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Controversy Grows Over Supposed Unity of Iraqi Mujahideen as Al-Qaida Announces Founding of Sunni Islamic State

By Evan Kohlmann

The Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC)--the Al-Qaida umbrella group for extremist mujahideen factions operating in Iraq--has attempted to make history today by announcing the foundation of a Sunni Islamic state out of the remnants of Iraq. In a video statement, an MSC spokesman (whose identity was concealed) accused Kurdish and Shiite militia forces of establishing their own zones of control in the north and south of Iraq in the face of "this farcical state of al-Maliki, which unfortunately some Sunni traitors have joined." As a result, in partnership with several other Iraqi mujahideen factions considered outside the MSC--including Jaish al-Fatihin ("The Conquering Army")--the spokesman declared the establishment of "the Islamic State of Iraq in Baghdad, Al-Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Salahuddin, Ninewah, and sections of the Babil and al-Wassat provinces." The spokesman also explained that the leader of the new state would be the "Amir al-Mumineen Shaykh Abu Omar al-Baghdadi" and asked "all the mujahideen, the clerics of Iraq, the tribal chiefs, and the Sunni people to swear an oath of allegiance" to Abu Omar.

However, even as the MSC announces the foundation of their Islamic state, there are already serious questions about the eagerness of other Sunni mujahideen in Iraq to join alongside them. Earlier this week, the media wing of the group Jaish al-Fatihin issued a statement denying that it was involved in any alliance with Al-Qaida or the MSC. In a terse communique, the group admitted it was "surprised" to find that its name had been prominently included in a list of Iraqi insurgent groups who the MSC claimed were backing its new political ventures in Iraq: "Perhaps it happened inadvertently, but we were not made aware of [this], neither directly nor indirectly." The MSC, in turn, has fired off their own lengthy rebuttal today accusing Jaish al-Fatihin's media wing of being ignorant and out-of touch:


"It seems that that Media Wing of the Al-Fatihin Army is not aware that four out of five of the former Al-Fatihin Army brigades have recently sworn allegiance to the Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq under the command of brother Abu Abdullah al-Iraqi. It was agreed at the time with the commander of the brigades... to keep the groups under the name of the Al-Fatihin Army."

The MSC offered a lukewarm willingness to mediate their dispute with the Jaish al-Fatihin's representatives, but sternly admonished that "such information and discussions should not be posted in public forums in order to avoid spoiling the morale of Muslims." Or--for the MSC--more importantly, to avoid revealing the lingering hesitation of some Sunni insurgents in Iraq to join on the bandwagon of Al-Qaida in dismantling the final vestiges of the Iraqi nation.

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The Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC)–the Al-Qaida umbrella group for extremist mujahideen factions operating in Iraq–has attempted to make history today by announcing the foundation of a Sunni Islamic state out of the remnants of Iraq, accord... [Read More]