Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Al-Qaeda Tries to Show Soft Side in New Videos

Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia has released two new videos that I’ve found interesting. It should be noted that as of late, Zarqawi’s aforementioned organization as well as multiple other terrorist groups have been issuing new batches of footage on almost a daily basis. Any adolescent in the Middle East with ready access to their propaganda material would be left with the impression that the increase in video uploads means that the insurgency is going well in Iraq. Since these well-produced videos aim to increase fundraising and recruiting vectors, then a spike in their numbers would indicate a fiercer competition among the insurgent groups in addition to an increase in activity and scope.

The Sudanese Diplomats: They were abducted on December 24, and released on Sunday, January 1st, according to press reports. In this video, Al-Qaeda tries to show that the diplomats had recanted their wayward ways and that they had ‘enjoyed’ their stay as guests of Al-Qaeda’s terrorists, who were threatening to behead the five diplomats if their government did not withdraw its representation in Baghdad.

The 9 minute video starts off with a Quranic verse, and then a list of five names and their job titles appears:

1-Abdel-Mun’im Muhammad Al-Houri, 2nd Secretary
2-Aadhem Muhammad Suleiman, Administrative Attaché
3-Rawi Ali Ahmad, Assistant Administrative Attaché
4-Salah Muhammad Ali Ahmad, Maintenance worker
5-Abdel-Adhim Ahmad Abdullah, Guard at ambassador’s residence

Each is shown in turn, giving their names and home addresses in Sudan or Iraq. They say that they regret that their service had been “in the favor of the occupation.” They are neatly dressed, and only the guard is shown in Sudanese traditional garb. Then Al-Qaeda’s ultimatum is shown as an internet posting, giving the government of Sudan 48 hours to respond. A voice that sounds like Zarqawi’s, even though he is not identified as such, reads a message to the people of Sudan, re-assuring them that this action is not directed against them but rather against their government that has sided with a Shia regime that is “massacring your Sunni brothers.” The man also threatens all diplomatic missions in Iraq with a similar fate.

We are then shown a scene of one of the hostages, this time blindfolded, trying to sing a Sudanese ditty, while what sounds like the terrorists breaking out into girly giggles in the background. The caption at the bottom reads “Happiness at their release.” The image shifts to one of all five Sudanese diplomats huddled around in a little room with two terrorists wearing head scarves and with faces shielded. They seem to have just been told of their imminent release. One of the Sudanese (probably the maintenance worker) begins to shout out the good graces of Al-Qaeda, saying that “what we saw was the treatment of angels” and that this behavior was indeed “the mark of the mujahid.” He begins to shout “Allahu Akbar” and stands up while all the others start weeping and a hug fest breaks out with the two terrorists. The same man—now positively hysterical—starts declaring that both his sons, as well as his daughters, will be raised from this point forth to be mujahids. He is clearly distraught and still scared to bits.

They seem to be in a rural hut: the roof is made of reeds.

The same voice that sounds like Zarqawi’s comes back to say that the Sudanese pulled out their mission from the Green Zone, and that this action comes at the heels of what happened to the Egyptian, Algerian, Bahraini and Pakistani diplomatic missions. He ends by saying, “…and the Turkish ambassador had just been hit as these words are being spoken.” The Turkish diplomat was fired on by snipers on a Baghdad highway on January 2nd.

The Garma Strike: The second video from Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia (4 minutes in length) falls under the typical genre of attacks on Iraqi government forces, or “apostates” in the jihadist jargon. The setting is Garma, an agricultural area north of Fallouja on the Saklawiyya Canal that is mostly inhabited by members of the Lheibat tribe. The footage starts with the camera going around a room to show the weaponry that is to be used in the attack: about eight RPG-7 launchers, two sniper rifles, a Russian-made BKC, as well as an assortment of small arms.

Then we see a wide-shot of the target: a house that seems to be an HQ for some Iraqi security unit. If it had been the National Guard or the Iraqi Police, then Al-Qaeda would have identified them as such, but they kept calling this the “headquarters of the apostates”—probably under the aegis of Iraq’s Intelligence Service or the Ministry of Interior’s Intelligence Department. In any case, there were three visible pick-up trucks with Iraqi Police markings in the HQ’s garage.

What I found interesting is that the video makes a big deal of the terrorists evacuating civilians from adjacent houses. We glimpse a man and a woman scurrying out of their house, while seven terrorists hang around a van parked just outside of this particular house. It seems to me that all this would have been within the line of sight of the observation tower—heavily sand-bagged—atop the HQ, but maybe nobody was manning it. All hell breaks loose, and several rockets hit the tower, while the HQ takes fire from this group of seven terrorists as well as from other angles. This attack looks like it is occurring in the early afternoon.

The footage is accompanied with Al-Qaeda battle songs. The video ends with the camera-man, sitting in a second vehicle, filming the van up ahead on the open road in a sparsely inhabited area, with its backdoor open. The terrorists are shooting celebratory gunfire into the air.

The accompanying text, signed by Zarqawi’s ‘publicist’ Abu Maysara Al-‘Iraqi, says that over 20 apostates were killed inside the HQ.

Whether being gracious hosts to kidnapped diplomats, or evacuating civilians just before an imminent attack, Al-Qaeda is trying to show a different side to its ethos from its days of decapitating victims. It doesn’t need to make these points, but it is going out of its way to present what they would consider a more ‘humane’ side. One wonders why? Why now, and what happened on the ground to bring this about?


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