Counter-Terrorism: Civil War Within Al Qaeda


January 17, 2006: The rift appears to be widening between what might be termed "Al Qaeda Center," represented by by Osama Bin Laden's right hand man Ayman al-Zawahri, and "Al Qaeda-in-Iraq" (AQII) leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The bombings earlier this month of Shia religious sites in Karbala which caused some 50 deaths and scores of injuries, resulted in an enormous amount of bad publicity for Al Qaeda throughout the Moslem world. Reportedly, as a result of the attacks, al-Zawahri admonished al-Zarqawi over attacks against civilian targets and Shia religious sites. Al-Zarqawi's reaction was to post on an "official" AQII website a statement denying responsibility for the attacks, though reaffirming that Shia were heretical swine.

Despite al-Zawahri's criticism, it is unlikely that al-Zarqawi will back off attack on civilian targets, which are much easier to carry out than attacks on Iraqi or Coalition troops. As a result of AQII's policy of targeting civilians, as well as a more recently program of assassination against secularist Iraqi resistance groups, a "war within the war" appears to have developed in some areas of Iraq. There is strong evidence that pitched battles have occurred in several regions between AQII's "foreign" fighters and local insurgents loyal to tribal or Baathist leaders. In Al Anbar province the principal secular resistance leader, Muhammed Mahoud Latif, appears to be among one of the insurgent leaders prominent in quasi-covert "peace" talks with the Iraqi government.


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