To recall, Jamaat Ansar al-Islam (JAI) is a jihadi group operating in Iraq (with a branch that expanded into Syria) espousing the ideology of reviving the Caliphate. Traditionally though the group has been at odds with the Islamic State (IS) and its prior incarnations because it does not accept IS' claims to be a state and caliphate, but instead, like al-Qa'ida, reduces IS to jamaat ad-dawla (group of the state). The two groups have clashed multiple times in Iraq, including in Mosul and Kirkuk governorate, where JAI has traditionally had a substantial presence. More recently, the IS-led takeover of Mosul with the subsequent assertions of IS power has led many members of JAI in the city to pledge allegiance to IS- something undoubtedly facilitated by ideological overlap. However, that does not mean JAI has been completely subsumed under IS as some pro-IS sources have been claiming, refutation of which is the purpose of this latest statement.
The tensions aside, it should be noted that JAI, whose Syrian branch claims close cooperation with Jabhat al-Nusra (while formally supporting the jihadi Jabhat Ansar al-Din coalition), does not necessarily support or sympathize with IS' enemies when it comes to fighting between IS and other groups. Thus, Abu Obeida the Salafi, a prominent JAI intellectual in Iraq- who amid the recent clashes between IS and Jaysh al-Mujahideen in al-Karma testified to the supposed upright nature of Jaysh al-Mujahideen (corollary to cooperation between Jaysh al-Mujahideen and JAI in Kirkuk area and more general calls for solidarity between the two groups)- wrote on his Facebook page regarding the U.S. airstrikes: "Oh God, indeed we declare to You our dissociation from all who support, rejoice and are content with the Crusaders' bombing of the positions of jamaat ad-dawla." In a similar vein, JAI member Abu Bakr al-Iraqi had the following to say about the IS video of the beheading of James Foley:
"When I say that I condemn the dawla for fighting with the mujahideen, spilling the blood of Muslims in Deir az-Zor, Sha'itat and the eastern region, in addition to beheadings and other actions, this is because I know that the blood of Muslims is precious and sacrosanct...but I support its [dawla's] fight with the Rafidities, Peshmerga, apostates of the army and its militias, and the Americans...and this [the beheading of James Foley] is one of the things I support the Dawla for doing."
Abu Bakr al-Iraqi had also mentioned last month an example of a joint operation between IS and JAI in the Tuz district (Salah ad-Din province, just northeast of Tikrit) in which security force outposts in some local villages were attacked with weaponry and vehicles seized, though he specifies that it was in an attack on one village in particular where it was a joint initiative. He claims that IS agreed to Shari'a arbitration with a division of the spoils, but subsequently ran off at dawn with most of the weaponry and vehicles.
To sum up, at the present time, JAI's presence has certainly been weakened in Mosul, but the group undoubtedly retains a presence in the rural hinterlands of Kirkuk and Salah ad-Din provinces in particular. The possibility of some coordination with IS against the Peshmerga cannot be ruled out, for the Peshmerga is despised by JAI in particular as the Peshmerga, working with U.S. troops, had been responsible for destroying JAI's first incarnation as Ansar al-Islam in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Here is the statement.
News reached us that a fake statement was being circulated in the name of JAI that falsely claimed that JAI had been dissolved and pledged allegiance to another group [IS]. We declare this news to be false in its entirety and in its details, and we affirm to the Muslim Ummah that just as God Almighty has preserved JAI by His preference, then by the steadfastness of its leaders from being drawn into the mirage of perverted projects out of negligence, so similarly [now] JAI will not be drawn into these perverted projects out of negligence by God's permission. And this is not the first ordeal the group has been undergoing since its establishment, but there have been previous ordeals and trials but they came and went by God's preference alone, then by the steadfastness of the honest ones and their determination to continue on the path, as outlined by the Prophet (PBUH) and his Rightly-Guiding Successors [the first four Caliphs] and his Guiding Companions and Followers to the Day of Judgment.
We further affirm that the marked account that can be found on the social media site Twitter is the sole source for the group's statements, and any statement or position not issued via this official outlet is fake.
May God's peace and blessings be on our Sayyid Muhammad and his family and companions.
Central Media Administration.
Jamaat Ansar al-Islam
29 Shuwwal 1435 AH
25 August 2014.
UPDATE- 29 August
Though JAI has not been fully subsumed under IS, IS has just claimed that 50 commanders and soldiers of JAI have pledged allegiance to IS in Ninawa province, further eroding JAI's strength. The pledges of allegiance should come as no surprise in light of IS' power in Ninawa province and the facilitation of defection by ideological overlap. Below are photos of the ceremony of pledge of allegiance and the list of names of defectors together with their occupations. That JAI should include mosque preachers and imams in its ranks is to be expected as the group wielded influence in Mosul mosques, such that IS sometimes resorted to assassinating JAI-aligned religious figures in Mosul for speaking out against IS.
1. Abu Zahara' (Majlis Shura)
2. Abu Imran (Shari'a official)
3. Abu Osama (military)
4. Abu Zakariya (military)
5. Abu Bakr (military)
6. Abu Mus'ab (military)
7. Abu Hafsa (military)
8. Abu Suleiman (military)
9. Abu Ammar (military)
10. Abu Khattab (military)
11. Abu Maryam (military)
12. Abu Dhanun (military)
13. Abu Mu'adh (military)
14. Abu Aminah (military)
15. Abu Bakr (military)
16. Abu Ahmad (military)
17. Abu Ayyub (military)
18. Abu Ya'qub (commando- 'military of assaults')
19. Abu Zubayr (commando)
20. Abu Hussain (security)
21. Abu Hussnain (security)
22. Abu Shaker (security)
23. Abu Anmar (security)
24. Abu Ali (security)
25. Abu Ya'qub (management)
26. Abu Rashad (management)
27. Abu Jasim (management)
28. Abu Anis (management)
29. Abu Abid (management)
30. Essam (management and accounts)
31. Ayyub (management of the deceased)
32. Abu Bakr (ground coordinator and security)
33. Abu Zubayda (intelligence)
34. Abu Harith (media guy)
35. Abu Mahmoud (electronics)
36. Abu Zayyad (imam and mosque preacher)
37. Abu Abid (mosque preacher)
38. Abu Bara' (mosque preacher)
39. Abu Hadifa (decor and dye)
40. Abu Hanin (driver)
41. Abu Othman (student of Shari'a science)
42. Abu Obeida (student of Shari'a science)
43. Abu Yusuf (doctor)
44. Abu Marwa (GP)
45. Abu Sadra (Hadith sciences and administration)
46. Abu Jannat (new gain)
47. Abu Bara' (gain of new delegations)
48. Abu Yunis (following of the deceased)
49. Abu Daha (official of the battalion for booby-trapping cars)
50. Abu Yusuf (herbs factory)