NEWS: The foreign insurgent network; Sunni rivalries in Anbar

Papers paint new portrait of Iraq’s foreign insurgents

Muhammad Ayn-al-Nas, a 26-year-old Moroccan, started his journey in Casablanca. After flying to Turkey and then to Damascus, he reached his destination in a small Iraqi border town on Jan. 31, 2007. He was an economics student back home, he told the al-Qaeda clerk who interviewed him on arrival. Asked what sort of work he hoped to do in Iraq, Nas replied: “Martyr.”

Algerian Watsef Mussab, 29, who arrived in Iraq via Saudi Arabia and Syria, said he had come for combat. He complained that the Syrian smugglers who brought him to the border took his money, but he contributed what he had left to the insurgent cause — a watch, a ring and an MP3 player.

Hanni al-Sagheer, a computer technician from Yemen and aspiring suicide volunteer, gave the clerk his home telephone number and also that of his brother.

Their stories are among the individual records of 606 foreign fighters who entered Iraq between August 2006 and August 2007. The cache of documents was discovered last fall by U.S. forces in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar.

Some include pictures — bearded men in a turban or kaffiyeh, some smiling and some scowling — in addition to names and aliases, home countries, birthdays and dates of entry into Iraq. Many list their occupations at home, whether plumber, laborer, policeman, lawyer, soldier or teacher. There is a “massage specialist,” a “weapons merchant,” a few “unemployed” and many students.

The youngest was 16 when he crossed into Iraq; the oldest was 54. Most expressed interest in a suicide mission.

The records [PDF] are “one of the deepest reservoirs of information we’ve ever obtained of the network going into Iraq,” according to a U.S. official closely familiar with intelligence on the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq. [complete article]

In Anbar, Sunni rivalries surface

Hadi Hussein, a Sunni fighter working with U.S. and Iraqi forces, was receiving well-wishers Sunday when his 18-year-old cousin walked up with a box of chocolates. The teenager offered a candy, but didn’t wait for a response. He detonated hidden explosives, killing himself, Hussein and four others.

“This is life, we have two brothers, one is good, one is bad in the same family,” said Aftan Sadoun Aftan, the head of Hussein’s Sunni Arab paramilitary unit in the village of Ameriyat Fallouja in Anbar province.

Hussein had just been freed by the Americans after being wrongly detained for a week, said Aftan, who left the party a few minutes before the blast. About 20 clansmen were drinking juice and eating candies when the teen, Ali Abdullah Hussein, set off his explosives.

The bloodshed Sunday, one day after two suicide bombers killed a pair of policemen in nearby Ramadi, was a reminder of how complicated the dynamics remain in Anbar, where the violence is not just strictly a matter of tribesmen rising up against Islamic radicals. [complete article]

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