Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—A conflict over ransom money has erupted between Al-Qaeda and Ansar Al-Sunnah in Iraq’s northern Kirkuk region, high-level security sources have informed Asharq Al-Awsat.
Brig. Gen. Sarhad Qadar, commander of the Kirkuk police force, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Over the past couple of months, there have been problems between the two groups over the division of ransom money. . . . These problems have gotten worse and reached the point where Ansar Al-Sunnah ambushed Al-Qaeda, resulting in the deaths of some of the most prominent members of the organization in the region.”
“Following this, a group of Al-Qaeda militants ambushed members of Ansar Al-Sunnah in an area known as Wadi Al-Khanazeer [Valley of the Pigs]. For their part, they succeeded in killing the Ansar Al-Sunnah commander for Kirkuk, Abu Adnan, two days ago,” he added.
The Kirkuk police chief added that the conflict between the two groups had escalated following Abu Adnan’s death, with the people of Al-Rashad fleeing the area over the past 48 hours in the face of the escalating violence.
The latest round of violence comes after a years-long alliance between Al-Qaeda and Ansar Al-Sunnah. Ansar Al-Sunnah is an umbrella organization formed from the remnants of the Kurdish Ansar Al-Islam group, whose spiritual leader, Mullah Krekar, is currently being held in prison in Norway.
As for the repercussions of the Al-Qaeda–Ansar Al-Sunnah conflict, Brigadier General Qadar told Asharq Al-Awsat: “There is the issue of people being displaced from the area where the clashes are taking place, many of whom are families of fighters who are fleeing to Kirkuk for fear of being targeted by the other side.”
But the fighting has helped the police. “These incidents have helped us to arrest a number of militants from both sides, while I would add that both groups being occupied with fighting each other has helped us to gather strategic intelligence on their movements,” Qadar said.
“Of course, we are also fighting both sides ourselves, and we arrest anybody we catch, particularly as the majority of these militants were previously fugitives from the US army, while they are currently fugitives from the Iraqi courts, so we are exploiting this valuable opportunity to hunt down fighters belonging to both groups,” the Kirkuk police chief added.