Senior al Qaeda religious official in Syria returns to social media

16-06-06 Abu Sulayman al Muhajir's New Twitter feed

A senior al Qaeda religious official in Syria has returned to social media in the past 24 hours after a prolonged absence. The jihadist known as Abu Sulayman al Muhajir launched a new Telegram channel and Twitter feed.

“We are working on a way to administer your questions to be answered through this channel,” Abu Sulayman wrote to his followers in his third message on Telegram.

The US Treasury Department added Abu Sulayman to its official list of designated al Qaeda terrorists on May 19. Treasury said that he “occupies a senior leadership position in” Al Nusrah Front, which is al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria. Abu Sulayman has recruited Australians for the jihad in Syria and has also “solicited funds” to finance the group’s “terrorist activities,” according to Treasury. [See LWJ report, Treasury sanctions al Qaeda, Islamic State ‘financiers and facilitators.’]

Thus far, Abu Sulayman has posted only a few messages on Twitter and Telegram. He has maintained an active presence on social media in the past, but Twitter has repeatedly suspended his accounts.

It does not appear that Abu Sulayman has been active online in many months, perhaps longer than a year. In one of his first tweets back, Abu Sulayman posted a link to a collection of his old tweets. The last tweet is dated Nov. 12, 2014. On Sept. 11, 2014, the al Qaeda ideologue praised the 9/11 hijackings.

The Long War Journal has reported on Abu Sulayman’s activities on multiple occasions. He was an extremist preacher in Australia before relocating to Syria. Al Nusrah first publicly promoted Abu Sulayman in Mar. 2014, when the group released a video of his testimony against the Islamic State. Abu Sulayman said he attempted to mediate the dispute between the Islamic State and its jihadist rivals in Syria. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda official in Syria was extremist preacher in Australia.]

The Long War Journal believes it is likely that Abu Sulayman was an al Qaeda official before he relocated to Syria. Al Qaeda chose only its most trusted personnel to take part in the mediation talks with the Islamic State. It is highly unlikely that someone like Abu Sulayman was unknown to al Qaeda’s leadership prior to his inclusion in the mediation team, which failed to bring about a resolution to the dispute in 2013 and early 2014.

In a subsequent Al Nusrah Front video, released in Apr. 2014, Abu Sulayman explained al Qaeda’s global strategy. The jihadist demonstrated that he has detailed knowledge of al Qaeda’s international network.

Al Qaeda “draws up its plans and its strategy based on what we call al Qalim, or locations,” Sulayman said in the video. And a leader, or emir, is chosen to oversee each of these locations. The regional emir swears a ba’yah to al Qaeda on behalf of his branch “that binds them to the group” and means that they owe “allegiance in the matters of jihad,” because the oath “ties them to one unity, one group called” al Qaeda. Abu Sulayman claimed that Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, who leads the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate, was himself a regional emir before he broke his ba’yah to al Qaeda. [See LWJ report, Al Nusrah Front official explains al Qaeda’s strategy, conflict with former branch.]

Abu Sulayman has appeared in other Al Nusrah Front videos as well, including one that celebrated the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

As in the past, Abu Sulayman is using social media to provide ideological guidance to jihadists.

“Even though we aim at gradual change depending on our abilities, this religion is not a peaceful reform movement,” Abu Sulayman wrote in one of his first messages on Telegram. He continued: “Islam came to unroot all forms of falsehood that exist in society and firmly establish a lasting, sustainable, just system. Half solutions are never the answer, as truth can never exist with falsehood, and falsehood is the mere absence of truth. For this to happen, the most noble of men must sacrifice their wealth and lives.”

It remains to be seen how long Abu Sulayman’s new accounts are allowed to remain active.

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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