Islamic State Profiles the Leadership

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 6 April 2019

Islamic State flag in front of the main gate of Saddam Husayn’s palace in Tikrit, 5 April 2015 // AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED SAWAF

A lengthy document—roughly sixty pages and 12,000 words—was published online on 21 February 2019 containing biographies of twenty-seven senior Islamic State (IS) officials, past and more recent. Those bios that are dated were written between October 2018 and the time of publication, with one exception that was written in the summer of 2018. The author claims to be an IS veteran. While longevity is difficult to prove, the fact that the author provides heretofore unseen images of some of the IS leaders suggests that at a minimum he is an IS operative.

*                  *                  *

Almost all of the profiles are signed with the hashtag “Juhayman”, presumably a reference to Juhayman al-Utaybi, the leader of the Saudi apocalyptic cult that seized the Haram Mosque in Mecca in November 1979, who is much-admired by IS members. Three profiles are signed “Juhayman – Abu Siraj al-Qurayshi”. Only six of the twenty-seven biographies do not include a photograph. “Juhayman’s” profiles include not only recent IS officials but those of the more distant past.

“Juhayman” purports to be an IS veteran: after mentioning the 2004 Falluja battles, he says he “lived [through] those moments” and remembers details of that raid (ghazwa). “Juhayman” adds that he can also remember the “emir of Falluja” from that time, whom he names as Abu Abas al-Shammari. It might be thought that this is mistaken, and “Juhayman” means Umar Yusef al-Juma (Abu Anas al-Shami), the overall deputy of the organisation at that time who played a leading role in Falluja, or possibly that he is wildly off the mark and means Abdallah Najem al-Jawari (Abu Azzam al-Iraqi), long thought to be the IS emir in Falluja during Operation PHANTOM FURY …

*                  *                  *

… But Abu Abas al-Shammari’s bio is the first in the document, dated 21 November 2018. Whereas al-Juma and al-Jawari were killed early on, in 2004 and 2005 respectively, Abu Abas is said to have been killed around late 2006, in the last months before the Sahwa (Awakening) took over Falluja in 2007. According to the bio, Abu Abas had organised targeted assassinations, suicide bombings, and IEDs—he was apparently meticulous in laying the roadside bombs for maximum carnage—but after his demise large chunks of his organisation joined the Awakening and helped the Americans drive the jihadists out of Falluja.

Abu Abas al-Shammari

*                  *                  *

The next profile is of Abu Yahya al-Iraq, whose real name is Iyad al-Jumayli. The profile is dated 16 November 2018 and includes a picture of al-Jumayli that has not appeared anywhere else. It is claimed that al-Jumayli was killed alongside Tarkhan Batirashvili (Abu Umar al-Shishani) in July 2016 by a Coalition airstrike in Iraq. The United States imposed sanctioned on al-Jumayli in August 2017. If this profile is correct, then al-Jumayli had been dead for more than a year when these sanctions were announced.

Al-Jumayli was raised in Baghdad and soon after Saddam Husayn fell joined a unit of Kataeb al-Jaysh al-Islami (The Islamic Army Battalions) led by Abu al-Hareth, according to the bio. Al-Jumayli and Abu al-Hareth soon joined IS’s predecessor, al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia (AQM). It was at this point that al-Jumayli linked up with Iyad al-Ubaydi (Abu Saleh Hayfa), and began work—largely successful by all accounts—against the Islamic Army, though Abu al-Hareth was killed in this struggle and al-Jumayli was then imprisoned by the Americans.

Released in the 2011-12 window, al-Jumayli was sent by IS’s leader, Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) to be “the governor of Idlib and a member of the Military Council of Syria (al-Majlis al-Askari lil-Sham)”. After Jabhat al-Nusra leader Ahmad al-Shara (Abu Muhammad al-Jolani) defected from IS, and al-Badri publicly announced IS’s presence in Syria, al-Jumayli was made military commander in Syria. Batirashvili (identified here as “Abu Safiya Umar al-Shishani”) was transferred from Syria to Iraq at this time, and al-Jumayli was later transferred to work once again alongside the Chechen.

The bio makes no mention of al-Jumayli heading IS’s domestic intelligence services, which is the role he was believed to have played so far.

