It is not entirely clear how or when Ansar al-Sunna (AS) Shariah was established. The group is believed to have split from the largely Kurdish group, Ansar al-Islam (AI), in 2007 due to AI's alleged ties with Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Some objected to Al Qaeda's targeting of Iraqi civilians and, after failing to sway the rest of the Ansar al-Islam leadership, decided to split and form AS Shariah. The two leaders of AI who left to form AS Shariah aligned with the Islamic Army of Iraq (IAI) and the Mujahideen Army (MA) to form the Jihad and Reform Front (RJF). AS Shariah is named on the Jihad and Reform Front's May 2007 founding statement, although some evidence suggests that AS Shariah did not completely break from Ansar al-Islam until July 2008.
Since its inception, AS Shariah has operated within two umbrella organizations, the Jihad and Reform Front and the Political Council of Iraqi Resistance. Almost all of AS Shariah's announcements have come in the form of joint communiqués from one of the two fronts. Both of the front organizations are considered to be moderate relative to many of the other jihadi groups operating within Iraq. AS Shariah, as a part of Jihad and Reform Front, has entered into talks with U.S. forces. Furthermore, they have said that they would not attack polling places for elections, unlike Al Qaeda and its affiliates. AS Shariah has not shown a proclivity for large attacks on the scale that Ansar al-Islam has, but does support the killing of foreign forces in Iraq.
It is believed that AS was started by former leaders of AI.
Abu Wail (Unknown to Unknown): Believed to be the leader of this group and was possibly also an Iraqi intelligence officer.
Ideology & Goals
AS Shariah espouses a jihadi interpretation of Islam, though with an Iraqi nationalist bent. As part of the umbrella organization Jihad and Reform Front, AS Shariah supports the killing of foreign military personnel, but has openly criticized other insurgent groups for targeting Iraqis and particularly Muslims.
AS Shariah advocates fighting Shiite influence in Iraq, though not as vigorously as Al Qaeda. As part of RJF, one of AS Shariah's short term goals is to unite all of the Iraqi militant factions together in a unified front.In the long term the group strives to liberate Iraq from foreign forces and establish a Shariah-ruled state.
The source of AS Shariah's material resources is unknown. However, the Jihad and Reform Front claims to have access to Katyosha, CK5 and Krad rockets. Some researchers have suggested that RJF may get assistance from Saudi donors, though have given no evidence to support their claims.
The group operates in Iraq.
Targets & Tactics
AS Shariah, as part of the Jihad and Reform Front, strictly targets foreign forces within Iraq, especially U.S. military personnel. There are videos of IED attacks against U.S. military vehicles that claim to be made by AS Shariah, but these videos cannot be independently verified to depict AS Shariah members. Various jihadi websites have attributed attacks to this group, but these claims cannot be verified.
AS Shariah does not consider the current Iraqi government to be legitimate, labeling it as a "traitor" government. They do not, however, rule out the possibility of working within a political system based on elections and popular consensus as long as that system conforms to Islamic laws.
AS Shariah is part of the political front organization, the Political Council of Iraqi Resistance. This council has shown greater political flexibility than other jihadist groups. It entered into talks with U.S. forces and sources say they may be quietly backing candidates for the Iraqi Parliament.
No verifiable attacks.
Relationships with Other Groups
AS Shariah is part of two front organizations, Jihad and Reform Front and the Political Council of Iraqi Resistance. One may assume, therefore, that AS Shariah has favorable relations with the groups contained in the Jihad and Reform Front and the Political Council of Iraqi Resistance.
AS Shariah and Ansar al-Islam (formerly Ansar al-Sunna) have a problematic relationship. AS Shariah is believed to have split from AI due to AI's targeting Iraqi citizens. Ansar al-Islam claims that AS Shariah, as part of the Jihad and Reform Front, is really a front for foreign forces aiming to deceive the Muslim community.
The Jihad and Reform Front, of which AS Shariah is a founding member, also has a long running feud with Al Qaeda in Iraq over tactics. For their part, Al Qaeda in Iraq seeks to sabotage RJF activities, such as reconciliation talks with the Iraqi government.
AS Shariah's relationship with the community is unknown, although it does not agree with al-Qaeda style attacks on Iraqi civilians.
^ Jihad and Reform Front Establishing Statement, Reform and Jihad Front Official Website. Retrieved on July 27, 2011 from http://rjfront.info/english/index.php?option=com_content&Itemid=28 . In the header of the Reform and Jihad Front's official website there is a Qur'anic quote stating, "And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah (i.e. this Qur'an), and do not be divided amongst yourselves."