Turkish police announced on 19 July that they had arrested the wife of Tarkhan Batirashvili (Abu Umar al-Shishani), an Islamic State (IS) commander who was killed two years ago this month in Shirqat, Iraq. The capture brings to the fore a story stretching from senior levels of the Chechen Republic to the Levant. Continue reading
Last night, The New York Times reported and Reuters confirmed that two British Islamic State (IS) jihadists, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, both of them designated terrorists by the United States, have been arrested in Syria. Kotey and Elsheikh, along with the late Mohammed Emwazi (Abu Muharib al-Muhajir) and Aine Davis, formed a four-man cell that has become known as “The Beatles”—hence Emwazi being near-universally known as “Jihadi John”—that guarded, abused, and murdered hostages for IS from before the “caliphate” was founded in 2014. Continue reading
The Islamic State’s (IS) caliph, Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi), appeared on Thursday to deliver his first speech in nearly a year. Other than the contents of the speech, al-Badri’s re-appearance was confirmation that the claim by the Russian government, on 16 June, to have killed al-Badri and 330 other IS jihadists in a 28 May airstrike in Syria, was false. This is far from the first mendacious claim Moscow has made on this topic.
On 8 September, the Russian Ministry of Defence claimed it had killed “four influential field commanders”, one of whom was Tarad al-Jarba (Abu Muhammad al-Shimali), and forty other IS jihadists, in an airstrike near Deir Ezzor city. Later in the day, the Russians claimed day that another of the four commanders was Gulmurod Khalimov (Abu Umar al-Tajiki), named by the U.S.-led coalition as IS’s War Minister. In fact, it is likely that Khalimov was already dead and that al-Jarba is still alive. 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
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.
Over the past week, the authorities have disrupted two potential terrorist attacks in London. This follows the Westminster Bridge attack in March, which was claimed by the Islamic State (IS). Britain has been one of the most targeted states by IS’s campaign of global terror, and these latest incidents—whether or not they transpire to be IS-linked—underline the scale of the terrorist threat to Britain. Security forces prevented thirteen attacks in the U.K. between June 2013 and March 2017, and at any one time there are five-hundred live investigations into potential terrorist incidents, with 3,000 Britons believed to be capable of committing an act of domestic terrorism. Continue reading
It was an hour into 2017 that the Islamic State (IS) carried out its first act of mass-murder: an IS jihadist attacked the Reina nightclub in Istanbul, massacring thirty-nine people. IS has been attacking Turkey with increasing frequency over the last two years and, since Turkey intervened directly in Syria in August, IS’s media output has elevated the Turks into a priority target for terrorism. The public claim of responsibility by IS for the Reina attack suggests that we are moving into a new era in terms of how IS treats Turkey. Turkey’s increasingly warm relations with Russia have angered many Muslims around the world, providing jihadists an incentive and opportunity, and providing al-Qaeda political space it seemed to have lost to co-opt the Syrian rebellion. It is therefore likely that more bloodshed is to come for Turkey. Continue reading