Iyad al-Jumayli (Abu Yahya al-Iraqi) [Left] and Iyad al-Ubaydi (Abu Saleh al-Hayfa) [Right]

Iyad al-Ubaydi (Abu Saleh al-Hayfa)

Abu al-Waleed al-Muhajir al-Jazrawi [Left] and Iyad al-Ubaydi (Abu Saleh al-Hayfa) [Right]

*                  *                  *

The profile of Abu Saleh Hayfa (real name: Iyad al-Ubaydi) is dated 20 November 2018 and entitled, “Biography of the Commanding Warrior-Shaykh Abu Saleh Hayfa, God Accept Him” (Seera al-Shaykh al-Qayid al-Mujahid Abu Saleh Hayfa, Taqbulah Allah), which tells us how high a rank al-Ubaydi held—and that he is dead. The bio includes three pictures, none of which (so far as I can tell) have appeared anywhere else.

Said to be from a modest and religious background, al-Ubaydi was educated on Haifa Street in Baghdad during a time of violence. Al-Ubaydi is praised as a “lion” and successor to al-Badri. Al-Ubaydi was apparently close to IS’s founding generation: Abu Sufyan al-Zaydi, Muhannad Abu Meesra al-Gharib, Abu Umar al-Nuaymi, al-Haj Rashid al-Issawi, and Abdallah Najem al-Jawari (Abu Azzam al-Iraqi). Wounded in Falluja and briefly imprisoned around the same time, al-Ubaydi handled correspondence with Mohamed Qaid (Abu Yahya al-Libi), from al-Qaeda “central” (AQC), and was a meticulous bookkeeper.

Since IS began constructing the physical caliphate in 2013, al-Ubaydi has had various roles: he was given a military command post in Iraq, then Syria; was appointed emir of the Military Department (Diwan al-Jund); was made a member of the Military Council of Syria; and thereafter filled in vacancies as needed. After Batirashvili and al-Jumayli were killed, according to the profile, al-Ubaydi was moved back to Iraq where he became emir of the War Committee (Hay’at al-Harb).

Al-Ubaydi was killed on the “right” (west) side of Mosul, a city divided by the Tigris River, according to the bio. The Mosul operation began in October 2016 and by January 2017 the IS regime had been toppled on the east bank. Relying much more heavily on airstrikes, the Coalition then cleared the west bank of Mosul by July 2017. Thus, the reports that al-Ubaydi was killed in the first week of July 2017 in Mosul appear vindicated.

Iyad al-Ubaydi (Abu Saleh al-Hayfa)

*                  *                  *

There is a brief profile, undated, for Amr Abu al-Atheer al-Halabi, whose real name is Amr al-Absi, “the former governor of Aleppo”. The profile notes that Al-Absi had been in Bashar al-Asad’s Sednaya prison and was released by the regime. Thereafter he played a “prominent role in establishing the Islamic State in Aleppo” and bringing Batirashvili into IS.

Amr al-Absi (Abu al-Atheer)

*                  *                  *

There is then a biography dated 24 October 2018 for an individual heretofore essentially unknown: Abu Ahmad al-Shami (real name: Mutasem Allah) from Idlib. Mutasem is said to be from a Salafi family, who suffered from the religious restrictions of the Asad regime “because of their adherence to the pure methodology (al-manhaj al-saleem)”. Mutasem was among the earliest to go to wage jihad in Iraq after Saddam fell and fought in Anbar. Mutasem was imprisoned in Camps Bucca and Cropper. When he was released, Mutasem became an instructor for IS clerics at a camp in the “Anbari deserts” (suhra al-Anbar), which was at that time a “university” for the jihadists. As IS expanded into Syria through Jabhat al-Nusra, Mutasem was not immediately sent to join al-Nusra, remaining in Anbar. Later, Mutasem would be sent over the border to al-Nusra. Mutasem was accidentally shot dead by his brother-in-law, Abu Sa’id al-Fahdawi, who was given a special amnesty for this blunder. Al-Fahdawi went on to join the “rapid deployment force” (Quwwat al-Tadkhul al-Sariy) and is still a senior officer there.

