Tag Archives: al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia

In Search of the Caliph

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 8 November 2019

The destroyed compound where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was found in Syria // Drone footage taken by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency

The so-called caliph of the Islamic State (ISIS), Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi), was killed in an American raid in Syria on 27 October, and the spokesman, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, was killed the next day in an airstrike. ISIS acknowledged the losses and appointed new leaders on Halloween.

Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi introduced himself in a nearly-eight-minute audio statement as the new spokesman and named Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi as Al-Baghdadi’s replacement. Little information was given about either man.

The U.S. government has said it knows “almost nothing” about the new caliph, Abu Ibrahim, leaving us no closer, for now, to knowing his identity. But some options present themselves. Continue reading

Islamic State Profiles the Leadership

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 6 April 2019

Islamic State flag in front of the main gate of Saddam Husayn’s palace in Tikrit, 5 April 2015 // AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED SAWAF

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 Announcement of the Islamic State—in 2006

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 18 March 2018

Jihadists on parade in Ramadi, 18 October 2006, to celebrate the declaration of the Islamic state (image source: Al-Jazeera)

After the formation of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), the leader, Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi), made his first speech on 23 December 2006. An English translation of the speech was released by ISI and is reproduced below. Continue reading

Profile: First Spokesman of the Islamic State Movement

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 16 March 2018

The predecessor organization to the Islamic State (IS), the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI), used to run a “Prominent Martyrs” or “Distinguished Martyrs” series: essentially obituaries for important members of the IS movement. In the forty-sixth edition, on 18 August 2010, ISI profiled Abu Maysara al-Iraqi, the first official spokesman and the deputy of the Media Department until he was killed in 2006. A translation of Abu Maysara’s biography was issued by Ansar al-Mujahideen forum and is reproduced below with some minor editions for transliteration and some interesting points highlighted in bold. Continue reading

Islamic State’s First Leader Denies He Has Been Captured, West Wonders If He Exists

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 6 January 2018

Iraqi soldiers from the 1st Iraqi Army Division and U.S. Soldiers board a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter at Camp Ramadi, 15 Nov. 2015 (DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel St. Pierre, U.S. Air Force)

The leader of the Islamic State (IS) when it was declared in October 2006 was Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi). Al-Zawi was killed in April 2010 and replaced in May 2010 by the current leader of the IS movement, Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi), who more explicitly embraced the title of “caliph”. On 12 May 2009, al-Zawi gave his seventeenth speech, entitled Umala Kadhabun (عملاء كذابون), which translates to something like “Lying Agents” or “Deceitful Spies”. The speech was released by IS’s Al-Furqan Media Productions and a translation was made by a pro-IS online outlet, The Jihadist Media Elite. The transcript is reproduced below. Continue reading

The Islamic State Planned For Sectarian War in Iraq From the Beginning

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 13 October 2017

The Iraqi Kurdish authorities arrested Mustafa Haji Muhammad Khan (Hassan Ghul) on 23 January 2004. Khan had been dispatched to Iraq by Nashwan Abdulbaqi (Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi), one of the key military officials of al-Qaeda “central” (AQC), to function as AQC’s intermediary with Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi), the founder of the Islamic State movement. Khan replaced Abdallah al-Kurdi, the first envoy sent by Abdulbaqi. Al-Kurdi had failed to establish any footing to do his job effectively, but Khan, a battle-hardened jihadist from Baluchistan, earned a measure of respect from al-Khalayleh and facilitated a productive conversation between AQC and al-Khalayleh. Al-Khalayleh, possessed of a pathological anti-Shi’ism, wrote a seventeen-page memo to Usama bin Ladin explaining his strategy to defeat the Americans by starting a total war between the sects in Iraq. That memo, in digital form, was given to Khan, and Khan had it in his possession when he was captured. The letter was translated and publicized by the State Department, and is reproduced below with minor editions for clarity and some interesting sections highlighted in bold. Continue reading

American Sanctions Hit Islamic State’s Finances, Propaganda, and Terrorism

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 16 June 2017

Usama Atar, older picture and most recent (picture via CNN)

Just three days after the U.S. government sanctioned two Islamic State (IS or ISIS) operatives for their role in helping the jihadists develop chemical weapons of mass destruction, another raft of sanctions were issued on 15 June against four IS members occupying varying positions within the organization from finance to propaganda to orchestrating the foreign attacks. Continue reading