Al Qaeda’s Opening Shot in Iraq War

Saturday night, February 8, in the Iraqi-Kurdish city of Suleimaniyeh, al Qaeda and Iraqi military intelligence fired their first shot of the US-Iraq war – by assassination. They used their shared surrogate, the extremist Kurdish Ansar al-Islam of northeast Iraq, to eliminate the top command of the pro-American Patriotic Union of Iraqi Kurdistan’s fighting militia.
The three-way collaboration between Baghdad, al Qaeda and the Kurdish fundamentalist terrorists provided a live and incontrovertible smoking gun. The price was heavy, a grave setback for US war plans.
debkafile‘s military analysts compare the murders to the assassination of the Afghan Northern Alliance commander Shah Massoud two days before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
Then, the killers posed as journalists; this time, they pretended to be defectors.
Ansar al Islam, which has been fighting the PUK for two years and whose members trained in Afghanistan, used double agents to convince the Kurdish commanders of this strategic northeastern corner of Iraq that top Ansar commanders were willing to defect. The defectors, it was promised, would bring fresh evidence of the collaboration between Iraqi military intelligence and al Qaeda.
The offer came just after secretary of state Colin Powell spoke of this collaboration at his Security Council presentation of America’s case against Iraq on February 5. According to debkafile‘s military sources, the Ansar offer was relayed to officers of the US special forces and CIA working alongside the PUK militia. According to some local sources, the Ansar intermediaries also offered to produce captive Iraqi military agents or al Qaeda operatives as hostages.
Suleimaniyah, the hub town of eastern Kurdistan, is also the headquarters of the PUK high command in the region. It is ruled by the PUK leader Jalal Talabani, who has been short-listed in Washington for the post of Iraqi prime minister after Saddam Hussein’s ouster.
Suleimaniyeh also commands the highway from eastern Kurdistan to the important oil town of Kirkuk. The intermediaries’ choice of this city for the Ansar defection was intended to inspire trust. Any defectors guilty of treachery would be at the mercy of the PUK.
Believing they were safe, therefore, the top PUK commanders turned up to await the defectors. Instead of defecting, the Ansar arrivals pulled from their robes Kalashnikov assault guns and grenades. They killed Gen. Shawkat Haji Mushir, PUK leadership member, Hekmat Osman, security chief of the Sirwan district and Sardar Qafoor, military commander of the same district, as well as Sheik Kaffar Mustafa and three civilians. Mohamad Tawfiq, security chief of Halabja was seriously injured.
The Ansar killers used the noise and confusion to make their escape.
debkafile‘s counter-terror experts note the features common to these murders and al Qaeda’s assassination of the legendary Northern Alliance leader, Ahmad Shah Massoud, by two suiciders who detonated bomb belts just two days before the Islamic terrorist network struck in New York and Washington. Today it is generally believed that al Qaeda, predicting America’s response to the terror attacks, struck in advance of the Afghanistan War to eliminate America’s most gifted and formidable military ally.
The wiping out the PUK high command in Suleimaniyeh has alerted Western counter-terror agencies to the possibility of its being the precursor for another massive al Qaeda strike against the United States or its allies. Al Qaeda has taken advantage of the presence of its operatives in a given territory to hit pro-American military leaders present in the same place. One such operative is Abu Musaab al Zarqawi, who is in charge of terrorist activity in Europe and the Middle East, as well as the worldwide distribution of the network’s stock of chemical, biological and radioactive weapons. It is therefore possible that the murder of the Kurdish commanders signals the next major al Qaeda outrage.
According to our sources, Ansar al-Islam is rife both with Zarqawi’s men and also Iraqi military intelligence officers, under the command Colonel Abu Wale. These officers have been training al Qaeda operatives in the use of forbidden weapons. In a special debkafile report published on Saturday, February 8, the secret al Qaeda base for its joint operations with Iraqi military intelligence was revealed as being located in the town of Tajdori, 150 km northeast of Baghdad.
This joint enterprise and the al Qaeda-Iraqi activities among the Ansar have not been lost on US intelligence in northern Iraq. Before he was murdered, PUK commander, Gen. Mushir received heavy cannons for his militia, supplied by the Turkish army at the request of the Americans, for the purpose of mounting action to capture the Ansar enclave. This operation has meanwhile been called off.

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