Foreign fighters in Iraq

January 15, 2008 § Leave a comment

The information sheet for a foreign fighter from Saudi. He volunteered for martyrdom.

Al-Hayat obtained information pages from the US military of over 600 foreign fighters for the al-Qaeda connected group Islamic State of Iraq. (Pictured above is the information sheet for a Saudi fighter whose code name is Abu Hisaam. He chose martyrdom as his mission.) The US military confiscated the documents during raids on the group’s bases in al-Anbar province. The documents contain the personal information of the fighters, including names, phone, occupation, etc. All of the individuals had crossed from the Syrian border into Iraq.

The article goes on to describe the process by which the foreign fighters entered Iraq. (By the way, I’ll use the terms ‘fighter’ and ‘volunteer’ because that is what the article uses — muqatil and mutattawa.) As soon as the volunteer arrives in Syria, he will receive a code name. There are essentially only one of ten names that the volunteer will receive: Abu Muhammad, Abu Husayn, Abu Adil, Abd al-Hadi, etc.

Many of these volunteers were recruited by friends through mosques, universities, and places of work in their home countries. Some of them were even recruited while making the Hajj in Mecca or through the internet. When the volunteers arrive in Damascus, or before they depart for Damascus, it is very clear that they will not be returning home. They are stripped of all their belongings which are then allotted under a label for ‘donations’. The only thing the fighters are allowed to possess is their passport. The volunteers are then asked to choose what duty they would like in Iraq. There are two options: Martyrdom (istishadi) or Fighter (muqatil). One of the fighters noted that most of the volunteers from Morocco chose martyrdom, while most from Algeria chose to fight. In the event of their death, many of the fighters requested that their families be contacted.

Most of the volunteers are in their twenties, but there are several in their 50s. Most of the volunteers are also students, but there are also several government workers or police officers. The volunteers arrived in Syria many different ways. Those coming from Morocco passed through Egypt; Those coming from Algeria passed through Jordan. There are a few people who passed through Turkey.

Here is the breakdown of the fighters’ nationalities: Saudi (246); Libya (115); Syria (52); Yemen (47); Algeria (45); Moroccos (36); Lebanon, Tunisia, Ireland, France, Sweden, Spain — each around 10.

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