Ansar al-Islam is a Kurdish Islamic group espousing a strict Sunni ideology akin to Wahhabism. The group, a reiteration of Jund al-Islam, was established in September 2001 out of fractions of the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan, and was led initially by Mullah Krekar. The group includes veterans of the Afghan war and foreign fighters, and view with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Iraq's northern Kurdish provinces.
The group aims to rigorously enforce its concept of Sharia law in these northern provinces. When in control of villages, the group mandated strict religious observance, destroying a girls' school, outlawing "vice", and enforcing daily prayers at the mosque. The group has also made threats against non-Muslims, such as the Kaki'i religious sect, which largely fled rather than convert or live under Dhimmitude laws.
In 2003, US Special Forces and SAD paramilitary teams combined with the PUK and quickly overcame Ansar al-Islam. Initially, the US believed ties existed between the group and Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. However, while some level of connection with Al Qaeda seems likely, the group declared Hussein an apostate. Although never consisting of more than a few hundred people, the Kurdish government believes the group is still active in the region. Likely, members are now associating with Ansar al-Sunnah, which eventually admitted it derived from Ansar al-Islam. In May, 2010, the group's leader, Krekar's successor, was arrested.
Ansar al-Sunnah has had ties with Al Qaeda in Iraq, though since 2007 they have moved away from Al Qaeda and allied more closely with other local militant groups.
Ansar al-Islam was primarily engaged in clashes with the PUK and is responsible for attacks on borders, ambushes, and a car bomb that killed an Australian journalist. US raids revealed a single chemical weapons facility in 2003.
Ansar al-Sunnah has committed numerous suicide attacks, including the bombings of two political offices in Irbil, planted car bombs, and kidnapped and executed hostages.
Ansar al-Islam is based in northern Iraq, near the Iranian border, particularly the villages of Biyara and Tawela in the PUK region.
The group is financed through an extensive international network that channels money from Europe; arrests have been made in Germany and Sweden. The group may also have been given support from Al-Qaeda, and allegations of assistance from Iran remain.