The Al-Qaeda affiliated group almost established an Islamic state in the Kurdistan region.
On September 23, 2001, they attacked Halabja Governorate’s Kheli Hama village and captured over 50 Peshmerga troops sent there on a peacekeeping mission. The terrorists killed them, distorted their bodies, and beheaded 42 of the force in Kheli Hama.
Ansar al-Islam carried out the attack just days after the September 11 attacks. The terrorist group declared war against Peshmerga forces commanded by the PUK since its early inception.
The incident came after the infamous September 11 attacks. The terrorists filmed the beheadings and published them across the world. The film showed the cruel terrorist acts by the terrorists, and it aimed to persuade the Peshmerga forces to resist.
Ansar al-Islam was one of the few terrorist groups in the world that controlled the territory at the time and used its resources to spread its rule. The terrorists controlled villages and mountains in Halabja that bordered Iran. The group imposed strict Sharia in the regions it controlled.
Just 24 hours after the attack, the Peshmerga forces commanded by the PUK declared war on the terrorists and began removing them from the region. The documents captured after the elimination of the terrorist group from the area reveal the deep connection between Al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam.
In her book, The Bin Laden Papers, Nelly Lahoud explains Al-Qaeda’s endeavors to build a global network of terrorist groups by providing them with logistical and financial support. The Al-Qaeda brand sold well within the terrorist groups, especially after the September 11 attacks.
The terrorist group initially introduced itself as Jund al-Islam, was based in the Kurdistan region’s Hawraman area, and maintained close ties with Al-Qaeda. It worked to establish an Islamic state in the Kurdistan region.
The group was a designated terrorist organization in the United Nations, Australia, Canada, Israel, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and a known affiliate of the al-Qaeda network.
The group remained in the area until the collapse of Saddam Hussein in 2003, when the Kurdish security forces, assisted by the international coalition against Saddam Hussein, eventually helped to remove the group from the Hawraman region and destroy their headquarters.
On August 29, 2014, 50 members and commanders of Ansar al-Islam announced that they were joining ISIS individually; however, Ansar al-Islam continued to oppose ISIS and kept functioning independently. Abu Khattab al-Kurdi was among those who left Ansar al-Islam for ISIS and later became an ISIS commander.
The group is now totally absent in the Kurdistan region due to the efforts of the Kurdish security forces.