Abu Ahmad al-Shami

*                  *                  *

A profile for “al-Shaykh al-Mujahid” Jarrah al-Shami (Abu Hajr) is dated 26 October 2018. This profile is one of the few without a picture. Noted as having served as governor (wali) for Anbar and Baghdad, Jarrah was apparently one of the first “immigrants to the land of Iraq (muhajireen ila ard al-Iraq)” and is praised as a “knight” and a “lion”. He married while in Iraq and had a daughter, according to the biography. A participant in the Falluja battles in 2004, Jarrah was briefly arrested but claimed to be an Iraqi, deceiving the Americans, and was quickly released, returning to jihadi work in Anbar.

A dedicated zealot, popular with the rank-and-file and close to IS’s founder, Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi), Jarrah was a lower emir around Ramadi, then the overall emir of that city, before rising to be emir of the whole of Anbar province. Jarrah was in contention for the leadership of AQM after Zarqawi was killed, according to the profile, but stood down in favour of Abdul Munim al-Badawi (Abu Hamza al-Muhajir). After the Islamic State was proclaimed in late 2006, dissolving AQM and having Al-Badawi become the deputy to Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi), Jarrah was moved to be emir of Baghdad, an area of responsibility encompassing the city, areas to its north, and parts of Anbar out to Falluja.

By this account, Jarrah set up an efficient security apparatus in the Greater Baghdad area, first in the north, that went after the Awakening forces. Jarrah was assisted in this by a commander called Abu Raghad. Jarrah was then moved to focus again on Anbar, where the Awakening had been most effective; his task was to form assassination cells “to pursue the apostates and their agents and harass them and pick their heads one by one”.

Jarrah was in his mid-thirties when he was killed, the bio says, and he was part of a Syrian contingent in the first generation of IS—with Shaykh Abu Anas al-Shami, Abu Yahya al-Shami, Abu Ahmad al-Shami, and others—that formed key pillars of the organisation.

*                  *                  *

“Al-Shaykh al-Mujahid” Qassem al-Issawi (Abu Hudhayfa) was profiled on 27 October 2018. This profile has no picture. Born to a religious family in Falluja, Al-Issawi became a preacher at just 16-years-old. After the invasion, Al-Issawi took up arms early against the “slaves/worshippers of the cross” (asab al-saleeb). He soon radicalized and thanks to a cousin, Rashid al-Issawi, was able to get close to Zarqawi. Al-Issawi quickly became trusted by Zarqawi, acting as a secretary, and was even entrusted to an external mission to Syria, though Al-Issawi did not stay there long before returning to Iraq. Al-Issawi was then dispatched to Baghdad to oversee security missions; this was during the time that Iyad Allawi was the Interim Prime Minister (June 2004 to May 2005).

Al-Issawi was an important administrator in “Wilaya Shamal Baghdad” (the North Baghdad Province) during the time the Zarqawi’ists went under the name al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia (AQM), from late 2004, and he maintained his position after AQM transitioned to the Islamic State (of Iraq) in October 2006. While working north of Baghdad, al-Issawi’s “direct/immediate commander” (emir al-mubasher) was Numan al-Zaydi, who always praised Al-Issawi’s activity and work. Al-Issawi also had a role in the Ramadi battle, as did [IS’s Baghdad emir] Jarrah al-Shami.

Captured in 2008, Al-Issawi was moved between facilities controlled by the Americans and, after they withdrew in December 2011, the Iraqi government. Al-Issawi had been authorised by Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Zarqawi [a.k.a. Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Shami] to engage in jihadi propaganda-recruitment activity behind bars. Al-Issawi was killed in the “famous Taji bus incident, after his attempted escape from Kadhimiya prison”. [This seems to be a reference to the IS ambush on a prisoner convoy in July 2014, near-exactly a year after the important jailbreak at Abu Ghraib and the failed attempt that same day at Taji.]

