US supply drop to Kurds in the hands of the Islamic State

October 21, 2014 9:09 AM
By Caleb Weiss

'Amaq News, an unofficial pro-Islamic State news channel, has released a video showing Islamic State fighters in possession of a US supply drop intended for the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in the vicinity of Kobane, or Ayn al Arab.

The video shows an Islamic State fighter boasting about the captured bundle. The supplies include many fragmentation grenades, gear, and RPG rockets.

The United States began airdropping weapons and ammunition to Kurdish forces in Kobane after the Islamic State began to make serious gains in their weeks old campaign to take the city. According to The New York Times, the United States dropped 27 bundles of weapons, gear, and ammo for the Kurds. The United States has also launched more than 135 airstrikes near Kobane in the last few weeks, with the intensity only picking up the last few days.

It is also important to note that the YPG is the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK is a designated foreign terrorist organization according to the US State Department.


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TTP denies its spokesman defected to Islamic State

October 19, 2014 12:53 PM
By Bill Roggio

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The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (Tehreek-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP) released a statement denying that its spokesman, "Shahidullah Shahid," had defected to the Islamic State. Additionally, the group said that "Shahidullah Shahid" is merely a nom de guerre shared by its spokesmen, and that the person who defected in Shahidullah Shahid's name is no longer a member of the TTP.

The statement, which was released by the group yesterday, is reproduced below in full. According to the TTP, Shaykh Maqbool, who previously served as the group's spokesman, defected under the name of Shahidullah Shahid but had no right to do so as he was replaced "long ago" by "another brother" who will be named at a later date.

The TTP said it wants "to make it clear that Shaykh Maqbool is not Shahidullah Shahid (He's not our Spokesman anymore)." The statement did not address the status of the five TTP commanders who also reportedly defected, but did say that TTP emir Mullah Fazlullah remains loyal to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

The TTP's announcement helps to clarify one confusing aspect of the defection of "Shahidullah Shahid" that Thomas Joscelyn and I reported on when noting that he joined the Islamic State. [See LWJ report, Discord dissolves Pakistani Taliban coalition.]

On Sept. 6, Shahidullah Shahid (obviously the current one) denied reports that the TTP had joined the Islamic State. Yet one week later, a person identifying himself as Shahidullah Shahid (who in hindsight is Shaykh Maqbool) announced that he and five TTP commanders had defected. It is clear that Shaykh Maqbool was using the title of Shahidullah Shahid even though he was no longer the TTP's spokesman.

On the issue of the Taliban using the same nom de guerre to identify its spokesmen, this practice actually is not uncommon. For instance, "Zahibullah Muhajid" and "Qari Yousuf Ahmadi" are known to be shared aliases for Afghan Taliban spokesmen.

TTP statement on Shaykh Maqbool's defection:

Statement of Pakistani Taliban (TTP Central) about their "Former" Spokesman who has allegedly given baya (allegiance) to Jama'at al-Dawla (ISIS) Shahidullah Shahid is an "imaginary" name which is used by a person who becomes Spokesman of TTP Central Shaykh Maqbool has also been spokesman of TTP Central, Therefore, he was called Shahidullah Shahid.

Long ago, another brother had replaced Shaykh Maqbool and was promoted to spokesman of TTP (Means, He became Shahidullah Shahid). We did not announce that due to our policy. But Shaykh Maqbool used this name (Shahidullah Shahid) for his individual purpose

We want to make it clear that Shaykh Maqbool is not Shahidullah Shahid (He's not our Spokesman anymore).

As for the Baya to ISIS, Emir of TTP Central, Mulla Fazlullah has already cleared that our baya is to Emir al-Mominin Mullah M. Omar [the leader of the Afghan Taliban].

Lastly, We will soon announce the name of our New Spokesman


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Islamic State patrols town north of Baghdad

October 18, 2014 9:02 PM
By Bill Roggio


View Iraqi and Syrian Towns and Cities seized by the Islamic State and its allies in a larger map

On Oct. 17, the Islamic State released a series of photographs of its fighters patrolling in the central Iraqi town of Dhuluiyah.

The photographs (below) show heavily armed fighters marching in the center of the town, with destroyed Iraqi military vehicles littering the streets. The Islamic State fighters are also seen taking up positions in homes in the town.

The jihadist group had previously taken control of Dhululiyah in mid-June and captured hundreds of Iraqi soldiers after overrunning a nearby airbase. But Iraqi government forces backed by Shia militias were reported to have regained control of the town weeks later. The town has changed hands several times since.

Over the summer, the Iraqi military claimed to have killed scores of Islamic State fighters in the town (50 fighters on Aug. 5, 35 on July 25, and 28 on July 24).

Dhululiyah and the nearby cities and towns of Balad, Ishaqi, Dujail, Dojama, Khalis, Tarmiyah, and Taji are key terrain for the Islamic State. The cities and towns are in the northern Baghdad "belt" and sit along two highways that run between Samarra and the capital city Baghdad, both of which are under the Iraqi government's control. The Islamic State seeks to control the northern belt in an effort to strangle the capital. [For more details on the jihadist group's strategy in Iraq, see LWJ report, ISIS, allies reviving 'Baghdad belts' battle plan .]

The Islamic State has been able to launch attacks on Dhululiyah, Balad, Ishaqi, Dujail, Dojama, Khalis,Tarmiyah, and Taji from the Thar Thar region to the west and Miqdadiyah to the east.

The Iraqi military has scrambled units from across the country as well as deployed Iranian-backed Shia militias in an effort to hold Samarra and defend the road to Baghdad. Four months after the Islamic State launched its offensive to take control of northern and central Iraq, the military and militias are barely holding the northern Baghdad belt.

