It has offered a $10-million reward for information that helps authorities capture or kill Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali Badri, also known as Abu Dua, the leader of the group Al Qaeda in Iraq.
If the bounty is any measure, finding Abu Dua is now a top priority. Only the chief of the global Al Qaeda organization, Ayman Zawahiri, merits a larger reward: $25 million. That’s also what the State Department offered for Osama bin Laden, who was killed in Pakistan in May.
The department long has offered $10 million for Mullah Omar, the Taliban commander who sheltered Bin Laden in Afghanistan before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The U.S. also has posted a $5-million bounty for Sirajuddin Haqqani, a leader of a network of Pakistan-based militants that U.S. officials say has attacked American forces in Afghanistan.
Three days after Navy SEALs killed Bin Laden, Abu Dua claimed responsibility for an attack in Hillah, Iraq, that killed 24 police officers and wounded 72 others. His group also claimed responsibility for 23 attacks south of Baghdad in March and April, the State Department said.
On Aug. 15, Abu Dua’s followers launched a wave of suicide attacks that killed more than 70 people, the State Department said. Soon after, the group pledged on its website to carry out 100 attacks across Iraq in retaliation for Bin Laden’s death. The statement claimed the campaign would include raids, suicide attacks, roadside bombs and small-arms assaults in cities and rural areas.
The State Department move against Abu Dua allows Treasury Department officials to freeze his assets, if any can be found. It comes three months before the last 30,000 U.S. combat troops are scheduled to withdraw from Iraq. Negotiations are underway with the Iraqi government to allow a small U.S. force to remain.
Iraqi security forces have taken the lead in security and counterinsurgency efforts against Al Qaeda in Iraq and allied militant groups, as well as against remaining Sunni and Shiite insurgent groups.
Al Qaeda in Iraq suffered significant losses after the U.S. military switched strategies in 2007 and, working with Iraqi troops, tackled the terror groups more directly.Today, it is able to conduct sporadic high-profile terror attacks but no longer controls vast areas of the country.
The militant group has been severely weakened by financial constraints, internal squabbling and Iraqi security operations to interdict foreign recruits as they enter Iraq from Syria, Maj. Gen. David Perkins, commander U.S. forces in northern Iraq, told reporters recently.
-- Ken Dilanian
Photo: Police officers and residents gather at the site of a bombing in Najaf, Iraq, on Aug. 15. Credit: Ali Abu Shish / Reuters