Tag Archives: Jabhat Fatah al-Sham

The Campaign to Weaken An Al-Qaeda-Affiliated Group in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 12 September 2017

Abdallah al-Muhaysini and Muslah al-Alyani, two senior clerics in Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the former al-Qaeda branch in Syria, resigned on 11 September 2017 after leaked recordings showed HTS commanders musing about assassinating al-Muhaysini. There is clearly a well-orchestrated campaign underway to weaken HTS by discrediting and dividing it, and the sophistication of the campaign gives every indication of being the work of a state intelligence service, almost certainly Turkey’s. 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

Al-Qaeda in Syria Linked to a Terror Plot in the United States

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 30 June 2017

Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud (source)

In April 2015, a United State Federal Grand jury in Ohio charged Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, also known as “Ayanle”, with three terrorism-related offences. Yesterday, court records were unsealed that revealed that Mohamud pleaded guilty to all charges, admitting to having fought with a terrorist organization in Syria and returned to the United States with the intention of carrying out an act of domestic terrorism. Mohamud was in contact with foreign terrorist operatives throughout the period he was plotting an attack within the United States. But—and this is the most significant aspect of the case—Mohamud was not in contact with one of the Islamic State’s intelligence operatives, who guide attacks in a manner now relatively well-understood. Instead, Mohamud was in contact with Jabhat al-Nusra, at that time al-Qaeda’s declared branch in Syria. Al-Nusra is now known as Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and claimed in July 2016 to have disaffiliated from al-Qaeda’s “central”, not that this has (nor will nor should) remove HTS from the terrorism list. Regardless of its formal status within al-Qaeda’s command structure, HTS retains significant links with al-Qaeda’s global networks, and a breakaway group from HTS in Syria has reaffirmed its loyalty to al-Qaeda. Mohamud’s case is an extremely important data point in assessing the risk these overlapping and mutually reinforcing entities pose to the West and the wider world. Continue reading

Al-Qaeda’s Leader Calls on Syria’s Opposition to Shun the West, Rely on the Jihadists

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 23 April 2017

Al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released a speech today entitled, “Sham Will Submit to None Except Allah” or “Syria Will Submit to None Except Allah”. The short speech—around five minutes in length—was part of the “Brief Messages” series, “Brief Messages to a Victorious Nation 6,” to be exact. An English transcript of al-Zawahiri’s speech was released by As-Sabha Media and is reproduced below with some editions in transliteration, explanatory notes added, and interesting sections highlighted in bold.
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State Department Designates Two Canadian Jihadists in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 14 April 2017

Farah Mohamed Shirdon, Tarek Sakr (image source)

The U.S. State Department added two Canadians to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT) on 13 April. One of them, Tarek Sakr, of Syrian descent, is associated with Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch, which has since been through two rebrands to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS) and currently Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). The other, Farah Mohamed Shirdon, of Somali background, is a member of the Islamic State (IS). Continue reading

America Sanctions Anjem Choudary and other British Islamic State Jihadists

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 30 March 2017

Anjem Choudary (image source)

The State Department designated five individuals on 30 March 2017 as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs), imposing sanctions on them for having “committed, or [for] pos[ing] a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.” Four of those sanctioned are members of the Islamic State (IS), including two key British operatives in the group’s global network, and the other is a member of al-Qaeda. On the same day, the Treasury Department sanctioned two IS operatives involved in funding and guiding external IS operations in the Far East and Southeast Asia. Continue reading

Australian Jihadi Spokesman Distances Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham From Al-Qaeda, Criticises America

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 20 March 2017

Mostafa Mahamed on Sky News, August 2016

Mostafa Mahamed (Abu Sulayman al-Muhajir) is a U.S.-designated terrorist, an al-Qaeda operative who has formally resigned from al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), which was previously Jabhat al-Nusra and has now reorganized itself as Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). Earlier this month, on 11 March, Michael Ratney, the U.S. special envoy to Syria, released an open letter (in Arabic) labelling all constituents of HTS as terrorists seeking to exploit the Syrian opposition, and incited divisions within the Islamist sections of the insurgency by including Ahrar al-Sham—heretofore a close HTS ally, though recently involved in clashes with the group—as part of the Syrian revolution. HTS issued a formal response on 12 March and, on 20 March, Mahamed issued his own response, which is reproduced below. The main themes were anti-Americanism and dissuading the Syrian armed opposition that the U.S. was an ally; arguing that HTS was different than JFS and unconnected to al-Qaeda; and the strong impression of a threat should the U.S. move against HTS—while explicitly denying that such a threat was being made.
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