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Arab and Muslim Jihad Fighters in Iraq
MEMRI ^ | 7-28-03 | Steven Stalinsky

Posted on 07/28/2003 5:27:02 AM PDT by SJackson


THE MIDDLE EAST MEDIA RESEARCH INSTITUTE
Special Report - No. 20
July 27, 2003 No.20
Arab and Muslim Jihad Fighters in Iraq
By: Steven Stalinsky

Table of Contents

I. Introduction

II. The Families of Saudi Martyrs Speak

III. An Egyptian Historian on Egyptian Jihad Fighters

IV. Iraqi Civilians Turn on the Jihad Fighters

V. Interviews with Jihad Fighters on Iraqi TV

VI. Interviews with Jihad Fighters in the Arab Media

VII. The Story of a Palestinian Mujahid - Sheikh Shu'fat

VIII. The Story of a Palestinian Mujahid - Abu Khaled

I. Introduction

Beginning in March, the Arab media published stories of young Arabs traveling to Iraq to carry out Jihad against the U.S. They came from various Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia , Syria , Yemen , Egypt , Lebanon , the Palestinian territories, Algeria , the United Arab Emirates , Libya , and from Afghanistan as well. A report in the Lebanese daily Al-Nahar told of 36 Islamists (Lebanese, Palestinians, Egyptians, and Syrians) receiving visas from the Iraqi Embassy in Beirut to volunteer as martyr s. [1] Syria's Foreign Minister, Farouq Al-Shar' , stated that his country would not stop volunteers going to Iraq via Syria , [2] while the Saudi Minister of Interior Prince Nayef bin Abd Al-Aziz claimed that there was no evidence of Saudis volunteering in droves for Jihad in Iraq. [3]

Religious personalities in the Arab world have given a mixed blessing on allowing Arab youth to travel to fight the U.S. In a recent Fatwa (Islamic religious ruling), the Shariah Court in Qatar banned such travel unless it was with the parents' permission: "It is considered against Islam to travel to another country for Jihad without permission from one's parents." The Court also stated that the permission of "those charged with authority among Muslims" is necessary to initiate Jihad. [4] On the other hand, one of the spiritual leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, called for Jihad "to expel foreign troops from Iraq." However, he too qualified his statement, saying that "only governments have the right to organize volunteers for Jihad." [5] In Baghdad, Sheik Ahmad al-Kubaysi praised the Arab volunteers: "These young men who came here from other Muslim countries to defend Iraq are very brave. They left their homes and comfortable lives to protect fellow Muslims. That is the most important form of Jihad. These Mujahideen are guaranteed paradise." [6]

II. The Families of Saudi Martyrs Speak

In eastern Saudi Arabia , the Arabic-language daily Al-Hayatinterviewed the families of two Saudi Jihad fighters killed in Iraq . In Al-Damam, the father of Suheil Al-Sahili, 28, known as Yassin Al-Bahhar, who was killed in northern Iraq, told the paper: "I thank Allah that [our son] attained what he sought. For 14 years he sought [martyrdom]. He always pointed to his head and wished that a rifle bullet would split his forehead, and we have been told that that is what happened."

Al-Sahali's brother added: "He went to Afghanistan in 1992, and from there to Tajikistan , where he joined a group under the command of the famous martyr Khattab. After that, he went to Bosnia , where he remained for several years before returning to Saudi Arabia for a brief time, until he went to Chechnya and again joined Khattab for a few years."

"After Chechnya , he returned to Saudi Arabia … and then we didn't hear from him. We got a phone call from him finally, in which he said he was going to the Jihad in Iraq together with volunteers at the northern front. We were informed that he commanded a group of Arab Jihad warriors who had volunteered to defend Iraq . We would get news of him from Internet forums… We always felt that he was a prisoner in this world while his heart was in the next world…"

In the city of Al-Quteif, the brother of Abd Al-Hadi Al-Shehri, 28, also known as Abu Muhammad Al-Asadi, told the paper: "From a young age he wanted Jihad... after fulfilling this commandment of pilgrimage to Mecca , there was no contact with him until news of his martyrdom reached us." [7]

III. An Egyptian Historian on Egyptian Jihad Fighters

In two articles described as 'comments of a historian,' Dr. 'Abd Al-Adheem Ramadhan, an Egyptian historian, bemoaned the fate of thousands of young Egyptians who went to Iraq and Afghanistan to fight a holy war, only to find their death because they were manipulated by Jihad slogans and miscalculated the realities of modern-day warfare. Following are experts from the articles which appeared in the Egyptian daily Al-Gumhuriya:

"The Islamic nation still holds the meaning of Jihad as it had been in the past when the Mujahid carried his sword and rode his horse into the battle field… This interpretation persisted despite the developments that occurred in weaponry and training… and [despite] the emergence of tanks, airplanes, airplane carriers, and explosives. As soon as the Islamic nation gets involved in a war, young religious Muslims throughout the Islamic world rush to scream the Jihad battle-cry and to go to war… Obviously, the Islamic countries cannot resist these noble feelings… so they open the door to volunteerism, and open their borders to religious youngsters to head to the battle fields. And there, to their surprise, they find out that war is not what they expected, it is not [fought] with swords and spears. It is a war of tanks, planes, air strikes and the like."

