Al-Zarqawi’s group Qaedat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn issued a statement on June 20 declaring that it had formed a sub-branch of the Al-Bara bin Malek Brigade dedicated to suicide operations. The audio posting by the head of the new group Abu Dujana al-Ansari, indicated that “a unit of martyrs named al-Ansar, belonging to the Martyr Brigades of Al-Baraa bin Malek, has been formed.” The Wahdat Istish-hadiyin ‘Iraqiyin (Iraqi Martyrdom Unit), as reported on the Mufakkirat al-Islam website, is made up exclusively of native volunteers. The formation of the unit, the statement outlined, came “due to strong insistence from our Iraqi brothers and their desire for Paradise,” and that volunteers had applied “in their tens to sign their names to meet their Maker” [www.islammemo.cc].
The announcement comes at a time of increased violence, in which ordinary Iraqis are increasingly involved, and of waxing criticism of the methodology of the resistance. A recent statement, purported made by al-Zarqawi, defending the killing of non-combatant Muslims excited much comment on the jihadi forums, which relayed the debate on the lawfulness of his action, or deplored the attempt being made to ‘drive a wedge between the mujahideen and the Ulema’ [www.alsakifah.org]. It also coincides with criticisms aired in the media as to the ethnicity of the majority of suicide bombers, illustrated by comments by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari that most of the suicide bombers behind attacks in Iraq were foreign nationals. One report aired by the New York Times on June 22 suggested that the nationalist and jihadist camps of the resistance were falling out, given increasing evidence of armed fire exchanges between them.