*                  *                  *

There is a brief, undated profile of Abdul Munim al-Badawi (Abu Hamza al-Muhajir). All that is said about al-Badawi is how rare it is to find pictures of him after he entered Iraq, which is true. [Slightly fuller bio here]

Abdul Munim al-Badawi (Abu Hamza al-Muhajir)

*                  *                  *

An extremely abbreviated, undated biography is included for Abu Bakr al-Samara’i al-Iraqi. Abu Bakr is referred to as having been a “commander” (al-qayid) of the Islamic State—from the “God accept him” reference, it is clear Abu Bakr is dead—and to have been a fierce warrior against IS’s enemies, engaged in taqtaf ruws al-rada (lit. “plucking the heads of apostasy”; the assassinations against the Sahwa).

Abu Bakr al-Samara’i al-Iraqi

Abu Bakr al-Samara’i al-Iraqi

*                  *                  *

The famous Haji Bakr, also known as Abu Bakr al-Iraqi, whose real name is Samir al-Khlifawi, is profiled briefly. The profile is undated. Al-Khlifawi is noted as being “al-Shaykh al-Mujahid” and among the “prominent/distinguished leaders” (al-qiadeen al-barizeen) of IS in Iraq and then Syria. Al-Khlifawi is noted to have worked in the cities of western Iraq to eliminate IS’s enemies, before he took a leading role in expanding the group into Syria. The profile notes that Al-Khlifawi was “a former leader of [Saddam’s] Iraqi Army, who had tremendous military experience”, and this was put to use by IS in Syria, where Al-Khlifawi took a leading role in the military operations to expand the nascent caliphate. In Aleppo, he was betrayed and, after a “siege of his house” and firefight, killed by the “Sahwat”, i.e. Syrian rebels. [This was in January 2014, as we know, during the rebel offensive against IS.] Al-Khlifawi’s wife and children were apparently taken into rebel custody.

Samir al-Khlifawi (Haji Bakr, Abu Bakr al-Iraqi)

*                  *                  *

Abu al-Hassan al-Issawi or Abu Zahra al-Issawi, the media emir of the IS movement between 2007 and 2009, was profiled on “4 Shawwal 1439” (18 June 2018). This profile does not have a picture; there are no known pictures of Abu Zahra.

Born in 1970 in Falluja, according to the profile, Abu Zahra was equipped with a talent that enabled him to become president of the Fallujah Poets’ Association. After the invasion, “the Shaykh was one of the first promoters of jihad (mushmareen li’l-jihad)”, joining with IS’s early leadership—Zarqawi, his deputy Umar Yusef al-Juma (Abu Anas al-Shami), Umar Hadid (Abu Khattab al-Falluji), and others. Abu Zahra was involved with these figures in battling the Americans in Falluja in 2004.

Abu Zahra was arrested in 2005, the profile narrates, and transferred to the Susa prison in northern Iraq. Abu Zahra was enabled to escape with a number of “brothers”; this was before the declaration of the Islamic State (of Iraq) in October 2006. Once the State was declared, Abu Zahra went to work in its Information Ministry and was appointed to its head the year after.

The date of Abu Zahra’s death has never been clear: all that was known was that his was replacement, Ahmad al-Ta’i, was announced in September 2009. This profile claims that Abu Zahra was killed in 2008. It was laid out in the Distinguished Martyrs profile of Abu Zahra that he was killed by Blackwater, and this profile adds details to this, saying Abu Zahra had been injured shortly before and was recovering in central Baghdad when a joint operation involving the American contractors and Iraqi security forces came for him.

*                  *                  *

Uthman al-Nazeh al-Asiri was profiled; it is undated. A Saudi cleric with a doctorate in jurisprudence from one of the Kingdom’s universities, the profile says Al-Asiri was imprisoned for jihadist tendencies and further radicalised behind bars, “contrary to what was … hoped by Tawaghit al-Salul”. After Al-Asiri was released, he went to Syria [in 2013]. Al-Asiri was involved in the fake negotiations IS carried on with Issam al-Barqawi (Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi), the jihadi ideologue, over the Jordanian pilot, Muaz al-Kasasbeh, who was burned alive in a video released in February 2015. The profile credits Al-Asiri with having had one of the best Twitter accounts. Al-Asiri perished towards the end of the “epic” battle at “Ayn al-Islam” (Kobani), the profile says [on 1 January 2015, to be exact].

