Monthly Archives: April 2017

Jihadi Clerics Dispute Legitimacy of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 30 April 2017

Abu Mahmud al-Filistini (@battar2812) is a London-based jihadi cleric, one of those to whom al-Qaeda’s loyalists look for guidance. An essay by Abu Mahmud, “An Indispensable Though Imperfect Unity,” has been put out defending Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the restructured al-Qaeda presence in Syria. Abu Mahmud writes mostly against those who are attacking HTS “from the Right,” the jihadists who believe that the rebranding and merging with groups of distinctly imperfect jihadi-salafist credentials like Harakat Nooradeen al-Zengi is a betrayal of the cause. Abu Mahmud writes specifically and harshly against Issam al-Barqawi (Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi), the Jordan-based cleric who is the leading light of the part of the jihadi world that did not go over to the Islamic State, without ever naming him. The essay is reproduced below with some interesting and/or important parts highlighted in bold, and some notes added. Continue reading

PKK and Propaganda

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 29 April 2017

Ilham Ahmed

The West’s Syria policy is beginning to unravel of its own contradictions.

The Turkish government launched airstrikes against the positions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in north-eastern Syria and the Sinjar area of north-western Iraq in the early hours of 25 April. There were international ramifications to this because the PKK in Syria, which operates politically under the name of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and militarily as the People’s Defence Units (YPG), is the main partner of the U.S.-led Coalition against the Islamic State (IS). Turkey has protested the U.S. engaging the YPG/PKK so deeply and exclusively as its anti-IS partner, being displeased at the U.S.’s uncritical (public) stance toward the YPG, even after the YPG violated U.S.-brokered agreements on its operational theatres and used Russian airstrikes to attack Turkey- and CIA-backed rebels.

In response to Turkey’s anti-PKK operations this week, The Washington Post has hosted an op-ed by Ilham Ahmed, identified as “a co-president of the Democratic Council of Syria”. Continue reading

How Powerful is the Islamic State in Saudi Arabia?

Originally posted at The Henry Jackson Society

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 27 April 2017

The U.S. Department of State designated Mubarak Mohammed Alotaibi, also transliterated as Mubarak Muhammad al-Utaybi, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT), because he has “committed, or pose[s] a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.” Al-Utaybi is a citizen of Saudi Arabia and is the “Syria-based deputy leader” of the Islamic State’s (IS) branch in the Saudi Kingdom. Continue reading

France Presents Evidence Assad Committed Chemical Weapons Atrocity

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 26 April 2017

The French government has released its assessment of the 4 April chemical weapons attack in Syria, and “independently and categorically confirms that sarin was used”. France “deployed the required resources to obtain its own samples,” the report notes, and “collected biomedical and environmental samples and munitions and pieces of munitions” from this attack site and several prior. Continue reading

Russia and Iran Use Terrorism Against Western Interests

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 25 April 2017

The evidence is mounting that Vladimir Putin’s government supports the Taliban as a means of thwarting NATO interests in Afghanistan. Russia has long manipulated terrorists, internally and abroad, to suit its policy aims, but as Moscow solidifies its relationship with the Iranian revolution the Russian policy, particularly in Syria, has become something more like a conventional alliance—not least because those who run Tehran’s foreign policy and the clerical regime’s most powerful assets are themselves terrorists. Continue reading

Al-Qaeda’s Leader Calls on Syria’s Opposition to Shun the West, Rely on the Jihadists

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 23 April 2017

Al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released a speech today entitled, “Sham Will Submit to None Except Allah” or “Syria Will Submit to None Except Allah”. The short speech—around five minutes in length—was part of the “Brief Messages” series, “Brief Messages to a Victorious Nation 6,” to be exact. An English transcript of al-Zawahiri’s speech was released by As-Sabha Media and is reproduced below with some editions in transliteration, explanatory notes added, and interesting sections highlighted in bold.
Continue reading

Signs of Recovery for the Islamic State

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

The operation to clear the Islamic State (IS) from its Iraqi capital, Mosul, began on 17 October and is now 188 days old. IS was announced cleared from east Mosul on 25 January, and the offensive that began on 19 February to clear the more densely-populated and difficult west Mosul has ostensibly swept IS from sixty percent of that area. Official sources claim IS now controls less than seven percent of Iraqi territory, down from forty percent in 2014. But yesterday, a car bomb struck Zuhur, the first attack of this kind in east Mosul since February, murdering at least four people. This is part of a pattern of attacks that suggests the Mosul operation itself was rushed and more importantly that IS is already recovering in liberated areas. Continue reading

Islamic State Attacks Have Sown Division in France, Marine Le Pen Would Sow More

Published at The Telegraph

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 21 April 2017

Security forces stand guard after attack in Paris, 20 April 2017 (CREDIT: ETIENNE LAURENT/EPA)

In Paris last night a gunman parked his car, stepped out, and opened fire on a police van outside a Marks & Spencer’s on the Champs Élysées. One policeman was murdered; two were wounded. A female tourist was also injured. The attacker was killed by police as he tried to flee and continue his rampage. Within two hours, the Islamic State (ISIL) had claimed the attack via its Amaq News Agency, and, rather unusually, had named the killer: “Abu Yusuf al-Baljiki”.

It has been widely reported that “Abu Yusuf the Belgian” is really Karim Cheurfi the Frenchman, a 39-year-old imprisoned for fifteen years after being convicted for three counts of attempted murder in 2001. Notably, two of his intended victims were police officers. French media has reported that Cheurfi was briefly arrested on 23 February after expressing an intent to kill law-enforcement officials, but released due to lack of evidence; the Interior Ministry refused to comment. Continue reading

Don’t Assume the Westminster Terrorist is a ‘Lone Wolf’

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 18 April 2017

The 22 March attack outside Westminster by Khalid Masood is the most significant act of Islamist terrorism since the 7 July 2005 bombing by al-Qaeda of the London public transport system. Masood’s attack highlights a number of historic trends in British jihadism and starkly poses the question of the extent of IS’s penetration of the United Kingdom. Continue reading

Islamic State Operative Connected to Charlie Hebdo Attack Might Still Be Alive

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 15 April 2017

Boubaker al-Hakim (Abu Muqatil al-Tunisi) in Dabiq

Earlier today, an Iraqi military statement made public that the Iraqi government had provided coordinates to Bashar al-Assad’s air force, via the intelligence-sharing cell set up in Baghdad with Russia and Iran, for targets in Raqqa and al-Bukamal. One of the targets was Boubaker al-Hakim (Abu Muqatil al-Tunisi), a French-Tunisian Islamic State (IS) operative. Whether the Syrian regime’s strikes against al-Hakim were successful was not made clear. The interest here is that the U.S. announced on 10 December 2016 that it had killed al-Hakim in an airstrike near Raqqa on 26 November 2016, meaning that either the U.S. was mistaken or the Iraqis are. Al-Hakim is a very interesting figure in his own right with an extensive history in the jihadist movement and also highlights some broader trends, notably the assistance the Assad regime has provided to the IS movement. Continue reading