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Monday, September 18, 2006

Major Iraqi Al-Qaida Merger Rumored in the Works

By Evan Kohlmann

As-yet unsubstantiated reports have begun circulating on radical Arabic-language Internet chat forums that a major effort is now underway to bring the notorious Ansar al-Sunnah Army in Iraq officially under the umbrella of Al-Qaida's Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC). Active since at least mid-2003, Ansar al-Sunnah is one of the few Iraqi insurgent groups other than Zarqawi's Al-Qaida to openly advocate a pro-Bin Laden platform, to carry out suicide bombing attacks, and to distribute beheading videos on the Internet. According to the reports, discussions and "planning sessions" are currently being held in the restive western Al-Anbar province between representatives of Al-Qaida and Ansar al-Sunnah, with the ultimate objective of announcing their would-be merger during the coming month of Ramadan (approximately September 24 to October 23, 2006).

Such a possible merger could hold very dark implications for the future of Iraq. While Ansar al-Sunnah and Al-Qaida certainly have worked together previously on occasion, a unified coalition of these Salafist extremists (both local and foreign) will present a stiff challenge to secular democratic forces who are desperately seeking to end the ongoing sectarian killings between Shiites and Sunnis. It will also present a further barrier to the U.S. military's effort to uproot tenacious networks of Al-Qaida cells from northern and western Iraq.
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