Al Qaeda’s American propagandist notes death of terror group’s representative in Syria

Adam Gadahn, the American traitor who works with al Qaeda’s General Command as a propagandist, has released a videotape acknowledging the death of Abu Khalid al Suri, the terror group’s representative to Syria who was killed last month. In the video, Gadahn vows that al Qaeda will avenge Abu Khalid’s death, and notes that he had served under the al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan.

According to the SITE Intelligence Group, which obtained and translated the video, Gadahn’s videotaped statement was released yesterday on the YouTube and Twitter accounts of a jihadist, and not on the al Qaeda-linked jihadist forums.

The video also does not bear the logo of As Sahab, al Qaeda’s official media outlet. The video was posted by a jihadist who goes by the name “sticky bomb” and who is supportive of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham.

Without directly naming the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS), an al Qaeda splinter group disowned by al Qaeda’s General Command last month, Gadahn intimates that the ISIS was responsible for Abu Khalid’s death. Abu Khalid was killed in a suicide attack in Aleppo towards the end of February. While no group has claimed the attack, the ISIS has been actively battling the Al Nusrah Front and the Islamic Front, and has used suicide bombers against both jihadist groups.

“The fingers of accusation have been pointed at a group that is known for its extreme nature and radical behavior, and its tyranny and its going against the people of Islam and jihad in Syria, and the scholars and knowledgeable ones from among the mujahideen everywhere,” Gadahn says. He also claims that “thousands have fallen from both sides” during the jihadist internecine warfare.

Gadahn then says that he “cannot confirm nor deny the accusations that are directed at the aforementioned group for this sinful attack and condemnable crime,” and calls for “a comprehensive investigation.” After the investigation, al Qaeda would take “the necessary procedures against the perpetrators according to the Shariah of Allah.”

Lamenting the death of Abu Khalid, the al Qaeda propagandist notes that he served under Abu Khalid as “a soldier in one of the jihadi groups” during “the time of the Islamic Emirate,” a reference to Afghanistan during the time of Taliban rule.

“The days that I spent in that group [commanded by Abu Khalid] were unforgettable,” Gadahn states.

Gadahn also notes that Abu Khalid was “a deputy to” Abu Musab al Suri (Mustafa Setmariam Nasar), who is a major al Qaeda ideologue. Gadahn indicates that Abu Musab remains in prison, presumably held by the Syrian government, by stating “may Allah release him” after mentioning his name. Abu Khalid himself also indicated in a message released in January that Abu Musab remained in custody. [See Threat Matrix report, Alleged message from Zawahiri’s Syrian representative posted online.]

Abu Khalid al Suri was a longtime al Qaeda operative and a founding member of Ahrar al Sham, one of six Islamist groups in the Islamic Front. At the time of his death, Abu Khalid was a senior leader in Ahrar al Sham. Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s emir, appointed Abu Khalid as al Qaeda’s special representative in Syria in 2013.

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

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  • Harold says:

    Altogether, what we’re seeing is the elimination of the hangers-on to what might be termed the Al Qaeda and jihadism of a past current of historical development. Syria seems to be the main location where this ‘old’ current is being buried. This past current, associated primarily with Osama Bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam, was born with the Afghan war against the Soviets – and died with the American invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. Not that this spelled the end of jihadism, but it spelled the end of one current and the beginning of another. Born with Zarqawi in Iraq and growing into the current ISIS, the birth of what be called a ‘state’ level of jihadist expansion and activity is what we see unfolding now. Individuals like Gadahn – and even Zawahiri – are about all that’s left of the past current and are increasingly being isolated from having any influence on the ground in the real world at all.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Harold, how does that explain the influence of old school jihadists in the AL Nusrah Front and Islamic Front/Ahrar al Sham? Would you consider Wuhayshi and AQAP old current or new current jihadist? I could go on and on with examples…

  • Harold says:

