ISIS reportedly kills Al Nusrah Front's commander for Idlib province

April 16, 2014 10:08 PM
By Bill Roggio

Abu-Muhammad-al-Ansari.jpg

Abu Muhammad al Ansari.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham is reported to have killed Abu Muhammad al Ansari, the leader of the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant in Idlib province. The report has not been officially confirmed by the Al Nusrah Front.

Al Ansari's death was reported by "trusted sources" to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an independent media group that covers the Syrian civil war.

According to the Observatory, "4 ISIS sleepers from Harem area entered his house last night in Ras Al-Hesen village" in Idlib province "in order to check on his [al Ansari's] health after an accident he was exposed to few days ago." The ISIS assassination team "killed his wife, his 2 children, and both of his brothers, who were in the house."

Al Ansari's death has not been confirmed by the Al Nusrah Front or top jihadist leaders in the group. However there are numerous reports of his death on the social media pages of various jihadists in Syria.

The Al Nusrah Front and the ISIS, which was disowned by al Qaeda's General Command earlier this year for failing to resolve differences with rival jihadist and Syrian rebel groups, have been clashing for months. The ISIS has targeted and killed senior Al Nusrah Front leaders in the past. The ISIS is accused of killing Abu Khalid al Suri, al Qaeda's representative to Syria, in a suicide attack in Aleppo at the end of February.

The Al Nusrah Front's emir, Abu Muhammad al Julani, has been at odds with Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the leader of the ISIS, after the latter attempted to subsume the Al Nusrah Front into the Islamic State in April 2013. Al Julani refused, and was backed by Ayman al Zawahiri, the head of al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda has attempted to mediate the dispute and has called on the ISIS to submit to sharia, or Islamic, courts in order to resolve the problems. Al Baghdadi has refused, and the two groups began clashing in late 2013.

At the end of February 2014, al Julani issued an ultimatum for the ISIS to end its attacks on jihadist and rebel units in Syria or the groups will destroy the ISIS in both Syria and in Iraq. He quickly backed down as al Qaeda has continued to attempt resolve the dispute peaceably.


Link lwj-print-icon-2.jpg Comments (0)

Suspected AQAP militants kill deputy governor in Baydha

April 15, 2014 10:16 AM
By Oren Adaki

dayyan.jpg

Hussein al Dayan, the deputy governor of Baydha province, who was assassinated today. Photo from Al Hayat.


Militants believed to be from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) assassinated the deputy governor of Baydha province in central Yemen today. The head of provincial security for Baydha, Adel al Asbahi, said that gunmen opened fire on the deputy governor of the province, Hussein Dayyan, as he stepped outside his home in al Baydha City, the provincial capital.

A local Yemeni security official who refused to be identified claimed that the attackers were masked, and accused al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula of carrying out the attack. He said that the assassination "had all the hallmarks of al Qaeda," according to Al Arabiya. The militants, who were driving a car at the time of the attack, managed to escape.

Only hours after Hussein Dayyan's assassination, militants also thought to be from AQAP assassinated Nasser al Rimah, a high-ranking Yemeni intelligence officer, in a popular marketplace in Baydha's Dhahar district.

Sources in the Yemeni security services have previously stated that Shabwa, Hadramout, Abyan, and Baydha provinces have been battlegrounds for an open war between al Qaeda and Yemeni security personnel that has lasted for over two years and caused the deaths of hundreds. AQAP has routinely targeted Yemeni political, military, and intelligence officials, especially since Yemeni state forces recaptured territory that AQAP held between 2011-2012. Baydha province has particularly become an AQAP stronghold ever since increasing numbers of militants migrated there following their expulsion from neighboring Abyan province as a result of the Yemeni military counteroffensive in 2012.


Link lwj-print-icon-2.jpg Comments (0)

Al Qaeda weapons ship docks in Aden

April 14, 2014 1:14 PM
By Oren Adaki

According to a local Yemeni newspaper, on April 11 al Qaeda militants sailed a ship loaded with weapons into the country's southern port in Aden. Clashes erupted between the militants and security personel from the Yemeni anti-smuggling unit when the ship docked in Aden and the militants began offloading the weapons. The militants violently engaged the security personnel and then managed to escape by reboarding the ship and setting sail.

Boats belonging to the Yemeni coast guard and navy attempted to follow the ship but apparently lost its trail. According to sources, two militants were killed by Yemeni security forces; it is unclear whether they were killed in the initial clashes at the port of Aden or during the maritime chase.

Two days earlier, on April 9, the Yemeni Interior Ministry had warned in a memo to security services in the coastal provinces that a ship belong to al Qaeda thought to be carrying weapons had departed Djibouti the night before. At the time it was believed that the ship was headed to one of Yemen's ports and was manned by militants hailing from Yemen's eastern Hadramout province.

In related news, on April 12 one Yemeni soldier was killed and another injured when militants attacked a vehicle carrying military salaries in the city of Tarim in central Hadramout. After what eyewitnesses described as an ambush by al Qaeda militants, fighting broke out between the soldiers in the car and the attackers.

