforts, the network likely is receiving material support through al-Qaida. In addition, local criminal activities also fund many of the Zarqawi Network's actions. There are reports indicating that the network steals cars and uses ransom money from kidnappings to fund its terrorist activities. In Mosul alone, Zarqawi affiliates are reportedly responsible for more than 1,700 attacks on Coalition and Iraqi forces over a three month period in 2005. Many of these attacks were suicide and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks using cars and other motor vehicles driven by foreign fighters or locally recruited Iraqis trained by foreign fighters. Like some Zarqawi operations, these attacks often targeted Iraqi Shia in an attempt to incite sectarian violence.

In August 2003, Zarqawi's group carried out a major terrorist attack in Iraq when it bombed the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad, followed 12 days later by a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attack against the UN Headquarters in Baghdad that killed 23, including the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. That same month the group also conducted a VBIED attack against Shia worshippers outside the Imam Ali Mosque in al Najaf, killing 85, including the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). The group kept up its attack pace throughout 2003, striking numerous Iraqi, Coalition, and relief agency targets such as the Red Cross. Zarqawi's group conducted VBIED attacks against U.S. military personnel and Iraqi infrastructure throughout 2004, including suicide attacks inside the Green Zone perimeter in Baghdad. The group successfully penetrated the Green Zone in the October 2004 bombing of a popular café and market. It also claimed responsibility for the videotaped execution by beheading of Americans Nicholas Berg (May 8, 2004), Jack Armstrong (September 20, 2004), and Jack Hensley (September 21, 2004). Zarqawi's network was likely involved in other hostage incidents as well. In 2005 AQI largely focused on conducting multiple high-profile, coordinated suicide attacks. AQI claimed numerous attacks primarily aimed against civilians, the Iraqi Government, and security forces, such as the coordinated attacks against polling sites during the January elections and the coordinated VBIED attacks outside the Sheraton and Palestine hotels in Baghdad on October 24. The group also continued assassinations against Shia leaders and the Shia Badr Corps. AQI also increased its external operations in 2005 by claiming credit for three attacks: suicide bomber attacks against hotels in Amman on November 9; a rocket attack against U.S. Navy ships in the port of Aqaba in August, which resulted in limited damage in Jordan and in Eilat, Israel; and the firing of several rockets into Israel from Lebanon in December. In addition, an AQI operative was arrested in Turkey in August while planning an operation targeting Israeli cruise ships. Prior to 2005, AQI planned and conducted limited attacks in Jordan, including the assassination of USAID official Laurence Foley in 2002. Also in 2005 AQI increased its rhetoric against governments in the region that it sees as collaborating with the West.

More than 1,000 members, but the exact number is unknown.

Location/Area of Operation
AQI's operations are predominately Iraq-based, but the group maintains an extensive logistical network throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Iran, South Asia, and Europe.

External Aid
AQI probably receives funds from donors in the Middle East and Europe, local sympathizers in Iraq, a variety of businesses and criminal activities, and other international extremists throughout the world. In many cases, AQI's donors are probably motivated by support for terrorism rather than affiliation with any specific terrorist group.