Monthly Archives: June 2017

Al-Qaeda in Syria Linked to a Terror Plot in the United States

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 30 June 2017

Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud (source)

In April 2015, a United State Federal Grand jury in Ohio charged Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, also known as “Ayanle”, with three terrorism-related offences. Yesterday, court records were unsealed that revealed that Mohamud pleaded guilty to all charges, admitting to having fought with a terrorist organization in Syria and returned to the United States with the intention of carrying out an act of domestic terrorism. Mohamud was in contact with foreign terrorist operatives throughout the period he was plotting an attack within the United States. But—and this is the most significant aspect of the case—Mohamud was not in contact with one of the Islamic State’s intelligence operatives, who guide attacks in a manner now relatively well-understood. Instead, Mohamud was in contact with Jabhat al-Nusra, at that time al-Qaeda’s declared branch in Syria. Al-Nusra is now known as Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and claimed in July 2016 to have disaffiliated from al-Qaeda’s “central”, not that this has (nor will nor should) remove HTS from the terrorism list. Regardless of its formal status within al-Qaeda’s command structure, HTS retains significant links with al-Qaeda’s global networks, and a breakaway group from HTS in Syria has reaffirmed its loyalty to al-Qaeda. Mohamud’s case is an extremely important data point in assessing the risk these overlapping and mutually reinforcing entities pose to the West and the wider world. Continue reading

Viewing the Coalition’s Flawed Anti-Islamic State Strategy From Raqqa’s Frontlines

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 19 June 2017

YPG and U.S military vehicles in Darbasiya, northern Syria, 28 April 2017. REUTERS/Rodi Said/File Photo

At the end of May, Christoph Reuter, a journalist with Der Spiegel, embedded with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as it made its way, supported by the U.S.-led Coalition, toward Raqqa city, the Syrian “capital” of the Islamic State’s (IS) caliphate. Reuter’s report provides snapshots of a number of important—and worrying—dynamics at play that have made the U.S. decision to back the SDF to liberate Raqqa so worrying over the long-term, even on its own terms as a means of sustainably defeating IS. Continue reading

American Sanctions Hit Islamic State’s Finances, Propaganda, and Terrorism

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 16 June 2017

Usama Atar, older picture and most recent (picture via CNN)

Just three days after the U.S. government sanctioned two Islamic State (IS or ISIS) operatives for their role in helping the jihadists develop chemical weapons of mass destruction, another raft of sanctions were issued on 15 June against four IS members occupying varying positions within the organization from finance to propaganda to orchestrating the foreign attacks. Continue reading

America Sanctions Operatives of the Islamic State’s Chemical Weapons Department

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 13 June 2017

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced financial sanctions against an individual involved in the “development” of chemical weapons of mass destruction (CWMD) for the Islamic State (IS) on 12 June. Simultaneously, the State Department labelled another individual involved in the development of CWMD for IS as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT). These are the first sanctions of their kind. Continue reading

Senior Islamic State Cleric Turki al-Binali Killed in an Airstrike

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 11 June 2017

Turki al-Binali at prayers in Raqqa, July 2015

It was reported on jihadist websites and by local activists that Turki al-Binali, a senior cleric of the Islamic State (IS) and perhaps the most important public proponent of the caliphate’s formation, had been killed in Syria by an airstrike from the U.S.-led Coalition on 29 May. IS has been silent on this despite releasing their newsletter al-Naba and the tenth edition of their English-language propaganda magazine Rumiyah since then. On Tuesday, the intelligence services of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq confirmed that al-Binali had been killed. Continue reading

Al-Qaeda Leader Calls on Muslims to Unite Against the West

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 9 June 2017

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, released a nearly-six-minute speech today entitled, “One Umma, One War on Multiple Fronts,” as part of the “Brief Messages” series, this being “Brief Messages to a Victorious Nation 7”. A transcript of al-Zawahiri’s speech was released by As-Sabha Media and is reproduced below with some editions in transliteration and explanatory notes added.

Al-Zawahiri continues a theme he has emphasized in previous speeches in this series, namely that Muslims are a unitary block, and thus the interference of the jihadists in all these states is legitimate because these states are false, their borders drawn by colonialists so as to keep Islamdom weak and divided, and their governments are agents of external powers (and therefore a de facto foreign occupation). The historical examples that al-Zawahiri reaches for in describing the kind of “resistance” to this Western scheme that al-Qaeda supports include the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna, and the first leader of the Taliban, Mullah Muhammad Umar. Continue reading

The Islamic State’s Newsletter on the London Bridge Attack and Melbourne Siege

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 8 June 2017

Al-Naba 84

The eighty-forth edition of Al-Naba (The News), released by the Islamic State on 8 June 2017, included a section on the terrorist attacks in Britain, on London Bridge, on 3 June, and in Australia, the siege of the apartment block in Melbourne, on 5 June. Continue reading