The newly-formed Mujahideen Shura Council of Iraq, an umbrella group set up by al-Qaeda and consisting of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Jaysh al–Taifa al-Mansura, Ansar al-Tawhid, al-Ghuraba, al-Jihad al-Islami and al-Ahwal, is expanding its membership and operational capacity. Jaish Ahlu al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah is the most recent militant group to join MSC. Recently, the council has been focusing its militant activities in and around the northern city of Mosul.
In a statement posted on an Islamic website (Iraqi Resistance Report, https://www.albasrah.net/index1.html), the MSC claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in a local restaurant patronized by Iraqi policemen who guarded a nearby provincial government building. The internet dispatch stated that the “lions of monotheism” targeted the restaurant because it was “frequented by apostate policemen.”
The attacker detonated an explosive belt on the morning of February 20, killing at least five and wounding 21 others, including 10 Iraqi policemen (Asharq al-Awsat, February 21). Mufkarat al-Islam reported seven killed, 26 wounded, with 15 of the wounded being Iraqi policemen.
According to other statements released by the Mujahideen Shura Council’s media department, the umbrella group has claimed responsibility for four attacks on armored vehicles and the assassination of three “cross worshipers” this month alone in and around Mosul. It is unclear whether these killings refer to Iraqi Christians or Coalition soldiers.
The Mujahideen Shura Council continues to expand its membership in addition to its pace of attacks. By adding whole units to its rank, MSC is attempting to unify both foreign and indigenous Iraqi militants to more effectively fight the insurgency.
Jaish Ahlu al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah is the newest member of MSC. On January 28, Abdullah al-Naser, commander of Jaish Ahlu al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah issued a statement saying, “After putting all my trust in Allah, and after consulting with our own Shura Council and our Jurisprudence Committee, I say: We answer your call by declaration and action… We answer your call for unity. Effective immediately, all of our resources are at your disposal (https://www.jihadunspun.com).”
Jaish Ahlu al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah also called on other Islamic armies to unify under the umbrella of the Mujahideen Shura Council. “I beg you to join your brothers under the one tent… It is the command of Allah.” In an attempt to allay the concerns of those fearing to be sidelined in the fight, Abdullah al-Naser’s statement goes on to say, “I swear by the one the people of Tawhid swear by, Allah, the one, you belong to the Party of Tawhid, your status as such is well recognized and will be preserved, your opinion will be taken seriously and you will be listened to.”
Despite this, officials in Mosul have denied that foreign jihadists are active in their city. Al-Hayat reported that Mosul governor, Durayd Kashmulah, recently stated that “We have not received any information in this regard.” Yet intelligence sources indicate that Syrian and Saudi individuals are operating in the city and released statements of the Mujahedeen Shura Council record of increased activity in the area (al-Hayat, February 17). The Mujahideen Shura Council consists of foreign and indigenous Iraqi militants.
Mosul officials claim that the security situation in Mosul is improving despite an increase in militant activity targeting Coalition soldiers, Iraqi police and assassination and threats of professionals such as doctors and pharmacists. The situation was so bad that it prompted doctors and pharmacists to stage a demonstration and threatened civil disobedience if the state did not offer them protection (al-Hayat, February 17).