Islamic State photographs from Dhululiyah:


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Al Nusrah Front releases video of training camp in Idlib

October 18, 2014 6:33 PM
By Caleb Weiss

The Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda's official affiliate in Syria, has released a video showcasing a training camp for the group in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib. The al Qaeda group is operating camps in Syria despite US air operations in Syria, which have not targeted the group since Sept. 22.

The video was released on a Twitter account associated with the Al Nusrah Front's wiliyat, or administrative district, in Idlib. The logo on the video is the same one used by the Al Nusrah Front and bears the name Al Manarah al Bayda, or The White Lighthouse, which is the group's official media outlet. The words "Idlib Correspondent" are also included on the logo.

The video appears to be of the same camp that the group released pictures of on October 10, 2014. The Long War Journal has previously covered the photos from this camp and other training camps from the Al Nusrah Front. [See LWJ reports, Al Nusrah Front releases photos of training camp in northwestern Syria and Al Nusrah Front names training camps after top al Qaeda leaders]

The video shows Al Nusrah Front fighters in training. The jihadists are shown marching in formation, receiving firearms instructions, and firing handguns and AK-47 assault rifles. The fighters are also shown training in a wooded area, including climbing monkey bars over flames, jumping over fire, and crawling under barbed wire.


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Iranian Basij general killed in Aleppo

October 16, 2014 11:49 PM
By Caleb Weiss

Video of the general's body returning to Iran.

An Iranian Basij general, Jabar Drisawi, has been reported killed after clashes with rebel forces in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. The Iranian Basij is a volunteer-based paramilitary force that is subordinate to the Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Al Quds al Arabi, a London-based Arabic-language news site, says that Drisawi was there with other members of the Iranian Basij and Revolutionary Guard forces assisting the Assad regime in fighting the rebels and to "protect Shi'ite shrines in Syria." Al Quds goes on to say that Iran has also "recruited militant Shi'ites from Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon and other countries and groups loyal to Iran to fight in Syria and Iraq".

Other Arabic news sites have reported similar claims that Shi'ites from Central Asia have been recruited by Iran to fight alongside Hezbollah and Syrian troops.

Just recently, the Islamic Front, a powerful Islamist coalition in Syria, reportedly captured a few Afghan Hazaras in Aleppo who were fighting alongside regime troops.

Iran has been assisting the Assad regime in fighting rebel forces by sending their own troops into Syria. The Revolutionary Guard Corps, a powerful military force in Iran, is known to fight alongside Syrian troops. Last December, a commander within the Revolutionary Guard Corps was killed in Damascus. In June of this year, another commander was killed in Damascus. And in July, seven members of the Revolutionary Guard were killed fighting rebel forces. Some of these troops were likely part of the Quds Force within the Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Quds Force is a division of the Revolutionary Guard that is responsible for undertaking special operations outside of Iran.

Hezbollah, Iran's proxy in Lebanon, has also significantly intervened in Syria to assist the Assad regime.

A picture from the funeral of the Basij general:

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Afghan intel agency captures two senior Haqqani Network leaders

October 16, 2014 2:19 PM
By Bill Roggio

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Anas Haqqani and Hafiz Rashid. NDS photos via Khaama Press.


The National Directorate of Security, AfghAnastan's intelligence service, captured Anas Haqqani, the son of the group's leader and the brother of its operational leader, and Hafiz Rashid, the network's military commander for southeastern AfghAnastan, during a special operations raid yesterday. The NDS released a statement on the raid and the two Haqqani Network leaders, which was excerpted by Khaama Press:

The statement further added that Anas Haqqani is one of the powerful members of Haqqani Network who is arrested by National Directorate of Security (NDS). Anas was the deputy of his brother Sirajudin Haqqani, the leader of Haqqani Network and was playing key role in strategic decisions of this network.

"Anas Haqqani has special skills in computer and was considered one of the master minds of this network in making propaganda through social networks. He was responsible for collecting and preparing funds from Arabic countries to carry out operations of this network," NDS said.

The statement also added that military command of Haqqani Network in South Eastern AfghAnastan Hafiz Rashid is the son of Mohammad Omer. He is originally from Ismailkhil district of Khost province.

"Currently, he lived in Chakwal area of Pakistan Panjab province. He was a shadow governor of this network for the Ismailkhil district of Khost province. Recently, he was appointed as a military commander of Haqqani Network in south eastern provinces of AfghAnastan," the statement said, adding that "Hafiz Rashid was responsible of choosing targets and providing equipment to the suicide bombers."

According to NDS, Hafiz Rashid was considered one of the responsible people for transferring suicide bombers from Peshawar and Waziristan to Kabul. Hafiz Rashid is 34 years old and his brother Mohammad Nabi Omer was the deputy of Jalaludin Haqani at the ministry of Borders and tribal affairs during Taliban regime.

Anas Haqqani and Hafiz Rashid are the first senior Haqqani Network leaders killed or captured in nearly a year. Nasiruddin Haqqani, a senior leader and financier for the group who also was the son of Jalaluddin and brother of Sirajuddin, was gunned down outside of Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, in November 2013.

Three other senior Haqqani Network leaders have been killed or captured since September 2011.

And Haji Mali Khan, who has been described by the US military as "one of the highest ranking members of the Haqqani Network and a revered elder of the Haqqani clan," was captured by US special operations forces during a raid in September 2011 in AfghAnastan's eastern province of Khost.

Badruddin Haqqani, another son of Jalaluddin, was killed in a US drone strike in North Waziristan in August 2012. Badruddin sat on the Miramshah Shura, was an operational commander of the Haqqani Network, and provided support to al Qaeda and allied terror groups.

Mullah Sangeen Zadran, who was closely linked to al Qaeda and served as a senior lieutenant to Sirajuddin and the Taliban's shadow governor for Paktika province in AfghAnastan, was killed in a US drone strike in North Waziristan, Pakistan in September 2013.

