Brian Fishman’s The Master Plan provides a comprehensive history of the Islamic State’s (IS) strategic evolution, covering the personalities and events that shaped one of the most feared terrorist-insurgent groups that has ever existed. Eminently readable, in places even amusing—no small feat in a book about IS—Fishman flips with ease between the overview and the granular to demonstrate his points, using new sources that will allow as much supplementary research as a reader could wish for, and ties it together in a narrative that will be of use to both specialists and generalists. Continue reading →
After the leaders of the Islamic State die—usually killed by their foes—short biographies tend to be circulated on internet forums that favour the group. One such obituary—with the above picture—was disseminated for Mustafa Ramadan Darwish (Abu Muhammad al-Lubnani), and is reproduced below with some editions to transliteration and some interesting sections highlighted in bold. Darwish was the first leader of the Islamic State’s military portfolio and the second overall deputy (between September 2004 and early 2005) to the movement’s founder, Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi). One of the most interesting parts of Darwish’s profile is its addition of details on the jihadi networks linked to al-Qaeda and the first generation of the Islamic State that were operating in Iraq in the final years of Saddam Husayn’s rule, a topic touched on in other biographies of Islamic State leaders.Continue reading →
UPDATE: It has subsequently become clear that the “Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir” who was killed in Syria on 18 November 2016 was not Muhammad al-Saghir, who is profiled below. The slain man, like al-Saghir a veteran of the war get the Soviets out of Afghanistan and an Egyptian jihadist with close links to al-Qaeda, also used the kunya “Abu Afghan al-Muhajir”.
A week ago, it became clear that the air war being waged by the U.S.-led Coalition, which primarily targets the Islamic State (IS), was going to expand its campaign against the leadership of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), al-Qaeda’s rebranded branch in Syria. In the evening of 18 November 2016, the Coalition killed Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir, whose real name is Muhammad Ibrahim al-Saghir. Al-Saghir also uses the name Abd al-Rahman al-Ali. This killing would appear to be part of the Coalition’s new effort.
Al-Saghir has a long record as an important jihadi religious ideologue, though his exact relationship with al-Qaeda’s network remains unclear. Al-Saghir’s most lasting contribution to jihadi-salafism is as a key guide to the founder of IS, Ahmad al-Khalayleh. Continue reading →
Picture of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani from the second edition of Dabiq magazine (July 27, 2014)
A Bahraini jihadist ideologue, Turki al-Binali, who has become a cleric in the Islamic State, put out a profile of the Islamic State’s official spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, on November 1. By this account, al-Adnani took up jihadism in 2000 and was among a small cadre of people who joined the Islamic State’s founder, Ahmad al-Khalayleh, the infamous Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, when he journeyed through Syria on a recruitment-drive in 2002. Learned in Islamic jurisprudence and rigid in doctrinal literalness, al-Adnani was associated with some of the titans of the Islamic State’s legend like Abu Muhammad al-Lubnani and Abu Anas al-Shami. Appointed as emir of a small town in Anbar, Haditha, the first leader after the declaration of “the State” in 2006, Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi), worked under al-Adnani’s command. Al-Adnani then moved on to be an ideological instructor. Such was al-Adnani’s status, he did not have to consult al-Zarqawi before ordering operations; he only had to brief al-Zarqawi afterwards. Al-Adnani was arrested by the Americans in Iraq in May 2005, thereafter spending six years behind the wire, though never giving up his missionary activity. Indeed, the profile says al-Adnani developed the first full training program, academic and physical, for jihadi inmates. Upon release, al-Adnani took the post of official spokesman and has maintained it ever since. This profile is reproduced below with some minor editions for transliteration, syntax, and spelling. Continue reading →