Uthman al-Nazeh al-Asiri

*                  *                  *

A super short, undated profile for Sa’if al-Hadid is given. The profile celebrates Al-Hadid as the “aircraft hunter” (sayd al-tayrat), who brought down six helicopters in the first battle of Falluja in 2004. This vital skill provided aircover for the jihadists during that first round. Al-Hadid is also said to have been a security official in Ramadi.

Saif al-Hadid

*                  *                  *

There is an undated profile for Abu Ghazwan al-Hiyali. A former military officer in the Saddam regime and one of the earliest members of AQM, Ghazwan joined the Ayisha Battalion (Kataeb Ayisha), led by Abdul Munim al-Badawi. Ghazwan was responsible for military research and development, which according to the profile put him in the sights of the U.S.-led Coalition. Ghazwan created the explosives for roadside bombs in Baghdad city and the surrounding belts. Ghazwan became emir for North Baghdad. When Ghazwan was killed on 28 November 2008 he was one of the most senior IS officials, and one of the most-wanted men by the Iraqi government and the “crusaders”.

Abu Ghazwan al-Hiyali

*                  *                  *

“Al-Shaykh al-Qayid al-Mujahid” Abu Muhammad al-Lubnani, a.k.a. Abu al-Shaheed, whose real name is Mustafa Ramadan, has an undated profile. A Lebanese jihadist who came into Iraq from Denmark, Ramadan was always very close to Zarqawi and became his second overall deputy after the first, Umar Yusef al-Juma (Abu Anas al-Shami), was killed. The profile notes that Ramadan was part of the Rawa camp, set up before Saddam was ousted, where he trained alongside senior officials like Umar Hadid and Manaf al-Rawi.

Mustafa Ramadan Darwish (Abu Muhammad al-Lubnani)

*                  *                  *

“Shaykh” Mansur Sulayman al-Mashhadani (Abu Bakr) has an undated and unsigned biography, though it is claimed it is written by a companion of his. From Dora in southern Baghdad, Al-Mashhadani was a Salafi preacher from when he was young, while the Ba’th Party regime was still in place. Indeed, under the Ba’thist regime, in the 1990s, Al-Mashhadani achieved a doctorate from the Faculty of Shari’a in Baghdad. Al-Mashhadani got into a confrontation with Abd al-Ghufur al-Qaysi, one of the most prominent clerics associated with the religious trend being fostered by Saddam, the vice president of Saddam University for Islamic Studies, telling him that homosexuals are abnormal and are abominations, even if they are loyal to the regime.

Al-Mashhadani had followed “Shaykh Fayez and Shaykh Hamed”, two Salafi clerics who were executed by Saddam in the early 1990s for spreading a version of Islamist radicalism independent of—and regarded as threatening to—the state. Despite these intermittent crackdowns, a large Salafi underground built up while Saddam was in power and was able to take advantage of the additional room to move after the regime was overthrown in 2003.

Al-Mashhadani was among the first to mobilise against the U.S. and British forces in Iraq, linking up with Abu Abdullah al-Shafi’i and his Ansar al-Islam jihadists in Kurdistan, while calling through the mosques for people to take up arms. Al-Mashhadani’s home was raided in July 2004 and he spent a few months in prison, but nobody realised who he was nor his true importance. Al-Mashhadani was involved in the Zarqawi video where he allowed his face to be visible in April 2006, filmed near Falluja. And Al-Mashhadani was killed in Yusufiya shortly after Zarqawi in June 2006.

Mansur al-Mashhadani [Left] and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi [Right]

*                  *                  *

A profile for Adnan al-Bilawi (Abu Abdurrahman al-Bilawi), “the Shaykh-Commander, Lion, and Warrior” (al-Shaykh al-Qayid wa’l-Asad wa’l-Mujahid), was written on 24 November 2018. A native of Anbar from the Dulaym tribe, Al-Bilawi was “an assistant to Abu Qutayba al-Hazeemawi al-Dulaymi, who was the shaykh of al-Zarqawi”, arranging meetings and accommodation for the IS founder. Al-Bilawi is credited as the lead architect of the IS conquests in Iraq in 2014. [Fuller profile here]

Adnan al-Bilawi (Abu Abdurrahman al-Bilawi)

*                  *                  *

“Al-Shaykh al-Mujahid” Numan al-Zaydi is given a short, undated write-up. Often known as Abu Ibrahim al-Ansari “he had another kunya, Abu Sulayman al-Nasr Lideen Allah”. Al-Zaydi was the governor of Anbar, focused on the military side of things, and was relentless in going after IS’s Sunni enemies, namely the heads of the Awakening councils and militias. [Longer profile of Al-Zaydi available here.]

