The US Treasury Department and the UN have added two senior jihadists to their terror sanctions lists. Both of them were leaders in the group formerly known as Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria. Treasury’s announcement provides new details about al Qaeda’s operations in Syria, including the organization’s history and personnel.
The Defense Department has confirmed that Boubaker al-Hakim, a French-Tunisian Islamic State leader, was killed in Raqqa, Syria on Nov. 26. Al-Hakim had ties to Ansar al Sharia Tunisia, an al Qaeda-affiliated group, before defecting to the Islamic State’s cause. He admittedly assassinated one Tunisian politician in 2013 and knew the assailants responsible for a second slaying.
Jund al Aqsa, a US and UN designated terrorist organization, was subsumed by al Qaeda’s rebranded Syrian branch in early October. The group had deep ties to al Qaeda’s fundraising network in the Gulf prior to the merger.
The Syrian town of Dabiq, which has long been central to the Islamic State’s apocalyptic messaging, was captured by Turkish-backed rebel forces on Oct. 16. Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield says that more than 1,300 square kilometers of territory along Syria’s border with Turkey has been seized from the Islamic State since August.
Assef Shawkat, a top Syrian official killed in a bomb blast last week, was a key ally of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Leaked State Department cables show that General David Petraeus repeatedly warned of the collusion between Syrian officials, including Shawkat, and AQI’s top foreign fighter facilitator.