Counter-Terrorism: Disputes Among Islamic Terrorist Groups


February 21, 2006: Around the end of January, Mohammed Rabih Abu Zar, one of al Qaeda's top operatives in Iraq, was arrested in Baghdad. Possibly the top al Qaeda figure in the Baghdad area, Abu Zar was a key player in the development of the tactics of suicide and IED (roadside bomb) attacks. Reportedly, he has been spilling the beans on al Qaeda operations.

Among Abu Zar's revelations are that, despite criticism from the al Qaeda "center" in Pakistan, Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq is committed to continuing to target civilians, in an effort to spark a Sunni-Shia civil war in the country. But, in order to dampen criticism, al Qaeda will no longer "claim responsibility" for attacks that kill or injure civilians.

This is but one of many signs of dissent among Islamic terrorists. For some time now evidence has been mounting that all across the Moslem world—literally from North Africa through the Middle East and on into Indonesia—that the radical Islamist movement has increasingly been suffering from internal strains. Disputes over tactics, specifically concerning the targeting of civilians, have led to rifts between Al Qaeda-in-Iraq and the Al Qaeda Center in Pakistan. Similar rifts seem to be emerging among Islamist groups in Algeria, India, Bangladesh, Thailand, and perhaps elsewhere.

But arguments over tactics are not the only source of the internal divisions. There have also been squabbles over access to volunteers and money, much of which is moved covertly from the Middle East and elsewhere. Completion for money and men has apparently led to occasional "claims of responsibility" by some groups for acts committed by others, in order to increase their stature and thus attract more support. In addition, ego may be playing a role, as the leaders of various smaller Islamist groups try to burnish their jihadist credentials and increase their stature.


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