The US State Department today added two jihadists to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists; one is the spokesman for the Islamic State, and the other supports the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria.
State added Said Arif, an Algerian national who fled France in 2013 while under house arrest to join the Al Nusrah Front, and Abu Mohammed al Adnani, a Syrian who is the Islamic State’s top propagandist.
Arif, whose real name is Omar Gharib, has been involved with al Qaeda and other jihadist movements since the early 1990s. He is wanted by both the French and Algerian governments.
“Arif is an Algerian army officer deserter, who travelled to Afghanistan in the 1990s, where he trained in al Qaeda camps with weapons and explosives,” the State Department said in a press release announcing the designations. “Arif is a long-time terrorist who was a suspect in the al Qaeda December 2000 plot to bomb the Strasbourg Christmas market.”
He is said to have traveled to Pakistan, the Panski Gorge in Georgia, and then Syria, where he worked with al Qaeda in Iraq emir Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Syrian security forces detained Arif and deported him to France in 2004.
French authorities prosecuted Arif and 25 other members of the “Chechen Network,” a group of jihadists from France and North Africa who trained with Chechen rebels, in 2006.
“In 2002 the Chechen Network was accused of plotting to blow up the Eiffel Tower and conduct chemical attacks and attacks on malls and police stations in France,” State said. Arif was convicted aiding terrorist groups and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“Arif publicly declared that al Qaeda was planning to attack an American military base in Spain using chemical weapons,” State said.
In 2012, he was placed under house arrest. In October 2013, Arif disregarded the house arrest and fled to Syria, where he returned to al Qaeda’s fold and joined the Al Nusrah Front.
Abu Muhammed al Adnani
Adnani, a Syrian national, serves as the “official spokesman for and a senior leader of” the Islamic State, the successor to al Qaeda in Iraq that broke with the global terror group after declaring a caliphate in Iraq and Syria in late June.
Adnani is the Islamic State’s “main conduit for the dissemination of official messages, including [the Islamic State’s] declaration of the creation of an Islamic Caliphate.” He announced the formation of the caliphate and the rebranding of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham as the Islamic State on June 29. [See LWJ report, ISIS announces formation of Caliphate, rebrands as ‘Islamic State’.]
State described Adnani as “one of the first foreign fighters to oppose Coalition forces in Iraq before becoming [the Islamic State’s] spokesman.”
Adnani has released several controversial statements as the Islamic State and its predecessor’s spokesman. In February 2012, he called for jihadists in Iraq to slaughter the Shia, just as Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s forces did from 2005 to 2007. He also threatened to attack the United States.
In May 2014, Adnani railed against al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri and blamed him for the infighting between the Al Nusrah Front and the Islamic State. He also denied that Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s emir, had sworn allegiance to Zawahiri. [Earlier this year, Zawahiri offered evidence that Baghdadi did indeed swear bayat]. Ironically, Adnani released a statement in 2011 praising Zawahiri after he succeeded Osama bin Laden.
Adnani’s whereabouts are currently unknown. He is rumored to have been killed on July 24 after the Iraqi military launched an airstrike in Mosul that targeted a large gathering. His death has not been confirmed and the Islamic State has not released a martyrdom statement praising Adnani.
Designations follow UN blacklisting of six Al Nusrah and Islamic State operatives
The State Department’s designations take place just days after the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2170, calling for “all United Nations Member States to act to suppress the flow of foreign fighters, financing and other support to Islamist extremist groups in Iraq and Syria.” In addition, the Aug. 15 resolution demanded that “ISIL [Islamic State], Al Nusrah Front and all other entities associated with al Qaeda cease all violence and terrorist acts, and immediately disarm and disband.”
The UN resolution also blacklisted six Al Nusrah and Islamic State operatives, including Arif and Adnani, and said they had been added to the UN Resolution 1267 al Qaeda Sanctions List.
The other four operatives blacklisted by the UN are, according to Reuters, Abdul Mohsen Abdallah Ibrahim al Charekh, a Saudi who serves as “a leading terrorist internet propagandist” and commander for the Al Nusrah Front in Latakia in Syria; Al Nusrah Front financiers Hamid Hamad Hamid al Ali and Hajjaj bin Fahd al Ajmi, who are both from Kuwait; and Abdelrahman Mouhamad Zafir al Dabidi al Jahani, a Saudi who “runs [the Al Nusrah Front’s] foreign fighter networks.”
Kuwait’s UN envoy, Mansour Ayyad Al Otaibi, who expressed regret at the designation of the two Kuwaitis, assured that the blacklisting can be removed and will not be permanent. The UN designation notes that Kuwaiti designee Hamid Hamad Hamid al Al is associated with both the Islamic State and Al Nusrah. According to the Kuwait Times, al Ali “has collected large donations from Kuwait to support Nusrah Front in Syria, most notably for purchases of arms and equipment.. [and] also arranged travel for a number of foreign fighters to Syria.”