The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has mutated into the Islamic State after capturing parts of Syria and Iraq. The historic Islamic term “Sham” is the name given by al-Qaeda to Syria, which the Syrians don’t like because it means “left hand” and “shame”, and instead use the pagan term, Suriya, based on the correct pronunciation of the Greek letter “y” in Syria.
The Islamic State is a Sunni terrorist organisation, linked to al-Qaeda in the past but now on its own. First formed by Abu Musaab al Zarqawi in 2003, it is led today by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, also known as Caliph Ibrahim. Baghdadi is supposed to have gone to Afghanistan in the late 1990s with Zarqawi, a Jordanian street fighter who died in Baghdad in June 2006 as an international terrorist with $25 million on his head.
Zarqawi went for jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s. He established a training camp there to prepare guerrillas against Jordan. He was jailed for seven years in Amman on his return but was soon back in Afghanistan training jihadists in Herat, and was also in Tora Bora with Osama bin Laden in 2001. He got injured in Kandahar during the American invasion and was evacuated through Iran by Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who had good contacts in Tehran. He moved to Iraq after that, well in time to see the Americans invade the country, and joined the Kurd-led jihadi militia, Ansar al-Islam, there. Ansar al-Islam, recently revived, was founded as a terrorist group by one Mullah Krekar, who went to the International Islamic University (IIU) of Islamabad as a lecturer in the 1980s and later joined the jihad in Peshawar.
At the age of 23, Zarqawi went to Pakistan, only to find that the Soviet Union had already pulled out of Afghanistan. He began to frequent the inner circles of al-Qaeda, which had just been founded. He lived in Hayatabad, Peshawar, and met such jihadi leaders as the Palestinian intellectual Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, Pashtun warlord Hekmatyar and Tajik clerical leader Burhanuddin Rabbani. He also met for the first time another personality who had arrived there from Jordan, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi.
Maqdisi was violent, attacking Western modernism, particularly its liberal democracy. Eighteen of his articles were found in the personal effects of Mohamed Atta, the leader of the Hamburg Cell, who attacked the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001. He was close to Azzam, who taught at the IIU. The two were seen eating at restaurants in Islamabad. Maqdisi’s second close friend in Pakistan was Khalid continued…