Tag Archives: Bosnia

Al-Qaeda’s Leader Calls for Jihadi Unity in Syria, Building a Caliphate

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 9, 2016

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The leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released an audio statement on 8 May 2016. The speech was entitled, “Hasten to Syria,” “Go Forth to Syria,” or “March Forth to Syria,” depending on translation.[1] An English-language translation has been made available and is reproduced below, with some editions in transliteration and some important sections highlighted in bold. Continue reading

Assad Cannot Keep Europe Safe From the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on March 24, 2016

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The long arm of the Islamic State (ISIS) has struck again. Tuesday morning, Zaventem airport in Brussels was hit by two suicide bombers and soon after a third man detonated at Maelbeek metro station, not far from the headquarters of the European Union. At least 31 people were slaughtered and around 270 were injured. Belgium has a long history as a hub of global jihadism and some of its citizens were key in forming ISIS’s statelet. In the wake of the attack, as Western governments look for ways to hasten the demise of ISIS, it will likely be said—again—that the quickest way to do that is by striking a devil’s bargain with the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. From Assad’s role in helping ISIS lay its groundwork in Iraq even before the U.S. invasion to Assad’s help, by omission and commission, in nurturing ISIS in the years since the uprising against him began as a means of defeating the opposition to Assad’s deliberate incitement of a sectarian war, there is nothing that could be further from the truth. While Assad remains in power, ISIS will remain alive. Continue reading

Another Legacy of the Bosnian Jihad

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on February 5, 2016

Mirsad Bektašević

Mirsad Bektašević (2005)

I recently wrote about the jihad in Bosnia. This much-neglected aspect of the war in the 1990s was crucial in shaping al-Qaeda, and global jihadism more broadly, providing this movement, and Clerical Iran, with a staging post in Europe, not least because Tehran’s spy-terrorist capabilities had been deployed to bring many of the jihadists into the country and train them in the first place. While Islamist militancy and terrorism were brought to Bosnia largely as imports, their entry was facilitated by the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), the ruling party to this day. While the war itself trained many jihadist “graduates,” almost all of whom were allowed to stay (or at least received Bosnian passports that gave them that right), the entry of extremist charities/missionaries to lead the rebuilding, many of them bankrolled by Saudi Arabia, entrenched the jihadists and spread their form of Islam in Bosnia after the war. As such, Bosnia became a hospitable operating environment for Islamist recruitment and training and both veterans of the war and people radicalized in Bosnia since have continued to show up in the ranks of international terrorism. It is of interest, therefore, to have an important old case re-emerge in a new way in the last few days, that of Mirsad Bektašević, which again highlighted Bosnia’s importance in the formulation of the infrastructure that underpins the jihadi-Salafist movement, the less-than-clear division between al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) when it comes to the European facilitation networks, and the dangers of seeing Iran as a partner in stability. Continue reading

From Bosnia to Guantanamo

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 23, 2016

War cemetery in Sarajevo (personal picture, July 2011)

War cemetery in Sarajevo (personal picture, July 2011)

It was announced on Thursday that Guantanamo inmates Tariq Mahmoud Ahmed as-Sawah and Abd al-Aziz Abduh Abdallah Ali as-Suwaydi had been transferred to Bosnia and Montenegro respectively. Sawah’s path to jihadi-Salafism allows a window into the Bosnian jihad, a much-underestimated factor in shaping al-Qaeda, its offshoots, and the wider Islamist movement. In that story is an examination of the role certain States have played in funding and otherwise helping the jihadists. It also leaves some questions about whether emptying Guantanamo of its dangerous inhabitants is the correct policy. Continue reading

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

How Russia Manipulates Islamic Terrorism

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on September 8, 2015

Shamil Basayev and Murad Margoshvili (a.k.a. Muslem al-Shishani)

Shamil Basayev and Murad Margoshvili (a.k.a. Muslem a-Shishani)

Last year I wrote about the murky role Russia was playing in the Syrian war, bolstering the Assad tyranny while facilitating the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) and other Salafi-jihadists as a means of dividing and discrediting the Syrian opposition. Moscow’s action were in line with the strategy it had used to defeat the separatist movement in Chechnya, infiltrating the insurgency, driving it into extremism, and facilitating the arrival of al-Qaeda jihadists who displaced the Chechen nationalists. In Syria, Russia’s actions accord with the strategy adopted by the regime and its Iranian masters to present Assad as the last line of defence against a terrorist takeover of Syria and a genocide against the minorities. New evidence has emerged to underline these points. Continue reading

Mohammed Emwazi’s Path To The Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on March 13, 2015

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Having written two posts on the overwhelming evidence that the British video-beheader of the Islamic State (ISIS), Mohammed Emwazi (“Jihadi John”), was a longstanding member of an al-Qaeda network in London that funnelled fighters and other resources to al-Shabab in Somalia, refuting the claim that Emwazi’s radicalisation came about after contact with British security services, I now want to offer the remaining available evidence we have on how Emwazi moved from these associations—which he made in 2007—to fighting for ISIS. Continue reading