Jihadi Forums Marvel at New Role of Snipers

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 3 Issue: 13

The sniper being looked at as a legendary hero.

The periodic success of mujahideen snipers in Iraq has been stimulating the imagination of jihadist forum readers, and this has taken the form of a number of video productions. A high-quality, 15-minute example of the genre, entitled Qannas Baghdad (“The Sniper of Baghdad”) was circulated by the Islamic Army in Iraq last November on, among others, the Abu al-Bokhary jihadist forum (https://www.abualbokhary.net).

The work is of professional quality, complete with American-English language commentary. It features the name “Juba,” which refers to the infamous “Juba the Baghdad sniper” who is popularly credited with anything from several dozen to upward of 100 strikes against U.S. servicemen. He has achieved popular status among jihadi readers, with CDs of his work circulating in Iraq and clips even appearing on al-Jazeera satellite television. “Juba,” however, was also rumored to have been captured last June when quick reaction to an unsuccessful sniper attack resulted in the arrest of a two-man team.

Yet there are doubts as to whether such a single figure exists, or whether the name is a copycat label, a composite of several (the signature message card “What has been taken in blood cannot be regained except by blood—The Baghdad Sniper” which is left at each abandoned sniper hideout is easy enough to reproduce). The mujahideen fully appreciate the propaganda value of these images. A similar length production for the “Fallujah Sniper” appeared on December 20 featuring the work of one Sheikh Abdullah Nijm (Abu Azzam) carrying out eight successful attacks in the city. In mid-February, another video was released in which the unidentified sniper dedicated nine bullets as “a present for George Bush…I am doing this for the viewers to watch,” after which he is featured in action against U.S. forces. The videos were posted passim on the internet forums.

The forums also cater to the interest of readers by offering semi-technical works on sniping. The popularity of these go back some time in terms of internet publication, since they fulfill the mujahideen supporters’ self-image as intrepid individuals engaged in a “David and Goliath” struggle against the massed coalition forces. The eighth issue of the online jihadi magazine Mu’askar al-Battar (dated April 2004 with a cover story on “Assassinations”) presents a detailed treatment of the technology of sniper weaponry written by an expert, complete with technical specifications, illustrations and exploded diagrams. On the tactical use of the sniper weapon, mujahideen readers are pointed to the “David’s sling” aspect of the sniper in Mu’askar al-Battar volume 22, in which an article details “how we can stand up to the technology of war.” Here the sniper gun is held to have changed, or significantly delayed the course of battle. Examples cited are the experiences of the Russian sniper Zaitsev at the battle of Stalingrad, or the work of Japanese snipers at Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands in 1944. Sniping techniques are more fully covered in the Mawsu’at al-Aqsa (“Al-Aqsa Encyclopedia”) and they form the subject of an entire chapter in the Mawsu’at al-I’dad (“Encyclopedia of Preparation”), to which the reader is helpfully referred via URLs to English language works on the subject.

Finally, as might have been expected in what is the model arena for asymmetric warfare, the role of the sniper in jihadi analysis has achieved an almost mythical status. A recent posting on a pro-insurgency forum (https://www.iraqpatrol.com) underlines this. It features an extended eulogy written by a female admirer inspired by the image of the resting sniper (see illustration): “Moons of glory set above the heights / Snipers whose distances are well-studied…”