The leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, gave a thirty-five-minute speech on 28 November 2017, entitled: “Let Us Fight Them As A Solid Structure” (or “Let Us Fight Them As One Body” or “Let Us Fight Them With Solid Foundations”), dealing with the vexed question of al-Qaeda’s relationship with the Syrian jihadi group, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, a situation that escalated again in recent days. The mention of an impending Turkish intervention into Idlib—which began on 7 October—suggests that al-Zawahiri recorded this speech in the last days of September or the first few days of October. An English transcript of the speech was released by As-Sahab Media, and is reproduced below with some edits for syntax and transliteration. Continue reading →
It was reported on jihadist websites and by local activists that Turki al-Binali (Abu Hammam al-Athari), a senior cleric of the Islamic State (IS) and perhaps the most important public proponent of the caliphate’s formation, had been killed in Syria by an airstrike from the U.S.-led Coalition on 29 May. IS has been silent on this despite releasing their newsletter al-Naba and the tenth edition of their English-language propaganda magazine Rumiyah since then. On Tuesday, the intelligence services of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq confirmed that al-Binali had been killed. Continue reading →
Abdul Munim Halima (Abu Basir al-Tartusi), a Syrian previously based in London, is an important jihadi-salafist scholar, who has diverged from some aspects of jihadism since the 7 July 2005 massacre on the London subway system by al-Qaeda. As the Syrian rebellion has progressed, Halima has departed even further from key jihadi ideologues that continue to take al-Qaeda’s line and support its branch in the country, Jabhat al-Nusra, which formed as a splinter from the Islamic State and has now rebranded itself as Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. Halima has long expressed the view that al-Nusra and its leader, Ahmad al-Shara (Abu Muhammad al-Jolani), were insufficiently focused on Syrian needs. Halima tended to favour Ahrar al-Sham, an insurgent group with deep links to al-Qaeda, but which has presented its jihadism within a more nationalistic framework. Halima retains sway over Islamist opinion, especially in Syria, so his fatwa today calling for al-Shara to be put on trial for crimes against the Syrian revolution is noteworthy. Halima was especially exercised that the recent attempts by al-Shara to separate his organization from al-Qaeda came so long—and so unconvincingly—after so many had begged him for so long to carry out this policy. Instead, says Halima, al-Shara bullied and dominated the Syrian insurgency in the north under the flag of al-Qaeda, providing the regime of Bashar al-Assad with an alibi for his barbaric conduct in suppressing the insurrection. This is one of several “crimes” Halima says al-Shara should face a court for. The fatwa is reproduced below with some editions to transliteration and syntax. Continue reading →
A council of ulema (clerics), some within Syria and some abroad, al-Majlis Shura Ahl al-ilm fil-Sham (Advisory Council of the People of Knowledge in Syria), was formed late last month. Its first statement was to condemn the 25 July assassination of the Faylaq al-Sham commander Mazin al-Qassum by Islamic State (IS) operatives with Jund al-Aqsa, and to demand that all groups clarify their stance on IS and expel IS agents and sympathizers from their ranks. A fatwa early this month said it was permissible to work with Turkey against IS and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which in Syria operates politically under the name of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and militarily as the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Among the leading names associated with this new council are three foreign Islamist scholars: Umar al-Hadouchi, a Moroccan jihadi-salafist; Muhammad al-Hassan Ould al-Dedew al-Shinqiti (not to be confused with Abu al-Mundhir al-Shinqiti), a Mauritanian more closely aligned with Sururism than outright jihadism; and Abdallah al-Muhaysini, a Saudi jihadist who is inside Syria and a member of al-Qaeda in everything but name. Prominent Syrians involved include Dr. Ayman al-Harush, associated with Ahrar al-Sham, and another Ahrar member, a shar’i, Mohamed Ayman Aboul-Tout (Abu Abbas al-Shami), who fought against the Assad regime during the revolt in the 1980s as part of the most extreme Islamist splinter from the Muslim Brotherhood, the Fighting Vanguard. There is also the son of Abd al-Karim, an important figure in the Hama branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sa’ad al-Uthman; a follower of the ideas of Muhammad Surur that mix Salafism with political agitation, Ahmad al-Salum, and many others.
Majlis Shura Ahl al-ilm fil-Sham put out a statement today, “Response of the Ulema of Sham to Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi”. Al-Maqdisi’s real name is Issam al-Barqawi; he is based in Jordan and is the most influential jihadi-salafist cleric. The Council attacks al-Maqdisi for what they perceive as his softness toward IS. The statement, translated by @nasrshahada, is reproduced below. Continue reading →