Baghdad Sniper Gains Legendary Status

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 4 Issue: 1

Snipers targeting U.S. soldiers in Baghdad and in other Iraqi cities garnered attention on jihadi forums in early 2005. It was not until November 2005, however, that these shootings received extensive press coverage when U.S. forces announced a reward for any information leading to the arrest of the “Baghdad sniper,” who U.S. forces had nicknamed “Juba.” Thereafter, the Islamic Army of Iraq released two video clips, supposedly shot by a camera mounted on a sniper rifle, showing the shooting of U.S. troops patrolling the streets of Baghdad. The video clips were then uploaded to the internet. The video footage became famous once it was aired on al-Zawraa television, a network run by Mishan al-Jabouri, a former member of Iraq’s parliament and leader of the Arab Front for Reconciliation and Liberation, who fled to Syria due to corruption charges leveled against him (http://majdah.maktoob.com/vb/, December 4, 2006).

The videos of the Baghdad sniper showed successful sniper attacks against U.S. soldiers taped through a camera mounted on the sniper rifle. Until 2006, the video clips were only available on the internet and on DVDs in Baghdad (ABC News, February 10, 2006). Thus far, there are two main sniper attack videos attributed to Juba—the first was released in November 2005 and the second in October 2006 (http://www.jubaonline.org, October 23, 2006). The videos can be found on jubaonline.org, a website dedicated entirely to the sniper. The website is hosted by another Islamic website called al-Boraq. Jubaonline.org mostly contains the sniper attack clips along with some press and U.S. military personnel’s comments on the sniper and his attacks. In 2006, however, the Baghdad sniper received elevated coverage when al-Zawraa TV started airing the videos repeatedly during the annual Muslim pilgrimage of Eid ul-Adha.

U.S. military investigations have not led to the arrest of this alleged lone and elusive sniper. Jihadi websites say that “Juba” belongs to a whole battalion of snipers from the Islamic Army of Iraq. The websites claim that the snipers train using a sniper’s manual called The Ultimate Sniper: An Advanced Training Manual For Military And Police Snipers, written by U.S. Major John Plaster, and attack using Iraqi made Tabook sniper rifles that have a fatal range of 500-600 meters (http://www.cjbuy.com, November 5, 2006). Regardless of whether the Baghdad sniper saps the morale of U.S. soldiers, the sniper attacks have encouraged jihadis to train and participate in the insurgency. The new terrorism drive is obvious from jihadi forum postings on the subject, such as the posting entitled “How to Become a Sniper” (http://harp.jconserv.net, December 22, 2006).

In “How to Become a Sniper,” jihadi forum contributors discuss the importance of sniper attacks, camouflage, casing the target, cover and concealment techniques, target approach and proper breathing while executing the shot. The training also covers different sniper positions, rifle support methods and rifle tripods. One interesting point in the training that correlates with the sniper video is the instructions to work in groups in target reconnaissance. Close scrutiny of the videos reveals that some attacks are videotaped by a separate camera and not by the rifle mounted lens.

If U.S. forces do not subdue the sniper attacks attributed to Juba, which so far have targeted only U.S. soldiers, and eliminate the threat as soon as possible, the sniper videos will continue to stir up patriotic and religious feelings among Arab and Islamic countries, especially when aired via satellite to the greater Arab world. The Arab and Islamic public are weaving various legendary stories about the lone sniper, consequently encouraging many enthusiastic and zealous Muslim youth to follow the path of the Baghdad sniper as is probably already happening in other Iraqi cities. Although the Islamic Army of Iraq claims that the sniper attacks are carried out exclusively by their group, the reputation of the sniper among jihadis and nationalists alike might encourage other terrorist groups to adopt similar techniques needed to increase support for their militant activities.