Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sunni militant group, Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia, evolve in northern Iraq

JRTN are now visibily active across Mosul, Kirkuk and especially in Diyala where the nucleaus of their operations are based. I've been following this group with much interest since they targeted a car showroom in Muqdadiyah back in February 2011. The interesting point about JRTN is that they will not fight with other Jihadist groups, but will cooperate with them if they are dedicated to the same cause, (possibly resource linked). Now before an end to the SOFA, the group's strategy was to target US forces and any Iraqis working with the coaliton. After the US departure the group changed its goal and began targeting the Shiite-led government. All security or government actors where therefore considered a viable mark, which is where the nexus between these groups probably exists. They claim to be a nationalist alternative to AQI that has tapped into the Sunni Arab fears of a Shiite government and the country's Kurdish population. Accordingly, the group are very respected within the local government or very influential with their native communities and don't necessarily display their acts of terror on the streets, which makes it difficult to obtain warrants issued by the Iraqi court to arrest them.

The role that Izzat Ibrahim al Douri plays in the group is debatable. Some claim he is the leader, whilst others believe he lives outside the country providing financial assistance through fundraising (which JRTN are very adept at). Regardless, Saddam's former Vice President is a key personality within JRTN. On 05 Jan, a 53 minute video was released on YouTube in which al-Douri encouraged recent Sunni  protests in the provinces of Ninewah and Anbar against PM Maliki, saying that "the people of Iraq and all its nationalist and Islamic Forces support you until the realisation of your just demands for the fall of the Safavid-Persian Alliance'. This assertion will likely have been campaigning the existence of JRTN and other militant organsations in Iraq.

The Naqshbandi Order also have a strong propaganda campaign. It publishes a monthly magazine on the group's operations, promoting ideology through which it solicits donations. The magazine articles call upon Muslims to donate, stating that funding Jihad is equivalent to fighting and fulfilling one's Jihadi religious obligations. However, the amount of funding and its source is unknown. 

JRTN tactics include roadside bombings and small arms fire (much like many other militant organisations in the northern region such as Fatah al Islam and Ansar al Islam), however one device that has been linked to the group is the RKG-3 grenade. In 2011-2012, this device was widely used across the aboveforementioned cities. Of late there have been three reports of it coming back into circulation. The latest attack was in Mosul city on 03 Jan where militants targeted an IA convoy wounding three soldiers in the west of the city. The other two attacks occurred in Tikrit and Kirkuk. 

Other examples of the groups ongoing presence have been through arrest operations, again in Mosul, two JRTN commanders were detained with a cache of weapons in a safe house on the western peripheries of the city in Dec 12. Three JRTN affiliates were also captured in Hawijah, and threatening leaflets were distributed to Sahwa affiliates in the north of Baquba on 12 Jan who had failed to heed the advice of the group and denounce the government whilst crossing back over to the insurgency. Security officials contend that thousands of Sahwa affiliates who are upset by Maliki's failure to absorb them into the military, are being recruited by JRTN and will pose a threat to stability in the region.

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