Ajnad Misr claims latest bombing in Cairo

April 23, 2014 3:00 PM
By David Barnett

Ajnad Misr Ahmed Zaki.jpg
In a statement released to its Facebook and Twitter pages, the jihadist group Ajnad Misr (Soldiers of Egypt) took responsibility for today's bombing in the western Cairo suburb of 6 October City. The attack killed one police officer, Brigadier General Ahmed Zaki, and wounded at least two others.

Ajnad Misr said that its fighters had monitored and recorded Zaki's movements prior to the attack. Along with its statement, the jihadist group released three images of Zaki approaching and getting in his car. According to the statement, which was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, Ajnad Misr fighters managed to plant a "sticky explosive device on the car of the criminal."

"It was detonated after we had chosen the appropriate time and place, such that no damage would befall those passersby on the street," the group said.

Zaki, according to Ajnad Misr, had "followed all possible methods of camouflage and escape," prior to today's bombing. Today, he had entered a car that "did not bear any sign of being part of the criminal apparatus."

According to Ajnad Misr, Zaki had been involved in the targeting of Egyptian youth with live ammunition as well as "arresting and torturing many of them."

Ajnad Misr

Ajnad Misr, which formally announced itself on Jan. 23, 2014, has said it is engaged in a campaign to target "criminal" elements of Egypt's current regime. The group has taken credit for at least 15 attacks since November, according to a tally maintained by The Long War Journal. These attacks have killed four and wounded at least 39.

Several of those attacks were claimed in a statement released on April 2, in which the jihadist group took credit for bombings at Cairo University as well as attacks on March 4, March 11, and March 29 in the Cairo area. On April 17, the jihadist group issued a video detailing 8 of its attacks.

Ajnad Misr, which has been described as "our brothers" by the Sinai-based jihadist group Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis), has said that it is prepared to receive "information about the movements of the officers and personnel of the criminal services, and their addresses."

Ajnad Misr has also claimed to have aborted or altered certain of its operations out of concern for civilians in the area.

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Militants kill police officers in Cairo and Alexandria

April 23, 2014 7:30 AM
By David Barnett

An Egyptian police officer, Brigadier General Ahmed Zaki, was killed when a bomb placed under his vehicle exploded today. At least two police conscripts were injured by the blast, which went off as Zaki was heading to work, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The attack in the western Cairo suburb of 6 October City has thus far gone unclaimed, but it bears the hallmarks of the jihadist group Ajnad Misr. The group, which last issued a statement on April 19, has taken credit for at least 14 attacks in the Cairo area since November, according to a tally maintained by The Long War Journal.

In addition to the bombing in Cairo, an Islamist militant and a police officer were killed during clashes near Alexandria. "Two explosive belts, machine guns and homemade bombs were seized in the raid in the Borg al-Arab district of Alexandria," the Associated Press reported. Those targeted were members of the jihadist group Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis), Egypt's Interior Ministry said.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced yesterday evening that plans to deliver 10 Apache helicopters to Egypt that had been on hold will now go through. "[W]e believe these new helicopters will help the Egyptian government counter extremists who threaten US, Egyptian, and Israeli security," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

Egyptian authorities have been heavily reliant on helicopters, including existing Apaches, in their ongoing efforts against Islamist militants based in North Sinai.

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Yahya Ayyash Brigades claims new rocket attacks against Israel

April 21, 2014 1:00 PM
By David Barnett

Yahya Ayyash Brigades April 21, 2014.jpg
In a series of tweets, the Yahya Ayyash Brigades took credit for rocket fire today from the Gaza Strip into Israel. The jihadist group, which has been promoted by Abdullah Azzam Brigades official Sirajuddin Zurayqat, said its fighters launched more than 20 rockets.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, an antitank missile was fired at an IDF patrol and seven rockets struck Israeli territory today. And yesterday, Palestinian militants in Gaza set off an improvised explosive device near an IDF patrol along the Gaza border.

The Israeli Air Force struck "two terror activity sites" in response to these attacks. At least two members of Hamas were wounded, Reuters reported.

The Yahya Ayyash Brigades, named after a deceased Hamas bomb maker, first appeared in mid-January 2014 when it took credit for rocket fire during the funeral of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon.

Last month, the group took responsibility for some of the rocket and mortar fire from Gaza during a mini flare-up between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in Gaza. On March 19, the Yahya Ayyash Brigades released a short video showing one of its fighters preparing to fire rockets into Israel.

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Ajnad Misr claims 3 more attacks in Cairo area

April 19, 2014 11:00 AM
By David Barnett

In a statement posted to its Facebook and Twitter pages today, the jihadist group Ajnad Misr (Soldiers of Egypt) claimed responsibility for a bombing attack yesterday evening that killed one Egyptian police officer and wounded three other people.

Yesterday's attack in the Cairo area came a day after Ajnad Misr released a video about eight of its previous attacks.

In the new statement, Ajnad Misr also took credit for bombings in the Cairo area on April 10 and April 15. The group reiterated that it does not intend to harm civilians in its operations.

Meanwhile, in an audio message leaked yesterday, al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri said that the "Americanized" Egyptian army should be fought. "We bless every jihadi operation against the Zionists and the Americanized army that protects their borders and the criminal of the Interior, and fights the American interests that assault the Muslims," Zawahiri stated.

