London, April 4: Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the most feared commander in the Iraqi insurgency, may have been forced to surrender his leadership by rival groups, angered by his tactics and the interference of foreign fighters in the Iraqi conflict.
According to Huthayfah Azzam, the son of Abdullah Azzam, al Zarqawi’s former mentor, the notorious commander of al Qaida in Iraq was stripped of his political duties at a meeting two weeks ago.
“The Iraqi resistance high command asked al Zarqawi to give up his political role and replaced him with an Iraqi because of several mistakes,” said Azzam in an interview with al-Arabiya, the Arabic news channel.
“Al Zarqawi’s role has been limited to military action,” he said.
The fugitive al Qaida leader, who has a $25 million American bounty on his head, is credited with masterminding some of the bloodiest episodes in the Iraqi war, including suicide bombings against the UN, Shias and US forces and the videotaped execution of western and other hostages.
But his tactics have alienated many Iraqis, even those sympathetic to the insurgency. Azzam, whose father is known as the “prince of the Mujaheedin”, said that he was accused of “creating an independent group” in Iraq, “making political mistakes” and hijacking the Iraqi insurgency for his own cause.
The claims could not be confirmed, but they did add to mounting evidence that al Zarqawi has been increasingly isolated over the past months because of his ruthless tactics.
The council appears to have demoted al Zarqawi and replaced him with a relative unknown, Abdullah bin Rashid al-Baghdadi.
As for al Zarqawi, a former petty criminal turned jihad warlord, he has not been heard of in public for three months.