Category Archives: Jihadi Biographies

Islamic State Celebrates the Murderer of Sikhs in Afghanistan

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 20 June 2020

Al-Naba 239, page 9

The Islamic State (IS) released the 239th edition of its newsletter, Al-Naba, on 18 June. Pages 9 and 10 of this twelve-page document were given over to a profile of Abu Khaled al-Hindi, the jihadist elsewhere named as Mohammad Sajid Kuthirummal who massacred twenty-five worshippers at a Sikh gurdwara or temple in Kabul three months ago, on 25 March 2020, during an hours-long siege. The details of Abu Khaled’s life—finding IS after being repelled by “nationalist” jihadist groups, fighting while injured, his obedience to IS’s leaders, and thirst for “martyrdom”—are relatively standard hagiography from IS. What is really worth noting is that such an extensive focus on him, and through him on Afghanistan, underlines the importance IS has placed on its Afghan branch, Wilayat Khorasan. Continue reading

France Kills Al-Qaeda’s Man in North Africa

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 11 June 2020

France announced last Friday that its forces in Mali had killed Abd al-Malek Drukdel (Abu Musab Abd al-Wadud), the emir of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which covers the North Africa and Sahel areas. Paris has sometimes been unreliable on these matters, but the United States independently confirmed Drukdel was gone, as have sources within AQIM. The French also announced that on 19 May they had arrested Mohamed Mrabat, a veteran jihadist and member of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS). Continue reading

State Department Offers Bounty for Islamic State Propaganda Official

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 29 May 2020

Last night the State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program announced that it would pay $3 million for information leading to the capture or killing of Muhammad Khadr Musa Ramadan, described as “a senior leader of and key propagandist for the Islamic State”. Continue reading

Coalition Eliminates Senior Islamic State Official Haji Tayseer

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 26 May 2020

Islamic State Wilayat al-Anbar, October 2017

This morning, the Iraqi government announced that Moataz Numan al-Jaburi (Haji Tayseer), a senior member of the Islamic State (IS), had been killed in Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria by an airstrike from the U.S.-led Coalition, utilising intelligence supplied by Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS, Jihaz Mukafahat al-Irhab). Continue reading

Former Head of Islamic State Executive Committee Speaks

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 23 May 2020

Abd al-Nasr, who claims his real name is allegedly Taha al-Ghassani (image sources 1 & 2)

There is now, with various caveats, a general agreement that the Islamic State (IS) is on the upswing—in Iraq, particularly, but also in the Badiya, the desert regions of eastern Syria, and more recently in the south of Syria around Deraa. Still, there have been some recent notable gains against the terrorist group. Continue reading

Qassem Sulaymani and the Future of Iran’s Imperial Project

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 7 January 2020

At 1 AM on 3 January, an American drone strike killed the head of Iran’s Quds Force, the division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) charged with exporting the Islamic revolution, and his Iraqi deputy, Jamal al-Ibrahimi (Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis). Sulaymani was the strategic driver of Iran’s expansionist policy in the Middle East, as well as the orchestrator of its terrorism and assassinations further afield. Unlike with the killing of Al-Qaeda’s Usama bin Laden in 2011 or the Islamic State’s Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) in October, where the dynamics shifted little, Sulaymani’s death opens up questions about the direction in which the Middle East will now move. Continue reading

In Search of the Caliph

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 8 November 2019

The destroyed compound where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was found in Syria // Drone footage taken by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency

The so-called caliph of the Islamic State (ISIS), Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi), was killed in an American raid in Syria on 27 October, and the spokesman, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, was killed the next day in an airstrike. ISIS acknowledged the losses and appointed new leaders on Halloween.

Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi introduced himself in a nearly-eight-minute audio statement as the new spokesman and named Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi as Al-Baghdadi’s replacement. Little information was given about either man.

The U.S. government has said it knows “almost nothing” about the new caliph, Abu Ibrahim, leaving us no closer, for now, to knowing his identity. But some options present themselves. Continue reading

Ruslan Asainov: An American Islamic State Jihadist

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 20 July 2019

Sketch of Ruslan Asainov // Image credit: Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

In the Eastern District of New York, on 19 July, a criminal complaint was unsealed against Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, described in the press release as a “naturalized U.S. citizen born in Kazakhstan”. According to the release, Asainov is to be charged with providing and attempting to provide “material support, including training, services, and personnel” to a terrorist group, namely the Islamic State (IS), which he joined in 2013 and rose through the ranks to become an emir. Asainov was captured by the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF), the Coalition’s anti-IS Kurdish partner force, and handed over to the FBI, before being returned to America this month.  The maximum penalty for these charges is twenty years imprisonment, and it is likely the U.S. government will be seeking additional charges in the indictment. The case raises an interesting question over the gaps in knowledge about IS. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Islamic State Obituary for French Jihadist Fabien Clain

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 16 March 2019

Fabien Clain, Al-Naba 173, page 9

The U.S.-led Coalition against the Islamic State (IS) announced on 28 February that it had killed Fabien Clain (Abu Anas al-Firansi), a French citizen. Clain and his brother, Jean-Michel (Abu Uthman), were targeted by a Coalition airstrike in Baghuz, the final pocket of the “caliphate” in eastern Syria, on 20 February. It was unclear what happened to Jean-Michel, though the 173rd edition of IS’s newsletter, Al-Naba, published on 14 March, says (pp. 9-10) that he was killed a few days after Fabien. Continue reading