The United States has launched at least five raids into Syria to date, all of them against the Islamic State (IS). The second such raid, on 15 May 2015, killed Fathi al-Tunisi (Abu Sayyaf al-Iraqi), who oversaw critical revenue-generating criminal schemes for the group. Al-Tunisi was primarily responsible for the oil industry in eastern Syria, in which capacity he collaborated with Bashar al-Asad’s regime, and he worked as head of the Antiquities Division of IS Diwan al-Rikaz, which translates literally as the “Department of Precious Things That Come Out of the Ground”, usually given as the “Department of Natural Resources”. Al-Tunisi was what is sometimes termed a “middle manager”: the connective tissue between the most senior levels of the leadership and local administrators, ensuring smooth coordination between the two by inter alia keeping the books. In short, the kind of terrorist operative that keeps an organisation going. Continue reading
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
Yesterday, the Islamic State (IS) released their thirteenth issue of Dabiq. Among many things, it contained an admission of death for Mohammed Emwazi (“Jihadi John”). Referred to by his kunya, Abu Muharib al-Muhajir, Dabiq said (pp. 22-23) Emwazi had been hit by an “unmanned drone in the city of ar-Raqqah” on November 12, “destroying the car and killing him instantly.” The biography that Dabiq offered gave some intriguing details, confirming some surmises I had made about Emwazi when his identity was revealed last spring, including his early involvement in an al-Qaeda network in London sending fighters to al-Shabab in Somalia—the thing that brought him to the attention of the security services, confirming that the truth was the inverse of CAGE’s infamous claim that harassment by the MI5 had radicalized Emwazi—and that Emwazi had left Britain to do jihad in Syria in the company of another British citizen. Emwazi was also in the thick of it when IS broke from al-Qaeda and offers an interesting and rare example of a European IS fighter entrusted with an internal security role for the caliphate.
The outreach director of CAGE (formerly Cageprisoners), Moazzam Begg, went to Syria between October 2012 and April 2013. Begg was arrested in Britain on Feb. 25, 2014, on terrorism-related charges because while in Syria, Begg attended a terrorist training camp. Begg was held in Belmarsh until Oct. 1, 2014. Begg had been due to begin trial on Oct. 5, 2014, but that trial was abandoned because of new evidence that meant there was “no longer a realistic prospect of gaining a conviction,” and Begg was released.
Begg is on record as having said that he “help[ed] to run a training camp in the countryside near Idlib … where opponents of the [Assad] regime could undergo physical exercise and acquire the rudiments of first aid and military training, with fake wooden guns.” There is certainly an ambiguity here: the only real defensive policy for Syria’s civilians is one that overthrows Assad, so Begg’s claim that what he did “was not an act of terrorism, but an attempt to help people defend themselves,” is not, on its face, ridiculous. Begg’s problem is that this was not a camp for Syrians; the camp he “help[ed] to run” was for foreign al-Qaeda members, who have done immense damage to the anti-Assad cause, associating it with fanaticism and atrocity and warding off necessary international support that could have toppled the dictator. Continue reading
The Islamic State released the fifth edition of its English-language propaganda magazine, Dabiq, on November 21, 2014. In it, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the terrorist attacks: in Australia by Numan Haider on September 23, in Canada by Martin Couture-Rouleau on October 20 and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau on October 22, and in America by Zale Thompson on October 23. The Islamic State says these attacks were in response to the call on September 22 by the organization’s spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani. The article is reproduced below with some minor editions for transliteration and some important sections highlighted in bold. Continue reading
On August 25, Bashar al-Assad’s Foreign Minister, Walid al-Muallem, said: “Syria is ready for co-operation … to fight terrorism.” The week before Assad’s PR guru, Bouthaina Shaaban, told CNN that an “international coalition,” including Russia, China, America, and Europe, should intervene to defeat the “terrorists,” whom she says make up the rebellion in Syria.
Back in March I wrote a long post laying out the evidence that the Assad regime was deliberately empowering then-ISIS, now the Islamic State (IS), helping it destroy moderate rebels and even Salafist and Salafi-jihadist forces, with the intention of making-good on its propaganda line that the only opposition to the regime came from takfiris, which would frighten the population into taking shelter behind the State, seeing this madness as the only alternative, and would at the very least keep the West from intervening to support the uprising and might even draw the West in to help defeat the insurgency. These statements represent the culmination of that strategy. Continue reading
This is an extraordinary piece of work from Vice News. Earlier this month they released a five-part film after one of their journalists, Medyan Dairieh, embedded with the Islamic State (I.S.), formerly ISIS, in Raqqa City, the de facto headquarters of I.S. in north-eastern Syrian. It’s an extraordinarily brave thing to do given the number of journalists I.S. has kidnapped, the number of journalists killed in Syria (at least sixty), and of course the penchant of the Zarqawi’ites for beheading Westerners on video, as gruesomely underlined again with the murder of James Foley. Continue reading