America Sanctions the Islamic State’s Intelligence Chief

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 3 September 2017

The U.S. State Department on 17 August sanctioned two Islamic State (IS) operatives, Ahmad al-Khald (or Ahmad Alkhald), who was involved in the November 2015 terrorist atrocities in France and the March 2016 bombings in Belgium, and Iyad Hamid Mahl al-Jumayli (Abu Yahya al-Iraqi), IS’s internal security chief.


Ahmad al-Khald, a Syrian national, is “an ISIS bomb-maker responsible for the deaths of numerous civilians in Europe”, the State Department explains, and was “the explosives chief of the terrorist cell that carried out the November 2015 attacks in Paris and the March 2016 attacks in Brussels”. Al-Khald “travelled to Europe, where he helped plan the Paris attacks and manufacture the explosive belts used in that plot”. Al-Khald returned to Syria “shortly before” the Paris attacks, but “continued to guide ISIS operatives in Europe on making the bombs used in the … Brussels attacks”. Al-Khald is said to have provided technical guidance to Najim Laachraoui, one of the suicide-killers at Zaventem airport.

Ahmad al-Khald (source)

Salah Abdeslam, the lead logistician of the Paris attacks, picked up a fourth batch of IS operatives on 2 October 2015. Abdeslam’s three previous trips were to Hungary; this one was to Ulm, Germany. There, Abdeslam met Usama Krayem, Sofiane Ayari, and “A. Ahmed”, all of whom had entered Europe in September 2015 through Leros, Greece, with the refugee flow. Abdeslam’s brother, Brahim, blew himself up at the Comptoir Voltaire brasserie on 13 November 2015. Salah famously backed out of conducting his suicide-murder operation that night and was subsequently arrested, after a Continent-wide manhunt, hiding in his native Molenbeek. Ayari was arrested alongside Abdeslam on 18 March 2016, four days before the Brussels attacks. Krayem, also known as Naim al-Hamed, was arrested on 8 April 2016 in the company of Mohamed Abrini.

“Ahmed” remains at large. He carried forged Syrian and Belgian documents, which were later found by authorities in Belgium. “Ahmed” spent time in Hungary at the Bicske refugee center, where he was arrested at one point. “Ahmed” then moved on to Austria and finally went back to Syria via Turkey on 16 November. Though there is a slight discrepancy with the State Department designation—which says al-Khald returned to Syria before the Paris attacks—“A. Ahmed” is believed to be al-Khald.

The amniyat (security units) were crucial in enabling IS’s infiltration and conquest of communities, and its ability to suppress threats to its hold on captured terrain. As the organization matured, the amniyat evolved into four separate agencies, one of which, Amn al-Kharji, conducted IS’s foreign intelligence operations and ultimately directed the foreign attacks. The description of al-Khald’s activities, including guiding attacks, makes it likely he is an amni with Amn al-Kharji


Iyad al-Jumayli is described by the State Department as “a senior ISIS figure who reports to ISIS leader … Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi”. State adds that al-Jumayli “has reportedly played a key role in security for al-Baghdadi and oversees ISIS security in Iraq and Syria”.

Al-Jumayli, a Fallujah native in his forties, is a “former regime element” (FRE), a member of the security services under the Saddam Husayn regime. Al-Jumayli “likely graduated in 1994 from Baghdad University College of Law, and he was at the rank of Captain or Major in 2003 at the General Security Directorate”, according to Nibras Kazimi. The GSD, or al-Amn al-Amm, was the internal security service, the secret police, of the Saddam regime.

Al-Jumayli joined the IS movement in the first years after the fall of Saddam, making, as a crucial number of FREs did, an ideological decision to join the then-marginal jihadi stream of the insurgency when many, more powerful Ba’thi-Islamist insurgent units were available. Al-Jumayli was arrested at some point, and spent time in Camp Bucca. Al-Jumayli was broken out of Abu Ghraib in July 2013.

Al-Jumayli is believed to be responsible for the decision to make the qisas (retribution) video on 23 June 2015, which showed men being burned alive in a car with an RPG, others being drowned in a cage, and the beheading of prisoners with explosive collars. Al-Jumayli currently oversees the amniyat and thus internal security and counter-intelligence for the caliphate and the caliph. Al-Jumayli took this position in late 2015.[1]

Iraqi state TV reported on 1 April 2017 that al-Jumayli had been killed in an airstrike on 31 March near al-Qaim, but no evidence has surfaced to corroborate this claim and Baghdad is known for its overzealousness in claiming the demise of IS leaders. A second report that al-Jumayli had been killed in Mosul on 6 July 2017 was quickly falsified.

