Son of Jund Ansar Allah leader reportedly arrested

The Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center (ITMC), a jihadist media unit tied to the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC), issued a statement today alleging that Hamas forces recently arrested the son of Khalid Banat (Abu Abdullah al Suri), a former leader in Jund Ansar Allah.

According to the statement, Abdel Raqib Khalid Banat, 20, was arrested on June 11. On the same day, according to the ITMC, Hamas forces arrested Sheikh Hussein al Jo’ayteni.

In recent days, Salafi jihadist groups have issued a number of statements denouncing the arrest of al Jo’ayteni, who is purportedly being tortured in Hamas’ prisons. According to the ITMC, Hamas is torturing al Jo’ayteni “day and night” in order to obtain information from him regarding Salafist groups in the Gaza Strip.

Although Jund Ansar Allah was created in 2008, it lasted only about a year before Hamas forcefully brought its existence to an end. The group was led by Sheikh Abdel Latif Moussa, who had headed a Salafi organization in Gaza since the 1980s, and Khalid Banat (Abu Abdullah Suri), who claimed to have fought with leading al Qaeda figures including Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al Zarqawi.

According to the International Crisis Group, Banat’s ability to recruit was pivotal in Jund Ansar Allah’s rapid growth. Banat, who originally trained Hamas members, used his connections to appeal to “low-level Qassam members, who upon joining [Jund Ansar Allah] would acquire new and important-sounding titles.” Banat, according to the MSC, had also worked with Hithem Ziad Ibrahim Masshal, a well-known jihadist in the Gaza Strip who was killed in an airstrike by the Israeli Air Force on April 30.

While Hamas officials at first did not view Jund Ansar Allah as a major threat, sporadic clashes between the two groups eventually increased, especially when the Salafi jihadist group intensified its criticism of Hamas in public communiqu├ęs. Following a failed attempt to arrest Banat, Jund Ansar Allah declared Hamas to be impotent, and in early August 2009 Sheikh Musa declared an Islamic emirate in the Gaza Strip, a move that greatly upset Hamas.

Shortly after the declaration, Hamas forces clashed with Jund Ansar Allah fighters at Rafah’s Ibn Taymiyyah Mosque. Numerous people from both Hamas and Jund Ansar Allah were killed in the fighting including Musa and Banat. Al Qaeda in Iraq denounced Hamas following the incident as it called on Allah “to avenge the blood of the murdered men and to destroy the Hamas state.” Condemnations by other Salafi jihadist groups were not enough to keep Jund Ansar Allah going as the deaths of its leadership all but brought the organization to an end.

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