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10/30/03 - ANSAR AL-ISLAM IN IRAQ - 2003-10-30

Ansar al-Islam, or A-I, is an extremist Muslim terrorist group operating in Iraq. It has ties to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida. The A-I terrorists want to impose on Iraq a repressive regime similar to that of the former Afghan Taleban. And it is becoming clear, says U.S. Lieutenant General Norton Schwartz, that Answar al-Islam is willing to work with the bitter-enders of the Saddam Hussein regime:

“There are some indications that there are linkages between the former regime loyalists and some of the A-I seniors. But generally speaking, they are independent actors. . . . A-I is our principal organized terrorist adversary in Iraq right now, and we are concentrating our resources on that.”

Before the war, Ansar al-Islam had its base in northern Iraq near the Iranian border. In the areas it controlled, A-I imposed a Taleban-style rule, and suicide bombings were a hallmark of its attacks against Iraqi Kurdish targets. Last March, Ansar al-Islam’s main base was destroyed by U.S. and Kurdish forces. But many of its leaders fled to Iran and other places. Now, A-I terrorists are crossing the border back into Iraq. Recently, says General Schwartz, U.S. troops captured one of A-I’s highest-ranking members, Aso Hawleri:

“The key thing is that. . .we apprehended one of their principals. And the effort will continue both to act against those that lead the organization and those soldiers who act against our troops. We will conduct offensive operations, and we’ll make sure that we minimize their capability.”

President George W. Bush says the U.S. and its coalition partners will “not be intimidated by these killers”:

“As a matter of fact, we’re even more determined to work with the Iraqi people to create the conditions of freedom and peace, because it’s in our national interest we do so. It’s in the interest of long-term peace in the world that we work for a free and secure and peaceful Iraq.”

“A free. . .Iraq in the midst of the Middle East,” says President Bush, “will have enormous historical impact."