Zarqawi’s brother-in-law reported killed while leading Al Nusrah Front unit


Banner for the Al Nusrah Front, a jihadist group in Syria. Image from the SITE Intelligence Group.

A brother-in-law of al Qaeda in Iraq’s former leader, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, has died while fighting for the Al Nusrah Front in Syria, Al Jazeera reported. And the jihadist replacing him as emir of an Al Nusrah subgroup has also served Zarqawi in Iraq.

Iyad al Tubasi, who is also known as Abu Julaybib, is thought to have been killed earlier this week in Daraa, a town in southwestern Syria near the Jordanian border. Al Tubasi is just the latest Zarqawi family member to have been killed on the battlefield or captured.

Al Jazeera’s sources say that “the Al Mujahidin Shura Council and the legislative committee of Al Nusrah Front…appointed 38 year-old Jordanian Mustafa Abd al Latif Salih, known as Abu Anas al Sahhaba, as the emir of the front in Syria.” Salih is not the overall emir of Al Nusrah, but instead leads a subgroup in Daraa province. The Nusrah Front has been active in Daraa, and has claimed five suicide attacks in the town since the end of June.

Earlier this week, the US State Department said that al Qaeda in Iraq’s emir, Abu Du’a, or Abu Bakr al Baghdadi al Husseini al Qurshi, “is in control of both AQI and Al Nusrah.”

Salih, the new emir of the Al Nusrah subgroup, was “active in the Salafi jihadist trend” in Jordan and “accompanied” Zarqawi ” in Iraq for a while, Al Jazeera reported. “One of his duties in Iraq was to work in Syria as a recruiter of fighters and transport them to Iraq.” Salih “was arrested twice in Syria” and allegedly tortured before being turned over to the Jordanians at some point.

Although Salih was supposedly tortured by the Syrian regime, Bashar al Assad’s henchmen actually supported the al Qaeda in Iraq facilitation network inside Syria. For years, a network headed by a top al Qaeda facilitator known as Abu Ghadiyah, and others, was sponsored by Syrian officials. That network sent foreign fighters and suicide bombers to wage jihad on behalf of al Qaeda in Iraq. US special operations forces killed Abu Ghadiyah and members of his staff during a raid in Albu Kamal in eastern Syria in October 2008.

Several of Zarqawi’s family members are known to have been killed or captured while waging jihad in the Middle East. Zayed Sweiti and Firas Khalailah, two of Zarqawi’s cousins, were recently detained by Jordanian border guards after spending five months in Syria. Muhammad Fazi al Harasheh, a nephew of Zarqawi also known as Abu Hammam al Zarqawi, was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen sometime in early 2012.

Additionally, in 2010, Sami al Daini, another brother-in-law to Zarqwai, was appointed by the emir of al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq to lead forces in Diyala province.

Numerous Zarqawi aides and associates, as well as fighters from Zarqawi’s home town of Zarqa, are also known to have been killed in the Middle East and South Asia, or are currently operating there.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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