The Haqqani Network, which is a subgroup of the Afghan Taliban, has weathered the losses of these leaders and remains an effective foe in eastern AfghAnastan to this day. The group has replaced its slain leaders and continues to receive support from both al Qaeda and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. See LWJ report, US adds 3 senior Haqqani Network leaders to terrorism list, for background information on the Haqqani Network as well as a list of leaders who are identified by the US as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. All thirteen Haqqani Network leaders who are on the list have been identified as having close ties to al Qaeda. Anas Haqqani and Hafiz Rashid are not on the US list of designated terrorists.


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AQAP claims attacks in Hadramout, Shabwa, and Abyan

October 15, 2014 2:33 PM
By Oren Adaki

In a series of tweets posted by an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) affiliated account on Oct. 15, the terrorist group claimed credit for four separate attacks aimed at a variety of targets in Hadramout, Shabwa, and Abyan provinces in Yemen. These attacks come as AQAP has been stepping up its terrorist activity in conjunction with the advance of Shi'ite Houthi militants throughout the country. On Oct. 14, Houthi fighters consolidated their control over the city of Hodeidah on the Red Sea coast as well as on the key central city of Dhamar.

The first AQAP attack was a drive-by assassination attempt targeting Omar Faraj al Mansouri, whom the jihadist spokesman described as a Houthi leader, in the coastal city of al Shihr in eastern Hadramout province on Oct. 12. Local media reports stated that "anonymous militants" on a motorbike fired at al Mansouri in the vacinity of the Shiqaq neighborhood of al Shihr. Eye witnesses claimed that al Mansouri was in a moving vehicle that was pursued by the assailants on the motorbike and that he was seriously injured in the head by gunfire. While some local sources claimed that al Mansouri was an "ordinary citizen" with no political connections, others suggested that he was linked to the Houthis.

In a statement claiming credit for the attack, AQAP said that al Mansouri was severely injured by the assassination attempt and initially taken to the main public hospital in al Shihr. The statement continued by noting that al Mansouri's condition deteriorated significantly, prompting his transfer to the Ibn Sinaa' Hospital in the provincial capital of al Mukallah. The statement also claimed that al Mansouri "has been active for a time in the Hadramout coast calling for the spreading and embracing of the Houthi rafidi [Shi'ite] religion."

AQAP accuses al Mansouri of holding overt and covert meetings to further the Houthi cause, distributing Houthi propaganda among "simple Sunnis," and intending to spread "the Houthi religion" in all of the Hadramout coast." The AQAP statement concludes by noting that al Mansouri was part of the Houthi delegation at the National Dialogue Conference that signed the Peace and National Partnership Agreement. AQAP describes this agreement as having "given the reins of power in Sana'a to the rafidi [Shi'ite] Houthis under American-Gulf sponsorship."

AQAP carried out an additional assasination attempt on Oct. 14, targeting a commander of the Popular Committees (PCs) in the city of Gol al Raydah in Shabwa province. The Popular Committees are local armed resistance groups which played a large role alongside the military in pushing out al Qaeda and its local affiliate Ansar al Shariah from Abyan province in 2011. A local official told the Arabic media that "the commander in the Popular Committees, Ali Saleh Baqatmi was injured...with grave wounds as a result of the explosion of an improvised explosive device [IED] that targeted his vehicle in the Mayfa'a district of Shabwa province." The official also noted that Baqatmi was taken to Ibn Sinaa' Hospital in al Mukallah for treatment.

In a statement claiming credit for the assassination attempt, AQAP stated: "We have previously repeatedly warned via more than one statement and have emphasized that anyone who takes part in the Popular Committees and participates in fighting Sunnis in Shabwa will be a legitimate target for us no matter who it is. Now we are executing what we have vowed, and we vow more [such attacks] in the future, Allah willing."

AQAP claimed credit for yet another attack that took place on Oct. 14 in Shabwa province, this time targeting the Yemeni military. In a statement released the following day, AQAP stated that mujahideen has previously staged an ambush along the road linking the Khamr region to Shabwa's capital, Ataq. A military vehicle carrying Mohammad al Shabahi al Maysari, the commander of a Yemeni military brigade stationed in Shabwa, passed by the ambush location at 12:30 pm, according to the statement. AQAP fighters immediately opened fire on the vehicle, killing al Maysari and wounding four soldiers who were accompanying him.

The final Oct. 14 attack that AQAP has claimed credit for was another operation targeting Yemeni soldiers. AQAP fighters ambushed military vehicles in the Dayqa valley in the Mahfad region of Abyan, long known to be a stronghold of the terrorist group. The statement claimed that "a group of soldiers" were killed and wounded, yet noted that "it is difficult to determine their number definitely."


The following photos accompanied the aforementioned AQAP statements:

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Houthi-related documents that AQAP accused al Mansouri of disseminating in Hadramout. These documents were penned by Hussein Badr al Din al Houthi, the founder of the Houthi movement whose family name has come to define the movement.


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An excerpt from Houthi propaganda that AQAP accuses al Mansouri of propagating. This section of the text refers to Imam Khomeini's Qur'anic interpretations.


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This picture shows the AQAP ambush that killed Yemeni military commander Mohammad al Shabahi al Maysari.


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Islamic State suicide bomber kills Badr militia leader in Baghdad

October 14, 2014 10:21 PM
By Bill Roggio

The Islamic State claimed credit for today's suicide attack in Baghdad that killed Ahmed al Khafaji, who was a senior commander in the Shiite Badr militia and a member of parliament, along with at least 20 other Iraqis. Khafaji's death was confirmed by another member of Iraq's parliament as well as by a hospital official.

"Khafaji was a member of the main Shiite bloc in parliament, the State of Law coalition, of which Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi's Dawa party is also part," AFP reported.

The Islamic State said that Khafaji was the target of the suicide attack, which was executed by "members of the [Islamic State's] security and intelligence department of Baghdad province," according to statements released by the group on Twitter that were obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. The suicide bomber was identified as "Abu 'Aisha al Badri al Husseini al Qurashi al Samara'ee."