"This is how thousands of Muslim youngsters die without accomplishing anything except Shahada [martyrdom]. But, as we know, Shahada in itself does not mean victory. Allah Himself gave Muslims the choice between victory and Shahada! What kind of victory do these noble Mujahideen expect to accomplish when they sacrifice themselves in battle without having any knowledge of modern warfare. When the Afghan war started, tens of thousands of Arab, Egyptian, Pakistani and other Muslims volunteered and went to Afghanistan seeking either victory or Shahada. No one heard of them since… They did not bring victory, but achieved only Shahada. "

"And when the American-British war on Iraq started, thousands of young religious Egyptian Muslims were seized with enthusiasm and demanded to go to Iraq for Jihad. Naturally, the Egyptian government was unable to prevent them from going to Iraq, lest it would be accused of opposition to Jihad and failure to fight. At the same time, Islamic elements in labor unions and others encouraged youngsters to volunteer for Jihad. It was a propaganda ploy, no more, no less! They knew perfectly well that if those youngsters go to Iraq they would fall into the same hell-fire that the Iraqi people faced… So, we witnessed thousands of young Egyptians who left their country and their relatives who needed them…" [8]

"…The Iraqi regime opened its doors for them without providing them with necessary protection, and without enlisting them in its own army. We found out from satellite TV services that they fought in remote areas, away from the Iraqi army… and when Baghdad fell they did not know that, and continued to fight courageously… They did not even hear about the disgraceful disappearance of the Iraqi leadership, of Saddam Hussein and his men who abandoned their army and their people… They did not know that the Iraqi regime let them down and that [the Iraqi regime] was not fighting to defend Iraq, but fighting a lost battle to defend itself..."

"I do not know whether it was possible to save the lives of these youngsters… And who were those who embroiled them in such battles?... Was there a way to save them from the hands of wheelers-dealers who manipulated the name of the Iraqi people?..." [9]

IV. Iraqi Civilians Turn on the Jihad Fighters

Many articles in the Arab press have focused on the ill treatment of the Jihad fighters by Iraqis. A Lebanese volunteer who returned from Iraq said that the Iraqi officials isolated the volunteers and the Iraqis themselves "hunted them whenever they could." [10] Another Lebanese volunteer returning from Iraq added: "During the war I was exposed to more Iraqi friendly fire than American fire. The Iraqi people refused to accept the volunteers among them and betrayed them by leaving them exposed." [11] One report stated that ten Arab nationals, mostly Syrians who volunteered to fight for Saddam's regime, were executed publicly in Baghdad during the war because they refused to fight in residential areas. [12]

Another report mentioned that the "Iraqi Shi'a in the Iraqi capital considered the Arab volunteers to be supporters of Osama bin Laden who they said had nothing to do with us…" [13] Four Arab volunteers who returned home from Baghdad to Damascus and Cairo stated that the Iraqi citizens were directing American forces to the hideouts of the Arab volunteers in exchange for large sums of money. They said that the American forces viewed the volunteers as one of the most important targets because they could carry out martyrdom (suicide) operations against groups of American soldiers. [14]

V. Interviews with Jihad Fighters on Iraqi TV

Before Saddam's Iraqi TV was taken off the air by coalition forces, Jihad fighters were shown on it marching in formation and chanting "Allah Akbar." The Egyptian "Jihad fighter" Muhammad Ridha, whose nickname is Abu Abd Al-Rahman, said: "Thanks to Allah, I arrived in June to volunteer in Saddam's 'Jerusalem Army.' I returned [to Egypt], but Allah decreed that I return [to Iraq], and I thank Him for that… I returned to fight the Jihad, and left behind in Egypt four daughters and a son… I came to fight [the war of] Jihad and I take an oath in front of the leader Saddam Hussein that I will die as a martyr and that I do not want to return to Egypt. I say to all the Arabs and Muslims that Jihad is our duty…"

Abd Al-Karim Abd Al-'Azzam,a fighter from Aleppo, Syria said: "I want to send a message to our Muslim brethren throughout the world… Brothers, we are not defending Iraq only, but all the Muslim countries. It started in Iraq, but Syria, Lebanon, and other Muslim countries will follow. How long will we keep silent, how long will we wait? America and the Jews may decide next to bomb Mecca and Al-Madina, what are we waiting for? Are we waiting for them to enter Al-Madina?"

