September 2001: Ansar al-Islam's precursor group, Jund al-Islam, violently clashed with Patriotic Union of Kurdistan forces in a two-week long battle near Halabjah in northern Iraq (20 killed). 
March 2010: Ansar al-Islam claimed responsibility for 8 attacks against Coalition targets between January and March. (Casualties unknown).
July 23, 2014
al-Islam (AI), formerly known as Ansar al-Sunna (AS), is a Sunni extremist
group primarily made up of Iraqi Kurds intent on establishing a Salafi Islamic
state in Iraq governed by its interpretation of Sharia.  AI was formed in December 2001,
though precursor elements existed. Its formation was the result of a merger of
the Islah, al-Tawhid Islamic Front, and Jund al-Islam.  The
Council on Foreign Relations contends that AI was preceded by Jund al-Islam,
which was formed on September 1, 2001, from al-Tawhid, Hamas, and Soran Forces;
the group only became Ansar al-Islam after a merger between Jund al-Islam and a
breakaway group of the Islamic Movement in Kurdistan. 
Some AI members participated in the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan and
received financial and ideological support from Al Qaeda leaders. AI provided Al Qaeda
members safe-haven after they fled Afghanistan in September 2001. Prior to the March
2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, AI was primarily known for its violent clashes
with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). However, after the invasion, AI
became one of the most powerful elements of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq.
the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Kurdish and Coalition forces
attacked AI's stronghold in northern Iraq, causing group members to flee and
disperse throughout the country and into Kurdish territory in northwestern
Iran.  Some
sources incorrectly state that this attack completely destroyed the group. 
However, AI regrouped; because it viewed itself as the primary Sunni Islamist
militant group in Iraq, it renamed itself Ansar al-Sunna and declared itself an
umbrella group for Iraqi and Arab jihadists fighting the Coalition in
Iraq. Meanwhile, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's
group was conducting the war's earliest spectacular terrorist attacks in August
2003: suicide attacks against the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad, the United
Nations Headquarters in Baghdad, and the Shia Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf.
Recognition of AQI's emergence as the most capable jihadist group in Iraq impeded
the new Ansar al-Sunna's efforts to become the umbrella group it had declared
itself to be, as it did not seem to be the natural focal point for finances,
fighters and other resources flowing into Iraq from jihad supporters.
at the strategic level AI and AQI competed for influence and had divergent
views, at the tactical level the groups often cooperated closely. AI members
considered AQI's heavy-handed enforcement of Shariah and indiscriminate attacks
counterproductive and have complained to AQI leaders about AQI attacks against
AI was also never a significant supporter of AQI's anti-Shia campaign.
Additionally, despite the fact that within Iraqi insurgent group circles AI was
most ideologically similar to AQI, AI resisted pressure to officially endorse
and join AQI's Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). 
November 2007, Abdullah al-Shafii renamed the group Ansar al-Islam.
Earlier in 2007, internal tension had emerged in the group. Ansar al-Sunna's legal council criticized AQI for killing some Ansar al-Sunna members
and began promoting a partnership with an unknown group that was considered by
some members of Ansar al-Sunna to deviate from Shariah. To counter the actions
of their legal council, Ansar al-Sunna issued statements supporting prominent
acts of the Islamic State of Iraq and claimed joint actions with AQI. To
formally distance itself from the high-profile defection of its legal council,
the group changed its name back to Ansar al-Islam. After this name
change, the group remained aligned with AQI and AQI's increasingly hardline
tactics for insurgents and Sunnis who participated in the political process.
Following the disbanding of the group on a large scale in 2007, many former AI
members became affiliated with Al Qaeda Kurdish Battalions (AQKB). Though AI
was weakened considerably, the U.S. State Department still considers them to be
an active and capable foreign terrorist organization.
AI has claimed over 50 attacks between January 2009 and July 2011, there has
been no independent verification of that these attacks were indeed carried out
by AI.  On
May 3, 2010, Iraqi security forces captured Abu Abdullah al-Shafi along with
several other AI members. On January 4, 2012, AI announced that Abu Hashim
Muhammad bin Abdul Rahman al-Ibrahim was its new leader; all members quickly
declared their allegiance to Ibrahim. 
