Monthly Archives: January 2017

Profile of Abu Raghd: On the Origins of the Iraqi Jihad

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 28, 2017

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In his first speech as the then-Islamic State of Iraq’s (ISI’s) official spokesman in August 2011, Taha Falaha (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani) referred to several of the group’s “leaders” who had been killed. Among them was Abu Raghd, whose biography provides a glimpse of the role regional states—specifically Saddam Husayn’s Iraq and Bashar al-Assad’s Syria—played in facilitating the birth of the Islamic State (IS). Continue reading

Al-Qaeda Says Attacking Syrian Rebel Groups Was Self-Defence Against A ‘Conspiracy’

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 26, 2017

Ahmad al-Shara (Abu Muhammad al-Jolani)

Ahmad al-Shara (Abu Muhammad al-Jolani)

Violence erupted between Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, the rebranded al-Qaeda branch in Syria, and Ahrar al-Sham, its long-time ally and its bridge into the Syrian rebellion, beginning on 19 January. These clashes expanded to encompass the mainstream armed opposition on 23 January. Today, al-Maqalaat, a pro-JFS outlet, published a long statement explaining the fighting from JFS’s point-of-view. The salient points of the argument and other interesting elements are highlighted in bold. Continue reading

The Islamic State’s First War Minister

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 25, 2017

One of the few existing pictures of Abu Hamza al-Muhajir (Abdul Munim al-Badawi)

One of the few existing pictures of Abu Hamza al-Muhajir (Abdul Munim al-Badawi)

Below is reproduced a very short biography for Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, sometimes called Abu Ayyub al-Masri, whose real name is Abdul Munim al-Badawi,[1] that circulated on pro-Islamic State forums. Al-Badawi took over leadership of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) when its founder, Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi), was killed on 7 June 2006. Al-Badawi then declared his allegiance to Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi) and the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) on 10 November 2006, formally dissolving al-Qaeda on Iraqi territory, and becoming al-Zawi’s deputy. Abu Hamza had been in Iraq, including Baghdad, a year before Saddam Husayn was overthrown, and he and al-Zawi were killed together on 18 April 2010. Continue reading

What to Expect in Syria in 2017

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 25, 2017

Syria has broken down as a functioning entity. There were some who saw in the takeover of Aleppo City last month by the coalition of states and militias that supports Bashar al-Assad’s regime the beginning of the end of the war. The pro-Assad coalition will make further territorial gains in 2017, but peace—even the peace of the graveyard—is still a long way off, and unlikely to ever arrive while Assad remains in power. The West, unwilling and apparently unable to remove him, nonetheless has vital interests in Syria that cannot be outsourced and must be secured by navigating a fragmented state. Continue reading

The Seeds of the Islamic State in Saddam’s Iraq

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 22, 2017

Mustafa Ramdan Darwish (Abu Muhammad al-Lubnani)

Mustafa Ramdan Darwish (Abu Muhammad al-Lubnani)

After the leaders of the Islamic State die—usually killed by their foes—short biographies tend to be circulated on internet forums that favour the group. One such obituary—with the above picture—was disseminated for Mustafa Ramadan Darwish (Abu Muhammad al-Lubnani), and is reproduced below with some editions to transliteration and some interesting sections highlighted in bold. Darwish was the first leader of the Islamic State’s military portfolio and the second overall deputy (between September 2004 and early 2005) to the movement’s founder, Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi). One of the most interesting parts of Darwish’s profile is its addition of details on the jihadi networks linked to al-Qaeda and the first generation of the Islamic State that were operating in Iraq in the final years of Saddam Husayn’s rule, a topic touched on in other biographies of Islamic State leaders. Continue reading

How the Islamic State’s Caliph Responded to Defeat Last Time

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 21, 2017

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The first proto-caliph of the Islamic State (IS), Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi), gave his fourth audio speech on 16 April 2007, “The Harvest of the Years for the State of the Muwahideen (Monotheists)”. An English version of al-Zawi’s speech was disseminated by IS’s al-Furqan Media and it is reproduced below with some editions in transliteration and syntax, and some interesting or important sections highlighted in bold. Continue reading

The Coalition Strikes Down Al-Qaeda’s Leaders In Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 20, 2017

Muhsin al-Fadhli [top-left]; Abdul al-Sharikh (Sanafi an-Nasr) [bottom-left]; Radwan Nammous (Abu Firas al-Suri) [centre]; David Drugeon [top-right]; Rifai Taha (Abu Yasser al-Masri) [bottom-right]

Since September 2014, the U.S.-led Coalition has been targeting the leaders of Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch, which has since rebranded as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS). Below is a list of the Qaeda-linked individuals killed in Coalition air attacks since 2014. It will be updated and kept as a rolling record of the ongoing campaign. Continue reading

Clashes Erupt Between Al-Qaeda and the Syrian Rebellion

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 19, 2017

The leader of Ahrar al-Sham, Ali al-Umar (Abu Ammar); the leader of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, Ahmad al-Shara (Abu Muhammad al-Jolani)

The leader of Ahrar al-Sham, Ali al-Umar (Abu Ammar); the leader of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, Ahmad al-Shara (Abu Muhammad al-Jolani)

Clashes have erupted today between al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), and its heretofore-inseparable ally, Ahrar al-Sham. For the overall insurgency, the bodes ill, in the short-term, but there might be some long-term political advantages if JFS isolates itself from the wider opposition. Continue reading

Chelsea Manning is a Traitor, Not a Hero

Published at The International Business Times

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 18, 2017

Chelsea Manning (REUTERS/U.S. Army)

It might have been thought that a consistent opposition to treason was not all that difficult. But President Barack Obama’s surprise decision last night to commute the sentence of Bradley, now Chelsea, Manning, showed how deeply political partisanship has penetrated into areas like national security, where ideally country would be put before party or ideology. Continue reading

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 the jihadist groups in the insurgency, notably Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), the rebranded al-Qaeda branch in Syria, and Ahrar al-Sham.[1] 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