The jihadist group described Khafaji as "the Member of Parliament for Badr Brigade, this Rafidhi [Shiite] faction that has long fought the Muslims and waded deep in their blood."

The assassination of Khafaji took place just two days after the Islamic State killed the top police general for Anbar province in an IED attack just outside of Ramadi in Anbar province.

The Islamic State has upped the attack tempo in Baghdad over the past several weeks, with suicide bombings and IED attacks becoming more prevalent inside the city.

Many analysts are claiming that the Islamic State is preparing to mount an offensive on Baghdad and march into the city, as it has done in Mosul, Tikrit, Fallujah, and elsewhere. The presence of the Islamic State in Abu Ghraib and reports of fighting near Baghdad International Airport (which the Ministry of the Interior has denied) have been cited as evidence of a looming assault.

But the presence of the Islamic State in Abu Ghraib and much of eastern Anbar province is not a recent development. In fact, the Islamic State held a parade, which included a large amount of captured Iraqi Army hardware, in Abu Ghraib in March [see LWJ report, ISIS parades on outskirts of Baghdad, from April 4].

I believe that the Islamic State is simply consolidating its recent gains in Anbar while continuing its "Baghdad Belts" strategy to control the so-called belt regions outside the city as a precursor to making the capital ungovernable. [See LWJ report, Analysis: ISIS, allies reviving 'Baghdad belts' battle plan.] The increased violence inside and outside of Baghdad is a reflection of the group's success in implementing its strategy to put the squeeze on the Iraqi government.


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German, Saudi, and Turkish Islamic State fighters launch complex suicide attack

October 12, 2014 10:38 AM
By Bill Roggio

The Islamic State has claimed a deadly, complex suicide attack in a town north of Baqubah in Iraq's Diyala province that killed at least 25 people.

The suicide attack in Diyala took place today in the town of Qara Qubah, and targeted a government complex. Reuters reported that the attack was executed using three car bombs driven by suicide bombers, and 25 people, including civilians and troops, were killed and more than 60 were wounded.

The Islamic State claimed that the attack was carried out by three foreign fighters: Abu Sarah al Almani, from Germany; Abu Muhammad al Jazrawi, from Saudi Arabia; and Abu Turab al Turki, from Turkey, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which obtained and translated three statements from the group that were released on Twitter.

According to the Islamic State, the German and Saudi jihadists targeted buildings housing Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. The Turkish suicide bomber then detonated his suicide vest among a crowd of people who were attempting to give aid to the wounded from the first two attacks.

In the past, the Islamic State has publicized foreign fighters' roles in launching suicide attacks in Iraq. During the winter and spring of 2014, the Islamic State released numerous statements touting suicide attacks carried out by jihadists from Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan or Pakistan, Tajikistan, the Russian Republic of Chechnya, France, and Denmark. [For examples, see LWJ report, ISIS names Danish, French suicide bombers killed in 'Ninewa Division,' and Threat Matrix report, ISIS again touts French and other foreign suicide bombers .]

The involvement of foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria is being promoted by the Islamic State as part of its effort to draw jihadists from across the globe as well as for fundraising purposes. The Islamic State is in competition with the rival Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's official branch in Syria, and other al Qaeda groups worldwide for resources. Although it was once al Qaeda's official branch in Iraq, the Islamic State is now competing with al Qaeda itself for the mantle of leadership in the global jihad.


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Islamic State fighting inside Kobane

October 10, 2014 4:01 PM
By Caleb Weiss

A video released by an unofficial news organization affiliated with the Islamic State shows the group's fighters in heavy street-to-street fighting inside Kobane. The video shows fighters breaking down walls leading into streets and the walls of houses, as well as firing on Kurdish positions.

The Islamic State has been battling forces from the PKK-linked People's Protection Units, or YPG, for control of the Syrian town. Previous reporting by The Long War Journal noted that this assault began two weeks ago when the Islamic State initiated a new attack on the city after failing to take it back in July. According to some Kurdish activists on Twitter, the offensive has been three-pronged, with Islamic State forces attacking Kobane from the east, south, and west of the city. [See Threat Matrix report, Islamic State advances near Kobane.]

Previous reporting by the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) details that the Islamic State has gained control of over 325 villages and towns surrounding Kobane in northern Syria. SOHR is now reporting that the jihadist group controls around "40% of Ayn al Arab [the Arabic name for Kobane]" itself.

The Islamic State's advance takes place as the US and allied nations have increased the number of airstrikes near Kobane. The United States, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have launched 16 airstrikes near Kobane in the past two days. However, SOHR notes that "[Coalition airstrikes] have not prevented IS fighters from bringing munitions from the countryside of Aleppo and al Raqqa where more military enhancements have arrived to the city without targeting them by the Coalition warplanes."

Pictures from inside Kobane:

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The Islamic State has also utilized suicide bombings in the assault for Kobane. One suicide bomber is shown below:

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AQAP claims credit for attacks in Sana'a

October 10, 2014 12:18 PM
By Oren Adaki

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released statements today claiming credit for two attacks in Sana'a, the Yemeni capital. The first of these attacks was the massive suicide attack that took place on the morning of Oct. 9 in Tahrir Square, while the second occurred the following day.

AQAP claimed that "more than fifty rafidi [Shi'ite] Houthis" were killed and tens were injured in the Oct. 9 suicide attack that targeted a gathering of Houthi supporters preparing for demonstrations in Sana'a. According to the statement, the attack was carried out by Abu Mu'awiyah al Sana'ani, who detonated his explosive belt as Houthi supporters amassed in the city square. Although the statement says it is difficult to determine the exact number of casualties resulting from the attack, it notes that local and international media outlets reported that more than 50 Houthis were killed and 150 others were severely injured.