Ibrahim reportedly continues to lead AI.
has a history of conflict with ISIS and its predecessor, AQI. AI has attempted
to repair relations with ISIS since 2012, but to no avail. AI even contacted
Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of AQ Central, for assistance against ISIS; Zawahiri
offered no help even though he has spoken out for other groups, including al-Nusra, against ISIS. 
the increase of ISIS operations in Iraq, AI remains active, and has claimed
responsibility for many attacks against Iraqi police and security forces
beginning in the month of June 2014 through its Twitter account. 
AI has also posted photographs to its Twitter account in June 2014, apparently
in the attempt to demonstrate that it has retained potency in Iraq. However,
neither these photographs nor its purported attacks can be verified.
Mullah Krekar (December 2001 to February 2003): Mullah Krekar is a former Emir of AI (2001-2003), who was ousted in 2003 due to prolonged absence from Iraq. Krekar was previously the leader of Islah, one of the precursor groups to AI. His deputy, Abdullah al-Shafii, succeeded him as Emir.
Abdullah al-Shafii (February 2003 to May 3, 2010): Abdullah al-Shafii replaced Krekar as Emir. He was later arrested by Iraqi security forces on May 3, 2010.
Sheikh Abu Hashim Muhammad bin Abdul Rahman al Ibrahim (December 15, 2011 to Present): In late 2011, Ibrahim was announced as new Emir of Ansar al-Islam.
Ideology & Goals
is a violent, Sunni extremist group advocating imposition of its interpretation
of Shariah in Kurdish territory and Iraq.
December 2001: Ansar al-Islam. Jund al-Islam was renamed Ansar al-Islam.
September 2003: Ansar al-Sunna. Ansar al-Islam was renamed Ansar al-Sunna.
November 28, 2007: Ansar al-Islam. Abdullah al-Shafii renames the group Ansar al-Islam.
December 2001: 350 (Christian Science Monitor)
March 2009: 500-1000 (Australian National Security)
as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the State Department on March 22, 2004
as being associated with Al-Qaida, Osama Bin Laden or the Taliban pursuant to
UNSC Resolution 1390 : October 18, 2004 to Present on February 24, 2003
receives funds from the Iraqi diaspora, particularly in Jordan, Turkey and
Europe, as well as from former Ba’athist officials and local sheiks. AI also
engages in local criminal activities from which it gains revenue. It has also
been reported that AI has received funds from AQ Central, the former Al Qaeda
in Iraq (AQI) and Iran. 
Qaeda has provided money as well as training, equipment and combat
support to AI. The Council on Foreign
Relations reports that some experts believe AI has received support from Iran;
particularly, Iran has harbored AI fighters and created safe routes for new
recruits to enter Iraq and join AI. 
to March 2003, AI had strongholds in Biyara and Tawela.  After
the invasion until about 2008, AI operated in Sulaimaniya, Arbil, Ninewa,
Kirkuk, Baghdad, Salah al-Din, Diyala, and al-Anbar.  As of 2012, AI
was predominantly based in northern Iraq, with a presence in al-Anbar, Diyala,
and Salah al-Din provinces.  There are also reports
that AI has expanded its operations into Syria, particularly around Aleppo.
Targets & Tactics
targeted mainly Coalition forces, Iraqi security forces, and Iraqi government interests
until 2011. It also targeted secular Kurdish leaders, especially those
associated with PUK and the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP).  AI conducted
numerous improvised explosives device attacks, including suicide bombings,
kidnappings, beheadings, and rocket attacks. Especially before 2003, the group
experimented with chemical attacks and explored the use of ricin and cyanide
has also been known to carry out attacks on government officials, journalists,
humanitarian aid officials, professors, and doctors. Following the US-led
invasion of Iraq, AI also targeted persons who worked for the Multinational
Force in Iraq (MNF-I) in non-military capacities, such as cleaners and
January 2009 and July 2011, AI has claimed responsibility for over 50 attacks,
the majority of which involve the use of IEDs against US and Iraqi military
targets. The increased frequency of these types of attacks may indicate a shift
in AI tactics during this period to rely more heavily of IEDs. However, no
government or news agency has publicly verified that these attacks were
actually carried out by AI. 
