The 1920 Revolution Brigades recently announced the death of its leader, Harith Dhahir Khamis al-Dari, nephew and namesake of Harith al-Dari, the exiled head of the Muslim Scholars Association. The 1920 Revolution Brigades is one of the largest indigenous Iraqi insurgent groups, but after al-Dari’s death, the Brigades announced its split into two factions (the 1920 Revolution Brigades and Hamas-Iraq). The break was the result of differing viewpoints on working with the al-Anbar Salvation Council, negotiating with coalition forces and the relationship vis-à-vis al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) (Terrorism Focus, March 27). Al-Dari was reportedly long targeted by al-Qaeda for his refusal to pledge allegiance to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, amir of the ISI, and was finally killed by an al-Qaeda ambush on March 27.
According to the internet release of the “al-Jihad al-Islami Corps” of the 1920 Revolution Brigades on March 27, its “valiant leader, Harith Dhahir Khamis al-Dari, fell today immersed in his chaste blood during his battlefield jihad in Abu Ghraib sector. He was in charge of jihad and of fighting the enemy in that sector. He was targeted this morning in a treacherous ambush while returning to his house after inspecting one of the operations grounds.” There have been recent reports that the 1920 Revolution Brigades, and al-Dari in particular, were about to link up with the al-Anbar Salvation Council, although spokesmen for the 1920 Revolution Brigades strongly deny that a final deal had been struck. Leaders within the group, however, confirmed to Arab newspapers that this was the cause of the rift within the organization and the cause of al-Dari’s death.
Al-Dari is not the only insurgent leader who has been targeted by al-Qaeda. In addition to stepping up their propaganda campaign promoting the ISI, al-Qaeda has been actively engaged in assassinations and targeted bombings against Iraqi Sunni tribes who do not comply. According to al-Hayat, militants from various factions stated that al-Qaeda has killed 30 members of the 1920 Revolution Brigades and the Islamic Army (al-Hayat, March 31).
Aggressive al-Qaeda tactics to take control of the Iraqi insurgency are placing indigenous Iraqi insurgent groups in an increasingly difficult position. Members of indigenous militant groups have complained that al-Qaeda has distorted the resistance and fomented sectarian conflict. Abu Hudhayfah, a commander within the 1920 Revolution Brigades, complained, “al-Qaeda’s assassination of Harith Zahir al-Dari…has left resistance groups with two options: either to fight al-Qaeda and negotiate with the Americans, or fight the Americans and join the Islamic State of Iraq, which divides Iraq. Both options are bitter” (al-Hayat, March 31).
Since Iraqi insurgent leaders are aware that their conflict with al-Qaeda detracts from their fight against the occupation, they have taken pains to point out that al-Dari’s assassination had nothing to do with his purported cooperation with the government and that it was solely due to his stance against al-Qaeda. Tribal members are keen on maintaining his jihadi credentials. When his cousin, the spokesman of the Muslim Scholars Association Muthana Harith al-Dari, was interviewed by al-Jazeera regarding his death, he noted that “the government’s news media [is trying to] give another reason for the assassination by claiming that Harith al-Dari was killed because of the Zubaei tribe…cooperating with the Iraqi government…the truth is completely different…The Zubaei tribe is a jihadist tribe which fought against the occupation and its agents. It will never deviate from this course…[al-Dari] was targeted because he was one of the leaders of the armed resistance in the Abu Ghraib area” (al-Jazeera, March 27).
His uncle, Harith al-Dari, head of the Muslim Scholars Association, has thus far not commented on the death of his nephew. He previously had come out against members of his own tribe for working against al-Qaeda and negotiating with the Iraqi government and coalition forces (al-Safir, March 24). The senior al-Dari is still outside of Iraq, shuttling between various Middle Eastern countries (Terrorism Monitor, December 14, 2006).