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Kurdish Islamist Conflict
Part of The Iraqi no-fly zones conflict and the Iraq War
Iraq kurdish areas 2003 vector
Iraqi Kurdistan 2003
Date September 2001 - 2004
Location Iraqi Kurdistan
Result PUK-KDP victory, Islamists flee South and join the Iraqi Insurgency
Flag of Jihad.svg Ansar al-Islam
Flag of Jihad.svg Islamic Group Kurdistan[1][2]
Flag of Jihad.svg Islamic Unification Movement[3]
al-Qaeda al-Qaeda
Flag of PUK Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
Flag of KDP Kurdistan Democratic Party
United States United States
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Jihad.svg Mullah Krekar
Flag of Jihad.svg Mullah Ali Bapir
Flag of Jihad.svg Abu Abdallah al-Shafi'i
Flag of PUK Jalal Talabani
Flag of KDP Massoud Barzani
United States Tommy Franks
Ansar al-Islam: 700-1000 fighters[4]
IUM: 40 fighters[3]
KDP and PUK: 70,000[5]
~40 Americans[6]
Casualties and losses
350+ killed[7] 92 killed

The Iraqi Kurdish Islamist Conflict was a military conflict between the Islamist militant group Ansar al-Islam and the two main Kurdish parties; the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.Iraqi Kurdistan. The conflict began in 2001. In 2003, the conflict merged with the larger 2003 invasion of Iraq, which led to the defeat of Ansar al-Islam. After the invasion, Ansar al-Islam continued a low level terrorist insurgency against the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.


Ansar al-Islam was formed in September 2001 under the name Jund al-Islam. The group was formed from Kurds who embraced militant Sunni Islam, coupled with foreign fighters who were veterans of the war in Afghanistan.[8] In December 2001, the group changed its name to Ansar al-Islam. They would retain control of Halabja until 2003.


Ansar al-Islam and its allied groups seized control of the area around Halabja from the PUK in late 2001. Fighting continued throughout 2002.

Ansar al-Islam's ruleEdit

Ansar al-Islam was accused by Human Rights Watch of committing atrocities against the civilian population in the territory which they controlled. It has been alleged that Ansar al-Islam harshly persecuted the Kaka'i religious minority, and enforced strict Islamic law. Human Rights Watch also accused Ansar al-Islam fighters of torturing prisoners and summarily executing captured PUK soldiers.[3]


Ansar al-Islam also engaged in terrorism against the PUK leadership. An unsuccessful attempt was made on the life of Barham Saleh in April 2002 when he was the PUK Regional Government Prime Minister. Later in February 2003 Ansar al-Islam assassinated the prominent PUK General Shawkat Haji Mushir.

In March 2004 the US State Department officially classified Ansar al-Islam as a terrorist organization.[9]

2003 Invasion of IraqEdit

During the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, US forces aided the PUK in attacking Ansar al-Islam. In late March 2003, PUK forces supported by American special forces captured Halabja after several days of heavy fighting. The surviving Ansar al-Islam forces fled into Iran.

American intelligence personnel inspected the suspected chemical weapons site in Sargat and discovered traces of Ricin in the ruins, as well as potassium chloride. They also discovered chemical weapons suits, atropine nerve gas antidotes, and manuals on manufacturing chemical weapons, lending credence to the idea that the site was related to the manufacture of chemical weapons and poisons.[10]

After the invasionEdit

Ansar al-Islam fought on as a faction in the Iraqi insurgency. Several terrorist attacks in the Irbil area have been linked to Ansar al-Islam, including the suicide bombing of the PUK and KDP headquarters in Irbil that killed 117 people. They also carried out the bombing of the Mount Lebanon Hotel in Baghdad on March 17, 2004.[9]



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