‘Sinjar list’ – a glimpse into Al Qaeda in Iraq

About 66.3 percent are listed as ‘martyrs’ and suicide bombers in the list

“The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.”
—Isaiah 17:1

BAGHDAD: By the time he was 19, baby-faced Hamza Abu Hamda Ayache, a Moroccan, had chosen his career. He had decided it would be very short-lived. He would die as a “martyr” in Iraq.

Guided by an Al Qaeda minder, the teenager entered Iraq on November 10, 2006. He left behind at the border about 75 dollars, his passport, his watch – and the telephone number of his parents in Tetuan village in Morocco.

What became of him after that is unknown but the US military says most foreigners slipping across the border end their lives as suicide bombers, or “martyrs”. The US military recently made public what it says are profiles of more than 600 Al Qaeda operatives who entered Iraq through Syria between August 2006 and August 2007. The list was seized during operations against the jihadists in northern Iraq in September 2007, it said.

According to the list, posted on the Internet at http://ctc.usma.edu by the Combating Terrorism Centre, a US military research group, most of those – 44.1 percent – slipping across the border after transiting through Syria are Saudi nationals. Other nationalities include Libya with 18.8 percent, Syria 8.2 percent, Yemen 8.1 percent, Algeria 7.2 percent, Morocco 6.1 percent and Tunisia with 5.5 percent. The list was discovered, according to the US military, on a computer during an operation near Sinjar, about 350 kilometres (220 miles) north of Baghdad near the Syrian border. Stamped with the logo of Al Qaeda in Iraq, files – such as that of Hamza Abu Hamda Ayache, alias Abu al-Barra – contain biographical details of each individual, country of origin, passport photo and in some cases address and telephone number. Some also mention goods or money left by the recruited jihadist before crossing the border into Iraq – cash, a watch, a mobile phone, an MP3 player, which become “gifts” for Al Qaeda. Aged between 16 and 54, most of them, however, are students. Among the others are professors, nurses, police and plumbers. About 66.3 percent are listed as “martyrs” – suicide bombers. While the “Sinjar list” gives little information on how they were recruited or how they got there, it does reveal that many of them arrived at the same time in Syria and probably travelled in a group. It confirms that Syria remains the principal transit point for entry into Iraq by insurgents. But according to the Combating Terrorism Centre, it is difficult to determine the precise role of Damascus or whether there was any “complicity” by the Syrian authorities.

US commanders said last week that the number of foreigners crossing into Iraq through Syria had dropped to 40 to 50 a month from more than 100 a year ago. The dominant role of Syrian coordinators and smugglers in getting jihadists across the border indicates the network could be run by criminals, says the Combating Terrorism Centre.

The Centre adds that it is “almost inconceivable that Syrian intelligence has not already tried to penetrate these networks.” The “Sinjar list”, the Centre says, clearly contradicts claims by Al Qaeda in Iraq in 2007 that the organisation only had 200 foreign jihadists in its ranks. The files give no indication of the eventual fate of the more than 600 men who are recorded as having crossed into Iraq. For its side, the American military did not say if it had tested the telephone numbers. afp

Copyright © In The Days