Early in his new book, Your Sons Are At Your Service: Tunisia’s Missionaries of Jihad, The Washington Institute’s Aaron Zelin quotes a pair of sociologists who note that ‘where theories are plentiful … ideas are vacuous’. The book is in many ways the antithesis of this approach. It is not without theoretical content; where social movement theory arises as a means of understanding jihadism, say, the author gives an overview of the literature to contextualise it for the reader. But the general approach is historical, empirical, and detail-rich, so that by the time Zelin summarises his findings in the various sections there can be no doubt about the evidentiary basis. Continue reading
The main issue with that Nine Lives has to overcome is the one that has attended Aimen Dean (a pseudonym) since he went public in March 2015 with an interview he gave to the BBC, claiming he had been a British spy within Al-Qaeda between 1998 and 2006. That issue is overcoming the doubts about his story. Nine Lives goes a long way to solving this by bringing in Paul Cruickshank, the editor-in-chief of CTC Sentinel, one of the premier academic resources in the terrorism field, and Tim Lister, a terrorism-focused journalist with CNN, as co-authors. As well as helping structure the book from Dean’s memories, the two co-authors note they had been able to “corroborate key details” that convinced them: “In the years immediately leading up to and following 9/11, Aimen Dean was by far the most important spy the West had inside al-Qaeda”. Continue reading
The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Abdullah Ibrahim al-Faisal (born: Trevor William Forrest), a Jamaican cleric who supports the Islamic State (IS) on 5 December. This was long overdue. Al-Faisal’s record of disseminating jihadist ideology, and influencing and/or interacting with terrorists, goes back several decades. And since 2014, al-Faisal has been one of IS’s influential English-language propagandist-recruiters. Continue reading
A ruling in the name of the Islamic State’s Delegated Committee, prepared it seems by one of its senior members, Abu Zayd al-Iraqi, was issued on 17 May, expanding the scope of who, within the Muslim community, IS considers a heretic. The memo was addressed to “All Wilayat, Dawawin, and Committees,” and entitled, “That Those Who Perish Would Perish Upon Proof and Those Who Live Would Live Upon Proof”. The wide use of takfir (excommunication) has been one of IS’s most defining and controversial features—even within the jihadist world. This judgment, which comes in the context of a broader centralization of authority—on 14 May a decree banned individual IS fighters from using social media—takes IS into territory akin to the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which hereticized whole sections of Algeria’s population and began slaughtering them. The text of the ruling was released in English and is reproduced below. Continue reading
Published at The Telegraph
In Paris last night a gunman parked his car, stepped out, and opened fire on a police van outside a Marks & Spencer’s on the Champs Élysées. One policeman was murdered; two were wounded. A female tourist was also injured. The attacker was killed by police as he tried to flee and continue his rampage. Within two hours, the Islamic State (ISIL) had claimed the attack via its Amaq News Agency, and, rather unusually, had named the killer: “Abu Yusuf al-Baljiki”.
It has been widely reported that “Abu Yusuf the Belgian” is really Karim Cheurfi the Frenchman, a 39-year-old imprisoned for fifteen years after being convicted for three counts of attempted murder in 2001. Notably, two of his intended victims were police officers. French media has reported that Cheurfi was briefly arrested on 23 February after expressing an intent to kill law-enforcement officials, but released due to lack of evidence; the Interior Ministry refused to comment. Continue reading
Mohamed Moumou, better-known as Abu Qaswara, was the Commander of the North for the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), one of the most powerful military positions in the group, when he was killed by American forces in Mosul on 5 October 2008. Continue reading
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 jihadist 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.
As-Sahab Foundation for Islamic Media Publication, al-Qaeda’s media outlet, produced an English translation of a speech by the organization’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, on 13 January 2016. The speech was entitled, “Syria Is Entrusted Upon Your Necks”. The speech does focus on the West, particularly its de facto alliance with the pro-Assad coalition—namely Russia and Iran—and calls for the Syrian rebellion to unite with al-Qaeda to resist this conspiracy. What is more noticeable, however, is the two enemies on whom Dr. al-Zawahiri really focuses: Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State. The Saudis are accused—not without reason—of having been allied closely to the West and thwarting the jihadist projects at every turn. And al-Zawahiri makes a fierce ideological assault on the Islamic State, comparing them with the Khawarij and the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), whose conduct in Algeria in the 1990s and their justifications for it took Islamist extremism to new depths. The speech is reproduced below with some minor editions, to transliteration and punctuation, and some interesting and important sections highlighted in bold.