Assad’s Atrocities Help Al-Qaeda Recruit Westerners

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 16, 2017

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Fursan al-Sham Media was set up in September 2016 as a messaging outlet from inside Syria for Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), the rebranded al-Qaeda branch in Syria. On 14 January 2017, Fursan al-Sham Media had an interview with Abu Bakr al-Britani, a British jihadist who had journeyed to Syria and presumably joined JFS. The interview is reproduced below. Continue reading

Ahrar al-Sham Explains It’s Position On A Merger With Al-Qaeda

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 14, 2017

Ahrar al-Sham's leader, Ali al-Umar (Abu Ammar)

Ahrar al-Sham’s leader, Ali al-Umar (Abu Ammar)

The Syrian media activist Hadi al-Abdullah interviewed Ahrar al-Sham’s leader, Ali al-Umar (Abu Ammar al-Umar), in a video released on 11 January 2017. The focus was the ongoing negotiations with Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), al-Qaeda’s rebranded Syrian branch, to create an insurgent merger. The question has caused intense turmoil within Ahrar. Continue reading

The Founder Lays Out The Islamic State’s Vision

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 12, 2017

Two of the very few pictures of Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi) in existence. The picture on the right, taken after al-Zawi was killed in April 2010, is most often used in Islamic State media.

Two of the very few pictures of Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi) in existence. The picture on the right, taken after al-Zawi was killed in April 2010, is most often used in Islamic State media.

Looking through others matters, I discovered this video of a speech by Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi), the first emir of the Islamic State when it was founded in 2006, entitled, “This Is Our Doctrine,” a neat summary of the speech’s content. As it transpires this is al-Zawi’s third speech and dates to 13 March 2007. There is more to the speech than this section that a supporter of the Islamic State chose to excerpt, but the excluded parts seem extraneous at this vantage point—relevant in the week it was released, but no more. At all events, the video seemed an interesting contribution to what the Islamic State actually believes, so a transcript is reproduced below. Continue reading

An Insurgent Perspective on the Fall of Aleppo

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 11, 2017

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On The Ground News (OGN) interviewed Abu al-Abed Ashidaa on 10 January 2017. Abu al-Abed was appointed to lead all insurgents in the besieged areas of eastern Aleppo City on 1 December 2016. Aleppo City fell to the pro-regime coalition after a months-long campaign of siege, bombardment, and atrocity on 12 December, with the final deportation of the insurgency and tens of thousands of civilians—a  crime against humanity in itself—on 22 December.

OGN is an outlet operating inside Syria that is best known for featuring American activist, Bilal Abdul Kareem. The organization claims independence but is clearly within the milieu of the more hardline insurgent forces in northern Syria, and in fact appears to favour the political line of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), al-Qaeda’s rebranded presence in Syria, against even other extremist Salafi groups like Ahrar al-Sham.

It was Kareem who interviewed Abu al-Abed. The transcript is below. Continue reading

Jihadi Clerics Clash Over Merger Proposals in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 10, 2017

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Abdallah al-Muhaysini, Issam al-Barqawi (Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi)

In Syria, negotiations continue for a merger between Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), the rebranded al-Qaeda branch in the country, and other insurgent groups in the north, particularly Ahrar al-Sham. Two Jihadi-Salafi clerics have offered very different proposals for the way forward in the last couple of days. Continue reading

Ideologue Laments A Jihadist Joining the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 9, 2017
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On 6 January 2017, pro-al-Qaeda channels distributed a statement, with the picture above, written by Abu Mahmud al-Filistini.1 Abu Mahmud writes of a young jihadist, Abd al-Rahman, who had, after joining the Islamic State (IS), not been fully seduced by their ideology and had maintained contact with Abu Mahmud. At a certain point, however, Abd al-Rahman accepted IS’s ideology and recently killed himself in a suicide bombing against insurgent forces in Syria. It is not clear whether the insurgents referred to are rebels or Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), al-Qaeda’s rebranded Syrian branch, which was until recently known as Jabhat al-Nusra. The statement is reproduced below with some minor editions, for the sake of clarity, to transliterations and punctuation. Continue reading

Al-Qaeda Operative Explains Failure To Merge With Syrian Rebels

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 8, 2017

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On 5 January 2016, Abdallah al-Muhaysini appeared on episode sixty of Sham Weekly, an interview series, to lament the failure of the Syrian insurrectionists to merge with Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), al-Qaeda’s rebranded presence in Syria. Al-Muhaysini places the blame for the failure to merge squarely on Ahrar al-Sham. Continue reading