Senior al Qaeda leader returns to Twitter, praises ‘martyrs’

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Sanafi al Nasr is sitting on the far left in the picture above.

The al Qaeda leader known as Sanafi al Nasr, who is based in Syria, returned to Twitter yesterday after a month and half absence. He praised al Qaeda’s “martyrs,” including Adnan al Shukrijumah, a senior al Qaeda operative who was reportedly killed in Pakistan earlier this month.

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Shukrijumah had been part of al Qaeda’s external operations wing, which plans attacks in the West, for more than a decade. In particular, Shukrijumah was tasked with plotting against targets in North America. He has been tied to a number of plots, including a thwarted terrorist attack against New York City subways in 2009. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda sleeper agent tied to 2009 NYC subway plot.]

A photo posted on Nasr’s Twitter feed shows a picture of Shukrijumah from the State Department’s Rewards for Justice program. (The photo can be seen on the right.)

Nasr mentions another recently deceased al Qaeda official, whom he identifies as Umar Faruq. A jihadist who uses that name, which is a common nom de guerre, was reportedly killed in a US drone strike on Dec. 7.

However, there was some confusion in Pakistani press reports over the slain al Qaeda operative’s identity. Some reports suggested that he was Ustadh Ahmad Farooq, who is the head of al Qaeda’s dawa and communications arm in Pakistan. But that may not be the case, as Nasr’s naming of the operative as Umar Faruq suggests it could have been a different al Qaeda operative.

There has been no indication from al Qaeda channels that Ustadh Ahmad Farooq, a high-profile leader, has been killed. [For more on the confusion over Umar Faruq’s identity and role, see LWJ report: Al Qaeda commander reported killed in drone strike in Pakistan.] Still, it is certainly possible that Ahmad Farooq was killed and the jihadists use different versions of this name to refer to him.

In another tweet, Nasr commemorates Abu Khalid al Suri, who served as Ayman al Zawahiri’s representative in Syria until his death in early February. Nasr repeats a theory, disseminated by online jihadists, suggesting that al Suri was killed by Islamic State fighters under the control of British intelligence.

Among other duties, Nasr (whose real name is Abdul Mohsin Abdullah Ibrahim Al Sharikh) is the head of al Qaeda’s “Victory Committee,” which is tasked with strategic planning and policymaking for the terror group. And he serves as a high-level strategist for the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, as well.

Nasr is one of the leaders of al Qaeda’s so-called “Khorasan Group,” which was reportedly planning attacks against Western targets when the US bombed its Syrian bases in September.

All of Nasr’s tweets regarding al Qaeda’s “martyrs” should be taken with a grain of salt. Earlier this year, al Qaeda leaders reported that Nasr himself had been killed while fighting in Syria. In reality, Nasr was merely wounded and he recovered from his injuries.

Nasr also claimed on Twitter that Muhsin al Fadhli, another leader of the “Khorasan Group,” had been killed during the airstrikes in September. But that claim was dubious from the first, and there has not been any confirmation of al Fadhli’s death.

Nasr has tweeted sparingly over the past few months. Prior to yesterday, his last tweets were posted on Nov. 13.

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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