Tag Archives: Jabhat al-Nusra

The Death of Al-Qaeda’s Leaders and the Iran Factor

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 16 November 2020

Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah (Abu Muhammad al-Masri) and Ayman al-Zawahiri. // Image sources: FBI, AFP

Credible reports over the last few days indicate that Al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is dead, and there are even clearer reports that two of his most senior deputies have been killed. The terrorist network itself, however, will survive. Al-Qaeda has, in the last ten years, survived the killing of its charismatic founder Usama bin Laden, the upheaval of the “Arab spring”, and the rise of the Islamic State (IS)—all of them greater challenges than whatever short-term turbulence might attend the succession process. 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

Russia Closes the St. Petersburg Metro Case, Doubts Remain

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 23 January 2020

Abror Azimov in detention // Source: Alexey Kudenko

In July 2019, I co-wrote an article for Haaretz about the Russian legal case relating to the alleged suicide bombing of the St. Petersburg metro on 3 April 2017 as it then stood. To make a long story short: none of the “facts” derived from the Federal Security Service (FSB) investigation could be taken at face value—literally none. A key assertion from the Kremlin was that the Petersburg attack was directed from outside by an Al-Qaeda-linked group in Syria, for which no evidence was provided, but the issues with the case went much deeper. As fundamental a fact as the identity of the alleged suicide bomber was in question. Indeed, it was worse than that: the Russian state refused, when questioned, to say whether this “suicide bomber” was dead, raising a question about whether the Petersburg atrocity was a suicide-attack at all. Last month, the Russian government in effect closed the book on this case by sentencing eleven people it claims were implicated in it; none of the questions raised during the trial have been answered, and nor are they ever likely to be now. Continue reading

The Trial: The St. Petersburg Metro Attack Reaches Court in Russia

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) and Oved Lobel on 14 July 2019

Abror Azimov in court in Moscow in April 2017 [photo source] and Mukhamadyusup Ermatov [photo source]

When defense officials from Russia, the U.S. and Israel met for an unprecedented trilateral summit in Jerusalem recently, it was in large measure another attempt by U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to put into practice their long-running belief that Russia will help them deal with Iran and perhaps other counter-terrorist issues in Syria. Continue reading

Al-Qaeda and Global Terror

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 16 April 2019

Ahmad al-Shara (Abu Muhammad al-Jolani) [image source]

Several years ago, Al-Qaeda made a strategic decision to refrain from foreign terrorist operations, refocusing away from these global spectaculars towards integrating more closely into local conflicts. The 2014 rampage across Iraq and Syria by Al-Qaeda’s rebellious former Iraqi branch, the Islamic State (ISIS), provided both the opportunity and additional incentive for a long-mediated rebranding effort. However, there have recently been signs of a shift back towards external terror operations, just as ISIS undergoes a setback and Al-Qaeda has a chance to reassert its dominance over the jihadi scene. Continue reading

What Captured ISIS Jihadists Tell Us About the Group

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 2 December 2018

An Islamic State poster near al-Sukhna in the eastern Homs desert, Syria, August 2017 (source)

Over the past week, two members of the Islamic State (IS) have been arrested—a rarity in itself during the Coalition campaign against the group—and both in different ways give a glimpse of archetypes that have made up the organisation, from its inception to its expansion into Syria. Continue reading

Europe Tries to Re-engage in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 30 October 2018

Istanbul summit, 27 October 2018 (image source)

At Saturday’s summit in Istanbul between Turkey, Russia, France and Germany, the focus was on extending the September 17 Turkey-Russia ceasefire agreement reached in Sochi that spared Idlib a full-scale offensive by Bashar al-Assad’s regime and his supporters, and to “progress” on the political track. Continue reading

The Idlib Offensive: Delayed, Not Cancelled

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 20 September 2018

For about two months, it has seemed that an offensive by Bashar al-Assad’s regime, Iran, and Russia into Idlib was imminent, with disastrous humanitarian and strategic consequences. On Monday, an agreement was reached between Turkey and Russia that put a halt to this prospect, at least for now. There is good reason to think the pro-Assad forces are delaying, rather than cancelling, their plans to reconquer Idlib, but the extra time gives space to Turkey to alter the terms politically. Continue reading

The Capture of An ISIS Wife

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 21 July 2018

Seda Dudarkaeva (image source)

Turkish police announced on 19 July that they had arrested the wife of Tarkhan Batirashvili (Abu Umar al-Shishani), an Islamic State (IS) commander who was killed two years ago this month in Shirqat, Iraq. The capture brings to the fore a story stretching from senior levels of the Chechen Republic to the Levant. Continue reading

Al-Qaeda Statement on the Loss of Forces Fighting the Syrian Regime

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 9 July 2018

 

After the schism between al-Qaeda and its former Syrian branch, Jabhat al-Nusra (now Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham), the remaining al-Qaeda loyalists in the country gathered under the banner of Tandheem Hurras al-Deen (The Religious Guardians’ Organization). Hurras al-Deen has been among those targeted in the wave of assassinations in the “Greater Idlib” area, and has been publicly hereticized by the Islamic State, whose cells are among those conducting the assassinations. Hurras al-Deen in recent days has gained some popularity and legitimacy in Idlib by being the only force to initiate offensive operations against the pro-Asad coalition as the latter conquers Deraa. Today, Hurras al-Deen released a statement through its Sham al-Ribat Media on the loss of ten of its jihadists yesterday after they stepped on a mine near Sarja in southern Idlib. The statement is reproduced below. Continue reading