The Targeted Killings of the Al Harzi Brothers in Iraq and Syria

On June 23, the Pentagon announced Tunisian Ali al Harzi, who was a suspect in the 2012 Benghazi embassy attack, was killed in an airstrike in Mosul, Iraq on June 15. Yesterday, the Pentagon announced his brother, Tariq al Harzi, (pictured above) was killed in an airstrike in Syria on June 16. I wrote a long post on the background of the al Harzi brothers here, commenting that Tariq seemed to be the more significant of the pair.

But there's more to Tariq that I find interesting and hasn't been reported in Government reward listings or OFAC notices: Tariq was a champion boxer in Tunesia who lost a leg in a 2004 U.S. bombing attack in Fallujah in Iraq. Human rights groups said he was tortured for three months by Iraqi intelligence at Abu Ghraib. (He later told his father the Americans had treated him well.) U.S. detention records list him as #009 654. [More...]

Here's what he reportedly looked like then:

Here's the Google-translated version of the October, 2008 article:

Tunisian human rights sources reported the presence of 13 Tunisians detained one of the detention camps in Baghdad. He said the same source in a newsletter obtained by «Arabs», a copy of the US occupation authorities in Iraq arrested the 13 Tunisians: «after combing campaigns carried out against anyone who does not hold Iraqi citizenship». Stressing that the Tunisians were arrested multiple parts of the Iraq, including the young and Tariq Aharza boxing champion in Tunisia and is now under the supervision of the Americans guarding the Group No. 5 in the detention camp in Baghdad.

In a statement to «Arabs», human rights activist Zouhair Makhlouf, Aharza confirmed that he was tortured by Iraqi intelligence for more than three months awesome and diverse forms, and that the Red Cross was able to visit his family and the media-cum-prison. The Aharza and a group of Tunisians moved from Tunisia to Syria in August 2004 and then turned to Iraq. In November of the same year Aharza wounded in an American bombing on Iraq and amputated his right leg. He was arrested at Abu Ghraib prison for a year before being released in 2005.

In Tunisia, the Tunisian authorities have imprisoned his brothers Ali and Ibrahim Aharza for a period of two and half years and sentenced him in absentia to 24 years. The winner of the championship Aharza Tunisia nobles in boxing class light up like a boxer prestigious Tunisia in a lot of occasions.

In the latest developments in the process of stopping «Arabs» he learned that US authorities in Iraq are preparing to hand him over to Tunisia, which human rights organizations raised fears of the possibility of being subjected to torture and ill-treatment. (Source: newspaper 'Arabs' (daily - Qatar) issued on 20 October, 2008.)

This seems to match the person described by in the U.N. designation of Tariq al Harzi (although there is no mention of an amputated leg or torture):

Tarak ben Taher ben Faleh Ouni Harzi has been a dangerous and active terrorist element within Al-Qaida in Iraq (QDe.115) since 2004 before being arrested in 2006 and imprisoned in Abu Ghraib prison. He managed to escape in 2013 following the attack by Al-Qaida in Iraq. Tarak Harzi is located in Syria where he is active in the facilitation and the hosting of Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia (AAS-T) (QDe.143) members in this country, in coordination with his brother Ali ben Taher ben Faleh Ouni Harzi (QDi.353) (a notorious AAS-T member). On 30 October 2007, Tarak Harzi was sentenced in absentia to 24 years imprisonment.

According to the November 5, 2008 article , which cites an Al Quds International (UK) article on October 30, 2008, and quotes a recognized Tunisian human rights activist, Tariq's only offense was not having papers to be in Iraq, but the Iraqis turned him over to the criminal court. This information also was posted in 2011 on this forum.

This former U.S. military interrogator says he met Tariq while he was being held and remembers he was fitted with a prosthetic leg, having lost it in 2004 in Iraq, probably in Fallujah.

Tariq was arrested again in Iraq on March 18, 2008 and held at Camp Cropper in Baghdad until 2009 when the U.S. turned over prisoners to Iraq. The Iraqis then kept him, at either Abu Ghraib or Taji or both. Reports differ on which jail he escaped from and whether it was 2012 or 2013. But his escape is believed to have occurred during a jail breakout staged by al Qaida of Iraq.

If Tariq was killed in June, then he's not Tunisian "Abu Sayyaf" who was killed during the special forces raid near the al Omar oil field in Syria, which took place in May. The Soufan Group and others thought "Abu Sayyaf" might be Tariq al Harzi. The U.S. hasn't released Abu Sayyaf's real name, or that of his "wife" Umm Sayyaf, who is still being held by the U.S., somewhere in Iraq. According to the Soufan Group:

Tariq al-Harzi has a long history with both the Islamic State and its precursor al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). According to Iraqi reports, he entered Iraq in 2004 to join the fight against Western troops, and was arrested and detained in Abu Ghraib prison in 2005. Upon his release, he rejoined AQI, and was again detained by U.S. military forces in 2008, and sent to Camp Cropper near the Baghdad airport. He was remanded to the custody of the Iraqis in 2009 when they assumed responsibility for the prison system, and received a death sentence for his crimes in Iraq.
In a tragically familiar pattern, al-Harzi was broken out of prison in 2012 during an Islamic State-led prison break.

Tariq was reportedly a money guy as well as a recruiter. While the U.S. didn't name the financier in Qatar from whom al Harzi reportedly obtained $2 million, this article says:

The money apparently came from Khalifa Muhammad Turki al-Subaiy, a Qatar-based ISIL fundraiser who was designated a terrorist financier by the United Nations in 2008. That same year, he was convicted in absentia by a Bahraini court for financing terrorism and facilitating the travel of other individuals so they could receive terrorist training. He was subsequently arrested and jailed in Qatar.

I have some questions. On June 23, when the Pentagon announced the June 15 drone strike in Mosul that killed brother Ali, why didn't it mention the June 16 drone strike in Hasakah that killed Tariq?

One possibility is that the U.S. learned of their location through the "document trove" seized during the raid that killed Abu Sayyaf in mid-May. In early May, when the reward was announced, they didn't have the information. The drone strikes on the al Harzis were on June 15 and 16. Maybe the U.S. thought if they announced both al Harzi killings at the same time it would be obvious where they got the information, and someone would figure out the real identity of Abu Sayyaf or his wife.

The timing sure makes it seem like there was a tip-off of some kind. Maybe Abu Sayyaf wasn't killed, that was just a story to protect his identity. (The U.S. did say that its initial intent in the raid was to capture not kill him so it could get information from him.) If the raid was the source of information on the al Harzis, I hope it was from the seized documents rather than from Abu Sayyaf or his wife, so the U.S. doesn't have to pay the $3 million reward. Neither brother seems important enough to shell out that much.

And is there really a third brother named Ibrahim, who was sentenced in Tunisia to 2 1/2 years with Ali in 2005? No one seems to mention him any more. Is he next on the U.S. targeted kill list?

Here's a photo of Ali. I don't think I've seen one of Ibrahim.

Here's what is reportedly a more recent photo of Tariq.

I also question whether either of these targeted killings was justified. Ali al Harzi was only a suspect in the 2012 Benghazi embassy attack (see my earlier post.) Ali was working with Ansar al Sharia in Libya, an al Qaida group, not ISIS. His brother Tariq was a physically handicapped money man and recruiter for ISIS in Syria. Their deaths don't put a crimp in either group in either country. While I disapprove of all targeted killings, if we're going to allow them, they should be reserved for the highest level leaders. These two killings seem gratuitous.

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