Abu al-Qassam: Zarqawi’s right-hand man who stayed loyal to al-Qaida

Everywhere Abu Musab al-Zarqawi went, Abu al-Qassam was with him. Even to prison. Abu al-Qassam was al-Zarqawi’s childhood friend, later his companion and finally his deputy. After spending more than 10 years in Iranian captivity, he was released in March 2015, but despite the Islamic State claiming to be the heirs of al-Zarqawi, it is now with al-Qaida that Abu al-Qassam’s loyalty lies. Originally from Ramallah, Abu al-Qassam grew up in Zarqa, just north of Jordan’s capital Amman. It was here, in one of the city’s mosques – most likely al-Hussein bin Ali Mosque – that he one day as a young man met Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who eventually would become the founder of al-Qaida in Iraq, the Islamic State’s predecessor. The two would go on to become close, even family. He was born as Khalid Mustafa Khalifa al-Aruri in 1967, but it was as Abu al-Qassam or Abu Ashraf

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What we learned from Sami al-Uraydi’s testimony concerning Abu Abdullah al-Shami

Something is not right in the relationship between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and al-Qaida. On 15 October, an announcement was posted on Sami al-Uraydi’s Telegram channel. “#Soon,” it said, “the series For God, then For History,” which was described as consisting of “testimonies on the split between Jabhat al-Nusra and Tanzim al-Qaida”. 50 minutes later the first such testimony was released and the war of words between al-Qaida and HTS had begun. In the coming six days, four further testimonies from Uraydi, and another from a close accomplice, followed and all with the same objective: to delegitimise leading HTS figures, namely Abu Abdullah al-Shami and Abu Muhammad al-Jawlani. As readers of this site will know, this is not the first time that debate and controversy between HTS and al-Qaida-affiliated ideologues have disturbed the Jihadi scene. In late November last year, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi began his critique of what was then

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The generational divide

This is the third Q&A of the interview series with Ahmed Al Hamdan (@a7taker), a Jihadi-Salafi analyst and author of “Methodological Difference Between ISIS and Al Qaida“. Al Hamdan was a former friend of Turki bin Ali, and a student of Shaykh Abu Muhammad Al Maqdisi under whom he studied and was given Ijazah, becoming one of his official students. Also, Shaykh Abu Qatada al Filistini wrote an introduction for his book when it was published in the Arabic language. The interview series contains contains five themes in total and will all be published on Jihadica.com. You can find the first Q&A here and the second here. Tore Hamming: One of the differences between IS and AQ is the generational divide; the veteran Jihadists in the camp of AQ and the younger generation being attracted by IS. Do you think this is still the case and, as IS is loosing

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Maqdisi in the middle: An inside account of the secret negotiations to free a Jordanian pilot

It’s that time of the year again: the well-known Jordanian radical Islamic ideologue Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi is released from prison and speculation about why this happened and whether he cooperated with the Jordanian regime to get freed starts all over. I’ve commented on this before on Jihadica when he was released on a previous occasion and I’ve also briefly analysed his latest release in a Facebook post, so I won’t go into this here. Much more interesting, however, are the recent statements al-Maqdisi has made on the execution of the Jordanian pilot Mu’adh al-Kasasiba, who had been captured by the Islamic State (IS) and was subsequently burned alive by them. These comments were made during a recent interview with al-Ru’ya, a Jordanian television channel, and a letter al-Maqdisi reportedly sent to IS’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. These give an inside account of the secret negotiations that have taken place to

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A Portrait of the Terrorist as a Young Man

Of all the jihadis we’ve seen in recent years, Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi must rank as one of the most violent. Nicknamed “the slaughtering sheikh” (al-shaykh al-dhabbah) by fellow militants, he is widely held responsible for killing hundreds of Shiites in Iraq and personally beheading the American hostage Nicolas Berg. It would therefore be interesting to know what went on in the mind of this man, who was killed in an American attack in 2006. While several publications have tried to show us the man behind the myth, it would be even better if we could get a glimpse of what al-Zarqawi thought in his pre-Iraq years. Well, the time has come. About a week ago, a jihadi website posted a notebook allegedly used by al-Zarqawi while imprisoned in Jordan in the 1990s. The link on the website (the eleventh title from the top) is called Safahat min Daftar al-Shaykh Abi

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Guest Post: The Story of Eric Breininger

[Editor’s note: This post was written by Christopher Radler and Behnam Said, who are intelligence analysts based in Hamburg, Germany. For links to the original document, see the comments to the preview post.] On 3 May a message announcing the death of Eric Breininger (b. 3 August 1987) and three of his fellow combatants was posted on several German jihadist websites. Breininger, who travelled to the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan in the winter 2007, was one of the most infamous German jihadists. From Waziristan Breininger, a.k.a. “Abdul Ghaffar al-Almani”, sent several videotaped messages to the jihadist community in Germany, asking them to join the jihad or at least to support it financially. Since September 2008 the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) searched for Breininger, based on his assumed affiliation with a foreign terrorist organization. A day after the announcement of his death, Breininger’s alleged autobiography, entitled Mein

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Umayma al-Zawahiri on Women’s Role in Jihad

In December 2009, al-Sahab released a missive entitled “Letter to My Muslim Sisters” (risala ila al-akhawat al-muslimat) by Umayma al-Zawahiri – Ayman al-Zawahiri’s wife. The letter is addressed to three categories of Muslim women: (1)    To the female jihadis (murabitat and mujahidat – I shall return to these terms later) in the Islamic umma. She believes that like her, these women have sacrificed their all; and despite their loss of loved ones and separation from family, their situation is one of grace, for they are ‘content with the honors God has bestowed upon us; He elected us from among all his servants by blessing us with [being part of] jihad in His path to make His religion triumphant and make His word supreme.’ Umayma al-Zawahiri urges these female jihadis to remain steadfast on that same jihadi path, for ‘victory is near’. God, she assures them, is not about to forsake

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Maqdisi Response To Abu Rumman Article

Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi has released a statement on his website, Tawhed.ws, in which he responds to the questions of one of his followers about the Abu Rumman article I referenced yesterday.  Maqdisi denies being a revisionist but he is also clear that he is not an extremist and that he is trying to regain control of the dragon he unleased in his earlier writings.   In his statement, Maqdisi finally names his main nemesis, the brother-in-law of Zarqawi’s wife.  I haven’t seen Abu Qudama’s book yet but I’ll try to track it down. Here’s a summary: Question 1: Abu Rumman says you are shunning Zarqawi’s supporters.  Is it possible to consider this part of the “revisions,” as he says? Those of us who signed the statement are not dissociating ourselves from the brothers.  We are talking about a small group of ignorant people who haven’t studied at all, were not

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Letter from Balqa’ Jail

The Jihadi Media Elite (Nukhbat al-I`lam al-Jihadi) has posted a notebook that Zarqawi dedicated to his sister, Umm Qudama, and to his brother-in-law, Abu Qudama. According to the colophon, Zarqawi finished writing the notebook on May 31, 1998 from Balqa’ prison in Jordan. The Jihadi Media Elite posted images of the first five pages, which Zarqawi titled “the introduction,” but there are links to the rest. This is going to be a very important primary source for those interested in understanding Zarqawi’s psychological development and his time in prison. Here’s a summary of the introduction: Part of the Sunna is that God’s servants are tested so they can be distinguished from the insincere. Suffering imprisonment and torture is the lot of God’s Messengers and those who follow them. Our tormentors have no power over us. If we survive, we will see God’s promises fulfilled. If we die, we will attain

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