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Juba the Baghdad Sniper: Was He Real, Or a Clever Psyop?

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By Greg Chabot

In mid-2005 the name Juba struck fear into coalition troops in Baghdad. He had become a folk hero to the insurgency with his attacks on check points that were filmed and uploaded to the internet along with a graphic novel written about him. He would leave an empty case as a taunt with a note in Arabic stating, “What has been taken in blood cannot be regained except by blood.”

Before his internet fame there were rumors going around the FOBs about an insurgent sniper that traveled from province to province to wreak havoc on troops and disappear like a ghost. Intel officers claimed he didn’t exist, and it was just a random shooter. Or a cleverly made up psy-op to demoralize troops. Others claimed Juba was a skilled marksman with an excellent understanding of urban fieldcraft. Using vans as a shooting platform with sound proofing to conceal the muzzle flash and sound as his victims looked directly at him. Akin to the sniper team that terrorized the DC metro before the GWOT. Many think that Juba was multiple shooters due to his inconsistent marksmanship.  

Was Juba real?

Not much is known about Juba, including his real name and there are no known photographs of him. He was rumored to have been a member of ISI (Islamic Army in Iraq) before switching allegiance to AQI (Al Qaeda Iraq) under the brutal leadership of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. 

READ MORE from Greg Chabot: Inside the Circle of Death, We Got Hit by An IED – And Garrison Bullshit From ‘Old Stinkeye’

Juba primarily operated in the Baghdad metro area with the first attack credited to him in early 2005. It is possible he was active before that in other provinces before gaining fame and losing anonymity by filming his attacks. Some believe he was made up by the insurgency. Similar to Abu Othman a self-taught sniper that was rumored to have operated mostly in Fallujah before either being killed or disappearing on his own around the late 2004 timeframe.

Besides the titles of the videos released, there is no hard evidence of his existence. The sniper that was captured on June 2, 2005, after an attack on a checkpoint that wounded PFC. Tschidrer was never positively identified as Juba. Though the cameraman that was captured with him claimed that was Juba. It would have come out under enhanced interrogation if true, in my opinion. Along with an official announcement to demoralize the insurgency.

June 16, 2006, Marine Sniper AJ Pasciuti killed an enemy sniper in Habbaniyah Iraq and recovered a M40 A1 that had been captured two years before. The sniper team used Juba’s modius operandi of firing from a van. It was claimed that was Juba, though the enemy sniper displayed poor field craft unlike his previous attacks on coalition troops. More videos claiming to be Juba were released in 2007 and 2008. Which also claim to be Juba, so was he killed in Habbaniyah? Or was that enemy sniper an unskilled copycat?

Multiple Shooter theory

Watching the videos and reviewing reports on his attacks shows inconsistent marksmanship which leads many to believe, me included, that Juba was more than one shooter. The only consistent part being the method of operation used in the attacks. The sniper or snipers targeted alert check points from inside of vehicles. Most of the shots were from 200 meters or less.  Which should be an easy shot for a trained sniper.

It is possible that Juba did not have formal training which could explain his hot/cold marksmanship. He might have been using iron sights instead of optics for some of the shots. I believe with his growing popularity many cells started to claim Juba executed attacks in their area to boost morale and stature amongst the population. From my own experience Iraqi marksmanship was very poor and the few insurgents that could shoot worth shit were usually foreign fighters from Chechnya or other countries. 

Another factor could be weapon choice. Juba could have been using a locally produced Tabuk or a PSL, SVD or even an AK or possibly a captured US weapon system. That could be an explanation of the varied degrees of accuracy due to the quality of locally procured weapons and ammo. Weapons maintenance, which was very lacking with Iraqis could have played a part in his inconsistent marksmanship. Watch the videos and you will see the inconsistencies in his marksmanship.

A clever Psy-op?

Or could the whole legend of Juba be a clever psy-op that the coalition fell for? From what research I’ve done, the 37 kills claimed by Juba, not all are verified. Viewing the films there are a lot of inconsistencies in quality. Making the argument for multiple shooters. The whole air of mystery surrounding Juba’s identity plays right in to the psy-op theory. I do believe there was a sniper using the nom de guerre Juba.

Once word of his exploits reached the right ears, the propaganda machine made him a hero and it inspired others to copy him. In my opinion he was not this super sniper that hunted coalition troops. But rather a somewhat skilled marksman who practiced excellent fieldcraft in an urban environment. I don’t doubt his bravery, attacking alert checkpoints from relatively close range gets my respect regardless of being on the opposing side.

Is Juba dead?

Once again there is an air of mystery on Juba’s fate. Was he captured or KIA? Through research, I could find no hard evidence of his demise. With the number of enemy snipers killed in the Iraq war any one of them could have been Juba. There was a rumor when he joined AQI he was betrayed and either captured or killed by Special Operation Forces. I could find no evidence of that through research. He could have cache his rifle and faded into the populace knowing his legacy lives on. If he wasn’t killed, could he have sold his talents to ISIS? Or fought against them?  Or could he be sipping chai and reading this in Baghdad? or maybe he is living here in the United States or Europe?

The legend of who was Juba, is one of the great mysteries of the Iraq war. Even today his exploits are mentioned on podcast and other media, he was even mentioned in the low budget film The Wall. As time goes on so does his legend and body count which has been overblown with the ridiculous claim of 700 plus kills attributed to him. In my opinion if Juba was a psy-op it was a complete success as he is still being talked about today, further adding to his legendary reputation.

Greg Chabot served in Iraq 2004-2005. He is a freelance writer living in New Hampshire. He frequently contributes to Soldier of Fortune.

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