Abdallah from Algeria, added: "I call upon the entire Muslim nation to stand as one and defend the Muslim nation… truth is ours… The suicide volunteer Abd Al-'Aziz Mahmoud Hawwash from Syria added: "We are here, and we left our wives and children in order to defend the Arab and Muslim nation… We came as Shuhada [martyrs] and we pray that Allah accepts our martyrdom for His sake…" Another volunteer suicide-fighter from Syria said: "I came from Syria to fight along with our Iraqi brothers because this land is the land of the prophets and is the natural treasure of the Arabs… The Americans, Zionists, and the British want to control the oil and the natural resources of the Arab world. They say that Iraq has arms, but it is a lie. They want the oil and they want a crusade, but we will be the drawn swords in the hand of the Jihad fighter Saddam Hussein."

Another volunteer, who did not mention his home-country, stated: "…I send a message to the blood-shedding criminal Bush, and to his servant Tony Blair, and his new servant the Spanish P.M., you want a crusade and we are ready for that, with the help of Allah… Oh [Muslim] nation, [which] is a billion and four hundred million strong, don't you see what is happening in Palestine? What happened to the boiling Arab blood in your veins? We hope that you will come to the training camps in Iraq…"

"Listen Oh Bush, and listen America," stated another fighter from Syria, "we are not the aggressors, you crossed the ocean and came here to slaughter our children and our women, and the most important thing that they came for is this religion… We came to seek martyrdom and to raise the chant: Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar."

In addition, a few dozen of the volunteers were seen training, boarding a plane, parachuting or descending from a helicopter by ropes, riding motorcycles in pairs, stopping and firing shoulder rockets, running away, and then firing again. [15]

VI. Interviews with Jihad Fighters in the Arab Media

As the U.S. carried out operations in Iraq, the Arab media interviewed many of the Arab Jihad fighters, asking them why they came, where they came from, and about their experiences. H. 'A., from Yemen , who returned to San'aa from Iraq via Damascus , told the Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat: " Baghdad didn't fall, it was handed over to the invading forces in an astonishing operation. While we were fighting in groups in the neighborhoods of Baghdad , the Iraqis asked us to leave the trenches, throw down our arms, and go back to where we came from. Our task became survival in hopes of returning to our homeland after we felt that our remaining in Iraq had become a heavy burden to the Iraqis who were collapsing before the invading forces."

"I left Sanaa together with a group of Yemenis about a week before the war in Iraq . We were five people from the same region, connected by ties of kinship and friendship. We agreed to volunteer to [wage] Jihad to defend Iraq and the Arab and Islamic nation. During the flight, we made ourselves known to four others traveling for the same reason. After a night journey by car, we reached Baghdad in the morning. We went to the hotel, where top Iraqi officials welcomed the volunteers. We were immediately sent to a place near Baghdad for weapons training."

"There were hundreds of Arab volunteers there – Syrians, Moroccans, Algerians, Palestinians, Libyans, Jordanians, Egyptians, and [volunteers] from the UAE and from other Arab countries, whom I didn't have a chance to get to know. The training in the camp was poor and disorganized, even though the Iraqi officials had welcomed us cordially. Two days later, we were given guns, ammunition, and grenades. They divided us into groups in the neighborhoods at the outskirts of Baghdad , Al-Qut and areas to the north on the road to Mossul. But most of our groups were stationed around Baghdad , on the barricades and in the trenches prepared for us in advance. The Iraqis told us that an American landing was expected in these areas, and that we must fight them. They told us: 'We will shell them and breach their ranks, and we will pave the way for you.'"

Volunteer S. A. 'A., said: "The air bombing and the missiles on Baghdad were heavy. We couldn't have imagined such intensity and such destruction. Four days before the fall of Baghdad, we began noticing that the Iraqi cannon, Katyusha launchers, SAMs, and even the tanks positioned beneath the trees and at the entrances to the residential neighborhoods on the bank of the Tigris, were firing very slowly and ineffectively. Some of the residents began to ask us not to shoot so that the invaders would not respond and damage their homes. There was an atmosphere of destruction and bombing all around us. We fruitlessly attempted to fight off the invaders with our light weapons."

Yemeni volunteer S. M. N. said: "I was attached to a group of Arab volunteers in a residential neighborhood in western Baghdad a few days before its fall. When the American forces entered Saddam Airport we were transferred willingly near there and there found Iraqi forces belonging to the Republican Guard and infantry forces, which perhaps b