Intercepted al-Qaida Letter Reveals Tactics, Strategy
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 16, 2008 Use silenced guns to kill coalition forces at Iraqi security checkpoints, smuggle weapons in gradual shipments to reduce the risk of detection, and poison Iraq’s water supply with nitric acid to spread disease and death.
Such tactics were fleshed out in a terrorist letter intended for Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the foreign-born leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. But the document never reached Masri. Instead, coalition forces lifted it from the body of a terrorist they killed last month during an operation 30 miles northwest of Baghdad.
The slain terrorist and author of the 11-page missive was Abu Safyan, from Diyala, Iraq, according to military officials who made available all but two pages deemed “not releasable” on the Multinational Force Iraq Web site.
Providing a glimpse into the proposed inner workings of al-Qaida in Iraq, the author discusses the need to split jihadists into three groups: snipers, assassination experts and martyrs. Each well-trained group should have an emir, or unit commander, at the lead. Through a series of coordinated surprise attacks, groups should work in unison to “bring down the city or the area,” he wrote.
In addition to outlining extremist combat methods, Safyan advocated waging economic and psychological warfare, and his roadmap for success hinged on “continuous conflict” between Iraq’s Shiite government, Sunni members of “Awakening Movements” and Kurdish nationalists.
“This will lessen the pressure against us and the Mujahidin brothers in all of Iraq when the enemies fight among themselves and weaken,” according to the handwritten Arabic letter, penned in blue ink on lined paper, that coalition forces captured in a remote farmhouse March 5 along with a suicide vest and computer equipment.
Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, today said the intercepted pages offer insight into the mind of a terrorist and provide further evidence about al-Qaida’s overarching strategy and tactics of violence.
“This document is just one man’s articulation, one terrorist’s views about instigating conflict and turning Iraqis against each other. But it is also quite consistent with the patterns of violence we see from AQI,” Bergner told reporters during a news conference in Baghdad, referring to al-Qaida in Iraq by the acronym AQI.
To strike at Iraq’s economy, the document proposes attacking the fields, wells and pipelines that make up the national oil infrastructure. The author recommends targeting oil tankers and ships, specifically those in Basra, Kirkuk and Baghdad.
“Attack all the targets that strengthen the enemy economically and militarily,” Safyan wrote. “Even the American Army will weaken since it depends on the Iraqi oil and gas wealth. The enemy will gradually drown step by step.”
The letter advises that a chemical offensive can inflict both physical and mental harm. Contaminating Iraqis’ water can produce “killing and dangerous illness,” and also convince the enemy “that we have a dangerous chemical weapon,” Safyan wrote. “But in fact,” he continues, “it’s a psychological war that places fear in the enemy.”
Page 8 of the document focuses on instigating fights between coalition forces and Iraqi groups, especially Sunnis who have rejected foreign extremism and terrorism in droves in what has been referred to as “Awakening Groups.” Safyan suggested infiltrating the Sunni cadres before planting and detonating mines “in their villages and streets.”
Bergner said the author’s call for violence against the Awakening movement typifies the kind of extremism many Iraqis have turned against. The confiscated document also reveals the threat such groups present to terrorists, he added.
“These writings are further examples of the corrupt ideology that Iraqis are broadly rejecting,” he said. “We have seen about 100,000 men choose a different path and join local volunteer groups like the Sons of Iraq instead.”
Coalition forces found a chart showing senior al-Qaida leaders recently killed or captured and several pages of a letter found on the body of a terrorist. The items were released April 16, 2008, in Baghdad, Iraq, during a media briefing by U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Later in the briefing, Bergner told reporters that coalition forces had captured or killed 53 al-Qaida in Iraq leaders since his most recent news conference early this month.
The 10 most significant targets, according to Bergner, were:
-- Abd-al-Rahman Ibrahim Jasim Thair, the military emir responsible for al-Qaida’s operations in Mosul. Thair is the former emir in Beiji, who moved to Mosul because of the city’s importance to al-Qaida.
-- Muhammad Fathi Hammad Husayn, an al-Qaida cell leader in Sharqat. Like Thair, he also moved from Beiji, where he was formerly the emir in charge of assassinations.
-- Jasim Najm Khalaf Muhammad, a leader in al-Qaida’s network in Khark who was attempting to reconstitute terrorist networks around Baghdad when coalition forces captured him in Tarmiyah.
-- Ali Mustashar Ali, a car bomb network operative in Baghdad. He and his associates moved explosives, vehicles and suicide bombers throughout the Iraqi capital.
-- Hamid Awayd Muhammad, a car- and truck-bomb attack operative in Baghdad. Once the al-Qaida emir responsible for Anbar province, he handled the logistics for vehicle-bomb attacks north of Baghdad at the time of his capture.
-- Ahmad Husayn Ghanim Ali, the security emir for eastern Mosul.
-- Abu Mansur, al-Qaida’s deputy emir for Mosul, who acted as a judge in the terror network’s illegal courts. The role of Mansur, who died March 8, was to “cloak their corrupt ideology with religious sanction.”
-- Tumah Khalaf Mutar Hassan, the leader of al-Qaida’s cell in Samarra, who worked closely with the area’s emir. Coalition forces captured him in Samarra in early March.
-- Muqdad Ibrahim Abbas Husayn, al-Qaida’s military emir for Jalam, located east of Baghdad. He coordinated terror operations with counterparts from Tikrit, Samarra and Mosul, and arranged al-Qaida leadership meetings in the Tigris River valley. Husayn also oversaw kidnappings for ransom that terrorists relied on for operational funding.
-- Mahmud Abd-al-Hamid Isa Aaywi, al-Qaida’s military emir for southern Karkh. His operations focused on trying to use car and truck bombs in Rashid, Karrada and Mansour.
“These terrorists are just one component of the mosaic of security threats that seek to destabilize Iraq and incite a cycle of violence the Iraqi people broadly reject,” Bergner said. He noted that recent violence against Iraqi citizens “highlights the need to keep going forward and the need to keep pursuing these terrorists.”