Leader of New Al-Qaeda Group in Syria Speaks

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on February 9, 2017

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After a series of intra-insurgent clashes beginning on 19 January 2017 in northern Syria, al-Qaeda’s rebranded presence, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), annexed several groups and clerics—and a number more since—on 28 January in a merger that took on the name Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). JFS followed the pattern of its parent branch, the Islamic State, and did not monopolize the leadership posts in HTS, leaving the emir post to Hashem al-Shaykh (Abu Jabbar). Al-Shaykh is a former senior official of Ahrar al-Sham, an insurgent group that also has links to al-Qaeda and has been the primary bridge between the mainstream rebellion in Syria and al-Qaeda. Al-Shaykh gave his first speech as General Leader of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham on 9 February, and Bilad al-Sham Media put out a transcript (reproduced below) and picture (above). Continue reading

Pro-Al-Qaeda Ideologue on Merging With Non-Jihadi Groups

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on February 5, 2017

Abdallah al-Muhaysini at a rally for Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, 3 February 2017

Abdallah al-Muhaysini at a rally for Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, 3 February 2017

On 28 January, as a part of its long-term strategy of integrating with, and ultimately co-opting, the Syrian rebellion, al-Qaeda shifted ground again and merged into a wider spectrum of insurgent groups, many of them jihadi in character, but many not, united under the banner of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). One of the non-jihadi groups to join HTS was Harakat Nooradeen al-Zengi, which became infamous in July 2016 after it beheaded one of the Bashar al-Assad regime’s child soldiers on video. This has aroused some controversy in jihadi circles, and today a statement by a jihadi ideologue, Abu Mahmud al-Filistini, who lives in London, was circulating explaining why HTS was right to take in al-Zengi. The statement was entitled, “Clearing the Doubts Regarding Nooradeen al-Zengi Uniting with Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham,” and is reproduced below. Continue reading

How the Islamic State Claims Terrorist Attacks

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on February 4, 2017

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With the attempted terrorist attack using machetes at the Louvre museum in Paris yesterday by Abdullah Reda al-Hamamy, whose social media history shows statements at least sympathetic to the Islamic State (IS), it raises once again the question, making no assumptions about al-Hamamy’s motives, of how connected the organization headquartered in Raqqa is to the attacks taking place around the world under IS’s banner—and how we would know.

As IS’s attacks outside of the statelet it has built in Iraq and Syria increased in frequency over the last year, a rather routinized mechanism has developed for attributing blame: IS claims the atrocities—or attempted atrocities—through Amaq News Agency. Continue reading

Kuwaiti Islamic State Military Official Killed in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on February 1, 2017

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In September 2014, Kuwait undertook a series of raids against terrorists loyal to the Islamic State (IS). It was found by authorities that one of the “great influence[s]” over the jihadi-Salafists in Kuwait was Abdulmuhsin al-Taresh (Abu Jandal al-Kuwaiti). Al-Taresh was an important propagandist-recruiter for IS at this time, and would later become a senior military official. He was killed near IS’s Syrian capital, Raqqa, by the U.S.-led Coalition at the end of December. Continue reading

Adnan al-Suwaydawi: Saddam’s Spy, Islamic State Leader

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 24, 2015

Adnan al-Suwaydawi (source)

Adnan al-Suwaydawi (source)

A video from the Islamic State yesterday listed a series of prominent past leaders of the organization. One was Adnan al-Suwaydawi,[1] whose full name is Adnan Latif Hamid al-Suwaydawi al-Dulaymi, and who is known most commonly either as Abu Muhannad al-Suwaydawi or Haji Dawud. Al-Suwaydawi was killed on 15 May 2015 by a Coalition airstrike in Anbar Province, western Iraq, but he is credited by the Islamic State with their overrunning Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province, the next day. A biography of al-Suwaydawi was circulated by IS supporters on or around 21 May 2015; it is reproduced below. Continue reading

The Man Who Planned the Islamic State’s Takeover of Mosul

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 31, 2017

Adnan al-Bilawi

Adnan al-Bilawi

Adnan Ismail Najem al-Bilawi al-Dulaymi (Abu Abdulrahman al-Bilawi), the leader of the Islamic State’s Military Council when he was killed on the eve of the Mosul offensive that he had planned in June 2014, was eulogized by IS’s official spokesman, Taha Falaha (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani), explaining his importance to the organization. Below is a profile of al-Bilawi and the section of Falaha’s speech dedicated to al-Bilawi. Continue reading

The Leader of the Islamic State in the 2004 Fallujah Battles: Umar Hadid

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 30, 2017

Umar Hadid [right] (source)

Umar Hadid [right] (source)

Umar Hadid was a native of Fallujah, hence his kunya, Abu Khattab al-Falluji,[1] and a part of the extremist thread of the Salafist underground in Saddam Husayn’s Iraq. Working as an electrician for a time, Hadid had gone into internal exile years before the invasion after attacking Saddam’s security forces. In the aftermath of Saddam’s toppling, Hadid quickly joined with Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi), the Jordanian founder of the Islamic State (IS) who had been in Baghdad from May 2002. Hadid rose swiftly in the ranks of the IS movement, and led the insurgency during the two battles with American forces in Fallujah in 2004, being killed during the second of them. Continue reading