During the Arab Spring protests against the rule of former president Ali Abdallah Saleh in 2011-2012, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) took advantage of turmoil in the country to seize control of vast areas in Yemen's south, including Hadramout. Although the Yemeni military launched a successful counteroffensive to recapture territory back from the terrorist organization in mid-2012, AQAP's networks and militants have not been completely cleared from those areas and are known to operate in Hadramout and other southern provinces.



Link lwj-print-icon-2.jpg Comments (0)

Social Media Jihad: Still tweeting Ayman al Zawahiri

April 14, 2014 10:43 AM
By Thomas Joscelyn

Muhaysini Tweets Message to Zawahiri.JPG

Last week, I reported on a public message from several prominent jihadist ideologues to Ayman al Zawahiri. The ideologues want Zawahiri to issue a statement that more directly condemns the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS). The signatories quickly took to Twitter to post the message and build support for it. They have continued to do so.

Yesterday, Abdallah Muhammad al Muhaysini, a popular al Qaeda-linked Saudi cleric, tweeted the message above. Muhaysini calls on supporters to retweet the message, with an associated hashtag, "so that everyone will see the extent of the demand and so that the call is conveyed." The hashtag says the message is from the Ummah, or community of worldwide Muslims, to the sage of the Ummah, Ayman al Zawahiri. (Of course, the notion that Zawahiri is the sage of some unified Muslim community is ridiculous.)

Muhaysini and the others want Zawahiri to "direct general guidance to the mujahideen" in Syria, in addition to issuing a more pointed condemnation of ISIS.

Thus far, more than 850 people have retweeted Muhaysini's message.


Thanks to Oren Adaki, a research associate and Arabic language specialist at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, for his translation help.


Link lwj-print-icon-2.jpg Comments (0)

Jihadist media unit confirms death of Israeli Arab in Syria

April 14, 2014 10:00 AM
By David Barnett

Hussein Othman Masarwa Syria Israel.png

On April 12, the Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center (ITMC), a jihadist media unit, confirmed the death of Israeli Arab Hussein Othman Masarwa. In a series of tweets the ITMC, known for publishing statements from the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem, said that Masarwa had died a few days earlier in Syria.

The tweets did not specify how Masarwa died or the group he had been fighting for. According to press reports, Masarwa had been in Syria for about two years prior to his death.

It is currently unclear whether Hussein Othman Masarwa, originally from Tayibe, Israel, is related to Hikmat Masarwa, also from Tayibe. In April 2013, Hikmat Masrawa was arrested after returning from Syria, where Israeli authorities said he had received military training from Syria opposition members. According to some reports, Hikmat had received training from "global jihad fighters." In July 2013, Hikmat, who said he had gone to Syria to find his brother, accepted a plea bargain.

Reliable figures on the number of Israeli Arabs who are fighting or have fought in the ongoing Syrian conflict are hard to come by. According to one report, the number is between 15 and 20. In February, Abd al Kadr Altaleh, an Israeli Arab also from Tayibe, was convicted of going to Syria and joining al Qaeda's Al Nusrah Front. Last September, press reports and jihadists said that Mueid Juma'a, an Israeli Arab who fought with the Al Nusrah Front, had died fighting in Syria. In October, reports suggested that Juma'a may be alive, however.

The Shin Bet has warned on a number of occasions since the fighting began in Syria that authorities "fear they [Israeli Arabs] will be exploited by terrorists [in Syria], both as a source of information about targets in Israel, as well as for carrying out military operations against Israel."


Link lwj-print-icon-2.jpg Comments (0)

Al Nusrah Front fighter reportedly arrested for planning attacks in Egypt

April 13, 2014 7:00 AM
By David Barnett

Egyptian state-run media today announced that authorities have arrested an Egyptian citizen who had returned from fighting with al Qaeda's Al Nusrah Front in Syria.

Egypt has arrested a veteran of the Syrian civil war on suspicion of planning terrorist acts inside Egypt, the state news agency reported on Sunday.

The Egyptian prosecutor's office in Suez City ordered the arrest of Wael Ahmed Abdel Fattah for 15 days, MENA reported, adding that he was suspected of working with Islamist militant groups.

MENA said Abdel Fattah, a former oil company employee, battled in Syria alongside the Nusra Front, seen as the most effective rebel group fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

According to Egyptian media reports, Wael Ahmed Abdel Fattah had left about two years ago for Syria, which he entered through Turkish territory.

It is unclear whether the suspected jihadist is linked to Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis), the dominant jihadist group in Egypt today. Over the past six months, Ansar Jerusalem has confirmed that at least four of its fighters who have died in Egypt had fought in Syria prior to returning to Egypt.

And on March 10, Egypt's Interior Ministry announced the arrest of Mohammed Durri Ahmad al Taliawi, claiming that he was involved in the January bombing of the Cairo Security Directorate and that he had fought in Syria. Ansar Jerusalem has not confirmed that Taliawi was a member, however.

