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Papers Paint New Portrait of Iraq's Foreign Insurgents
The extent of al-Qaeda in Iraq's ties to the wider al-Qaeda network has long been a subject of debate within the U.S. intelligence community and military. Although its membership is overwhelmingly Iraqi, it has been led by foreigners with direct ties to al-Qaeda central, which has been based in Pakistan since being driven from Afghanistan in 2001.
Some of the early Sinjar documents carry the seal of the Mujaheddin Shura Council, an umbrella organization for Sunni insurgent organizations in Iraq created in January 2006 by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a bin Laden associate who was then leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Most of the later records are imprinted with the insignia of the Islamic State of Iraq, declared in October 2006 after Zarqawi's death. Those documents provide far more comprehensive information.
There is no indication of individual motives, but recruits were asked how they had made initial contact with travel "coordinators." Responses ranged from friends and family members to someone "in the mosque" or "a brother who came back from Iraq."
Although answers to many questions were left blank, most recruits said they carried identification -- a passport, birth certificate or driver's license. Some helpfully noted that their documents were "clean" or "not burnt," indicating they did not appear on any watch list. Contributions to the insurgency, including funds that totaled several thousand dollars in some cases, were duly recorded.
Based on information solicited in the longer Islamic State of Iraq forms, the Syrian role in the traffic appeared more that of entrepreneur than ideological partner and seemed to be a source of concern and suspicion for al-Qaeda in Iraq. Entrants were asked for names and descriptions of Syrians they had come into contact with, and were asked how they were treated. Many responded that the Syrians had demanded exorbitant sums of money, often exactly the amount the entrants were carrying.
Many of the forms include telephone numbers. According to Fishman, "we called a lot of them and they didn't work" or "just rang and rang." But a Swedish newspaper noticed on the center's Web site that one man, a Tunisian who gave only an alias, listed his country of residence as Sweden and supplied a telephone number in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby. A government registry indicated that he was married, with two children.
When a reporter from Svenska Dagbladet called the number, the newspaper reported early this month, a man who identified himself as a cousin said that Abu Mua'az was not there. He, his wife and older brother, the man said, "were currently overseas and unavailable."