A new face of Al Qaeda in Iraq has risen to the forefront, Iraqi officials say. 27-year-old Shaker Wahiyib al-Fahdawi is the most “dangerous and cunning” terrorist today.
The Clarion Project, a news site focusing on radical Islam, reported on Monday that the most wanted Al Qaeda terrorist is even more extreme than Al Qaeda’s former leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, infamously known for his cruelty and attacks on Shiite Muslims.
Fahdawi rose to notoriety after a video recently emerged depicting the execution of three Syrian truck drivers on a highway in western Iraq on July 22.
In the footage, Fahdawi is seen with his face unmasked as he interrogates the three men about their religious background. As soon as the drivers are identified as Alawites, a branch of Shiite Islam, they are made to kneel down and are shot at close range.
"The terrorist who killed the truck drivers is one of the most dangerous al-Qaeda figures today," said an army major general, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"He forms part of the new generation, representing some of al Qaeda's former figures like Zarqawi, but even more extremist."
Throughout the video, the terrorists executed the three men in broad daylight, on a major highway. Most striking of all was the fact that Fahdawi’s face was unmasked, which was in stark contrast with that of his accomplices, who carefully masked their faces.
"He is the only one who kills without covering his face, and is working on declaring an Islamic state," said Colonel Yassin Dwaij, head of western Iraq’s Anbar province police intelligence. "He is dangerous and cunning," Dwij added.
Fahdawi’s Criminal Past
These recent killings, however, are far from Fahdawi’s first foray into the world of Islamic terror extremism. He was previously detained by U.S. security forces at southern Iraq’s Camp Bucca, before being sentenced to death and imprisoned in Salaheddin province in the north.
Fahdawi escaped from jail last year and has been on the run ever since. But in recent months, he has attracted increasing public attention.
In March, Fahdawi appeared in online videos reading a poem at a demonstration in Fallujah, after anti-government protests had first erupted in his native Anbar province three months earlier.
Authorities have since pinned the blame on him for a myriad of terror-related offences, with security officials in Anbar province placing a $50,000 bounty on his head. Little progress in bringing him to justice appears to have been made.
Just two months after footage emerged of him at the protest in Fallujah, Fahdawi was accused of leading terrorists in kidnapping 16 policemen along the Iraq-Jordan highway in Anbar province, leaving 12 of them dead and four wounded.
Now, with the video of the truck driver killings, Fahdawi has become one of the most visible faces of al-Qaeda in Iraq since Zarqawi.