Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Islamic State, Territory, and a Change of Tone

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 26, 2016

The Islamic State’s spokesman, Taha Falaha (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani), released a speech on 21 May that prepared the ideological ground for the loss of territory by underlining something the Islamic State has long maintained: the caliphate is more a cause than a location. This was a departure, however, from the confident messaging that the Islamic State had emphasized to that point. Just a month earlier, on 16 April, the twenty-seventh edition of al-Naba, the Islamic State’s weekly newsletter, carried an editorial that was triumphalist about the march of the jihadists—despite the losses in the prior eight weeks, of Ramadi in early February, al-Shadadi later in February, Palmyra on 27 March, and al-Qaryatayn on 3 April. That editorial from al-Naba 27 is reproduced below. Continue reading

Islamic State Prepares for Retreat, Calls for Foreign Terrorism

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 23, 2016

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Taha Falaha (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani) is the governor Islamic State-held territory in Syria and oversees the foreign attacks, a roster of duties which indicates that Falaha so powerful that he is effectively the caliph’s deputy after the demise of Abd al-Rahman al-Qaduli (Abu Ali al-Anbari) in March. Falaha is also IS’s official spokesman, and on 21 May 2016 he gave a very significant speech entitled, “That They Live By Proof”. The speech, released by Al-Hayat Media Centre, is reproduced below with some minor alterations in transliteration, some important sections highlighted in bold, and some notes added for explanation.

Falaha made three major points. First, Falaha was especially adamant that territorial control by IS should not be considered a measure of IS’s success: it lost all urban holdings and went into the deserts last time, after the strategic defeat in 2008, but it held to its cause and America withdrew, and this ideological cohesiveness and determination led it to be more powerful than ever within five years. Second, Falaha made use of the savage conduct of the coalition made up of the Assad regime, Iran, and Russia—and the Western indifference to same—to argue for Sunnis to see IS as a protective barrier against such sectarian foes. And, third, Falaha called for foreign attacks by Western Muslims, saying that if IS’s loyalists were unable to journey to IS-held areas this should not be considered a problem since attacks in the West are “more beloved to [IS] than the biggest act done [within the caliphate]”. Continue reading

The Passing of Hizballah’s Old Guard

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 15, 2016

Hizballah's military commander (2008-2015) Mustafa Amine Badreddine

Hizballah’s military commander (2008-2015) Mustafa Amine Badreddine

Mustafa Badreddine, the military commander of Hizballah, was announced killed in Syria on 13 May. This is the third major casualty of the founding generation: Imad Mughniyeh, Badreddine’s predecessor and also his cousin and brother-in-law (Mughniyeh married Saada, Badreddine’s sister), was killed in February 2008 in Damascus in an operation led by MOSSAD and supported by the CIA, and Hassan al-Laqqis, who had become one of the Party of God’s military officials in Syria, was gunned down outside his home in Beirut in December 2013. For all the speculation about “Ahrar al-Sunna Baalbek Brigade” and its links to Kataib Abdullah Azzam and al-Qaeda—or Saudi intelligence, as Hassan Nasrallah had it—the likeliest suspect was never in doubt. Hizballah has also lost other senior and propagandistically important men like Samir Kuntar, who was killed in an explosion in Damascus in December 2015. Again, however, there seemed little doubt—even from Hizballah—that Israel had done this. Continue reading

Islamic State Guided Plot to Murder American Troops in Britain

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 13, 2016

Junead Khan (left) and Shazib Khan (right)

Junead Khan (left) and Shazib Khan (right)

Junead Khan, 25, of Marlow Avenue, Luton, was sentenced to life imprisonment—to serve a minimum of twelve years—today for using his job as a delivery driver to scout out an attack on American troops stationed at Lakenheath in Britain. Khan had gathered materials on bomb-making and browsed Amazon for a knife like that used by Mohammed Emwazi (Abu Muharib al-Muhajir), the Islamic State’s British video butcher, widely known as “Jihadi John,” who was killed in a drone strike in November 2015. Khan, who was arrested on 14 July 2015 with his younger uncle, Shazib Khan, 23, intended to fake a road accident and then attack those who came to assist. Junead and Shazib were found guilty of terrorism offences for their plans to travel to Syria and sentenced to seven years each, with an extended period of five years on licence. Continue reading

Yemen and Al-Qaeda’s Long-Term Strategy

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 10, 2016

During al-Qaeda's occupation of al-Mukalla, Yemen, April 2015 to April 2016 (source)

During al-Qaeda’s occupation of al-Mukalla, Yemen, April 2015 to April 2016 (source)

In Yemen, at the end of last month, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was cleared from al-Mukalla, their major urban stronghold. This ends a year of occupation and brings to a close what is effectively the third emirate or statelet AQAP has either set up or attempted to set up in Yemen since 2011. These projects offer some insights into al-Qaeda’s methodology in getting to an Islamic state, including its rebranding in opposition to the Islamic State (IS). Continue reading

Al-Qaeda’s Leader Calls for Jihadi Unity in Syria, Building a Caliphate

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 9, 2016

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The leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released an audio statement on 8 May 2016. The speech was entitled, “Hasten to Syria,” “Go Forth to Syria,” or “March Forth to Syria,” depending on translation.[1] An English-language translation has been made available and is reproduced below, with some editions in transliteration and some important sections highlighted in bold. Continue reading

Australian Islamic State Operative Neil Prakash

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 8, 2016

Neil Prakash

Neil Prakash

Neil Prakash has become Australia’s most visible recruiter for the Islamic State, following in the footsteps of Mohammad Ali Baryalei. Continue reading