The State Department has amended the terrorist designation for Al Nusrah Front to include the “alias” Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS). State’s announcement indicates that the US government still considers HTS to be part of al Qaeda’s network, despite the jihadists’ vitriolic disputes over its formation. State didn’t explain its reasoning behind the move.
“Since at least 2009,” the State Department says in a recently released report, “Iran has allowed AQ [al Qaeda] facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through the country, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria.”
The Department of Justice announced on June 29 that Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud pleaded guilty nearly two years ago to training with and fighting for Al Nusrah Front in Syria. Al Nusrah “instructed” Mohamud “to return to the US and commit an act of terrorism.” He admittedly planned to kill American “military officers or other government employees or people in uniform.”
The Pentagon has confirmed that Ahmed Salama Mabrouk was killed in an Oct. 3 airstrike in Syria’s Idlib province. According to Defense Department Press Secretary Peter Cook, Mabrouk was “one of Al Qaeda’s most senior leaders” and his death is “a blow to their ability to plot external attacks.” Mabrouk was one of the most senior officials in Jabhat Fath al Sham, al Qaeda’s rebranded branch in Syria.
Jihadist groups in Syria, including the Al Nusrah Front and Ahrar al Sham, have established “Al Muhajirun” as a new front for foreign fighters. The alliance is intended to unite foreign jihadists and serve as a counterbalance to the Islamic State.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s emir, Abdulmalek Droukdel, has released an audio message praising the head of the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, for working with other Islamist and jihadist groups to capture the city of Idlib.
An alleged audio recording featuring Al Nusrah Front emir Abu Muhammad al Julani was leaked online. Julani discusses the creation of an Islamic emirate, or state, in Syria as a counterweight to the Islamic State and other actors.
Hani Sibai, a longtime ally of Ayman al Zawahiri, has called on al Qaeda to issue a statement regarding the Islamic State’s announced caliphate.