Documents captured by coalition forces last fall in Sinjar, near the Syrian-Iraqi border, provide a profile of al Qaeda’s foreign recruits in Iraq. The more than 600 records of individual recruits were made public by the Army's Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, and are discussed on the web by the Inter Press Service News Agency
. They were also the subject of a Dubai Al-Arabiya television program, broadcast in Arabic and translated (January 30, 2008) by BBC Worldwide Monitoring
The documents are dated from August 2006 to August 2007. Here are some details and statistics on the al Qaeda recruits:
- 56% of the recruits expressed an interest in suicide bombing;
- 43% of the recruits listed an interest in being traditional fighters;
- The youngest recruit was 16 and the oldest was 54;
- More than 40% of the recruits were from Saudi Arabia, and the majority of Saudi recruits came from Riyadh and Mecca;
- 19% of the recruits were from Libya and the majority of the Libyan recruits come from Dirnah;
- 85% of the Libyan recruits were prospective suicide bombers;
- 50% of the Saudi recruits expressed an interest in suicide bombing;
- Syria, Yemen and Algeria each accounted for 8% of the recruits; the majority of Syrians come from Dayr al-Zur, a rural town near the Iraqi border;
- 6.1% of the recruits were Moroccans;
- 42% listed at least one contact in Syria, and several listed multiple contacts;
- The recruitment questionnaire asks recruits for the name of their “coordinator” (smuggler) and how much money they paid to be moved across the border, thereby indicating that al Qaeda is relying on a Syrian logistics network run by Syrian “mercenaries, free-lancers, and criminal smuggling networks";
- 82.4% of the Libyans arrived in Iraq through the same pathway through Egypt and then by air to Syria, and the recruiting and logistics network is said to be likely tied to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG);
- The recruiting organization in Algeria is the Salafist-inspired Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), now renamed al Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghrib.
In the Al-Arabiya program, Intifad Qambar, Iraqi political analyst, comments on the role of Syria:
"Al-Qa'idah cannot do anything in Iraq without assistance from some countries in the region, which might be Syria and the cooperation it extends in this regard. This is in addition to the assistance extended by the followers of the former regime of Saddam Husayn. It seems that there is a network in Syria that helps these elements enter into Iraq."
"I believe that the status of Al-Qa'idah in Iraq is increasingly deteriorating. You know well that 600 fighters cannot alter the course of the battle, but the majority of these fighters are suicide attackers who are capable of carrying out the blind suicide attacks that cause harm to the Iraqi people....If these fighters are not killed in Iraq and leave the country, they will be a threat, and I believe that they would become commanders for Al-Qa'idah and Islamic extremist organizations in their countries. Therefore, I believe that there should be a joint international effort in coordination with Iraq to tackle this situation."
Labels: al Qaeda, Al-Qa'idah, Iraq, Libya, Syria