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
In the ninetieth edition of its newsletter, al-Naba, released on 20 July 2017, the Islamic State (IS) published an obituary for one of its most senior operatives, Ali Aswad al-Jiburi, much better known as Abu Ayman al-Iraqi, who had been serving as the caliph’s “security advisor” when he was killed on 18 May 2016. Continue reading
In his twelfth speech since the founding of “the State,” on 24 September 2008, Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi), listed the “commander in chief”, or chief of staff, Abu al-Bashair al-Jiburi, as among the top heroes of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). Al-Zawi said that Abu al-Bashair had been recently martyred.
In an interview released on 28 October 2008, Abdul Munim al-Badawi (Abu Hamza al-Muhajir), al-Zawi’s deputy and the “war minister” of ISI, said that Abu al-Bashair was an Iraqi and a former colonel in Saddam Husayn’s army. Continue reading
The U.S. State Department on 17 August sanctioned two Islamic State (IS) operatives, Ahmad al-Khald (or Ahmad Alkhald), who was involved in the November 2015 terrorist atrocities in France and the March 2016 bombings in Belgium, and Iyad Hamid Mahl al-Jumayli (Abu Yahya al-Iraqi), IS’s internal security chief. Continue reading
The most recent issue of Perspectives on Terrorism had a paper by Ronen Zeidel entitled, ‘The Dawa’ish: A Collective Profile of IS Commanders’, which was “the first attempt to provide a comprehensive collective profile of commanders and leaders of the Islamic State (IS)”. Based on “an inventory of over 600 names”, the paper assessed the nationality, ethnicity, and tribal origins not just of the very senior IS commanders, but those lower down, a novel and much-needed line of investigation. Zeidel found that these commanders of the IS movement are or were overwhelmingly Iraqi and Sunni Arab, with an important Turkoman contingent.
Zeidel’s findings are important for drawing attention again to the local-revolutionary character of an organisation that gets a great deal of attention for its foreign fighters and external attacks, especially in the West, but which only a recently acquired global reach—and, indeed, only recently needed to: until 2011, the West was easily reachable since it had troops on the ground in Iraq, so the incentive to invest resources in creating a foreign terrorist apparatus was minimal.
One small part of Zeidel’s work has created something of a storm, however. Zeidel gives the occupation held by these commanders and, for those where this was known, 72% of them were former regime elements (FREs) from the dictatorship of Saddam Husayn. This reignited the argument over how important the FREs have been to IS. Continue reading
A year ago, I wrote a report documenting the biographies of Islamic State (IS) leaders and something of the structure of the organisation. Since then, the intricacies of the structure have been further revealed, even as it has somewhat crumbled in practice. The caliphate—the statelet built by IS—has been significantly degraded: the Iraqi “capital”, Mosul, has fallen, and operation to clear the Syrian “capital”, Raqqa, is underway. More significantly, upwards of 40% of those profiled have been killed, so it seemed an opportune moment for an update on who currently leads the world’s most infamous terrorist movement.
A purported defector from the Islamic State, known only as “Abu Ahmad,” released testimony online on 5 April 2014 via the Syrian opposition news site al-Durar al-Shamiya under the heading, “The Concealed Truths About al-Baghdadi’s State”. Abu Ahmad describes himself as “one of the mujahideen in Khorasan [Afghanistan-Pakistan] and Iraq, and now in al-Sham [Syria],” and it is quite clear that Abu Ahmad has defected to al-Qaeda. On 25 September 2014, an English version of this testimony was posted on the Fund for Fallen Allies website. It has been reposted below—with some editions to transliteration and syntax—to avoid it being lost. Continue reading