Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (Arabic: أبو مصعب الزرقاوي; b. 1966, d. June 7, 2006) was the Jordanian-born Islamic insurgent head of al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (Group of Monotheism and Jihad,) which later became al-Qaeda in Iraq and ultimately the Islamic State. A notorious figure associated with Osama bin Laden, he was known for high-profile bombings such as those of the UN office in Bagdad and Shiite Mosques and for bloody assassinations, beheadings of foreign hostages, and mayhem that was intended to drive Iraq into civil war.
Afghanistan and Pakistan
Zarqawi first arrived in Afghanistan in 1989, after the Soviet withdrawal of forces. He worked as a correspondent for a radical Islamist journal. He anticipated taking part in the victorious fall of Kabul and erection of the first Sunni-Islamic state in modern times, however jihadists immediately began fighting among themselves. Kabul was not fall for another three years.
Meantime Zarqawi took residence in Pakistan and befriended many Jordanian jihadists, and began organizing to overthrow the Heshemite dynasty of Jordan.
Return to the Middle East
He spent seven years in prison in Jordan for conspiring to overthrow the monarchy and establish an Islamic caliphate. Osama bin Laden invited Zarqawi to join al Qaeda in 2000, but Zarqawi refused having differing views on the basic strategy for global jihad. Bin Laden wanted to first focus on defeating the United States, then destroy Israel and the House of Sa'ud, and finally establish the Caliphate. Zarqawi, following the strategy mapped out by Abu Musab al-Suri, a veteran of the 1982 Syrian uprising, wanted to carve out an Islamic State in the heart of the Middle East, declare a Caliphate, and invite jihadis from all over the world to unite Muslims and war against non-believers.
Jordan had asked Iraq to extradite al-Zarqawi following the murder of the U.S. diplomat Lawrence Foley, executive officer of USAid, but Saddam Hussein's regime ignored the request. Zarqawi was in Iraq at the end of 2002 and was given shelter by the terrorist group Ansar al-Islam which operated from northern Iraq where he established a chemical weapons lab. He was tried in absentia for murder in Jordan and given the death penalty.
In 2004, after bin Laden successfully established himself as the leader of global jihad, Zarqawi then was granted the al Qaeda in Iraq franchise and recognized as Emir of Iraq by bin Laden. Zarqawi was given wide latitude however on how to pursue his aims: al Qaeda wanted to unite Muslims (Sunni & Shi'a) in the war against the global infidel alliance; Zarqawi wanted to ignite sectarian war and an insurgency against Shi'ism to make post-Saddam Iraq ungovernable for the United States.
al-Qaeda in Iraq
- Main article: Iraq insurgency 2004-2008
By 2003, Zarqawi relocated his al Qaeda affiliate Group of Monotheism and Jihad to Iraq. It became an affiliate group to al-Qaeda and was commonly known in Western media sources as al Qaeda in Iraq.
Zarqawi pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden in a statement posted to a website on 17 October 2004. The statement read: "Talks, during which views were exchanged between Sheikh Abu Mus'ab...and brothers from Al-Qaeda, have been going on for eight months." The statement said that talks were interrupted for a time but then resumed, adding, "Our respected brothers in Al-Qaeda understood the strategy of Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad in the land of the two rivers [Iraq] and the caliphates and their hearts opened to their approach.... We deliver to the nation the news that both Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad's Amir [al-Zarqawi] and soldiers have pledged allegiance to the sheikh of the mujahedin, Osama bin Laden, and that they will follow his orders in jihad for the sake of God so there will be no more tumult or oppression, and justice and faith in God will prevail." The statement called on the "youth of this nation" to join Zarqawi's followers under the banner of Al-Qaeda. On December 28, 2004 bin Laden announced to the world the alliance with Zarqawi and anointed him Emir of Iraq, urging jihadis to follow and obey.
By 2004, Zarqawi had already claimed 25 attacks against US and its allied Iraqi forces. Zarqawi is personally responsible for the beheading and murder of American Nicholas Berg. His attacks eventually occurred daily until he was killed by a precision U.S. airstike in 2006.