Numan al-Zaydi (Abu Sulayman al-Nasr)

Numan al-Zaydi (Abu Sulayman al-Nasr)

*                  *                  *

Beneath one of the rarer, more innocuous-looking pictures of Ahmad al-Khalayleh, the founder of IS known universally as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the author cautions against being deceived by looks, speaks briefly of al-Khalayleh’s commitment to the “fires of jihad” and his resistance to jinns and other devils, before printing a six-verse poem.

Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi)

*                  *                  *

Manaf al-Rawi, the former emir of Baghdad and apparent traitor who nonetheless remains beloved by IS, has a profile. It is brief and undated. Al-Rawi is given the honorific of “al-Shaykh al-Mujahid”. It is noted that Al-Rawi was born in Russia [then-the Soviet Union], where his Iraqi father was working, and that he joined the jihadists early, being associated with Mustafa Ramadan Darwish (Abu Muhammad al-Lubnani) at the Rawa camp. Having become close with Hudayfa al-Batawi in prison, al-Rawi worked alongside al-Batawi, the emir of Baghdad, afterwards, orchestrating a series of devastating bombings against the Iraqi ministries in 2009-10.

The main questions about Al-Rawi, given that his capture in 2010 and information extracted from him led to the killing of IS’s then-proto-caliph Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi) and his war minister Abdul Munim al-Badawi (Abu Hamza al-Muhajir), is: Why does IS continue to celebrate him? Take even this series of profiles: not included are such towering figures of the IS movement as Abdurrahman al-Qaduli (Abu Ali al-Anbari), Taha Falaha (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani), and Wael al-Fayad (Abu Muhammad al-Furqan), but Al-Rawi is included. What gives?

When writing a profile of al-Rawi two years ago, I speculated that one possible reason IS continues to celebrate an apparent turncoat is that in fact Al-Rawi did not give up that much and, indeed, there was suggestive evidence that he had deliberately withheld crucial information—such as the fact the Coalition had Al-Qaduli in custody. This is roughly the line this profile takes, saying that the exposure of one of the private mail networks run by IS is what led to Al-Rawi’s capture, and in custody al-Rawi resisted the torture of the security forces, appeared with “stoutness and courage” (jara’a wa-shajaya) on the television channels, and went willingly to his execution. “Our knight is a martyr to God, so we count him”, the biographer concludes.

Manaf al-Rawi

*                  *                  *

On 11 December 2018, a profile was written of Abu Ismail al-Iraqi. There is no picture accompanying Abu Ismail’s profile. Abu Ismail, a native of Anbar, specifically Falluja, joined IS when he was just twenty-years-old, according to the profile. And Abu Ismail waged war against the Awakening forces after they rose against IS, working with the “special security battalions” (al-kataeb al-aminiyya al-khasa) to “pick the heads of apostasy and disbelief”. The biography says Abu Ismail was very skilled at assassination, though his work was largely secret, hence the fact Abu Ismail is not very well-known, even within IS. Abu Ismail was shot dead by an infiltrator from the Iraqi intelligence services, dressed in civilian clothing.

*                  *                  *

An undated profile, and one without a picture, appears next for Abu Yasr al-Shammari. A native of Ramadi, Abu Yasr was allegedly captured and severely tortured, including being left tied up on a roof, burned, and then starved of food and water. Once he got out of prison Abu Yasr organised the bombing of the facilities where he had been kept and mistreated. He was temporarily blinded in an airstrike, and killed recently on the outskirts of Ramadi in a second airstrike.

*                  *                  *

A profile for “al-Shaykh al-Mujahid” Falah Nimr (Abu Abd al-Barr al-Salahi al-Kuwaiti) was written on 25 December 2018. Nimr was born into crushing poverty to a farming family in Kuwait, and came to religion in his teens. Nimr migrated to Syria to join IS after the caliphate declaration in June 2014.

