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Another al Qaeda bigwig killed in Syria?



Sanafi al Nasr picture 2.jpg

The picture above is circulating on jihadist Twitter feeds and purportedly shows Sanafi al Nasr sitting on the left.

Reports are swirling on Twitter, via well-known jihadists and sympathizers, that Sanafi al Nasr has been killed in Syria. (This is unconfirmed as of this writing.) ***Updates at bottom.***

You may be wondering: Who?

The Long War Journal first reported on March 6 that Nasr, whose real name is Abdul Mohsin Abdullah Ibrahim Al Sharikh, was much more than just a prolific and well-connected online jihadist. He is, or was, the head of al Qaeda's "Victory Committee," according to multiple US intelligence officials we interviewed. His alias actually means "Cultivator of Victory." And his committee is tasked with strategic planning and policy for al Qaeda.

Nasr, a third cousin of Osama bin Laden, comes from an al Qaeda family. Several of his brothers are known to have joined al Qaeda, including two who were detained at Guantanamo, transferred to Saudi Arabia, and then re-arrested on terrorism charges in 2008.

Al Qaeda is still poorly understood in the West, mainly because the organization hides much of its infrastructure and does not publish personnel rosters. As far as I know, the fact that Sanafi al Nasr headed al Qaeda's "Victory Committee" was not known before we reported it. You can search in vain for in-depth analysis of his committee as well.

In fact, Sanafi al Nasr's story highlights the substantial epistemological challenges the counterterrorism community and broader media face in covering al Qaeda and affiliated groups.

If he was killed, then this is arguably a higher-profile killing within al Qaeda circles than the death of Abu Khalid al Suri in late February. Abu Khalid was Ayman al Zawahiri's main representative inside Syria, which is an incredibly important role within al Qaeda. But Sanafi al Nasr's position within al Qaeda is above even that, according to US intelligence officials.

Sanafi al Nasr has been very active on this Twitter feed. His last post was two days ago. He currently has nearly 12,000 followers.

The picture above is circulating on Twitter and shows him, on the left, looking at what appears to be his computer -- which is fitting given his prolific online role.

If he is in fact dead, then a valuable open source window into al Qaeda will have been lost.

But that, of course, does not offset the benefits of al Qaeda losing another dangerous leader.

Right now, interested analysts, commentators, and journalists should be asking: How many more Sanafi al Nasrs does al Qaeda have? Who are his lieutenants? And how many of them are in Syria currently?

We will have additional coverage if and when Sanafi al Nasr's death is sufficiently confirmed. (Which probably will not take too long.)

In the meantime, you can read our original reporting and analysis of Sanafi al Nasr here.

Update: Prominent jihadists with known ties to al Qaeda, and who are in a position to know whether or not Nasr has been killed, are reporting that he is dead. For example, Sheikh Abdallah Muhammad al Muhaysini, who we've written about extensively, has tweeted on Nasr's death. This is strong evidence that Nasr has in fact been killed. Muhaysini and others are using a common hashtag to commemorate Nasr's "martyrdom."



READER COMMENTS: "Another al Qaeda bigwig killed in Syria?"

Posted by Miles Christi at March 21, 2014 9:18 PM ET:

WOW!!

It's so odd that earlier this morning, I started by reading your article, 'American' jihadist in Syria pictured with dangerous ISIS commanders', followed by, Al Qaeda veteran appears in Al Nusrah Front video, criticizes rival, and then linked to, 'Head of al Qaeda 'Victory Committee' in Syria' from the article about Abu Firas. I linked from the article about Nasr to the Guantanamo threat assessment and read all 12 pages on Nasr.

I had actually read many of them when they were first released on WikiLeaks. I spent 6 years in the 82nd, being a squad leader in an AT-Infantry company, and always had a longing for the "bigger picture". I was never so thrilled as when in Afghanistan I spent 5 months building Chapman Airfied from the ground up in middle '02. Just my lone AT platoon and one mortar team. Everyone else there, 40-50 of us altogether, were either SF, Australian SF, Company men, or CAG (Delta).

When those guys did raids, and they did a lot of them, we provided outer cordon while they kicked doors. Needless to say, the level of intelligence and being able to see the bigger picture was unprecedented and was never duplicated after that time spent with those guys. We literally had access to every S.I.R in the entire theater of operations. Those were also the funnest times of my entire Army career. I often wonder if any of the guys we helped them snatch up, and then also guarded afterwards before transfer, were some seriously bad dudes. There were several times we would take PUC's that within hours were picked up in HIP's or HIND's, never to be seen again.

We used to sit down on the ground and have lunch with some of the big warlord players at the time. This was '02 like I said, and there was no ANA, no police, just warlords and militia's. One time we, my platoon of 5 gun trucks, and an A-team in Hilux's plus a few Afghan militia guys, were escorting the Governor of Khowst to a meeting involving several other regional governors in Gardez where SGM England and Gen McChrystal, the SGM and CMDR of the 82nd at the time, would be meeting us there via blackhawk. When we left we had to drive back to Khowst, at night, through the winding mountainside roads down from Gardez. There was a green on green incident between 2 different factions that we had to drive through, the 2 parties being separated by a bridge. All of a sudden, we became aware that there was still armor in the region that had been well hidden but they had now produced for their little spat with each other. There was a T-55 and 2 ZSU 57-2's that were mobile and ready to rock and roll.

Sorry to be rambling kind of! The point of me telling you all that is that I just want to say how much I appreciate all the intel that you put out. Ever since I got out in '05 I began to study Islam and its adherents and there's something so fascinating about watching all of this stuff play out. I'm also a history lover.

Islam is like one big soap opera. I got started in my studies by finding Robert Spencer and Jihadwatch, and then I just started digging. There's a few places out there that I frequent the most for intel. Jihadology, ICSR, ISW, SITE, and all the big name guys on Twitter who focus on this stuff. etc...

I'm being honest when I say that LWJ and TM are my favorites though. So thank you. I've always wanted to comment on a lot of things, but just never have. When I saw that the same guy I spent hours looking into earlier in the day was now thought to be dead, I was just blown away.

This whole Nusra/ISIS thing is just crazy. How does it end now? Heavy damage has been inflicted on some pretty serious big names. How does AQ forgive that? I don't think they can.

Also, who do you think Abu Khalid's companion that was sent to al Sham with him is? I know Nasr is supposedly the one who said as much, but could it have been him?