According to the Times Online, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi “has outstripped his mentor, Osama bin Laden” by building up “a formidable terrorist network that stretches from Britain to Afghanistan.”
Al-Zarqawi commands more people, has access to greater funds and enjoys growing support among young Muslims drawn to his slick internet websites, which give lurid details of his latest attacks on “infidels”.
A recent study about Iraq’s insurgency by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington estimated that 3,000 foreign fighters had gone to Iraq to join the insurgency.
Now, battle-hardened, they form the vanguard of a “foreign legion” ready to take the jihad to their homelands in what US intelligence officials refer to as “bleed-out”.
The National Counterterrorism Centre in America believes that al-Zarqawi’s network extends to 40 countries and that he has developed links with 24 militant groups worldwide.
Already notorious in Iraq for committing the worst outrages of the insurgency, including personally beheading several foreign hostages and killing thousands of Shia Muslim civilians, al-Zarqawi carried out his first big operation abroad last week.
Iraqi suicide bombers attacked three hotels in Amman, the Jordanian capital, killing mainly Jordanian civilians, many of whom were attending a wedding reception. Hala al-Faroukah, the mother of the bride, died of her wounds while in a coma yesterday. Her death brought to 62 the number of people killed in the attacks on November 9.
“This is Zarqawi marking out his new territory,” an Arab intelligence source said. “I believe there’s a leadership struggle under way in al-Qaeda and he wants to establish himself as the new supremo.”
The evidence suggests that the 38-year-old, who grew up in the depressed Jordanian town of Zarqa, may already be well on his way to achieving his goal.
This year the Americans released a letter that they had intercepted from Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s No 2, to al-Zarqawi on their common goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate in the Arab world.
In the 6,000-word missive, al-Zawahiri told al-Zarqawi that after US forces were driven from Iraq the jihad must be waged against “secular countries neighbouring Iraq”. The attacks in Jordan suggest that such a phase may already be under way, as foreign fighters begin to return to their home countries.
Taking the “insurgency” home is documented in this Jihad Watch archive.