Tag Archives: Issam al-Barqawi

The End of the Line for “The Beatles” of the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 9 February 2018

El Shafee Elsheikh (image source) and Alexanda Kotey (image source)

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

Clerics Put Forward an Initiative to Unite Jihadists in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 27 October 2017

It was announced on 25 October that a unity proposal had been formulated to resolve the dispute in Syria between Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), its former command organization, al-Qaeda, and the jihadi splinter faction from Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Ahrar, which has broken between the two. The initiative was backed by major jihadi-salafist clerics, Issam al-Barqawi (Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi) and Umar Othman (Abu Qatada al-Filistini), and invited the support of all jihadi “scholars”. The text of the proposal, translated by Al-Maqalaat, is reproduced below, with some editions to transliteration and syntax. Continue reading

Al-Maqdisi Weighs in on Turkey’s Intervention in Idlib and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 14 October 2017

Issam al-Barqawi (Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi), the Jordan-based jihadi-salafist cleric, put out a message on 12 October 2017 in reaction to the Turkish government moving forces into the Idlib Province in north-western Syria on 7 October. Initially it had seemed that Turkey was to confront Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the former al-Qaeda branch in Syria, but it soon became apparent that the operation was a redrawing of terms that was largely coordinated between Ankara and HTS. Given how critical al-Barqawi has been of HTS, this was interesting. Al-Barqawi’s statement was translated by Trunk News Translations and is republished below. Continue reading

Whither Al-Qaeda in Syria?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 15 August 2017

A statement from Issam al-Barqawi, far better known as Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, the Jordan-based Palestinian jihadi-salafist cleric, was released in English on Telegram on 15 August 2017. The statement dealt with his view of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), highlighting again the questions around this Syrian-based jihadi group and its relations with al-Qaeda. Continue reading

Senior Islamic State Cleric Turki al-Binali Killed in an Airstrike

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 11 June 2017

Turki al-Binali at prayers in Raqqa, July 2015

It was reported on jihadist websites and by local activists that Turki al-Binali (Abu Hammam al-Athari), a senior cleric of the Islamic State (IS) and perhaps the most important public proponent of the caliphate’s formation, had been killed in Syria by an airstrike from the U.S.-led Coalition on 29 May. IS has been silent on this despite releasing their newsletter al-Naba and the tenth edition of their English-language propaganda magazine Rumiyah since then. On Tuesday, the intelligence services of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq confirmed that al-Binali had been killed. Continue reading

Jihadi Clerics Dispute Legitimacy of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 30 April 2017

Abu Mahmud al-Filistini (@battar2812) is a London-based jihadi cleric, one of those to whom al-Qaeda’s loyalists look for guidance. An essay by Abu Mahmud, “An Indispensable Though Imperfect Unity,” has been put out defending Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the restructured al-Qaeda presence in Syria. Abu Mahmud writes mostly against those who are attacking HTS “from the Right,” the jihadists who believe that the rebranding and merging with groups of distinctly imperfect jihadi-salafist credentials like Harakat Nooradeen al-Zengi is a betrayal of the cause. Abu Mahmud writes specifically and harshly against Issam al-Barqawi (Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi), the Jordan-based cleric who is the leading light of the part of the jihadi world that did not go over to the Islamic State, without ever naming him. The essay is reproduced below with some interesting and/or important parts highlighted in bold, and some notes added. Continue reading

An American Jihadist At the Top of the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 9 April 2017

The eighth edition of the Islamic State’s magazine, Rumiyah (Rome), was released on 5 April 2017, and contained an obituary for one of the architects of the magazine itself. Named by his kunyas, Abu Sulayman al-Shami, Abu Sulayman al-Halabi, and Ahmad Abdul-Badi Abu Samrah, the jihadist referred to is Ahmad Abousamra, a U.S.-Syrian dual citizen. Abousamra is quite possibly the most senior American ever to have been in IS’s ranks, and the Rumiyah article gives a very interesting glimpse more generally of IS’s hierarchy. Continue reading

Al-Qaeda in Syria Denounces America, Claims to Be the Revolution

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on March 13, 2017

Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham fighter engaging the Assad regime

Michael Ratney, who has been the United States Special Envoy for Syria since July 2015, wrote a public letter , released on 11 March 2017, which labelled all constituent parts of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) as members of al-Qaeda and therefore as terrorists.[1] On 12 March, HTS’s “Administration of Political Affairs”—its newly-minted political office, perhaps evidence of an evolution in HTS’s thinking about an endgame in Syria—issued a statement in reply, which is reproduced below.
Continue reading

When the Islamic State’s Founder Clashed with an Al-Qaeda Cleric

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on February 12, 2017

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi [left] and Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi [right]

Al-Qaeda’s expulsion of the Islamic State (IS) from its ranks three years ago did not come from nowhere. IS had always been problematic and the dispute in the months leading up to the decisive break was far from the first time that Al-Qaeda “central” had clashed with the Iraq-based group. Continue reading

Al-Qaeda Reshapes the Insurgency in Northern Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on February 7, 2017

Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham logo

A series of clashes broke out on 19 January between al-Qaeda’s rebranded Syrian branch, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), and its heretofore close ally and portal into the Syrian rebellion, Ahrar al-Sham. By 23 January, JFS had expanded its targets, engaging in hostilities with mainstream rebel groups in the “Greater Idlib” area, and specifically trying—and succeeding—in dismantling the positions of Jaysh al-Mujahideen, a moderate group, west of Aleppo. The crisis continued to escalate, forcing many groups to merge with Ahrar al-Sham for protection, until 28 January, when a JFS-led merger was announced under the banner of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), or the Syrian Liberation Committee. HTS announced a ceasefire, and since then individuals and groups—including a significant number from Ahrar—have given allegiance to HTS. This radical reshaping of revolutionary dynamics in northern Syria has undoubtedly created antibodies going forward against al-Qaeda that could be capitalized on by the international community, but the present situation is highly favourable to al-Qaeda. Continue reading