    Hi Bill,
    The many old school types going into Nusra and Ahrar/IF flows, in large part, from familiarity and habit, imo. Because Nusra’s leadership aligned itself with Zawahiri who is representative of the past current mentioned in the first comment, those still identifying themselves with that current naturally will go into those groups who are openly aligned with it. This also appears to be linked to a deliberate strategy to try to pilfer weapons and aid officially flowing into the ‘approved’ groups like the IF which groups like Ahrar – part of IF who have AQ old school types in it – can then redistribute down the line, so to speak. That strategy appears to have backfired as the IF, in the opinion of many on the ground, is self-destructing and fracturing in the face of both the regime-linked forces and the ISIS. The old school AQ types keeps getting taken out, too. Nusra, in this equation, is in a very difficult situation as they’ve predicated their goals on removing Assad, taking over the entire territorial state of Syria, and only then establishing some sort of Islamic state. This is a strategy firmly linked to the older jihadist leadership views of jihadist action and, judging it against results, has never succeeed anywhere. This fact of failure may also have opened the door for more clandestine support of groups adhering to the older-current strategy. It also explains the near universal concern about ISIS by national authorities, as well as those in the older jihadist current, because ISIS state construction does not really begin with the international state system as a point of departure – but begins in and with a ‘where one is, there is the state’ strategy. As for AQAP and its leadership, in my opinion they represent a movement towards the new current – the ‘where one is there is the state’ level of action. This can be seen in the deliberately neutral stance of Wuhaysi vis-à-vis Syria divisions – but with a strong leaning towards ISIS opinion by several other leadership individuals in AQAP. Altogether, there is a definite split now between the two currents developing and barring any sort of reconciliation between the two – which seems very unlikely – this split will come to define jihadist activity everywhere for the foreseeable future.

  • Frank S says:

    Maybe it’s just the conspiracist in me, but how would Gadahn even know if it was in fact ISIS that killed Suri? The supposed Baghdadi twitter leaks on al ahkbar earlier this month seem to confirm that he was probably being targetted. And I have no doubt that Bakr al-Baghdadi certainly had the motivation to do so after Suri riled up multiple al Qaeda bigwigs to speak out against ISIS. But is there any actual evidence that they were behind it? Presumably the two attackers who killed him were also killed in the operation.
    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that his assassination coincided with his being labelled “al Qaeda’s representative in Syria” by the US Treasury, while Abdullah had started jockeying for MANPADS to be given to the Islamic Front over Israeli objections. After he started making his presence known in Syria, Suri became a major credibility issue for Ahrar al-Sham and by extension the Islamic Front as a whole.
    Whether or not Bandar or even Abdullah himself knew that Suri was a “commander” in Ahrar al-Sham previously, once it had been made public they had to eliminate him to retain credibility. The amount of anti-war sentiment that was aroused in 2013 when Obama proposed bombing Damascus was staggering and at that time al-Qaeda’s exposure in the conflict was a fraction of what it gets today.
    I think it’s much more likely that Suri would have never accepted an audience with representatives of al-Baghdadi after their falling out and open war was essentially declared. I just have to give the guy more credit after evading our intelligence agencies for decades.

  • kush dragon says:

    I’ve heard though that ISIS continues to lose ground in Syria as they are being tag teamed by Al Nusrah Front, Ahrar, much of the IF and even the Kurds. I think their situation is more precarious than you think. ISIS is a small part of the Syrian insurgency that has alienated much of the populace due to their brutal tactics that, amazingly, are a step above even the mainstream Al Qaeda show.
    Iraq of course is another story, but even there I don’t think they are really that strong in the long run. Yes, they have seized a few cities and some large parts of Anbar. It is certainly impressive, but it would not take all that much to change it should they gain a little more ground. I think if the Iraqi Army got serious about this problem instead of half assing the situation and letting the Awakening deal with things this problem would end pretty quickly. If they failed, Iran could always step in, as I doubt they will be happy about an ISIS dominated Iraq. If Iran is unwilling, I suspect NATO would even take care of this should things escalate beyond a certain point. These guys may be strong at the moment but they have absolutely zero allies to speak of, yet more than enough enemies to occupy their time.

  • O says:

    @kush dragon
    About the Iraqi Awakening movement, unfortunately it was marginalized, left exposed and very much weakened by the Shia chauvinist central government. It could have continued as a force for stability but Maliki has worked hard to be the opposite of inclusive vis a vis Sunnis.
    The situation in Anbar is the fruit of this short sighted strategy.


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