In early February, Egyptian and US officials expressed concern that Egyptian jihadists abroad were returning to their home country to partake in the nascent insurgency.


Link lwj-print-icon-2.jpg Comments (0)

Arming the 'moderate' rebels in the Syrian south

April 12, 2014 12:00 AM
By Lisa Lundquist

A front page story in yesterday's New York Times features Syrian rebel commanders and coordinators complaining that weapons and other aid provided by the US are merely "buying time and giving people the illusion that there is aid when really there is not." While the US has given the rebels over $260 million in "nonlethal support," the article contends, the aid has not significantly helped or even convinced them that the US wants them to win.

Some caution on the US' part in arming the rebels is warranted, however.

One of the rebel commanders depicted in the article is Bashar al Zoabi, head of the Yarmouk Brigade. Portrayed sympathetically (he is photographed at home with his young son, in the article's online version), Zoabi heads a militia that has fought alongside the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, on several occasions.

The "moderate Islamist" Yarmouk Brigade (or Yarmouk Martyrs' Brigade) was formed in Deraa in August 2012 and fights mainly along the border with Jordan and the Golan Heights, according to the BBC. In the past it has been linked to the Free Syrian Army's Supreme Military Council, but the New York Times article does not mention either the FSA or the SMC. In fact, the Yarmouk Brigade (Shuhada al Yarmouk Brigade) was one of 60 groups that defected from the Free Syrian Army in October [see LWJ report, Free Syrian Army continues to fracture as more units defect].

In March and May last year, the Yarmouk Brigade seized UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights, releasing them only after "tough negotiations."

Also in March 2013, the Yarmouk Brigade fought alongside the Al Nusrah Front in the storming of an air defense base as well as military checkpoints in Deraa, which effectively put them in control of a 25-kilometer stretch of the border from the Golan to Jordan. [See LWJ report, Al Nusrah Front, allies seize border area across the Golan Heights.]

In September, the Yarmouk Brigade teamed up with Al Nusrah again to conduct another joint operation. Along with the Aknaf Bait al Maqdis, or Defenders of Jerusalem, a jihadist outfit allied with al Qaeda that operates in Deraa, they spearheaded a weeklong battle that culminated in the capture of the Deraa border crossing into Jordan. [See LWJ report, Al Nusrah Front, Free Syrian Army seize border crossing to Jordan.]

As a September article in Al Monitor on the capture of the Deraa border crossing pointed out, Yarmouk Brigade commander Zoabi denied that the Free Syrian Army's military council played any role in the takeover. Jordan, meanwhile, kept a stony silence: "A prominent Jordanian minister did tell Al-Hayat that Amman 'was closely monitoring the developing military operation near its border, but that it would not acknowledge the control of extremist factions over any border post connecting it with Damascus.'"

An Al Jazeera reporter noted at the time: "'The border crossing has been closed for nearly two years now. It was closed while it was under the control of the Syrian army ...[s]o it definitely won't be opened by Jordan now, especially that the rebels who captured it are not part of the Saudi-backed military council in Deraa, whom Jordan had some security coordination with.'"

Yesterday's New York Times article quotes Zoabi describing the current state of that border: "The situation is good. Jordan controls the border and arms are not brought in randomly." His comment bears some similarity to the one he made back on Sept. 25 after seizing the Deraa crossing with the help of Al Nusrah and another Islamist brigade: "We now control approximately 70% of the crossing that separates Syria from Jordan, and we expect to be in complete control of it within the coming hours."

Despite a general dearth of reporting on the current situation along Syria's border with Jordan, the New York Times article appears eager to assure readers that the rebels' Jordanian border "control room" is under control, and that "the largely stagnant southern battlefield ... is heavily influenced by outside powers whose main goals are to limit the rise of extremists and preserve stability in Jordan."

The Yarmouk Brigade, like other "moderate Islamist" fighting groups in Syria, has attempted to accommodate Western and Gulf backers while adhering to Islamist tenets. A recent article in Al Monitor notes that from its beginning, the group's branding has deliberately combined both jihadist and secular themes and imagery.

Nonetheless, the US and allies have apparently embraced the group as a "moderate." Al Monitor reports that the US has agreed to provide advanced weaponry, including antiaircraft missiles, to the Saudi-backed Yarmouk Brigade "on the assumption that the arms provided to the Southern Front would be less likely to 'fall into the hands of al-Qaeda-inspired groups,'" including the Islamic Front (another group that has been described as "moderate Islamist").

It should also be noted that the New York Times article's claim that "[i]In the south, the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda's main affiliate in Syria, is not a leading power" may be delusory. Over the past two months, Al Nusrah has not only led most of the rebel offensives in the north, but has also been heavily involved in fighting in the southern province of Damascus, as well as in more central Homs. In addition, Al Nusrah targeted regime buses in the southern province of Deraa on Feb. 18, and launched a joint offensive with the Islamic Front's Ahrar al Sham in Deraa on Feb. 23.