Al-Jumayli works closely with Iyad al-Ubaydi,[2] who is senior to al-Jumayli. Al-Ubaydi has been identified by the coalition as IS’s “war minister”,[3] and the caliph’s effective deputy—assuming the rumours circulating since mid-July, which suggest al-Ubaydi has been killed, are false. Al-Ubaydi, in his fifties, is another former officer in Saddam’s security apparatus. Al-Ubaydi, like al-Jumayli, joined with IS early on after Saddam fell. Both are believed to be members of IS’s shura council.[4]


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[1] The security portfolio, at one time called the Security and Intelligence Council (SIC), is a subset of the Military Council and the leadership of the two bodies—like the leadership of IS generally—is fluid and overlapping.

The Military Council was set up in 2011 after Numan al-Zaydi (Abu Ibrahim al-Ansari), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s first deputy and war minister, was killed. The first Military Council leader was Samir al-Khlifawi (Abu Bakr al-Iraqi, Haji Bakr), a former intelligence officer in Saddam’s regime.

After al-Khlifawi was killed in January 2014, Adnan al-Bilawi (Abu Abdurrahman al-Bilawi), another FRE, took over the post. Al-Bilawi’s role appears to have been planning offensive operations to conquer new territory, while coordinating between the Syrian governor, Abdurrahman al-Qaduli (Abu Ali al-Anbari), and the Iraqi governor, Fadel al-Hiyali (Abu Mutaz al-Qurayshi, Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, Haji Mutaz), who were charged with defending the territory IS already held.

Al-Bilawi was killed right before the takeover of Mosul in June 2014, and succeeded by Adnan al-Suwaydawi (Abu Muhannad al-Suwaydawi, Haji Dawud). Al-Suwaydawi, from the same elite air defence intelligence unit as al-Khlifawi and a long-time personal friend of al-Bilawi’s (both of them from the Dulaym tribe in Anbar), had already taken over the SIC/amniyat folder from Abu Umar al-Turkmani. Pro-Asad/Iran media reported the death of an Abu Umar al-Turkmani in Latakia in March 2014; it is not clear if this is the Abu Umar whom al-Suwaydawi succeeded, if Abu Umar is another alias for al-Hiyali, or if there is a third person who used that kunya and was killed sometime in the first half of 2014.

Al-Suwaydawi was killed in May 2015. Al-Hiyali, a former member of Saddam’s Special Forces, became head of the Military Council, while remaining governor of Iraq and becoming the caliph’s de facto deputy. SIC was temporarily headed by al-Qaduli, a jihadi cleric and one of the few early leaders of the IS movement with al-Qaeda “central” links, who had recruited al-Hiyali to the underground Salafi movement in Iraq in the 1990s.

The Coalition killed al-Hiyali in August 2015. Iyad al-Ubaydi (Abu Saleh al-Hayfa) took over as head of the Military Council. Al-Qaduli became the caliph’s deputy, retaining his role as financial emir and director of the wilayats (provinces), but passing the Syria governorship to Amr al-Absi (Abu al-Atheer) and the SIC position to al-Jumayli. Nima al-Jiburi (Abu Fatima al-Juhayshi) replaced al-Hiyali as governor of Iraq.

Al-Qaduli and Al-Absi were both soon killed. Taha Falaha (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani) became the Syrian governor until he, too, was killed. It is believed that the current Syrian governor is Tarad al-Jarba (Abu Muhammad al-Shimali).

[2] Iyad al-Ubaydi’s kunyas include: Abu Saleh al-Ubaydi, Abu Saleh al-Hayfa, and Fadel Hayfa

[3] See note one.

[4] It has been reported that the shura council currently consists of eight men: six Iraqis, a Saudi, and a Jordanian. The Iraqis are: the caliph, Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi); Iyad al-Ubaydi; Iyad al-Jumayli; Nima al-Jiburi (Abu Fatima), the governor of Iraq; the head of the external affairs body, Abdullah Yusef (Abu Bakr al-Khatouni); and Khaldun al-Maslawi, the media emir. The Saudi is Tarad al-Jarba (Abu Muhammad al-Shimali), the former border emir and now the Syrian governor. The Jordanian is likely to be Umar al-Sulayti (Abu Mundhir al-Muhajir), who leads the Shura Council. Interestingly, if this report of the national composition of the shura council is correct, it means that IS’s current spokesman, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, a foreigner, is not part of the shura council.



Originally published at The Henry Jackson Society

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