Zarqawi Replaced as Leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq

The Telegraph of India reports that Abu Musab al Zarqawi was “fired.”

Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the most feared commander in the Iraqi insurgency, may have been forced to surrender his leadership by rival groups, angered by his tactics and the interference of foreign fighters in the Iraqi conflict.

According to Huthayfah Azzam, the son of Abdullah Azzam, al Zarqawi’s former mentor, the notorious commander of al Qaida in Iraq was stripped of his political duties at a meeting two weeks ago.

“The Iraqi resistance high command asked al Zarqawi to give up his political role and replaced him with an Iraqi because of several mistakes,” said Azzam in an interview with al-Arabiya, the Arabic news channel.

“Al Zarqawi’s role has been limited to military action,” he said.

The fugitive al Qaida leader, who has a $25 million American bounty on his head, is credited with masterminding some of the bloodiest episodes in the Iraqi war, including suicide bombings against the UN, Shias and US forces and the videotaped execution of western and other hostages.

But his tactics have alienated many Iraqis, even those sympathetic to the insurgency. Azzam, whose father is known as the “prince of the Mujaheedin”, said that he was accused of “creating an independent group” in Iraq, “making political mistakes” and hijacking the Iraqi insurgency for his own cause.

The claims could not be confirmed, but they did add to mounting evidence that al Zarqawi has been increasingly isolated over the past months because of his ruthless tactics.

However, The Dread Pundit Bluto is skeptical.

This is an indication that the Iraqi Terrorist Insurgency realizes that targeting civilians has cost them support. Perhaps they feel that they can tag Zarqawi with all the “bad” terrorist acts and regain some support. It’s even possible they want to disavow Zarqawi in order eventually to pursue legitimate political goals, a là Sinn Fein.

However, the story’s credibility is somewhat sketchy because both Hudayf Azzam and Abdullah bin Rashed al-Baghdadi were virtually unknown until Sunday.

The Khajeel Times says Zarqawi wasn’t fired; rather, he quit:

AMMAN – Jordanian fugitive Abu Mussab Zarqawi has “voluntarily quit” as overall leader of Iraq’s Al Qaeda branch to devote himself for commanding the military insurgency against US-led coalition forces, a well-informed Islamist said on Tuesday.

“Zarqawi has voluntarily quit the overall leadership to devote himself for commanding the military operations,” Hothaifa Abdullah Azzam told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

“The man has been so far the overall leader, and now he has assigned this post to an Iraqi man to become commander of field operations only, ” he said, indicating that the overall leadership involved both political and military activities.

More from The Washington Times:

Jordanian-born al Qaeda militant Abu Musab Zarqawi has been replaced as head of the terrorist organization in Iraq in a bid to put an Iraqi figure at the head of the group’s struggle, said a leading Islamist.

But terrorism specialists were divided on whether the move represented a demotion for the figure most closely identified with a wave of suicide bombings and beheadings or a move by Zarqawi to focus his efforts on a larger regional war…

…Rita Katz, a counterterrorism specialist at the Washington-based Search for International Terrorist Entities (SITE) Institute, was one of the first Western analysts to flag Zarqawi’s diminished profile. Ayman al-Zawahri, considered bin Laden’s right-hand man, told Zarqawi in a June 2005 letter that Iraqis should quickly be given leadership positions in the Iraqi fight.

“This was not a demotion, as [Zarqawi] from the get-go viewed Iraq as only a springboard to the global jihad aimed to establish a worldwide caliphate,” Ms. Katz said. “He must have felt the time was ripe to delegate the local Iraqi struggle to a local organization, while he continued to pursue the next stages of the plan.”

She said the November hotel attack in Amman, Jordan, that killed 63 persons was seen by bin Laden and other al Qaeda strategists not as a blunder but as part of a larger plan to increase instability and tensions throughout the region. Zarqawi has long talked of sparking the sectarian tensions now evident in Iraq between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims.

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