Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Press Junket to 'Al-Baghdadi's' Village

The Iraqi government is intent on flogging the dead horse of the Abu Omar al-Baghdadi capture, and this time they’ve taken an Al-Arabiya TV crew to film the abandoned village of the man in custody, Ahmad Abid Ahmad Khamees al-Majma’I, who is being depicted as al-Baghdadi. You can watch the footage here (Arabic report).

It seems that Al-Arabiya has been given this scoop in retaliation for its rival Al-Jazeera airing al-Baghdadi’s last speech.

A few things jumped at me in this report:

-The village shown is being called Bazaiz Buhriz (approximately 5 Km south of Baquba). But Bazaiz Buhriz is an area with several hamlets, and the sectarian fault line dividing Sunni and Shia tribes in Diyala runs through it. It was the scene of many jihadist attacks (some of the tribes of the area sided with the Hamas-Iraq insurgent group against Al-Qaeda), as well as retaliation by Mahdi Army squads. The report claims that it was deserted before the Iraqi Army began controlling the area. There are only about six or seven houses in this hamlet, and it did seem as if it had been deserted for some time. A very small ‘bunker’ (nothing more than a concrete basin with a lid, looks like 7 meters by 2 meters) was identified as al-Baghdadi’s private prison. The lid looks as if it had been hit by a projectile. However, it seems to be a ‘mild’ hit, likely a mortar. These areas were heavily mortared by rival groups.

-Bazaiz Buhriz is inhabited by Majamma’ clans, many of whom had been the victims of jihadist attacks and kidnappings. However, the ID cards for Ahmad al-Majma’i’s children (shown in the report, his wife’s ID is blurred by one can still make out her name as Nada Yaseen) list the family name as ‘Al-Ja’afari’. I find that very interesting since the captured man said that his last name is al-Majma’i in the taped confessions. But the Ja’afirah clan in Diyala (who’d use the last name Ja’afari) are very few in number and distributed around the province. They descend from the ‘Abdeh branch of the Shammar Toqah (…just to clarify, it means they are not Qurayshis). There’s a small village in Diyala that recent reports claims that has been abandoned and is called Ja’afirah, and it could have been the hamlet depicted in the report. This is important since a man belonging to a small tribe wouldn’t take it upon himself to lead attacks on the much larger Mujama’a tribes. It stands to reason that the man shown in the confessions would assume the name al-Majma’i since smaller clans usually get subsumed into larger ones, but the people of the area would always know that he was from the Ja’afireh.

-The Al-Arabiya report also claims that it had been contacted by al-Majma’i’s wife (…who could have supplied them with the IDs) who categorically says that while her husband had worked with jihadist groups, he was not Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.

-There was one unidentified man from the area shown in the report who seemed skeptical about the claim that al-Majma’i was al-Baghdadi.

-The older man shown in the report, and who makes the connection between al-Majma’i and al-Baghdadi is identified as Yusuf al-Haylan. If I’m not mistaken, then his full name is Yusuf Haylan Kareem of the Banadirah clan, a subsection of the Rifa’aat clan, which is a subsection of the Majama’a. But he’s a resident of Tikrit (his ancestors had migrated there several generations in the past) who had been given land in the area by Saddam and proceeded to establish a village bearing his name ‘Yusuf al-Haylan’. Ownership of this land was disputed by Shi’a tribes in the area, and there were clashes reported a few years back. It would serve his interests to be advocating the government’s message in order to secure his land, and furthermore, he may have clashed over similar land disputes with the residents of the village to which al-Majma’i belonged.

Again, the government’s case that the captured man is Abu Omar al-Baghdadi is unconvincing. But it’s clear by now that they don’t intend to drop the issue for its media value.

However, more and more information will begin to peter out of the area about al-Majma’i that may undermine the government’s narrative, making it more unlikely that he’s al-Baghdadi.

17 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some "scoop," as it is a propaganda exercise...

4:10 PM, May 25, 2009

 
Blogger Touta said...

"But Bazaiz Buhriz is an area with several hamlets, and the sectarian fault line dividing Sunni and Shia tribes in Diyala runs through it."- a sectarian division line running through Buhriz? Since when? Baquba, maybe, but Buhriz?

4:49 PM, May 25, 2009

 
Blogger Nibras Kazimi نبراس الكاظمي said...

Dear Touta,

Yes, the sectarian fault lines do run through Buhriz. You can correct me if I'm wrong since my geography is a little hazy, but to the west of Buhriz there's Kana'an and Balad Ruz; to the south is Khan Bani Sa'ad; and to the west towards the Tigris are many Sunni and Shi'a villages. And as you said, to the north there is Baquba. All these areas were scenes of ethnic cleansing, from both sides. That would pretty much make it a sectarian fault line.

