Category Archives: Jihadi Biographies

Islamic State Profiles the Man Who Led the Last Stand of the Caliphate

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 20 September 2021

Al-Naba 304, page 10

The 304th edition of Al-Naba, the Islamic State’s (IS) weekly newsletter, published on 16 September, mostly consists of reports from the various wilayats (provinces) about military activities: at the Centre in Iraq and Syria, in Egypt, Nigeria, and even further south in Africa, in the Congo. Notably IS keeps quiet about Afghanistan in Al-Naba 304, perhaps related to the series of attacks by the Islamic State’s Khorasan Province (ISKP) over the weekend: ISKP is often silent before planned attacks. Al-Naba 304 devotes pages ten and eleven to a profile of a veteran Iraqi jihadist, Abu Umar al-Khlifawi, who led the jihadists for a time in the final pocket of the caliphate at Baghuz, Syria, despite previous injuries that nearly cost him his hand and blinded him in one eye, before he trekked on foot for a month back to Iraq and ended his life as the military emir of Fallujah. A summary of that profile is below.
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The Leaders of the Islamic State in Afghanistan

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 3 September 2021

The Islamic State’s “Khorasan Province” (ISKP) was announced in January 2015 and swiftly given formal, public recognition by IS-Centre, which had sent a high-level delegation to Afghanistan in November 2014 to oversee the final stages before they announced their project. ISKP has had seven leaders. Continue reading

Islamic State Profiles the Godfather of its Media Department

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 8 May 2021

Wael al-Ta’i (Abu Muhammad al-Furqan), Al-Naba 285, p. 3

The 285th edition of Al-Naba, the weekly newsletter of the Islamic State (IS), released on 6 May, had a biography of Abu Muhammad al-Furqan, one of the most important IS leaders, the head of its Central Media Department and its operational ruler when he was killed in September 2016. Continue reading

Qassem Sulaymani: Life and Ambition

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 2 March 2021

A year ago, U.S. President Donald Trump gave the order to kill Qassem Soleimani, the de facto deputy leader of Iran. Arash Azizi’s The Shadow Commander: Soleimani, the U.S., and Iran’s Global Ambitions is an effort to explain who Soleimani was, how he rose to controlling the lives of millions of people well outside the borders of Iran, and how in the end he was brought down. Continue reading

Islamic State Celebrates the Murderer of Sikhs in Afghanistan

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 20 June 2020

Al-Naba 239, page 9

The Islamic State (IS) released the 239th edition of its newsletter, Al-Naba, on 18 June. Pages 9 and 10 of this twelve-page document were given over to a profile of Abu Khaled al-Hindi, the jihadist elsewhere named as Mohammad Sajid Kuthirummal who massacred twenty-five worshippers at a Sikh gurdwara or temple in Kabul three months ago, on 25 March 2020, during an hours-long siege. The details of Abu Khaled’s life—finding IS after being repelled by “nationalist” jihadist groups, fighting while injured, his obedience to IS’s leaders, and thirst for “martyrdom”—are relatively standard hagiography from IS. What is really worth noting is that such an extensive focus on him, and through him on Afghanistan, underlines the importance IS has placed on its Afghan branch, Wilayat Khorasan. Continue reading

France Kills Al-Qaeda’s Man in North Africa

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 11 June 2020

France announced last Friday that its forces in Mali had killed Abd al-Malek Drukdel (Abu Musab Abd al-Wadud), the emir of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which covers the North Africa and Sahel areas. Paris has sometimes been unreliable on these matters, but the United States independently confirmed Drukdel was gone, as have sources within AQIM. The French also announced that on 19 May they had arrested Mohamed Mrabat, a veteran jihadist and member of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS). Continue reading

State Department Offers Bounty for Islamic State Propaganda Official

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 29 May 2020

Last night the State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program announced that it would pay $3 million for information leading to the capture or killing of Muhammad Khadr Musa Ramadan, described as “a senior leader of and key propagandist for the Islamic State”. Continue reading

Coalition Eliminates Senior Islamic State Official Haji Tayseer

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 26 May 2020

Islamic State Wilayat al-Anbar, October 2017

This morning, the Iraqi government announced that Moataz Numan al-Jaburi (Haji Tayseer), a senior member of the Islamic State (IS), had been killed in Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria by an airstrike from the U.S.-led Coalition, utilising intelligence supplied by Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS, Jihaz Mukafahat al-Irhab). Continue reading

Former Head of Islamic State Executive Committee Speaks

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 23 May 2020

Abd al-Nasr, who claims his real name is Taha al-Ghassani (image sources 1 & 2)

There is now, with various caveats, a general agreement that the Islamic State (IS) is on the upswing—in Iraq, particularly, but also in the Badiya, the desert regions of eastern Syria, and more recently in the south of Syria around Deraa. Still, there have been some recent notable gains against the terrorist group. Continue reading

Qassem Sulaymani and the Future of Iran’s Imperial Project

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 7 January 2020

At 1 AM on 3 January, an American drone strike killed the head of Iran’s Quds Force, the division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) charged with exporting the Islamic revolution, and his Iraqi deputy, Jamal al-Ibrahimi (Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis). Sulaymani was the strategic driver of Iran’s expansionist policy in the Middle East, as well as the orchestrator of its terrorism and assassinations further afield. Unlike with the killing of Al-Qaeda’s Usama bin Laden in 2011 or the Islamic State’s Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) in October, where the dynamics shifted little, Sulaymani’s death opens up questions about the direction in which the Middle East will now move. Continue reading