A lengthy document—roughly sixty pages and 12,000 words—was published online on 21 February 2019 containing biographies of twenty-seven senior Islamic State (IS) officials, past and more recent. Those bios that are dated were written between October 2018 and the time of publication, with one exception that was written in the summer of 2018. The author claims to be an IS veteran. While longevity is difficult to prove, the fact that the author provides heretofore unseen images of some of the IS leaders suggests that at a minimum he is an IS operative. Continue reading
The forty-fifth edition of the Islamic State’s “Distinguished Martyrs” series, published by al-Furqan Media in Rajab 1431 (June/July 2010), profiled Abu Zahra al-Issawi, the media emir or information minister of the organization between some point after July 2007, when Khalid al-Mashadani (Abu Zayd al-Mashadani) was arrested, and some point before September 2009, when Ahmad al-Ta’i was announced as holding the position. [UPDATE: Al-Ta’i turned out to be Abu Muhammad al-Furqan, and his real name was Wael al-Ta’i.] Continue reading
Muhammad Shakar had, according to his martyr biography, “become influenced by Salafism in 1997-98 while serving as a part of [Saddam] Hussein’s Special Republican Guard”. Quitting the military and returning to his home in Mosul, Shakar was harassed by the regime until he went to join Ansar al-Islam in the mountains of Kurdistan.
Shakar, known as Abu Talha al-Ansari or Abu Talha al-Mawsuli, joined the predecessor to Islamic State either just before or just after Saddam fell, and he was arrested in Mosul on 14 June 2005. Continue reading
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
Manaf Abdul Rahim al-Rawi was the leader of operations in Baghdad for the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), the predecessor to the Islamic State (IS), between 2008 and his arrest in 2010. Al-Rawi had been with IS from its earliest days and his arrest in 2004 only advanced him through the ranks as he networked in prison. Upon release and assumption of the post of wali (governor) of Baghdad, al-Rawi was responsible for some of the worst atrocities in 2009 and 2010 in that city. Al-Rawi was executed in prison in 2013. Continue reading
In his first speech as the then-Islamic State of Iraq’s (ISI’s) official spokesman in August 2011, Taha Falaha (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani) referred to several of the group’s “leaders” who had been killed. Among them was Abu Raghd, whose biography provides a glimpse of the role regional states—specifically Saddam Husayn’s Iraq and Bashar al-Assad’s Syria—played in facilitating the birth of the Islamic State (IS). 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
This year, the American-led anti-Islamic State (IS) Coalition has targeted members of the organization’s program to develop chemical weapons of mass destruction (CWMD). One reason for this is likely that the Coalition has been building toward—and now appears to be on the eve of—the operation to attempt to expel IS from its Iraqi capital, Mosul, and it is considered probable that IS will use CWMD on its way down. Whether that can now be prevented, and how far IS ever got with its attempt to develop CWMD, might only be known once it is too late. Continue reading