It was announced on 25 October that a unity proposal had been formulated to resolve the dispute in Syria between Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), its former command organization, al-Qaeda, and the jihadi splinter faction from Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Ahrar, which has broken between the two. The initiative was backed by major jihadi-salafist clerics, Issam al-Barqawi (Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi) and Umar Othman (Abu Qatada al-Filistini), and invited the support of all jihadi “scholars”. The text of the proposal, translated by Al-Maqalaat, is reproduced below, with some editions to transliteration and syntax.Continue reading →
Screenshot of Mostafa Mahamed (Abu Sulayman al-Muhajir) during a video interview, 12 April 2014
Mostafa Mahamed (Abu Sulayman al-Muhajir) is an Australian citizen who was born on 14 February 1984 in Port Said, Egypt. Mahamed currently occupies a “senior leadership position” within al-Qaeda in Syria—formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, now Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS)—according to the sanctions levied against him in May by the U.S. Treasury. In an indication of Mahamed’s seniority, he moved from Australia to Syria in late 2012 and within a few months led the mediation efforts between al-Nusra and the then-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), now the Islamic State (IS), that began with a breach in April 2013 and ended with al-Qaeda expelling ISIS from its command structure in February 2014. Mahamed is also one of the public faces of al-Qaeda in Syria, now calling himself the “Director of Foreign Media Relations of JFS”. In this capacity, Mahamed has inter alia recently communicated with CNN to further the narrative that al-Nusra/JFS has “split” with al-Qaeda—something, let it be noted, neither the leader of al-Nusra/JFS nor Mahamed have actually said.
With regard to both the ongoing narrative war between IS and al-Qaeda over what their actual relationship was in the lead-up to the schism and al-Qaeda’s structure—the two things very much interlinked—Mahamed gave a very useful interview on 12 April 2014, about ten weeks before ISIS became IS when it declared its caliphate. Mahamed also touches on other interesting matters, such as those jihadi ideologues al-Nusra/JFS regards as guides, and—small point—al-Qaeda’s continuing claim that IS’s founder, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi would have sided with them. (This is matched on the other side by IS continuing to feature Usama bin Ladin in their propaganda as one of their forebears, while regarding Ayman al-Zawahiri as deviant.)
In watching the video back, I ended up taking notes, which turned into a partial (though fairly substantial) transcript that will perhaps be of use to others as well, so it’s posted below.Continue reading →
Ayman al-Zawahiri, September 2013, AFP/Getty Images
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the then-Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), released an audio statement on 8 April 2013 asserting his authority over Jabhat al-Nusra, which was set up as the Syrian wing of ISI. Al-Nusra’s leader, Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, rejected al-Baghdadi’s hostile takeover on 10 April and swore allegiance—renewed, in his telling—to al-Qaeda. The leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, ruled on this matter in a letter dated 23 May 2013, which was released to, and translated by, al-Jazeera, on 9 June 2013. Al-Zawahiri’s letter is reprinted below with some editions for clarity and some important sections highlighted in bold.Continue reading →
Al-Qaeda expelled the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from its ranks on February 3, 2014. This was the culmination of a dispute that broke into the public eye with ISIS’s declaration in April 2013, an effort by ISIS’s emir, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to formally subsume the secret Syrian wing of the then-Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), known as Jabhat an-Nusra, under his own banner, and the rejection of both al-Nusra’s leadership and al-Qaeda’s to this move. In truth, the schism between ISIS and al-Qaeda has its roots all the way back to the beginning, when ISIS became al-Qaeda’s Iraqi branch, al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia (AQM), in 2004.
Below is the transcript of the audio address by al-Baghdadi, released by al-Furqan on 8 April 2013, entitled, “Give Good News to the Believers: The Declaration of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria”. Some transliterations have been altered, the syntax has been cleared up, and some interesting or important sections highlighted in bold.Continue reading →
The announcement of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in April 2013 saw the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) claim to subsume its Syrian branch, Jabhat al-Nusra, a move rejected by al-Nusra’s leader who then swore allegiance to al-Qaeda. Both ISI and al-Nusra were believed to be branches of al-Qaeda at the time, and al-Qaeda’s emir, Ayman al-Zawahiri, ruled that ISI should return to Iraq and al-Nusra should remain as al-Qaeda’s separate branch in Syria. ISI, keeping the ISIS name, dismissed this decision—and ISI(S)’s spokesman did so even more forcibly. After a year of turmoil, al-Zawahiri released a statement on February 3, 2014, disowning ISIS. Al-Zawahiri’s speech was translated by @IraqiWitness and is reproduced below.Continue reading →