The problem facing the US and other backers of the 'moderate opposition' is that the Islamists are dominating the fighting on all major rebel fronts in Syria. On a purely logistical level, it is becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to find truly 'moderate' groups to arm.



Link lwj-print-icon-2.jpg Comments (2)

Social Media Jihad: Tweeting a message to Zawahiri

April 11, 2014 3:56 PM
By Thomas Joscelyn

Earlier today, I published an article on a letter signed by several jihadist ideologues addressed to their "sheikh," Ayman al Zawahiri, the head of al Qaeda. The ideologues want Zawahiri to deliver more pointed criticisms of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS). At the time I wrote the piece, a few of the ideologues who signed the message had not yet tweeted it, even though they maintain active Twitter feeds.

Since I published the article, both Abdallah Muhammad al Muhaysini and Iyad Quneibi, who are signatories on the letter, have tweeted it. They are using a common hashtag associated with the letter. [Click on the hyperlink and you see the tweets.]

Sami al Uraydi, a sharia official in the Al Nusrah Front, had previously tweeted it. But now two other Al Nusrah Front officials who are also active on Twitter have done so as well. One is Abu Mariyah al Qahtani and the other Abu Sulayman al Muhajir, an extremist preacher who once lived in Australia, but is now with Al Nusrah. Sulayman announced his support for the message in the Tweet.

Together, Uraydi, Qahtani, and Sulayman are three of the most prominent Al Nusrah Front officials on Twitter. They have all been very active in the fight with ISIS and, therefore, have a significant interest in getting Zawahiri to say more on their behalf.


Link lwj-print-icon-2.jpg Comments (0)

Ansar Jerusalem leader allegedly killed in North Sinai

April 11, 2014 10:27 AM
By David Barnett

In a statement released to his official Facebook page, Egypt's army spokesman said security forces operating in North Sinai managed to killed Nour Hamdeen, a wanted Islamist militant. Security forces "set up an ambush" and "chased and clashed with" Hamdeen, a security source told Xinhua.

Security officials told media outlets that Hamdeen was a leader in Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis), the dominant jihadist group in Egypt today. According to Ma'an News Agency, Hamdeen has links to Mohammed Hussein Muhareb (also known as Abu Mounir), who was killed in November by Egyptian security forces. The Telegraph reported that Abu Mounir, known as the "Sheikh of the Takfiris," was linked to Takfir wal Hijra as well as Ansar Jerusalem.

In a video released in mid-September 2013, Ansar Jerusalem showed footage of the mosque where Abu Mounir was known to preach. The mosque was attacked by Egyptian forces "from the air one time and with tank shells another time," the group said.

Ansar Jerusalem, which was designated on April 9 as a foreign terrorist organization by the US, has yet to comment on Hamdeen's alleged death.

Since 2011, Ansar Jerusalem has confirmed dead only 25 named members, according to a tally maintained by The Long War Journal. On March 23, the jihadist group confirmed the deaths of six of its fighters in clashes with Egyptian security forces on March 19.

The nascent insurgency

Since July 3, 2013, there have been more than 330 reported attacks in the Sinai Peninsula, most of which were carried out against Egyptian security forces and assets, according to data maintained by The Long War Journal. A good number of these attacks, including the Nov. 20, 2013, car bombing that killed 11 Egyptian security personnel, have been claimed by Ansar Jerusalem. On Jan. 26, Ansar Jerusalem released video of its fighters using a surface-to-air missile to take down an Egyptian helicopter operating in North Sinai. Five Egyptian soldiers were killed in the attack.

Attacks by Sinai-based jihadists, Ansar Jerusalem specifically, have also taken place outside North Sinai. On Sept. 5, 2013, the jihadist group used a suicide car bomber in an assassination attempt in Nasr City on Egypt's interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim. A month later, an Ansar Jerusalem suicide bomber unleashed a blast at the South Sinai Security Directorate in el Tor, which killed three security personnel and injured more than 45. On Oct. 19, 2013, the Sinai-based jihadist group targeted a military intelligence building in the city of Ismailia in another car bombing. And on Nov. 19, 2013, the group claimed responsibility for the shooting attack on Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Mabrouk, a senior national security officer, in Cairo. In late December 2013, an Ansar Jerusalem suicide car bombing attack outside the Daqahliya security directorate in Mansoura killed over a dozen people and injured over 130 more. Five days after the attack in Mansoura, Ansar Jerusalem carried out a car bombing outside a military intelligence building in Anshas in the Sharkiya governorate.

More recently, Ansar Jerusalem took credit for a series of bombings in Cairo, including a car bombing at the Cairo Security Directorate on Jan. 24 that left at least six people dead. On Jan. 28, the group said its fighters were responsible for the assassination of an aide to Egypt's Interior Minister in Cairo. In mid-February, the group took credit for a suicide attack on a tourist bus in the South Sinai city of Taba.

