The Second Soran Unit (SSU) was a Sunni Kurdish militant group formed in 1998 after a group of approximately 350-400 fighters split from the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan (IMK). This splinter group, led by As'ad Muhammad Hasan (also known as Asa Hawleri), included between 50-60 Arabs who were veterans of the mujahideen against the Soviet Union. The split occurred because of IMK’s 1997 cooperation with the secular, regional government of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and the perception of growing Iranian influence in the IMK. SSU rejected such affiliations due to the group’s extreme Salafist orientation.
Soon after its founding, the SSU took control of IMK’s historic base in Biyara in 1998, where it remained centered for over three years. The SSU possessed small and large arms, and a large arsenal of modern weaponry, making it one of the most important military units in the area and one of the best armed of the Kurdish militant groups in Iraq.
In September 2001, the SSU merged with two other groups that were also previously part of the IMK, al-Tawhid Islamic Front and Hamas (not to be confused with the group named Hamas in Iraq or the Palestinian Hamas), to form Jund al-Islam. That group would go on to form the core of what is now Ansar al Islam.
Hasan, better known as Asa Hawleri, was considered to be the 3rd ranking member of Ansar al-Islam and was believed to have been leading the Second Soran Unit when he was captured by U.S. forces in October, 2003.
Abu Khubayi Barachak (1998 to Unknown): Barachak was a Turkoman, with whom Hasan founded a political front group for SSU, named the Central Islamic Faction. Barachak is currently imprisoned on terrorism charges associated with his involvement in the KDP.
Asad Muhammad Hasan (1998 to October 10, 2003): A member of the IMK since 1991, Hassan was a member of the IMK central council since 1997. He was responsible for the founding of the Central Islamic Faction political front group in 1998. Hassan was captured on October 10, 2003.
Ideology & Goals
The Second Soran Force is a radical Salafi militant organization that opposes both secularism and Shi'ism. The SSU looks to impose strict Shariah law over Iraq, with special concern for its imposition over Iraqi Kurdistan. The group's anti-secularist efforts originally focused on the secular regime of Saddam Hussein, but have now been redirected to American forces in the country, which the SSU sees as a "Zionist-Crusader" force.
Though the source of SSU's funding and weaponry is unknown, the group did possess highly advanced artillery and weaponry. Most notable among these were surface-to-surface missiles known as Daushkas, 106mm artillery shells, and other heavy weaponry.
The SSU's activities were centralized in Iraq. It is unknown if the SSU was in contact with any groups outside of the country. Many of its members, however, were veterans of the Afghan mujahideen of the 1980s, and had received training Afghanistan.
Targets & Tactics
Because the SSU was never credited with an attack, little is known about their targets and tactics. Their military capability, however, is more widely known. The group was well-armed, and with heavy weaponry. Their tactics, due to their possession of advanced artillery and rocket-firing capabilities, is expected to be centralized around gun and missile attacks rather than suicide bombing or IED detonation.
The SSU was a military unit and did not take part in large-scale political activities until after its merger to form Jund al-Islam. The only evidence of their political engagement can be found in 1998, when the SSU created a political front group called the Central Islamic Faction. The group was led by Aso Hawleri and a Turkoman named Abu Khubayi Barachak, who is currently imprisoned by the KDP on terrorism charges.
SSU has not claimed responsibility for any attacks, nor have any authorities attributed any documented attacks to this group.
Relationships with Other Groups
The SSU split from the IMK in 1998 due to ideological differences. From 1998-2001 the SSU was not allied with any other groups in the region. In 2001, the SSU merged with al-Tawhid Islamic Front and Hamas (not to be confused with the groups named Hamas in Iraq or Palestinian Hamas) to form Jund al-Islam, which would later become Ansar al-Islam.
The SSU is ideologically and violently opposed to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and also frequently fights IUK leadership.
There is little information about the SSU community activities beyond its aim to impose a strict form of Islamic law in and around Biyara, the northern Iraqi village where they were based, and goal of eventually spreading this imposition to other areas of Iraq.
^ Rubin, Michael. "The Islamist Threat in Iraqi Kurdistan." Middle East Intelligence Bulletin. December 2001.http://www.meforum.org/meib/articles/0112_ir1.htm. Accessed August 7, 2012.