The profile notes that Nimr was implicated in the 26 June 2015 bombing of the Imam al-Sadeq Shi’a mosque in Kuwait city, which massacred nearly thirty people and wounded over-200, and sentenced to death in absentia. [In the English-language notice about the sentences, Nimr is named sixth of 29 suspects; his name is transliterated as “Falah Nimer Mejbel Ghazi Khleif”.]

After his arrival within the caliphate, Nimr worked in the fatwa section of the “Office of Research and Studies” (Maktab al-Buhuth wa’l-Dirasat). [The Office became well-known as the preserve of the young Bahraini cleric Turki al-Binali, and since his death the stronghold of a more “moderate” current within the Islamic State.]

Nimr came into contact with Taha Falaha (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani), who  “loved him (Nimr)”, and then he met Wael al-Fayad (Abu Muhammad al-Furqan). Nimr was assigned to agitation against the Saudi monarchy and ultimately came to lead the “Legal Office of the Soldiers’ Department” (al-Makhtab al-Shray li-Diwan al-Jund) in “Wilayat al-Khayr” (Deir Ezzor). Nimr was also working as a preacher in the mosques at this time, promoting IS’s ideology.

After an exposition on Nimr’s religious learning and his influences—such as Nasir al-Fahd, an important (imprisoned) Saudi jihadi cleric who has given his allegiance to IS—the biographer begs that Nimr be pardoned from a number of false words attributed to him, and charges against him. These come from two directions, apparently: the enemies of IS who wish to cast aspersions, and perhaps even worse the fanboys who cherish a version of the shaykh that has no basis in reality.

Abu Abd al-Barr al-Salahi al-Kuwaiti

*                  *                  *

The profile of “al-Shaykh al-Mujahid” Abu Sara al-Dhafeeri al-Jazrawi was written on 6 February 2019 and is the first one signed “Juhayman – Abu Siraj al-Qurayshi”. There is no picture of Abu Sara. Abu Sara was born and raised in “the Jazeera”, was educated religiously, and took to the “correct” doctrine, i.e. IS’s version of jihadism. Abu Sara is said to have followed a number of prominent clerics, including Shaykh Muhammad Salem al-Dawsari.

After Abu Sara moved to Syria, he worked in IS’s judiciary and helped construct the caliphate, working in Aleppo, the Euphrates River Valley, and Hama. Abu Sara also held a position in IS’s Liwa al-Zubayr. Abu Sara is said to have been humble and dedicated to spreading jihadism, working against “the infidels and apostates and descendants of pigs and Jews”. The biographer allows a little criticism: Abu Sara was a little talkative. Abu Sara was killed in Idlib “with a number of brothers” last Ramadan.

*                  *                  *

The profile of Tariq al-Harzi (Abu Umar al-Tunisi) was among those signed by “Juhayman – Abu Siraj al-Qurayshi” and written on 14 February 2019. As the author notes, the first profile of al-Harzi, a Tunisian, was published in Dabiq 10 (p. 41) on 13 July 2015, about a month after al-Harzi was killed on 16 June (29 Shaban 1436).

The Dabiq 10 profile is reproduced. By the Dabiq biography, Al-Harzi first joined the IS movement in 2003, entering Iraq and associating with IS founder Zarqawi and Abdul Munim al-Badawi (Abu Hamza al-Muhajir). Al-Harzi was involved in the battles at Falluja and was wounded—losing a leg—at this time, says Dabiq. Imprisoned shortly thereafter, Al-Harzi escaped using “a fake document under the pretence that he was Iraqi and not a muhajir [foreign fighter]. … The second time was in 2008” when al-Harzi and some other jihadists were broken out of Taji prison.

After IS expanded into Syria, al-Harzi was “made responsible for receiving the istishhadiyyin [martyrs; suicide bombers]” and overseeing the Atma gateway in the Idlib province, Dabiq says. Al-Harzi is reported by Dabiq to have been a “brave leader” during the uprising against IS by the Syrian opposition in January 2014. IS lost Idlib to the opposition, and al-Harzi relocated to Hasaka, “Wilayat al-Barakah”, in north-east Syria, where he was killed by a Coalition airstrike.