The al Furqan Brigades, which are not believed to be based in the Sinai, have also claimed responsibility for a number of shootings and rocket attacks in the Egyptian mainland since July 2013. In addition, a group calling itself Ajnad Misr has claimed responsibility for about a dozen attacks in the Cairo area in recent months. And most recently, a group calling itself Kataeb Ansar al Sharia fi Ard al Kinanah (Brigades of Ansar al Sharia in the Land of Egypt), claimed responsibility for a slew of recent shooting attacks in the governorates of Sharkiya, Beni Suef, and Giza.

On April 6, a spokesman for Egypt's Interior Ministry said that Islamist militants were using various names of groups "to distract police attention," according to Egyptian state-run news agency MENA.


Link lwj-print-icon-2.jpg Comments (0)

Social Media Jihad: Banner dedicated to Zawahiri's main representative in Syria

April 10, 2014 4:39 PM
By Thomas Joscelyn

Abu Khalid al Suri remembrance banner.jpg

The banner above has been tweeted and retweeted by a number of jihadists. It shows several photos of Abu Khalid al Suri, Ayman al Zawahiri's main representative inside Syria until he was killed in a suicide bombing on Feb. 23.

Abu Sulayman al Muhajir, a sharia official in the Al Nusrah Front (al Qaeda's official branch in Syria) who formerly preached in Australia, retweeted it earlier today. The English accompanying the banner reads, "We will never forget Sheikh Abu Khalid May Allah curse his killers and those who ordered it."

Of course, Abu Khalid's killers were most likely sent by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS), the former al Qaeda affiliate that is fighting with Al Nusrah.



Link lwj-print-icon-2.jpg Comments (0)

Chechen ISIS leader slams Al Nusrah Front for killing Moroccan commander

April 10, 2014 10:38 AM
By Bill Roggio

Omar al Shishani, a Chechen who serves as a senior military commander for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, verbally attacked the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda's branch in Syria, for killing a Moroccan military commander.

Omar's statement was made in a martyrdom video for Abu Usama al Maghribi, a Moroccan who served as a front line commander for the ISIS, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which obtained and translated the video. The ISIS accused a member of the Al Nusrah Front of killing Abu Usama, and Omar said that Abu Usama had previously saved the life of his killer.

"This person was a commander in the Front of Defeat; and it is not the Front of Victory [a play on the name Al Nusrah Front] at all. This is the person who Abu Usama saved, and his reward was to be killed treacherously!" Omar stated, according to SITE.

The ISIS and the Al Nusrah Front have been engaged in fighting against each other on the ground as well as on the Internet since the ISIS' emir, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, attempted to subsume Al Nusrah in April 2013. Al Qaeda's General Command disowned the ISIS earlier this year after the latter refused to submit to sharia courts for arbitration.

Moroccans are known to fight for the ISIS (in both Iraq and Syria), the Al Nusrah Front, and other independent groups. Earlier this week, the ISIS identified three Moroccans who died in suicide attacks in the group's "Southern Division" in Iraq. Moroccans are also likely among the seven "al Maghrebis" who conducted suicide attacks over the past half year in the ISIS' Baghdad Division.

And last week, the Islamic Caucasus Emirate announced that Ibrahim Bin Shakaran, a Moroccan who spent more than three years at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility before being freed, has been killed while leading Sham al Islam in fighting in Latakia. Sham al Islam is based in Latakia and is comprised primarily of fighters from Morocco. Bin Shakaran had run a recruiting network for Abu Musab al Zarqawi after the US turned him over to Morocco, which subsequently freed him.


Link lwj-print-icon-2.jpg Comments (1)

Social Media Jihad: Open interview with al Qaeda's sharia official in Pakistan

April 9, 2014 3:58 PM
By Thomas Joscelyn

Al Qaeda is advertising on Twitter an upcoming open interview with Asim Umar, the dual-hatted Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda leader. The banner ads can be seen below.

Umar serves as al Qaeda's top sharia official in Pakistan. His face is covered in the advertisement, so the interview won't be that open.

Umar has been featured in al Qaeda's propaganda on a number of occasions. He is important enough within the organization to have been featured in a propaganda film created by al Qaeda to mark the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

This sort of thing is hardly new. Other al Qaeda ideologues have held similar events. For instance, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has hosted online question and answer sessions.

The advertisement for Umar's appearance by As Sahab (al Qaeda's media arm) says that questions can be submitted in four languages, including English. The session will be held in mid-May.

For some background on Umar, see LWJ report: Pakistani Taliban leader discusses 'global jihad,' Syria in al Qaeda video.

Open Interview with Asim Umar.jpg



Link lwj-print-icon-2.jpg Comments (2)

Dozens killed in Taliban infighting in South Waziristan

April 9, 2014 10:41 AM
By Bill Roggio

Two factions of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, one led by Waliur Rehman Mehsud, the group's emir for South Waziristan, and another by Sajna Mehsud, a senior commander, are currently fighting in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency. At least 24 fighters, including a local commander known as Kasheed Mehsud, are reported to have been killed since Sunday, according to The News.

