On 15 May 2009, Falluja Forum contributor Wahj al-Rasas (Blazing Bullets) posted photos of leaflets the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) supposedly distributed recently in Gaza. The leaflets claim that the recent announcement of Abu-Omar al-Baghdadi’s capture is a fabrication, the ISI does not know the identity of the person in the alleged photos of al-Baghdadi, and al-Baghdadi is doing just fine. The leaflets were signed by the “Ministry of Information / The Islamic State of Iraq” and the “the al-Shahid Abi-Mus’ab al-Zarqawi Brigade for Jihadi Media Jerusalem.”
The content of the announcement is not surprising, given al-Baghdadi has already released a statement refuting claims of his capture, and it is possible that the announcement is a forgery. However, if it is legitimate, it is interesting that the ISI would be so concerned about how Palestinians perceived the alleged al-Baghdadi capture – I have not seen a special ISI statement issued by a Somalia, North African, or Yemeni ISI branch. Additionally, it could indicate that the ISI is looking beyond Iraq and has already started activities in Gaza. It remains unclear whether or not these activities are merely for propaganda value, i.e. another attempt to connect the Palestinian issue to the wider global jihad, or an actual effort to build an ISI presence in Gaza. However, if it is the latter, the ISI faces a step uphill battle because, as I have argued previously, it is unlikely that Hamas will allow a competing organization to operate in Gaza freely.