Regarding the attack on Oct. 10, AQAP claimed that its fighters targeted the Houthi leader Ibrahim al Mahtouri with a sticky explosive device which was detonated in his car at around 11:30 a.m. Al Mahtouri is a prominent Houthi figure and nephew of Al Murtada bin Zayd al Mahtouri, a Zaydi Shiite religious authority. The AQAP statement explained that the mujahideen had previously planted the explosive device in al Mahtouri's vehicle and detonated it while al Mahtouri was driving the vehicle in the Sa'wan neighborhood of Sana'a. Although the mujahideen could not confirm al Mahtouri's death, they claimed that he had suffered severe injuries as a result of the explosion.



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Islamic State uses MANPADS to shoot down Iraqi helicopter near Baiji

October 8, 2014 4:26 PM
By Bill Roggio & Caleb Weiss

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The Islamic State has released photographs purporting to show its fighters downing an Iraqi helicopter near Baiji with a man-portable air-defense system (MANPADS). The photos were disseminated on Twitter by Islamic State supporters after being posted elsewhere on the Internet. The terrorist organization has taken to releasing its propaganda via its supporters on Twitter as the majority of its official accounts are continuously being suspended by the social media site.

The photos bear the title of Wilyat Salahaddin, as Baiji is located within that administrative division of the Islamic State.

Media reports indicate that two Iraqi Army helicopters have been shot down near Baiji over the past week. According to DW:

Defense officials in Baghdad said IS [Islamic State] militants used a shoulder-fired missile to down an Iraqi military helicopter near the town of Bayji, home to the country's largest oil refinery, located about 200 kilometers (130 miles) north of Baghdad. The two pilots on board were killed. It is the second Iraq military helicopter shot down over Baiji by the IS in one week.

Along with releasing pictures showing the downing of an Iraqi helicopter, the Islamic State recently published a guide on how to shoot down Apache helicopters. The guide comes with instructions on the use of MANPADS. For instance, in one paragraph it says: "Determination of [the] launching area: Preferably somewhere high. The roof of a building or a hill that is on a solid surface [ground] in order to prevent the appearance of dust following launching." In addition, the instructions include a diagram of an Apache.

The Islamic State has previously shot down several Iraqi Army helicopters in Salahaddin province. Two helos were downed during an aborted attempt to retake Tikrit in late June. And in mid-August, the Islamic State shot down two more helicopters when it overran Camp Speicher, a large base just outside of Tikrit.

The photos of an Islamic State fighter firing at and hitting an Iraqi Army helicopter can be seen below:

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Oren Adaki provided a translation from the Islamic State's handbook for Apaches in this article.


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US-backed Hazm Movement, Muhajireen Army working together in Aleppo

October 7, 2014 11:47 AM
By Caleb Weiss

The US-backed Harakat Hazm, or Hazm Movement, has joined several groups, including Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar, a Chechen-led jihadist group, and the Islamist Jaish Mujahideen (Army of Mujahideen) in fighting the Assad regime in the Handarat District of Aleppo. In the video posted above, one can clearly see Hazm fighters use a US-supplied BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missile to destroy a regime tank. Hazm has also posted a video on its YouTube account showing the destruction of a regime BMP in Handarat.

Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar (the Army of the Emigrants and Helpers), also known as the Muhajireen Army, is an al Qaeda-allied jihadist group that is populated by commanders and fighters from the Islamic Caucasus Emirate as well as a large number of Syrians. The group is considered to be the Caucasus Emirate's branch in Syria. After the death of Islamic Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov, the Muhajireen Army swore allegiance to his replacement, Ali Abu Mukhammad. The jihadist group often fights alongside the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's official affiliate in Syria. The Muhajireen Army was just recently added to the US State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. [See LWJ report, State Department adds Chechen, Moroccan-led jihadist groups to terrorist list.]

Kavkaz Center, which acts as the news site for the Islamic Caucasus Emirate, has posted about the Muhajireen Army's advances in Aleppo on Twitter. According to Joanna Paraszczuk of From Chechnya to Syria, they said: "JMA kicked out the Assadites [Syrian Arab Army troops or other pro-government forces] from Handarat in N. Aleppo. The kuffar ["infidels"] retreated suffering heavy losses."

Also partaking in the fighting in Aleppo is Jaish Mujahideen, or the Army of Mujahideen, a rebel coalition that includes several Islamist Free Syrian Army units. The group is reportedly in the process of being vetted by the United States to receive military aid.

Underscoring the complexity of vetting Syrian rebel groups for US assistance, on Sept. 23, the US-backed Hazm Movement released a statement condemning the recent coalition airstrikes in Syria:

"What occurred by way of guiding the aerial attacks is considered an attack on national sovereignty and the achievement of the Syrian revolution. The the continued disregard of the international community to what the revolutionary forces called for by way of arming the FSA without any conditions is but the harbinger of failure and destruction that will affect the entire region.

We in the Hazm Party confirm our complete commitment to the principles of the revolution and that our actions only in service of the proprieties of revolutionary work and what national interest requires and it is not according to what the desire of the international coalition dictates. We also confirm that the latter's [the international coalition's] continued decisions seeking to win international public opinion will not succeed in eradicating extremism but will encourage its growth instead. The only path to establishing peace in the region will come via realizing the aspirations of the Syrian people and through the hands of Syrians.

The only beneficiary of the foreign intervention in Syria is the Assad regime, especially in light of the absence of any true strategy to topple him. The latter [Assad] will not spare any effort to target civilians in an effort to rehabilitate himself [his image] internationally."

The Hazm Movement is also known to fight alongside the Al Nusrah Front. A Los Angeles Times article in early September quotes a Hazm fighter as saying, "Inside Syria we became labeled as secularists and feared Nusrah Front was going to battle us. But Nusrah doesn't fight us, we actually fight alongside them. We like Nusrah."


