Early in his new book, Your Sons Are At Your Service: Tunisia’s Missionaries of Jihad, The Washington Institute’s Aaron Zelin quotes a pair of sociologists who note that ‘where theories are plentiful … ideas are vacuous’. The book is in many ways the antithesis of this approach. It is not without theoretical content; where social movement theory arises as a means of understanding jihadism, say, the author gives an overview of the literature to contextualise it for the reader. But the general approach is historical, empirical, and detail-rich, so that by the time Zelin summarises his findings in the various sections there can be no doubt about the evidentiary basis. Continue reading →
The leader of the Islamic State, Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) appearing in an Islamic State propaganda video, “In the Hospitality of Amir al-Mu’mineen, 29 April 2019
The leader of the Islamic State (IS), Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi), appeared in an eighteen-minute video on 29 April, the first time Al-Ibrahim has appeared since 4 July 2014 when he gave the Friday prayer at the Nuri Mosque in Mosul, days after IS had announced the restoration of the caliphate. Al-Ibrahim has given semi-regular speeches over the years, but with these two exceptions they have been audio addresses. The video was released by IS’s premier media outlet, Al-Furqan Media Foundation, which is also the group’s oldest media platform. An English translation was released by IS’s Halummu outlet and is republished below with some interesting and/or important sections, plus names of IS operatives, highlighted in bold. Continue reading →
Kirk Woodman, a Canadian geologist working for a Vancouver-based mining company, Progress Minerals Inc., was found dead in Oudalan province, north-east Burkina Faso, on 16 January 2019. Woodman had been kidnapped the previous day from a mining camp. Ouagadougou announced that Woodman had been killed the following day. Woodman’s body was described as “bullet-riddled”. It was noted by one outlet that Woodman had been taken in “a border region infiltrated by jihadis”, but not very much more has been said of the case in the last two months. On 28 March, the Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the murder in the 175th edition of its weekly newsletter, Al-Naba. Continue reading →
The Islamic State’s (IS) weekly newsletter, al-Naba, interviewed a high-ranking al-Qaeda defector, Abu Ubayda al-Lubnani, across two issues in February and March. Abu Ubayda appeared on a list of prominent clerics supporting IS’s caliphate declaration in February 2014, and two months later his defection from al-Qaeda to IS was announced by al-Battar. Abu Ubayda is described by al-Naba—as best as can be told accurately—as having been a member of al-Qaeda’s: Shura [Consultation] Council, a training officer in its Military Committee, and a counter-intelligence officer. Abu Ubayda is advertised as speaking about many secret aspects of al-Qaeda.
Among the topics Abu Ubayda covers is the alleged infiltration and manipulation of al-Qaeda by foreign intelligence services, specifically Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which is not only a violation of jihadist doctrine by collaborating with an “infidel” and illegitimate state but led to the deaths of a number of senior al-Qaeda leaders.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of what Abu Ubayda has to say relates to al-Qaeda’s attempt to take advantage of the Syrian revolution. This persistent campaign has followed a pattern of disguising al-Qaeda’s presence and attempting to influence and eventually co-opt the rebellion against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. One lever al-Qaeda relied upon, according to Abu Ubayda, was Ahrar al-Sham, an organization that disclaims all connections to al-Qaeda and dissimulates about its ideology. Whatever Ahrar’s dominant ideology, it is simply a fact that it has served as the bridge between the foreign-led jihadists and Syrian Islamists, and its connections to al-Qaeda are evident enough. Abu Ubayda suggests Ahrar’s connections to al-Qaeda are even deeper than they appear. Continue reading →