On 15 June 2015, the day before Tariq al-Harzi was killed, his brother, Ali Awni al-Harzi (Abu Zubayr), was killed in an airstrike in Mosul. Ali had been involved in the September 2012 assault on the U.S. Consulate in Libya that killed Ambassador Christopher Stephens and had acted to assist IS’s recruitment efforts in North Africa.

The author does not add much of significance to this, merely underlining that Al-Harzi had been among the first generation of jihadists, and commenting on Al-Harzi’s personality (humble, steadfast, and easy to get along with, apparently).

Tariq al-Harzi (Abu Umar al-Tunisi)

Tariq al-Harzi (Abu Umar al-Tunisi)

*                  *                  *

The “media emir and mujahid” Riyad Meshal (Abu Dawud al-Halabi) was profiled by “Juhayman – Abu Siraj al-Qurayshi” on 18 February 2019. Meshal is the founder of Amaq News Agency (Wakala A’maq al-Ikhbariya). [The Coalition said, when it announced it had killed him in late May 2017, that Meshal also used the name Baraa Kadek. His Amaq Agency became famous as IS’s means of claiming its global terrorist attacks.]

Meshal was “born and raised in the Arabian Peninsula (Jazeera al-Arab), before returning to Syria at the age of 12”. Meshal went to the Halabiya al-Khasrawiya high school. Meshal studied English Language at Aleppo University and thereafter obtained a scholarship to take a master’s degree in Great Britain, but he refused. Meshal was a happy, religious youth, “diligent in worship”, from a family of high social status: his father was a graduate of Al-Azhar and a “scholar of language” (alim fi al-lugha).

Meshal was one of the first people to rise up against the Asad regime in Aleppo, the profile says. He challenged the security forces and the Shabiha, and was imprisoned twice. He set up the “Aleppo News Network”, which covered (favourably) the Islamic State as it spread into Syria, something that provoked outrage among the Syrian opposition. Meshal was subsequently invited to Turkey where backers of the insurgency offered him money to desist from pro-IS propaganda. Among those who extended this offer was, allegedly, “the heretic” (al-zandeeq) Shafi al-Ajmi. [Al-Ajmi is a haraki-Salafi cleric, who was sanctioned by the U.S. as “one of the most active Kuwaiti fundraisers” for Jabhat al-Nusra, IS’s renegade Levantine branch that defected to al-Qaeda.] Meshal refused their offers and openly joined himself and his news network to IS.

When the rebellion— “the masses of unbelief and apostasy” (jumu al-kufr wal-rada)—went to war against IS in January 2014, Meshal’s father was among those who joined with the rebels in fighting the mujahideen and Meshal had to flee to Al-Bab. It was there that “God facilitated a fateful meeting” with Wael al-Fayad (Abu Muhammad al-Furqan), and they drew together Amaq. In a slightly Trumpian moment, the biography declares that efforts were made by “the losers and detractors” (al-fashileen wa’l-muntakseen) to frustrate this project, though with his customary dedication and care Meshal overcame these hypocrites.

Amaq ultimately spread around the world and Meshal is said to have been very hard-working. According to the biography, Meshal was eager to be a suicide bomber in the then-upcoming Raqqa battle, but IS’s leadership vetoed the idea because he was more useful in his media job. Ultimately martyrdom found him anyway just before that battle commenced.

Abu Dawud al-Halabi

Abu Dawud al-Halabi

Abu Dawud al-Halabi

Abu Dawud al-Halabi

*                  *                  *

The final, brief profile, unsigned and undated, is of “al-Shaykh al-Mujahid” Fadel al-Hiyali (Abu Mutaz al-Husayni al-Qurayshi or Abu Muslim al-Turkmani). Al-Hiyali is noted as having been an early devotee of the IS movement and having survived the hardships of 2008-10. After the caliphate was declared, al-Hiyali became the first deputy to the caliph (nayib al-khilafa al-awal) and the emir of the Delegated Committee (al-Lajna al-Mufawada) in Iraq. [Fuller profile here]

Fadel al-Hiyali (Abu Mutaz al-Qurayshi, Abu Muslim al-Turkmani)

*                  *                  *

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s