Oren Adaki provided the translation of the Hazm statement on the recent coalition airstrikes in Syria.


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Pakistani Taliban denies declaring allegiance to Islamic State

October 7, 2014 10:15 AM
By Bill Roggio

Remember the reports from last weekend, such as this one from Reuters, that the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan swore allegiance to the Islamic State? Here is the title and an excerpt of the Reuters report, emphasis mine:

Pakistani Taliban declare allegiance to IS militants

The Pakistani Taliban declared allegiance to Islamic State on Saturday and ordered militants across the region to help the Middle Eastern jihadist group in its campaign to set up a global Islamic caliphate.

Islamic State, which controls swathes of land in Syria and Iraq, has been making inroads into South Asia, which has traditionally been dominated by local Taliban insurgencies against both the Pakistan and Afghanistan governments.

The announcement comes after a September move by al Qaeda chief, Ayman al-Zawahri, to name former Taliban commander Asim Umar as the "emir" of a new South Asia branch of the network that masterminded the 2001 attacks on the United States.

On Twitter, Caleb Weiss and I expressed extreme skepticism of this report immediately after it was published:

And yesterday, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan's spokesman explicitly denied it swore allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi and the Islamic State. Again, from Reuters:

The Pakistani Taliban on Monday denied reports that it had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State movement fighting in Syria and Iraq, saying that its statement to the media had been misinterpreted.

Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Shahid Shahidullah said that a statement on Saturday had been intended as an expression of support for all Islamist militants fighting in Syria and Iraq and struggling against Western interests.

"Some media did not publish our statement correctly," Shahidullah told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location. "We are not supporting any specific group in Syria or Iraq; all groups there are noble and they are our brothers."

On Saturday, Shahidullah said the Taliban would offer "every possible support" to Islamic State, a statement which several media outlets, including Reuters, reported as a declaration of allegiance to the group.

In the past, the press has erroneously claimed that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Ansar al Sharia Tunisia, and other groups have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State. The New York Times even wrongly claimed that Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter group of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, was "galvanized" and "inspired by the success of the Islamic State." This is a serious misreading of the formation of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which was born out of a leadership dispute.

Expressions of support for the Islamic State's advances in Iraq are constantly being misinterpreted as pledges of allegiance to the group. The fact is that all of al Qaeda's branches that have spoken up about the dispute between the Islamic State and the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's official branch Syria, have come out in support of al Qaeda and Ayman al Zawahiri.


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AQAP eulogizes fighter killed in attack on Saudi border crossing

October 7, 2014 10:12 AM
By Oren Adaki

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Saleh al Sa'ad al Omari. (Source: Twitter)

On Oct. 6, a Twitter account affiliated with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) began posting a series of tweets about the life of one of its slain fighters named Saleh bin Sa'ad al Sa'ad al Omari. Al Omari is believed to have been killed during the course of an AQAP attack targeting the Wadia border crossing into Saudi Arabia on July 4. AQAP named that attack, which also spilled into the Saudi town of Sharurah, the "invasion of revenge for the female captives," and claimed that it was an act of retribution for the Saudi policy of detaining Muslim women.

Al Omari, given the nom-de-guerre Abu Othman, was born and raised in Najran, Saudi Arabia to a conservative household. When he was a young boy, Al Omari's older brother, Sultan, was jailed in a Saudi prison on terrorism related charges. Because of this, al Omari regularly frequented Saudi prisons in his youth and saw "the oppression, aggression, and tyranny with his own eyes during his visits to his brother." This formative experience made the condition of detainees in Saudi jails al Omari's primary concern in these early years of his life.

AQAP's eulogy of al Omari states that due to his "support for the detainees," he was himself jailed by the Saudi authorities shortly before reaching the age of 19 "without any charges against him." After his family placed pressure on the Saudi Interior Ministry, "the tyrants were forced to release Saleh [al Omari]." Al Omari apparently confessed to his investigators that he had intended to travel to Iraq, and this confession was "used as an excuse" for his nearly five-year long detainment.

During his time in prison, al Omari spent his time memorizing the Qur'an, studying, and "in service of his brothers." Despite the fact that his brother was detained in the same prison, al Omari did not see or speak to him during his imprisonment. The AQAP eulogy of al Omari relays an anecdote of him helping a 60 year old prisoner whom he treated like his own father. According to the eulogy, the old man was allegedly so grateful to al Omari that he offered him his daughter's hand in marriage, but al Omari modestly refused.

When al Omari was finally released from prison in 2011, he reportedly married and then "answered the call" of jihad and joined the mujahideen in Yemen in order "to support the religion and the weak." In Yemen, al Omari was outspoken in his support for all detainees in general and for female detainees in particular. In this respect, "Allah almighty blessed him to be one of the six lions that carried out the invasion of revenge for the female captives." The AQAP eulogy notes that "many mujahideen request to participate in these types of invasions; especially those in the Land of the Two Holy Places [Saudi Arabia], and they ask Allah to grant them martyrdom on its soil."

The AQAP eulogy also indicated that al Omari was particularly incensed by Saudi Arabia's imprisonment of Hayla Quseir, as well as the "kidnapping" of May al Talaq and Amina al Rashed, among others. Hayla Quseir, also known as Umm al Ribab, was 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 group 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 AQAP eulogy of al Omari ends with a description of his final battle and death as part of the AQAP attack on the Wadia border crossing. "He dashed like a lion...for the sanctity of Allah and pounced on the border guards of the tyrants of Yemen and the Land of the Two Holy Places [Saudi Arabia]." Al Omari was part of the group of AQAP fighters who crossed the border and clashed with Saudi authorities in the border town of Sharurah where he was ultimately killed.


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AQAP attacks Houthis in Amran, Sana'a

October 6, 2014 11:48 AM
By Oren Adaki

On Oct. 5, a Twitter account affiliated with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed credit for attacks targeting the Houthi rebels that took place on Oct. 2 and Oct. 3 in Amran and Sana'a provinces, respectively.