Reports say the fighting is occurring between factions of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan that disagree over negotiations with the Pakistani government. And Asmatullah Shaheen Bhittani, who led the group's executive council, was gunned down in North Waziristan in February for supporting negotiations. The Taliban's spokesman denied, however, that the infighting is due to negotiations:

TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid confirmed the fighting between the two militant factions but denied that it was due to differences over negotiations. "It happens and sometime people of one group develop differences over certain issues. But I want to explain that the fighting between the two groups was not over the peace talks," Shahidullah Shahid insisted.

Jihadist factions in Pakistan's tribal areas occasionally clash over various different issues. These disputes are often resolved after senior Taliban and al Qaeda officials step in. For instance, top leaders of the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, and the Haqqani Network intervened after the Mullah Nazir Group fought with the Islamic Jihad Group in 2007 and 2008.


Link lwj-print-icon-2.jpg Comments (2)

Attack in Hadramout kills 4 Yemeni soldiers

April 8, 2014 10:12 AM
By Oren Adaki

Four Yemeni soldiers were killed today in what appears to be an al Qaeda attack on a military checkpoint in eastern Hadramout province. A Yemeni security official said that militants "believed to belong to al Qaeda" assaulted a Yemeni special forces checkpoint with machine guns and missiles at the western entrance to the city of al Mukallah, the provincial capital of Hadramout, Erem News reported. The same official claimed that the attack led to the deaths of four soldiers and wounded two others.

The source noted that the soldiers could not ascertain if any militants were killed during the intense clashes at the checkpoint.

Today's attack in al Mukallah comes two weeks after an attack on another checkpoint in the provincial capital which led to the deaths of 20 Yemeni special forces soldiers. Like today's attack, the assault "bore all the hallmarks of al Qaeda," according to security sources.

Hadramout is the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, and the province has become an AQAP bastion over the past several years. AQAP has regrouped in Hadramout and other provinces after losing control of major cities in Abyan and Shabwa provinces to government forces starting in late spring 2012. In May 2013, the Yemeni government claimed it foiled a plot by AQAP to establish an Islamic emirate in the Ghayl Bawazir area.

AQAP has launched a series of assassinations and complex attacks against Yemeni security forces in the province. In September 2013, a platoon-sized AQAP assault team stormed a base run by the Interior Ministry's paramilitary Central Security Organization in the city of Mukallah. Several soldiers were killed and the base was held by AQAP for days before it was retaken by commandos.

The US began conducting drone strikes in Hadramout in 2012, and has now carried out a total of 15 strikes in the province. On March 6, AQAP retaliated for the killing of AQAP commander Ali Juraym in a drone strike in Al Jawf province by brutally killing a so-called "American spy" in Hadramout.


Link lwj-print-icon-2.jpg Comments (1)

Yemen identifies 4 slain AQAP militants

April 7, 2014 9:30 AM
By Oren Adaki

Today Yemeni security authorities released information on one of the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) members killed in the April 2 terrorist attack on the military facility in Aden. Initial reports had said that at least three terrorists died in a shootout during the assault, which involved a suicide car bombing followed by attackers in a separate vehicle. The latest-named attacker is the fourth of 10 slain AQAP militants involved in the attack to have been identified by Yemeni authorities.

Last week, the Yemeni Ministry of Defense released information on three of the slain AQAP militants on its official website. The ministry identified two of them as locals from Aden: Rami Salah Sa'id al Khadr, 28, and Fahmi Ali Awwad Mansour, 24. The third man was a local of Ta'iz province, Nasser Ali Nasser al Faqih.

The fourth militant, Hussein Nasser al Diyani, who was named today, was reportedly already wanted by Yemeni authorities for his involvement in criminal and terrorist activities. Yemeni security officials claimed that he had gone into hiding eight months ago, apparently not notifying his family of his departure. They also reported that al Diyani had written a will before carrying out the attack in Aden, a practice commonly undertaken by suicide attackers.

AQAP released a statement last week taking credit for the attack and stating that the militant group killed 50 Yemeni soldiers, a claim categorically denied by Yemeni military officials, who put the figure at eight soldiers. The Yemeni soldiers killed in last week's attacks were buried on Saturday after a funeral procession led by the Yemeni military chief of staff, Ahmad Ali al Ashwal.


Link lwj-print-icon-2.jpg Comments (0)

Pakistani Taliban launch website, which is promptly taken down

April 6, 2014 8:47 AM
By Bill Roggio

TTP-website-Umar-Media.jpg

A screen shot of Umar Media's home page before it was taken down.

The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, or Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, launched an official website. Within 24 hours of the website's launch, the URL is no longer valid.

