"Who Kills Hostages in Iraq?"
Samir Haddad and Mazin Ghazi
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
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
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
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
First, the main Sunni resistance groups that primarily target the US
1. The Iraqi National Islamic Resistance, "The 1920 Revolution
-- 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
-- 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
-- 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Source: Baghdad Al-Zawra in Arabic--Weekly published by the Iraqi
September 19, 2004