Tag Archives: Abul-Abbas al-Shami

Al-Qaeda Central in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on September 14, 2015

Osama bin Laden and Ayman az-Zawahiri (2001)

Osama bin Laden and Ayman az-Zawahiri (2001)

A couple of days ago, a leader Jabhat an-Nusra issued a statement condemning Ahrar a-Sham. The statement is actually rather milder than initial reports suggested. Nusra is mostly annoyed at Ahrar for working with Turkey and Qatar to acquire money and weapons. Nusra is also displeased that Ahrar, at the instigation of Ankara and Doha, asked Nusra to publicly break its al-Qaeda link. Nusra also felt Ahrar was too willing to publicly distance itself from Salafi-jihadism to gain war materiel. This will no doubt help intensify the debate about Ahrar’s ostentatious “moderation” over the last eighteen months, and what the West should do about Ahrar.

In this post, however, I’d like to focus on the statement’s author, Abu Firas as-Suri, or more precisely on what he represents. Abu Firas is part of a group of (known) agents of al-Qaeda Central (AQC) who were sent into Syria in mid-2013 to mediate the dispute between Nusra and then-ISIS (now the Islamic State, I.S.), and when that failed the AQC veterans stayed, erected a veritable bureaucracy, and sought to forestall Nusra “going local”. Below are mini-profiles of these AQC veterans. Continue reading

Islamist Clerics Reject Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi’s Stance on Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 30, 2015

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A council of ulema (clerics), some within Syria and some abroad, al-Majlis Shura Ahl al-ilm fil-Sham (Advisory Council of the People of Knowledge in Syria), was formed late last month. Its first statement was to condemn the 25 July assassination of the Faylaq al-Sham commander Mazin al-Qassum by Islamic State (IS) operatives with Jund al-Aqsa, and to demand that all groups clarify their stance on IS and expel IS agents and sympathizers from their ranks. A fatwa early this month said it was permissible to work with Turkey against IS and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which in Syria operates politically under the name of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and militarily as the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Among the leading names associated with this new council are three foreign Islamist scholars: Umar al-Hadouchi, a Moroccan jihadi-salafist; Muhammad al-Hassan Ould al-Dedew al-Shinqiti (not to be confused with Abu al-Mundhir al-Shinqiti), a Mauritanian more closely aligned with Sururism than outright jihadism; and Abdallah al-Muhaysini, a Saudi jihadist who is inside Syria and a member of al-Qaeda in everything but name. Prominent Syrians involved include Dr. Ayman al-Harush, associated with Ahrar al-Sham, and another Ahrar member, a shar’i, Mohamed Ayman Aboul-Tout (Abu Abbas al-Shami), who fought against the Assad regime during the revolt in the 1980s as part of the most extreme Islamist splinter from the Muslim Brotherhood, the Fighting Vanguard. There is also the son of Abd al-Karim, an important figure in the Hama branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sa’ad al-Uthman; a follower of the ideas of Muhammad Surur that mix Salafism with political agitation, Ahmad al-Salum, and many others.

Majlis Shura Ahl al-ilm fil-Sham put out a statement today, “Response of the Ulema of Sham to Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi”. Al-Maqdisi’s real name is Issam al-Barqawi; he is based in Jordan and is the most influential jihadi-salafist cleric. The Council attacks al-Maqdisi for what they perceive as his softness toward IS. The statement, translated by @nasrshahada, is reproduced below. Continue reading

Islamist Clerics Give Permission to Work with Turkey Against ISIS and PKK

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 4, 2015

Just over a week ago, a new clerical body was formed, al-Majlis Shura Ahl al-ilm fil-Sham (Advisory Council of the People of Knowledge in Syria), which includes Islamists from within Syria and from outside. Among the notable foreigners are Umar al-Hadouchi, a Moroccan jihadi-salafist, and Muhammad Ould al-Dedew, a Mauritanian who is more in line with the Sururis. There is also Abdallah al-Muhaysini, the Saudi jihadi cleric who is very close to al-Qaeda’s leadership inside Syria. From among Syrians, there are two Ahrar al-Sham notables, Dr. Ayman al-Harush and Mohamed Ayman Aboul-Tout (Abu Abbas al-Shami); Sa’ad al-Uthman, the son of Abd al-Karim, a major figure in the Hama wing of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, and Ahmad al-Salum, a Sururi (an activist/political Salafi).

The Council’s first statement condemned the 25 July assassination of the Faylaq al-Sham commander Mazin al-Qassum by Islamic State (IS) operatives with Jund al-Aqsa, and demanded that all groups clarify their stance on IS and cleanse their ranks of IS agents and sympathizers. Today’s fatwa, “Concerning cooperation and coordination with the Turks in repelling Daesh and the PKK,” licensed Muslims to work with the Turkish government against IS and the PKK. The fatwa is reproduced below. Continue reading

Is Ahrar a-Sham a “Moderate” Syrian Rebel Group?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on July 12, 2015

Ahrar a-Sham

To answer my headline simply: no, Ahrar a-Sham’s leadership is not what anybody in the West means by “moderate” Syrian rebels that could be supported.

The question is provoked by an op-ed in The Washington Post last night signed by Labib al-Nahhas, Ahrar’s foreign political relations officer, the culmination of a public-relations campaign by Ahrar to rebrand itself as the mainstream alternative to the Islamic State (ISIS) and the Assad tyranny we’ve all been waiting for. Continue reading