An American who previously explained his defection from the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, or ISIS, is seen posing in pictures with two ISIS commanders.
The purported American, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Muhammad al Amriki (the American), is seen in photographs posted on the Twitter page of a local ISIS commander known as Abu Abdurahman al Iraqi.
Abu Abdurahman currently commands ISIS forces in the town of Tal Jijan in Aleppo province. Previously, he was the commander of ISIS forces in Azaz, the border town where the ISIS clashed with the Al Nusrah Front and the Islamic Front before retreating. Abu Abdurahman is a prolific poster on Twitter. He often tweets images of himself or corpses of his enemies. In one photograph, Abu Abdurahman is seen posing with the severed heads of five Al Nusrah Front and Islamic Front fighters who were killed during clashes with the ISIS.
Abu Muhammad al Amriki, with gun raised, poses with Abu Abdurahman al Iraqi. Click photograph to enlarge.
In one picture, a bearded Abu Muhammad poses with Abu Abdurahman in front of a pickup truck with a heavy machine gun mounted in the bed. In another, he poses with Abu Abdurahman in front of a recoilless rifle. Both photographs show him wearing a Multicam parka, and a radio is included among his gear.
“Your brother Abu Muhammad al Amriki and your brother Abu Abdurahman Al Iraqi,” a translation of a statement accompanying one of the images says.
And in another picture, Abu Muhammad is seen walking alongside Omar al Shishani, a Chechen who is a top military commander in the ISIS. The photograph is dated Feb. 16 and was purportedly taken in Azaz. Omar joined the ISIS last year; previously he led the Muhajireen, or Emigrant’s Army.
Abu Muhammad’s real name is not known, and it is unclear if he is an American citizen. US officials in intelligence and government agencies told The Long War Journal in early February that they are investigating to determine his status. [See Threat Matrix report, ‘American’ jihadi with ISIS explains defection from Al Nusrah Front.]
In February, a video of Abu Muhammed was published on YouTube. In that video, he explained that he had defected from the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, to the ISIS after the two groups began fighting in the town of Atma, where he claimed he was a military commander. He also claimed to have lived in the United States for 10 or 11 years, but it is unclear if he was born in the US or obtained citizenship.
If Abu Mohammad is determined to be an American citizen, he would be the latest in a long line of Westerners who have traveled to Syria, or are seeking to do so, to join up with jihadist groups fighting the regime of President Bashar al Assad.
Americans are known to fight in Syria against the Assad regime, and most are thought to join the Al Nusrah Front, the ISIS, or Islamist groups such as the brigades in the Islamic Front. On Feb. 4, James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, told Congress that more than 50 Americans are thought to be waging jihad in Syria and are among 7,500 foreign fighters in the country.
Yesterday, the US indicted Nicholas Teausant from California for “supporting violent extremist activities and providing material support to various terrorist organizations.” A private in the National Guard, Teausant said he “would love to join Allah’s army” and wanted to be “part of America’s ‘down fall.'” He was arrested at the Canadian border while en route to Syria to join the ISIS.
The most infamous American to have fought in Syria is Eric Harroun, who joined the Al Nusrah Front, and then turned himself in to US officials while in Turkey. Harroun later pled guilty to a weapons charge and was sentenced to time served.
Other known American jihadists include Amiir Farouk Ibrahim, who was born in Pennsylvania on Oct. 30, 1980, according to his passport, which was found in an ISIS safe house last year. Ibrahim is thought to have been killed last year.
Nicole Lynn Mansfield, an American from Flint, Mich., was killed in May 2013. She fought for Ahrar al Sham, an Islamist brigade that is part of the Islamic Front. One of Ahrar al Sham’s top leaders, Abu Khalid al Suri, was also a senior al Qaeda leader and the personal representative to Ayman al Zawahiri in Syria, until he was killed by a suspected ISIS suicide attack in Aleppo in late February.