According to Zawahiri, such operations must "comply with the Shariah disciplines by avoiding the inviolable blood and sanctities." Zawahiri further said that those fighting today "need a popular base of support and to preach at a level equivalent to the battlefield," according to a summary by the SITE Intelligence Group.

Ajnad Misr

Ajnad Misr, which formally announced itself on Jan. 23, 2014, has said it is engaged in a campaign to target "criminal" elements of Egypt's current regime. The group has taken credit for at least 14 attacks since November, according to a tally maintained by The Long War Journal. Several of those attacks were claimed in a statement released on April 2, in which the jihadist group took credit for bombings at Cairo University as well as attacks on March 4, March 11, and March 29 in the Cairo area.

Ajnad Misr, which has been described as "our brothers" by the Sinai-based jihadist group Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis), has said that it is prepared to receive "information about the movements of the officers and personnel of the criminal services, and their addresses."

According to the group, its operatives have aborted or altered certain operations out of concern for civilians in the area.

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Ajnad Misr releases first video of attacks

April 17, 2014 8:00 PM
By David Barnett

The Egyptian jihadist group Ajnad Misr released its first video today to its Facebook and Twitter pages. On April 5, the group had tweeted that it was preparing a video.

Footage of security personnel attacking protesters as well as video of detainees being assaulted is seen in the first half of the new video. According to Al Ahram, some of the video dated back to the rule of Hosni Mubarak, who was overthrown in 2011.

In the second half of the video, translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, Ajnad Misr shows the aftermath of eight of its previously claimed attacks. The group said the video was dedicated to the mothers of those who have been injured, killed, or detained by Egypt's security services.

The video concluded with a message saying "it is a necessity to take revenge for the female captives, and to hit those who assaulted them."

Ajnad Misr

Ajnad Misr, which formally announced itself on Jan. 23, 2014, has said it is engaged in a campaign to target "criminal" elements of Egypt's current regime. The group has taken credit for at least 11 attacks since November, according to a tally maintained by The Long War Journal. Most recently, the jihadist group took credit for bombings at Cairo University as well as attacks on March 4, March 11, and March 29 in the Cairo area in a statement released on April 2.

Ajnad Misr, which has been described as "our brothers" by the Sinai-based jihadist group Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis), has said that it is prepared to receive "information about the movements of the officers and personnel of the criminal services, and their addresses."

According to the group, its operatives have aborted or altered certain operations out of concern for civilians in the area.

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Is the 'Taliban's negotiator' under house arrest in the UAE?

April 17, 2014 12:50 PM
By Bill Roggio

Various media outlets are claiming that Agha Jan Mutasim, who has been described as "a leading Taliban peace negotiator" and "one of the key Taliban leaders and who supported Afghan peace initiative," is under house arrest in the United Arab Emirates (see this report from Dawn, which is likely a compilation from the wire services).

While we can't confirm or deny that Mutasim is under house arrest, we are certain that he isn't leading negotiations for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which is the official name of the Afghan Taliban.

As we've noted here several times at LWJ, the Taliban have denounced Mutasim two times in the past in statements published on Voice of Jihad. The last time was on Feb. 20, when the Taliban said:

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan once again declares to all parties that Agha Jan Mutasim does not hold a position in the Islamic Emirate and neither can he represent it.

Also in that statement, the Taliban said that Mutasim's actions are "detrimental" to both the Taliban and "the goals of the sacred Jihad." [See LWJ report, Afghan Taliban denounces former senior official, denies involvement in peace talks.]

The Taliban previously disowned Mutasim in another official statement that was released on Voice of Jihad in August 2012. In that statement, the Taliban said Mutasim "was dismissed from his post by the leader of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in the year 2010 for stepping over his bounds and for lacking transparency in his work."

"He currently does not hold any posts with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and neither can he represent the Islamic Emirate in any of his statements and actions," the statement continued.

This section from LWJ's report on the last Taliban denunciation of Mutasim and other Taliban poseurs who have attempted to claim to represent the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan over the years bears repeating:

Mutasim is part of a circle of former Taliban leaders and spokesmen who have been expelled from the Taliban and still claim to represent the group in negotiations with the Afghan government and the US. This group includes Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, and Mullah Mohamed Tayeb Agha. The Taliban has openly denounced many of these leaders as "stooges" and pawns of the Afghan government and the West.

Mutawakil served as the Taliban's foreign minister in 2001 and broke ranks after Omar refused to hand over Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11 attacks. He surrendered to US forces in 2002 and has repeatedly tried to negotiate peace agreements.

Zaeef served as the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan at the time of the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. He was detained by Pakistani security forces in 2002 and was sent to the Guantanamo Detention Facility in Cuba before he was released in 2006. Prior to his arrest he had been considered a candidate to join the interim Afghan government.

Agha was a spokesman for Mullah Omar in the 1990s but has since fallen out of favor with the Taliban leadership.

And Mutasim's fall from grace with the Taliban was swift. Almost immediately after being dismissed from his post in 2010, he was gunned down and left for dead in Karachi, Pakistan. Mutasim survived and fled to Turkey, where he received medical treatment.

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

April 16, 2014 10:08 PM
By Bill Roggio


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 to resolve the dispute peaceably.

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Suspected AQAP militants kill deputy governor in Baydha

April 15, 2014 10:16 AM
By Oren Adaki


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.

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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