Al-Qaeda Claims Credit for Helicopter Shoot-Down (Update, Saturday, February 3, 2007)
The 'Islamic State of Iraq', the organization that fronts for Al-Qaeda in Iraq, has issued a press release (Arabic) taking credit for shooting down the Black Hawk helicopter that crashed in the Taji area (north of Baghdad) today, resulting in two American fatalities.
Let's hope that the American press would at least mention this claim when reporting the story; it is further proof that what is referred to as the 'Sunni insurgency' is increasingly becoming Al-Qaeda's war against the Americans and the Shi'as in Iraq.
The US media has been using the generic term 'insurgent' to describe the militants even when groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq are claiming credit for specific attacks. This practice has got to end, and the American audience needs to be told that America's soldiers are actually fighting Al-Qaeda when engaging 'insurgents' in Iraq.
UPDATE: the Al-Qaeda release identified the helicopter as an Apache helicopter and not a Black Hawk, as I had written above.
FOLLOW UP, Saturday, February 3, 2007:
This is how the New York Times covered it today (Marc Santora, ‘2 Killed as U.S. Helicopter Is Shot Down Near Baghdad,’ February 3, 2007, p. 7):
Before the military had confirmed the crash, a militant group was already taking responsibility and promising to post a video of the attack on the Internet.
The Washington Post was only slightly better (Ernesto Londono, ‘U.S. Copter Crash in Iraq Kills 2 In Fourth Such Incident This Year,’ February 3, 2007, p. 11):
Military officials did not say what type of helicopter it was or how it crashed. But Iraqi police and an insurgent group that asserted responsibility for the crash identified the craft as an Apache and said it had been shot down by a shoulder-fired antiaircraft missile.
“We are saying to the enemies of God that the airspace of the Islamic state of Iraq is prohibited for you, just like its land,” the Islamic State of Iraq, a Sunni insurgent group, said in a statement posted on its Web site. “God opened for the soldiers of the Islamic State of Iraq new ways to confront your aircrafts.”
At least the WaPo story mentioned the ‘Islamic State of Iraq,’ but neither it nor the NYT piece made mention of that spooky yet related word: Al-Qaeda. Isn’t it a bit misleading to say that the Islamic State of Iraq is just another ‘Sunni insurgent group’? Isn’t the fact that it is a front for Al-Qaeda relevant to the war on terror?
The editors of those two papers certainly seem to think that the Al-Qaeda affiliation is not relevant to the story that their readers get to see, and hence, not relevant to the debate in the United States over Iraq.
There is something very troubling about that.
I wonder how they are going to cover what’s transpired in today’s news, namely Al-Qaeda revealing its new military offensive in Iraq under the name ‘The Dignity Plan’.
Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State of Iraq, announced the plan in an audio message posted on several jihadist websites today (I will write about it soon). Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, Zarqawi’s successor as head of Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, had pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi in early November 2006.
As part of Al-Qaeda's new ‘Dignity’ offensive, the Islamic State of Iraq has issued press releases today claiming credit for the bombings in Kirkuk (eight bombings), and the fighting in the city of Mosul (a curfew was declared), and in Diyala and Salahuddin provinces.
How will the media dodge the Al-Qaeda affiliation now?
If it were up to me, I’d think that the point I made in my Turnaround in Baghdad column a couple of weeks ago is very relevant: battling the insurgency now essentially means battling Al Qaeda.
UPDATE, Sunday, February 4, 2007:
Both Sunday print editions of the New York Times and the Washington Post make not mention of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi/Islamic State of Iraq/Al-Qaeda.
The Iraq-related stories they carry today describe the violence in Kirkuk, Baghdad and Mosul, but make no mention of Al-Qaeda’s press releases claiming responsibility for that violence.
It’s astounding, and I can’t find any possible rationale behind these omissions. Is there a media blackout that we’re unaware of?
Yesterday’s Associated Press story (Byline: Steven R. Hurst) confuses Abu Omar al-Baghdadi with Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi (whose name is rendered in the AP story as Abu Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi), the head of the now-defunct Shura Council of the Mujaheddin; I think that Abu Omar and ‘Abdullah Rashid are two different persons:
An Iraqi militant group tied to al-Qaida in Iraq announced, meanwhile, it had launched its own new strategy to counter the coming U.S.-Iraqi crackdown.
In an audiotape posted on a Web site commonly used by the insurgents, a voice purported to be that of Abu Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi, also known as Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, said the group would "widen the circle of battles" beyond Baghdad to all of Iraq. Al-Baghdadi heads The Mujahedeen Shura Council, an umbrella organization of insurgent groups in Iraq.