Here is a glimpse inside Ansar Al-Islam, the radical Muslim group in Iraq. It shows how terrorists recruit using Islamic religious concepts “” as I explain in Onward Muslim Soldiers, and as continues to be ignored by most analysts (probably because it raises uncomfortable questions about the role of Islam in all this, and how much greater reform efforts we must see from self-professed moderate Muslims). From AP, with thanks to Nicolei:
Kaiwan Qader, a prisoner in Kurdish custody, once planned to be a suicide bomber.
A member of Ansar al-Islam, a group with alleged links to the al-Qaida terror network, Qader signed up to blow himself up. Ansar even selected the target in Sulaimaniyah: the Interior Ministry in the Kurdish north, which is heavily involved in the hunt for Ansar militants.
“I learnt from Ansar al-Islam that killing one’s self for the sake of Islam is a good thing and is considered jihad (holy war),” Qader, a soft-spoken 18-year-old, told The Associated Press. . . .
Qader, a Sunni Kurd, grew up in Sulaimaniyah among 10 brothers and sisters. He and his family were moderately religious – his mother is not veiled and he went to the mosque once a day for prayers.
It was there that he met Swara Ahmed Ali, a beefy man with a flushed face and long, brownish beard. For months, they casually saluted one another. Until one evening when Ali approached Qader, who was 15 at the time.
“He talked to me about religion and said that I should take part in jihad operations against the PUK for God’s sake,” Qader said in a room in a security compound with a Kurdish official attending the interview. With his broad shoulders and lanky figure, Qader looks older than 18. But his demeanor – occasionally cracking his knuckles and tugging at his thin mustache – betrays his youth.
“I used to pray, but he made me see that praying wasn’t enough and that I had to join jihad to be a good Muslim,” he said of Ali. “I feared God a lot and he took advantage of that.” . . .
Over and over, Ali hammered the same message into Qader’s mind: jihad will land you in paradise and spare you hell. Qader – who doesn’t speak Arabic, the language of the Quran – hadn’t read much in the Muslim holy book.
Qader agreed to go with Ali to Golb, a village east of Sulaimaniyah, to prepare for jihad. His father tried to stop him, but Ali told him that pleasing God should come before family.
There, he saw about 400 other members, many of them new recruits. They were split into small groups and listened to talks about Islam. After a month, Qader’s father persuaded him to return home for a possible job opportunity.
Meanwhile, Ansar al-Islam was formed and Ali headed one of its battalions, al-Muhajereen (the Immigrants). At least four times, Ali sent for Qader through a friend. Still jobless, Qader returned to Golb, where he was assigned to Ali’s 30-member battalion.
For almost a year and a half, Qader lived with 500 Ansar members.
“There were no lectures or training. We ate, drank and lazed around,” he said. Ansar paid him $22 a month.
“During this period I became convinced that I should blow myself up and that suicide was the highest rank of jihad,” he said. Qader signed up for a suicide mission and Ali sent his name to the leadership in Biyara, a stronghold of Ansar in the mountains close to Iran.
Another prisoner who lived with Ansar, Haidar al-Shemari, said would-be suicide bombers were often single young men with religious zeal: they grew their beards, shunned worldly pleasures and enforced strict interpretations of Islam on their families.
“They would sit them through lectures and tell them that 72 women await the martyr in the other world,” al-Shemari said laughingly.
He said Ansar had so-called “TNT” camps, where would-be suicide bombers wore suicide vests and trained on how to explode themselves in exactly the right spot.
Omar Fattah, a senior PUK official, said Ansar prefers to use C4 explosive, which he said was stronger than TNT, as well as put in nails and pieces of metal to create more casualties.
He said Ansar leaders form groups of 3-5 members and put them through a one-month course of harsh military training and religious lectures, during which they extol the virtues of martyrdom.
“They used to brainwash them,” Fattah said. Many were between the ages of 15 and 25.
Qader said he initially feared killing himself, but was coerced into it by Ali.
“I was young and they nagged a lot,” he said.