AQAP claims to have attacked a Houthi gathering with an improvised explosive device (IED) in northern Amran province on Oct. 2. The statement posted on Twitter states that AQAP fighters detonated the IED in the al Ahnoum region of Amran where a gathering of Houthis was taking place. Although the AQAP media wing, "Ansar al Shariah News," did not have any details regarding the result of the attack, the AQAP statement noted that local media outlets report that the attack led to the death or injury of 15 Houthis.

The second AQAP attack took place on Oct. 3 in Sana'a and targeted what AQAP referred to as a "Houthi headquarters in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a." This attack was carried out by AQAP fighters lobbing a grenade on the "Houthi headquarters" in the Habra region of Sana'a. The AQAP statement on the attack claimed vaguely that the guards protecting the headquarters were killed and injured in the attack.

These latest developments come amid an escalation of AQAP attacks against the Yemeni military and the Shiite Houthi rebels. The Houthis staged a lightning sweep of Sana'a on Sept. 22 and quickly consolidated their power in the capital in the following days. Since then, AQAP has declared an open war against the Houthis and called on Sunnis to take up arms against the Shiite rebels.


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AQAP releases video of coordinated attacks in Shabwa

October 6, 2014 9:29 AM
By Oren Adaki


"From the Battlefield: Coordinated Attacks on Several Military Locations." Source: Youtube.


On Oct. 3, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released the latest installment of its video series documenting attacks, "From the Battlefield." This most recent episode, "Coordinated Attacks on Several Military Locations," includes footage of a number of AQAP attacks in the Mayfa'a region of Yemen's southern Shabwa province.

Although the video does not specify when the attacks took place, the targets and details of the operations appear to show a coordinated attack on military installations in Shabwa that was carried out on Aug. 31.

The video begins with an on-screen message providing a justification for AQAP's continuing campaign against the Yemeni military. The message describes the Yemeni military as "the Houthi-turned-military," and illustrates the military's alleged support for the Houthi rebels by claiming that Yemeni "soldiers have grown used to raising their voices with the rafidi [Shi'ite] Houthi cry during battle."

The on-screen statement claims that AQAP has "executed tens of operations" against the Yemeni military since "the start of the oppressive campaign on Wilayat Shabwa." The most recent and successful of these operations, according to AQAP, was a coordinated attack on "headquarters, checkpoints, and security and military locations" in the Mayfa'a region of Shabwa.

The video then pans to a gathering of AQAP fighters going over plans for the coordinated attacks. One fighter, identified as Majed al Sa'ari and also known as Abu Amal, is seen galvanizing the fighters prior to the operation. He speaks in an impassioned voice, seemingly about to break down and cry, suggesting that thousands die for "delusion" but AQAP's fighters will be martyred "for the sake of 'there is no God but Allah' and in order for the whole religion [deen] to be for Allah." Another fighter, named Abu Mohammad al Awlaki, says that AQAP's goal is to "raise the banners of monotheism" throughout the land.

The video then shows the fighters parting from their AQAP comrades as they set out for their "operation." The first group of fighters targeted the Kherma military barracks, located in the Mayfa'a region of Shabwa along the road connecting Azzan to al Houta, while the second group of AQAP fighters headed toward the Jissr Azzan checkpoint. Both groups attacked the military locations with light and heavy weapons, and the video shows the quick advance of the AQAP fighters' assault.

A "support group" of AQAP fighters is also seen arriving at the attack locations after the initial groups of fighters had begun advancing on the two locations. Abu Amal, who was featured earlier in the video, is seen "martyred" during the assault of the Jissr Azzan checkpoint.

The video also shows AQAP fighters seizing armored trucks and weapons from the two locations, as well as setting fire to the Kherma military barracks following their coordinated advance. When a tank attempts to flee the scene, AQAP fighters "besiege" the tank and fire at it.

The video concludes with another on-screen message, this time outlining the results of the coordinated attacks in Shabwa. The message claims that AQAP fighters killed and wounded about 50 Yemeni soldiers and destroyed and burned a military base, barracks, and checkpoint. The statement also claims that AQAP fighters burned machinery and vehicles used by the Yemeni military, including four tanks, and seized some light weaponry and ammunition.

Shabwa has long been a stronghold for AQAP. In the past, the Yemeni military has attempted to dislodge the terrorist group from Yemen's southern provinces, notably with offensives in 2012 and 2014. In recent weeks, AQAP has staged a series of ambush attacks targeting Yemeni soldiers in Shabwa, particularly along the Gol al Raydah-Rudhoum road. In a statement released in late September taking credit for such an attack, AQAP boldly claimed that the group's attacks on military personnel and facilities in the Mayfa'a region of Shabwa have claimed the lives of over 50 Yemeni soldiers in about a month.


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Free Syrian Army continues to cooperate with the Al Nusrah Front, Islamic Front in southern Syria

October 5, 2014 4:46 PM
By Caleb Weiss

The Free Syrian Army has recently allied with Islamist rebels fighting in al Harah, a town in the southern Syrian province of Deraa. Elements from the Free Syrian Army coordinated their efforts with the Islamist Syrian Revolutionaries Front, the Islamic Front, and the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's official affiliate in Syria, to take the al Harah Hill and the surrounding town.

The Free Syrian Army utilized several BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles during the fighting, which the United States supplied to "vetted groups" in April.

In the video below, a unit of the Free Syrian Army uses a TOW missile near al Harah Hill:

The Islamic Front's official Twitter feed highlights its operations on al Harah Hill. The Islamic Front also released a video (below) showing members of Jaysh al Islam and Suqour al Sham, two factions of the Islamic Front, firing on regime soldiers fleeing from al Harah Hill. A video showing members of Ahrar al Sham discussing their operations has also been released by the Islamic Front.