Best,

Nibras

6:06 PM, May 25, 2009

 
Blogger Nibras Kazimi نبراس الكاظمي said...

That post above should read "to the east of Buhriz is Kana'an..."

6:07 PM, May 25, 2009

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Today the Iraqi government says they have captured the brother of Al-Baghdadi. Do you guys think the voice on videos belongs to the brother?

4:06 AM, May 26, 2009

 
Blogger Touta said...

I visited there a few weeks ago (nothing to do with Al baghdadiy i swear ;) ), and i noticed in Baquba, especially baquba al jedida, people aligned themselves with tribes/families, which then had in turn aligned themselves to religion/certain leaders.

In the farms, there's streams that run from diyala (river), and because the streams at the front had dried out, dead bodies were found. The farms do lie near Buhriz and the surrounding villages, and because of the geography of the area its exceptionally easy to hide anything.

Best wishes, and thanks for the reply.

7:26 AM, May 26, 2009

 
Blogger Nibras Kazimi نبراس الكاظمي said...

Hi Touta,

Thanks for the input, and I just wanted to say that I really like your blog and wished that you'd write more often.

Best,

Nibras

8:18 AM, May 26, 2009

 
Blogger Touta said...

Nibras,
thanks for the compliment, and I'll try to post soon.
Really, I'm still too uninvolved in politics, but your blog is very equal on the iraqi news and i hope to read more.

(oh and the profile photo is very interesting, looks like an iraqi mythological hero...enkido perhaps?)

Regards,

11:17 AM, May 26, 2009

 
Blogger Khalid from iraqiblogupdates.blogspot.com/ said...

Touta,

No, not Enkidu, I think it's more suitable for Nibras to be Gilgamesh.

Nibras is an intellectual Iraqi who uses his intelligence and analytical skills to find out the truth.Therefore he is a man of knowledge.

Enkidu started his life in a jungle running naked with the wild animals. While Gilgamesh is a great hero who had all knowledge.

I'm sure you want Nibras to live a long long life but the reality is that Enkidu dies early in Table 7 while Gilgamesh continued his life seeking glory and eternal life.

Having said all that I believe Nibras has the last say, who knows? may be he just wants to be himself.

Thanks to you and also to Nibras,

8:25 PM, May 26, 2009

 
Blogger Nibras Kazimi نبراس الكاظمي said...

Hi Khalid and Touta,

It's neither here or there, not Enkidu or Gilgamesh. It's supposed to be painted in the style of an Orthodox icon, with a touch of what a face in painted glass may look like. Although it can't be seen clearly from the picture, but the head is surrounded with etchings into the paint to give the effect of a halo. The free floating flower represents the soul, escaping the body, since the rest of the painting shows one hand holding a knife, while the other hand, just outside the frame, is supposed to infer a slit wrist.

As you can tell, there are plenty of happy thoughts here! It's supposed to be me, back in the days when I had a beard. But very few people see the resemblance, mostly because I've made myself to look thin. The title was "An Apology in Acrylic", and it has a story behind it that I won't be sharing.

I think I'll do more of these icon paintings in the future, actually I'm working on one now.

If you like Mesopotamian symbolism, then you should check out the works of my talented friend Araz (from Kirkuk and now in Holland), where he superimposes such symbols on classical European landscapes, highlighting a visual clash between worlds:

http://www.arazmori.com/

Best,

Nibras

11:12 AM, May 27, 2009

 
Blogger Khalid from iraqiblogupdates.blogspot.com/ said...

Dear Nibras,

Thank you for your explanation and I will check the link. Surely you are free to be what you want and no doubt Gilgamesh is a good option if you change your mind in the future. HAHAHHA just kidding.

I hope that you write more often about the burning issues in Iraq such as the coming election, corrupt politicians, ..... and other matters.

If we get two or three posts from you every week then that will give us a continuous analytical views of all the current affairs in Iraq.

Take care,

8:34 PM, May 27, 2009

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just heard on Al-Arabiya (Siaeet Almout program) that Muhareb Al-Jeboori is the guy who records the voice of Al-Baghdady.

What do you think Nibras?

Ali/Iraq

6:00 PM, May 29, 2009

 
Blogger Nibras Kazimi نبراس الكاظمي said...

Hi Ali/Iraq,

Muharib al-Jeboori was the spokesman for the ISI. He was confirmed killed in 2007, by both the government and the jihadists.

Best,

Nibras

8:41 AM, May 30, 2009

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Nibras,

I guess the recent press releases of the Iraqi gov't are their try to:

a) confuse the members of ISI and "force" them to call their cell leaders; these calls may be interrupted by the Iraqi gov't and used to draw a picture of the cell structures/distribution over the country

b) force al Baghdadi to either show his face or release regular audio recordings which might compromise his security


What do you think?

1:23 PM, May 30, 2009

 
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