May 16, 2013, AI created a Twitter account that it uses to provide updates
concerning its attacks and policies; it has even used its Twitter account to
provide detailed information about its negotiations with ISIS.  AI has also claimed responsibility for attacks and post photographs
purportedly demonstrating their continued operations in Iraq on the site. However, the
verity of these posts has yet to be confirmed independently. 
produces a monthly publication, Hasad al-Mujahidin (Mujahidin Roundup),
consisting of summaries of operational press releases.  AI also has a
twitter account, which it uses to provide updates concerning its operations. 
June 2002: The group carried out suicide attacks against PUK targets in Sulaimaniya (Casualties unknown).
October 14, 2003: AI bombed the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad (1 killed, 24 wounded).
February 1, 2004: The group carried out simultaneous suicide attacks at the headquarters of the KDP and the PUK in Arbil (105 killed, 100 wounded).
December 2004: AI carried out a suicide attack in U.S. military dining facility at FOB Marez in Mosul, Iraq. (22 killed, 60 wounded).
October 2005: AI beheaded two "spies" from Al-Durah (2 killed).
July 23, 2006: AI carried out multiple attacks across Diyala and Anbar, including an assassination of a Shia politician and attacks on U.S. soldiers (3 killed).
April 22, 2007: In Ninawa, AI stopped a bus and extracted all the Yazidi passengers. Though the others were left alone, the Yazidi passengers were taken to Mosul and executed (23 killed, 7 wounded).
May 8, 2007: AI carried out a suicide attack in Irbil outside the Kurdish Interior Ministry (15 killed, 65 wounded).
August 13, 2008: AI attacked a barracks in Peshmerga (19 killed).
Relationships with Other Groups
Islamic Movement of Kurdistan (IMK) formed in 1987. In
1997, IMK split, spawning Hamas (not to be confused with Hamas Iraq or the
Palestinian Hamas), al-Tawhid Islamic Front, and the Second Soran
July 2001 and August 2001, al-Tawhid, Hamas, and the Second Soran Unit merged
to form the Islamic Unity Front, which was renamed Jund al-Islam on September
1, 2001. Jund
al-Islam was led by Abdallah al-Shafi,
who replaced Mullah Krekar as emir of AI in 2003, after the latter's prolonged
absence from Iraq. In December 2001, the group was renamed Ansar
early May 2007, two leaders of AI left to form the Ansar al-Sunna Sharia Commission,
which aligned with the Islamic Army of Iraq (IAI) and the Mujahedeen Army (MA)
to form the Jihad and Reformation Front (RJF). AI clarified in May that
only the two leaders aligned with IAI and MA and that AI remained separate and
unsupportive of the RJF.
are longstanding ties between AI and Al Qaeda, given the group's ideological
affinity with Al Qaeda and some members' common participation in the anti-Soviet
jihad. Al Qaeda leaders provided AI guidance in the past and reportedly
approved funding for the group. Following disputes
between AQ Central leadership and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), several
jihadists have begun spreading the rumor that AI has become an official branch
of AQ Central; however, neither AI nor AQ Central have substantiated these
has a history of conflict with ISIS and its precursor, AQI. AI
has also cooperated with AQI, but the two were never formally aligned.  AQI
elements had a history of attacking and killing AI members. 
has attempted to repair relations with ISIS since 2012, but to no avail. AI
even contacted Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of AQ Central, for assistance against
ISIS; Zawahiri offered no help even though he has aided other groups, including al-Nusra, against ISIS. 
Part of basis for the conflict between AI and ISIS stems from ISIS’s claim that
it is a state and its subsequent lack of cooperation with other jihadist groups
such as AI.  There are some
reports that AI is cooperating with al-Nusra against ISIS. 
of AI are primarily Kurdish Islamist fighters and Sunni Arabs, including
former Baathist regime elements. The group recruits in Iraq, focusing on the
areas of Mosul, Kirkuk and Salah al-Din.
information exists regarding AI's relationship with the surrounding population.
In general, it is not a popular Kurdish group. It is dominated by PUK and KDP- larger, more
successful, and politically active Kurdish groups that oppose AI.
after its founding in 2001, AI gained control of territory in northeastern Iraq
near the border with Iran, where it imposed its interpretation of Shariah
control in this enclave was eliminated when Coalition and Kurdish forces
attacked in March 2003.