The website, called Umar Media, is designed to serve as the official media outlet of the Pakistani group, just as Voice of Jihad does for the Afghan Taliban. The Umar Media website has the same the look and feel as the Pakistani Taliban's sister organization in Afghanistan.

"All the latest videos, magazines, statements, announcements, statements of the chief spokesman, and poems" will be posted on Umar Media, according to an email sent to The Long War Journal on April 5 that announced the launch of the website.

"Any news and video attributed to [the Pakistani Taliban] should not be considered valid" unless it is published on the website, the email stated.

The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan frequently complains about unofficial statements attributed to its leaders. The al Qaeda-linked group has even issued fatwas, or religious rulings, that attack the media for publishing such statements.

The Taliban also provided emails for its official spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, as well as for Umar Media.

The Umar Media website was taken down almost immediately; it is unclear who is responsible for shutting it down. An email sent by The Long War Journal to Shahidullah and Umar Media on the status of the website has not yet been answered.

According to the WhoIs information associated with the URL, Umar Media was registered by Malik Faraz, who is based in Karachi, Pakistan.


Link lwj-print-icon-2.jpg Comments (5)

Tajik, Kazakh, and Russian fighters killed in Syria

April 4, 2014 11:31 AM
By Bill Roggio

Asian-jihadists-killed-in-Syria.jpg

Abu Khurayra al Kazakh, Abu Ahmad al Tajik, and Ismail al Dagestani.

Jihadists from Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Russia have recently been killed while waging jihad in Syria, according to Akhbar Sham, a Russian-language website that supports the Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar (Army of Emigrants and Supporters, or Muhajireen Army), a group of foreign fighters led by commanders from the Caucasus. The deaths of the three fighters were promoted by Kavkaz Center, a propaganda arm of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate, or Imarat Kavkaz.

Akhbar Sham reported that Abu Khurayra al Kazakh, Abu Ahmad al Tajik, and Ismail al Dagestani (from the Russian Republic of Dagestan) have been killed in Syria, but the exact dates of their deaths were not disclosed. The three presumably fought alongside the Muhajireen Army; Al Tajik fought in the "Brigade 'Caucasus Emirate.'"

Fighters from across the globe, including from Europe and the US, are pouring into Syria to wage jihad against the regime of President Bashar al Assad. In the past week, 12 fighters from Azerbaijan were reported to have been killed in Syria. And a Moroccan who previously was detained by the US at Guantanamo Bay and who led Sham al Islam is also reported to have been killed this week.

For every foreign jihadist killed, it can be assumed that several survive and return to their home countries to further radicalize Muslims. Additionally, many of these fighters are being funneled through camps, such as those run by the Muhajireen Army and the Al Nusrah Front. Al Qaeda has historically selected a small number of individuals trained at such camps to conduct attacks in the West.


Link lwj-print-icon-2.jpg Comments (4)

Saudi Arabia convicts 18 of involvement in al Qaeda

April 4, 2014 10:31 AM
By Oren Adaki

Today the Riyadh Criminal Court in Saudi Arabia convicted 18 defendants of involvement in al Qaeda and handed down prison sentences that ranged from 27 years to two months. These latest developments are the latest in a series of recent convictions by the Riyadh Criminal Court of al Qaeda militants arrested in the Kingdom.

The defendant sentenced for the longest prison term was accused of working closely with Hayla Quseir, also known as Umm al Ribab, who has been described as "the most dangerous woman in al Qaeda." She is said to have been involved in recruiting Saudi women to al Qaeda as well as financing the terrorist organization and laundering money on its behalf. She was apparently so significant to the organization that upon her arrest by Saudi authorities in 2010, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninusla's deputy emir, Sa'id al Shihri, promised to take revenge on the Saudi regime for her detention.

The defendant accused of working with Hayla Quseir is said to have helped her evade justice by forging travel documents for her and her children, traveling with her from Riyadh to Jazan, and attempting to illegally smuggle her into Yemen with the goal of taking her to Iraq via Syria, at the order of al Qaeda leaders.

He is also accused of meeting with an al Qaeda terrorist cell leader who was actively planning terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia. In addition, the defendant is said to have hosted an al Qaeda bomb expert at his home for training in the use of remotely detonated explosives.

The Riyadh court's sentence stated further that he had been preparing to smuggle missiles from Yemen to Saudi Arabia and was involved in financing terrorism and terrorism operations in the Kingdom. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison and is prohibited from traveling outside Saudi Arabia for 20 years following his release.

The remaining defendants were convicted of with crimes such as possession of weapons and ammunition intended for use in terrorist operations, money laundering for al Qaeda, and cybercrimes relating to involvement in the terrorist organization.

Today's convictions come on the heels of the death sentence handed down to al Qaeda "chief strategist" Faris al Zahrani yesterday. Zahrani was arrested by Saudi authorities in 2004 near the Yemeni border and is believed to have orchestrated the wave of al Qaeda terrorist attacks that roiled the Kingdom between 2003 and 2006. Fifteen codefendants in his trial were sentenced to prison terms of up to 20 years on charges of weapons possession, participation in terrorist activities, and forging official documents.

