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
The forty-fifth edition of the Islamic State’s “Distinguished Martyrs” series, published by al-Furqan Media in Rajab 1431 (June/July 2010), profiled Abu Zahra al-Issawi, the media emir or information minister of the organization between some point after July 2007, when Khalid al-Mashadani (Abu Zayd al-Mashadani) was arrested, and some point before September 2009, when Ahmad al-Ta’i was announced as holding the position. Continue reading
Muhammad Shakar had, according to his martyr biography, “become influenced by Salafism in 1997-98 while serving as a part of [Saddam] Hussein’s Special Republican Guard”. Quitting the military and returning to his home in Mosul, Shakar was harassed by the regime until he went to join Ansar al-Islam in the mountains of Kurdistan.
Shakar, known as Abu Talha al-Ansari or Abu Talha al-Mawsuli, joined the predecessor to Islamic State either just before or just after Saddam fell, and he was arrested in Mosul on 14 June 2005. 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
Manaf Abdul Rahim al-Rawi was the leader of operations in Baghdad for the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), the predecessor to the Islamic State (IS), between 2008 and his arrest in 2010. Al-Rawi had been with IS from its earliest days and his arrest in 2004 only advanced him through the ranks as he networked in prison. Upon release and assumption of the post of wali (governor) of Baghdad, al-Rawi was responsible for some of the worst atrocities in 2009 and 2010 in that city. Al-Rawi was executed in prison in 2013. Continue reading
In his first speech as the then-Islamic State of Iraq’s (ISI’s) official spokesman in August 2011, Taha Falaha (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani) referred to several of the group’s “leaders” who had been killed. Among them was Abu Raghd, whose biography provides a glimpse of the role regional states—specifically Saddam Husayn’s Iraq and Bashar al-Assad’s Syria—played in facilitating the birth of the Islamic State (IS). Continue reading
After the leaders of the Islamic State die—usually killed by their foes—short biographies tend to be circulated on internet forums that favour the group. One such obituary—with the above picture—was disseminated for Mustafa Ramadan Darwish (Abu Muhammad al-Lubnani), and is reproduced below with some editions to transliteration and some interesting sections highlighted in bold. Darwish was the first leader of the Islamic State’s military portfolio and the second overall deputy (between September 2004 and early 2005) to the movement’s founder, Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi). One of the most interesting parts of Darwish’s profile is its addition of details on the jihadi networks linked to al-Qaeda and the first generation of the Islamic State that were operating in Iraq in the final years of Saddam Husayn’s rule, a topic touched on in other biographies of Islamic State leaders. Continue reading