The Al Nusrah Front (al Qaeda in Syria) has also had a prominent role in the fighting at al Harah Hill and the surrounding town. The group's Twitter feed for their southern Syria elements released several images of Al Nusrah fighters taking part in the battle.


Al Nusrah fighters on al Harah hill:

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"Al Nusrah tank involved in the liberation of al Harah hill."

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Al Nusrah technical fighting at al Harah hill:

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The Long War Journal has previously noted that Western-backed groups continue to operate with the Al Nusrah Front, Ahrar al Sham, and the wider Islamic Front coalition. Last month, the moderate Syrian Revolutionaries Front coordinated efforts with Al Nusrah and Ahrar al Sham to take several villages in Quneitra province. In August, elements from the Syrian Revolutionaries Front and the Free Syrian Army worked with Al Nusrah and Ahrar al Sham to take the Quneitra border crossing with the Israeli-held Golan Heights.

More videos showing Free Syrian Army elements using TOW missiles on al Harah Hill and the surrounding town:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xC8rPqYGdI&feature=youtu.be
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyT3MP0DvBY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZ6hpdt14r8
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLNa1KKOmBA&feature=youtu.be
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZtLfGfZZ_k
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnweiTXjhJo&feature=youtu.be
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuOcuHE9rCg&feature=youtu.be
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgIpm-n-Lc8&feature=youtu.be
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rke59akfXv4&feature=youtu.be
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNFfdPVL_gg&feature=youtu.be
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRSx-VwYaQU


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Islamic State releases pictures of training camp in Kirkuk

October 3, 2014 4:11 PM
By Caleb Weiss

The Islamic State has released pictures showing the graduation of fighters from the "Shaykh Abu Omar al Baghdadi" training camp in Kirkuk. The camp is named after Abu Omar al Baghdadi, the former leader and founder of the Islamic State of Iraq. Abu Omar was killed in a US military raid in Tikrit; the same raid also killed Abu Ayyub al Masri, the successor to al Qaeda in Iraq's founder Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the current head of the Islamic State, replaced Abu Omar and Abu Ayyub.

The Islamic State has released images of two other camps in Iraq and Syria. In July, the Islamic State released pictures of a training camp in Ninewa province, Iraq. Before that, the Islamic State announced the existence of the Zarqawi Camp, which is named after the slain founder of al Qaeda in Iraq, on the outskirts of the Syrian capital of Damascus in May.

These pictures and training camps are reminiscent of others released by al Qaeda from the network of camps in Afghanistan during the 1990s. Al Qaeda used camps such as Khalden and Al Farouq to churn out thousands of foreign fighters who fought alongside the Taliban in the 55th Arab Brigade. But al Qaeda also selected graduates of the camps to conduct attacks in the West, including the Sept. 11, 2001 operation against the US.

The US has targeted five Islamic State training centers in six airstrikes since Aug. 7, when it began its campaign in Iraq. Islamic State training camps were hit in US airstrikes in Raqqah, Abu Kamal, Dier al Zour, and Hasakah on Sept. 22; Manjib on Sept. 29; and again in Raqqah on Oct. 3.

Pictures from the Islamic State's training camp in Kirkuk:

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AQAP eulogizes fighter killed in April drone strike

October 3, 2014 9:23 AM
By Oren Adaki

ghazi2.jpgMohammad Salem bin Ghazi. Source: Twitter.


On Oct. 2, a Twitter account affiliated with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) began posting a series of tweets about the life of one of its slain fighters named Mohammad Salem bin Ghazi, believed to have been killed in a US drone strike targeting AQAP's training camp in the Mahfad region of Abyan in late April of this year.

According to his AQAP eulogy, Mohammad Salem bin Gazi, also known by the nom-de-guerre Mahmoud al Hadrami, was born in 1973 in Saudi Arabia. After finishing high school studies in his native Saudi Arabia, Ghazi desired to travel to Afghanistan with the intention of joining the jihad there, but "Allah did not facilitate that for him." Following the Gulf War, Ghazi was imprisoned (presumably in Saudi Arabia) for four years due to "his striking of the Americans." Although his specific crime is not mentioned, the AQAP eulogy claims that after Ghazi served his time, he relocated to Yemen.

In Yemen, Ghazi studied computer science to the point that "he mastered the various sciences and was extremely intelligent, according to witness of those who knew him." His "scientific and military culture" is described to have been very "high," and Ghazi is remembered as an avid reader of many books and especially of the Qur'an.

From a personal perspective, Ghazi is remembered as very generous and good man, and his eulogy includes the testimony of one of his friends who said, "I have never found anyone in my life to be more generous that he [Ghazi]." Additionally, the AQAP eulogy alleges that Ghazi's good character is demonstrated by his longstanding dedication to his mother, claiming that he lived with her and took care of all of her needs, including cooking and washing clothes.

Ghazi's mother described her son's devotion to her: "He would cook food for me and not eat one bite till I finished my food, and he would wash my clothes and clean the house and would be at my service." She described her son as an "ascetic in this world" who had a soft spot for his mother, tickling her legs to make her laugh, and always at the service of others.

According to his eulogy, Ghazi was "martyred" as a result of a US drone strike on an AQAP training camp in the mountainous Mahfad region in northeastern Abyan province on April 19, 2014. Ghazi was allegedly killed in the first drone strike on the artillery facilities in Mahfad, and his eulogy indicates that because of the sustained drone strikes over the following day, the mujahideen could not bury Ghazi's body until the third day after his death.

The eulogy concludes with praise for Ghazi and his "brothers"and for his mother:
"May Allah have mercy on you, Oh Mohammad, and may Allah accept you and your brothers in the highest Paradise, and we tell his mother, how blessed you are with this great honor that your righteous son ... for you have excelled in educating [him] and with Allah's permission he will intercede on your behalf on the Day of Judgment."

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