In early March, the Riyadh Criminal Court sentenced five al Qaeda members to death for participation in the May 2003 attacks on residential compounds in Riyadh that killed 26 people, including eight Americans, and injured nearly 200.


Link lwj-print-icon-2.jpg Comments (0)

Chief of Syrian Revolutionaries Front says al Qaeda is 'not our problem'

April 3, 2014 12:57 AM
By Bill Roggio

Jamal Maarouf, the head of the Western-backed Syrian Revolutionaries Front, said he refuses to fight al Qaeda as it is "not our problem," and admitted to fighting alongside the al Qaeda branch as well as providing weapons to the group. His admission comes in a stunning article excerpted below from The Independent, which interviewed Maarouf in Syria:

Speaking from a safe house on the outskirts of the Turkish town of Antakya, Jamal Maarouf, the leader of the Syrian Revolutionary Front (SRF) told The Independent that the fight against al-Qa'ida was "not our problem" and admitted his fighters conduct joint operations with Jabhat al-Nusra - the official al-Qa'ida branch in Syria.

...

But while Maarouf and his men were happy to fight Isis, a group of predominantly foreigners, he said he would not go after Jabhat al-Nusra. "It's clear that I'm not fighting against al-Qa'ida. This is a problem outside of Syria's border, so it's not our problem. I don't have a problem with anyone who fights against the regime inside Syria," he said.

Maarouf admits to fighting alongside Jabhat al-Nusra - one example being the offensive against Isis, whose brutal tactics were deemed too violent even for al-Qa'ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

While Maarouf maintains that their military supplies are too few to share, he cites the battle of Yabroud, against the regime, as an example of how his group shared weapons with Jabhat al-Nusra.

"If the people who support us tell us to send weapons to another group, we send them. They asked us a month ago to send weapons to Yabroud so we sent a lot of weapons there. When they asked us to do this, we do it."

Longtime readers of The Long War Journal shouldn't be surprised at Maarouf's admission. We're reported numerous times on the close working relationship between the Free Syrian Army, from which the Syrian Revolutionaries Front is drawn, and groups such as the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant and even the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham. We've also noted that top Free Syrian Army leaders have praised the Al Nusrah Front as "brothers," and senior Syrian National Coalition leaders have opposed the US government's designation of the Al Nusrah Front as a terrorist group.

Despite this, the US as well as European countries have continued to forge ahead with backing first the Free Syrian Army and now the Syrian Revolutionaries Front.


Link lwj-print-icon-2.jpg Comments (5)

4 AQAP members arrested in Hodeidah province

April 3, 2014 12:34 AM
By Oren Adaki

Between Monday night and Tuesday morning, Yemeni military forces arrested four members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninusla (AQAP) in Hodeidah province in the western part of the country. Searches for other militants in Hodeidah and neighboring Dhamar province are still ongoing.

The AQAP militants were intercepted when they attempted to bypass a Yemeni military checkpoint in Jabal al Ra's in southwest Hodeidah by driving along a dirt path at a distance from the checkpoint. After noticing the car, soldiers chased the militants and successfully apprehended them.

The Yemeni Ministry of Defense confirmed that four militants were arrested, including two Saudis. The Saudis were identified as Mohammad Samel Majed al Otaybi, also known as Abu Ghaleb, a 30-year-old native of Riyadh, and Salah Mohammad Salah al Asiri, also known as Abu Sarem, a 31-year-old from Abha.

The other two militants arrested were Yemeni nationals: Mohammad Sadeq Abdo Ibrahim Mohammad al Mathani, a 20-year-old from Wasab using the operational name Abu Mus'ab, and Ibrahim Ali Salah Abdallah Hazem, a 23-year-old from Yaf'a known as Abu Hajer. Weapons, explosives, and forged identification documents were confiscated from the arrested militants.

A Yemeni official said that two hours after the arrests, at approximately 3 a.m. on April 1, AQAP militants attacked the Jabal al Ra's checkpoint in an apparent attempt to free their comrades. The exchange of fire resulted in the deaths of two militants and two Yemeni soldiers, identified as Seargent Ahmad Salah Deyf Allah al A'bas and Corporal Akram Lotf Ali Salah al Quwa. Three other AQAP militants were injured during the clashes.

The remaining militants fled towards the Wasab administrative district in neighboring Dhamar province and left behind a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED). Yemeni bomb disposal experts from Sana'a arrived in Hodeidah that afternoon and began work to disarm the explosives-laden vehicle. A Yemeni journalist confirmed that work on the VBIED continued into the night and commented that the disarming appeared "complicated."

Yemeni military officials urged residents in the Wasab area to be on the lookout for any suspicious individuals and to report any sightings of suspected AQAP members.


Link lwj-print-icon-2.jpg Comments (0)