An interview with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi?s ?chief aide? and supervisor of military operations in western Iraq, Abu Hafsa al-Ansari, conducted in al-Ramadi by the Lebanese magazine al-Watan al-Arabia and published February 23, 2006, was recently posted to a password-protected al-Qaeda-affiliated forum. The interview touches upon a number of topics including the size and composition of the al-Qaeda organization in Iraq, its financial sources, kidnapping of hostages, targets, interpretations of the political issues and allegations concerning uprisings by Iraqis against the insurgency. In addition, al-Ansari also reveals information regarding Zarqawi?s injury and how he was saved by the use of chemical weapons.
Abdullah al-Tamimi, the interview for al-Watan al-Arabia, opens the article by explaining that the need to observe Iraq beneath the obscurity and myriad reports by media agencies led him to travel to the ?depths of the hot areas? in western Iraq, al-Anbar governorate in particular and its capital, al-Ramadi. He was eventually able to meet Abu Hafsa al-Ansari and noted the Zarqawi aide?s confidence and his belief that the media ?falsifies? the truth to cover the Americans alleged loss and ?disgrace,? and seeks to lower the morale of Muslims to defeat the Islamic world.
The actual substance of the interview contains several interesting insights into the structure of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and its affiliation with other insurgency groups in the region, namely the Twentieth Revolution Brigades and Syouf al-Haq, amassed in a group called the ?Islamic Movement?. Abu Hafsa al-Ansari tells of his background as a geologist, and abandonment of this career in favor of jihad in Afghanistan, Chechnya and now Iraq, as military supervisor in al-Anbar. When questioned of the group?s composition in Iraq, he replies that nearly ninety-percent are native Iraqis, the remainder are foreign Muslims volunteers.
To a question concerning the financing of the jihad and paying for equipment and living quarters of the mujahideen, al-Ansari explains that such is collected from both the wealthy and elite of Iraq, in addition to contributions by foreign investors and business owners. Another portion of their finances comes from selling and exchange of plunder captured on the battlefield, which he asserts is lawful to take according to Islamic Shari?a. He then answers questions posed of justification for slaughtering and kidnapping enemy forces, and those who have no involvement with the ?occupation,? reiterating past points made by the group and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, stating: ?We announce on all the available media that we target anyone, whatever his nationality or position, if it has been proven that he deals, supports, and finances the occupation and the government that was setup by it in Iraq, physically or by words. We do not have a grey area between the right and wrong or between hell and paradise, and weeping over most of those individuals are spies who came with a cover of the media or humanitarian work… and the Arab ambassadors, they are converters and they represent converted agents and rotten governments. We are in a state of war with them and they know it, yet they still chase and issue death sentences or arrest our brothers there.?
Further, Abu Hafsa al-Ansari denies reports that the people of al-Anbar and the tribal sheikhs are uprising against the group and its mujahideen, claiming that they are all in solidarity and the ?sons of the Anbar tribes are the backbone of jihad?. He then avers that the mujahideen have firm control over the Iraq landscape, and states: ?I swear by God three times that the occupiers and the Iraqi government have only the control of the Green Zone and their own bases, and all of them are threatened with hits and penetration and this they know. We move within all the Iraqi lands and have complete control. Even if they deploy millions of the police and army, they will not hold. Their collapse became a fact and they look divided in spite of their pretending to be advanced and united.?
*Note: This is the first half of the interview. A translation of the remaining half in which Abu Hafsa al-Ansari touches upon Zarqawi?s injury, chemical weapons and political issues is forthcoming.
A translation of the first half of the interview is provided to our Intel Service members.