ji·had·ica

Al-Qaeda’s Leaders Are Dying, But a Greater Challenge Looms

A string of top-level al-Qaeda leaders have been killed this year in U.S. counterterrorism operations extending from Afghanistan to Iran and Syria. The frequency of the strikes, together with the seniority of those lost, has dealt a crippling blow to the old guard responsible for founding al-Qaeda back in the 1980s. After nearly 20 years of relentless counterterrorism pressure following the 9/11 attacks, al-Qaeda’s central leadership has grown older, more distant and disconnected, and, it seems, increasingly vulnerable. Most prominently, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah (better known as Abu Mohammed al-Masri), was reportedly killed in August by a team of elite Israeli assassins acting on U.S. intelligence in the Iranian capital of Tehran. The targeting of al-Masri, the most likely successor to overall leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, was one of the most significant operational successes against al-Qaeda since Osama Bin Laden’s death in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011. That it took place in

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A Brief Note on the Spike in Intra-Sahelian Conflict in Light of al-Naba

Al-Muraqib is a new author platform for Jihadica authors and guests. Contact jihadica@protonmail.com if you are interested in contributing. In last week’s al-Naba, a weekly newsletter the Islamic State issues every Thursday, two interesting articles focused on the newest local manifestation of intra-Jihadi conflict. The Sahel was long seen as “the exception”, but in the summer of 2019 tensions finally started to emerge between the local Islamic State affiliate known as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), a subgroup of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), and Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wa’l-Muslimin (JNIM), the local al-Qaida franchise (and a sub-group of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb). During the fall of 2019 skirmishes were reported, but the conflict really got going in early 2020. For a great timeline see Nsaibia and Weiss’ piece in the CTC Sentinel from July. Here, the authors report that between July 2019 and July 2020 the

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Jihadi Reactions to the U.S.-Taliban Deal and Afghan Peace Talks

On September 12, 2020, the Taliban and the Afghan government began negotiations in Qatar over the political future of Afghanistan. In accordance with the “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan,” signed by the United States and the Taliban on February 29, the negotiations are expected to produce “a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire” between the warring Afghan parties, as well as an “agreement over the future political roadmap of Afghanistan.” In return for the Taliban’s participation in the negotiations and its guarantee that “Afghan soil will not be used against the security of the United States and its allies,” the United States agreed to withdraw all its forces from Afghanistan within fourteen months of the original agreement. In the world of Sunni jihadism, the U.S.-Taliban deal and the associated peace talks have elicited a range of reactions, from celebration to condemnation. This divergence of views reflects the fractured state of the

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Striving for Hegemony: The HTS Crackdown on al-Qaida and Friends in Northwest Syria

Introducing Al-Muraqib: Al-Muraqib is a new author platform for Jihadica authors and guests. Contact jihadica@protonmail.com if you are interested in contributing. The first indication that something was about to happen—again—came on June 17, when Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) security officers arrested Abu Salah al-Uzbeki (Sirajuddin Mukhtarov). Abu Salah, the founder of the mainly Uzbek Katibat al-Tawhid wa-l-Jihad, is a prominent Jihadi commander and ideologue who shortly before his arrest had defected from HTS and, together with approximately 40 fighters, joined Ansar al-Deen, a rival Jihadi faction sympathetic to al-Qaida. The atmosphere within the rebel landscape in Syria’s northwest was growing increasingly tense even before Abu Salah’s arrest. In a surprise move on June 12, the five groups Hurras al-Deen, Ansar al-Islam, Ansar al-Deen, Tansiqiyat al-Jihad, and Liwa al-Mouqatilin al-Ansar announced the establishment of the new operations room “So Be Steadfast” (Fa-thbutu), much to the displeasure of HTS. According to an insider,

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Living Long Enough To See Yourself Become The Villain: The Case of Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi

It has become a trope within the jihadi studies field to describe Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi (born ‘Isam Bin Muhammad Bin Tahir al-Barqawi) as being the most important jihadi ideologue alive. Part of this derives from a study written by Will McCants in 2006 that notes he is the most cited living jihadi ideologue within jihadi primary source literature. At the time, in many ways, al-Qaeda (AQ) was also the unipolar leader of the jihadi world. Since then, cracks in the foundation of AQ’s leading role have created alternative visions for the future of the jihadi movement. Most notable has been the case of the Islamic State (IS), but another is that of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). In attempting to bolster their legitimacy, these different currents have moved away from al-Maqdisi and even derided him. The story of al-Maqdisi’s issues with the leader of IS’s predecessor, Abu Mus‘ab al-Zarqawi, and of

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Ultra Extremism Among Tunisian Jihadis Within The Islamic State

Many within Syria viewed Tunisians as more extreme relative to other foreign fighters.[1] There is a twofold aspect to this. The first relates to the human rights violations that Tunisians have been involved in within Syria, which is not necessarily unique considering all of the human rights violations committed by members of IS, whether local or foreign. The second, which this article focuses on, relates to some Tunisians involved within an extremist trend within IS called the al-Hazimiya (Hazimis), which is named after the progenitor of the ideas these individuals follow, Ahmad Bin ‘Umar al-Hazimi, a Saudi religious scholar. It should be noted that al-Hazimi is not a member or affiliated with IS; his ideas, however, were co-opted by some members of IS. As former Saudi ISIS member Sulayman Sa‘ud al-Suba‘i noted about this extremist trend among Tunisians in ISIS, “it was mostly the Tunisians who were involved in takfir,

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Rehabilitating the Bin‘aliyya: al-Maqdisi and the Scholarly Remnant of the Islamic State

Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and Abu Qatada al-Filastini, the two preeminent jihadi scholars living in Jordan, have repeatedly clashed in recent years over the proper scope and nature of Jihadi Salafism, the movement to which both helped give rise. While agreeing that the Islamic State is too extreme, they have departed over the issue of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the former al-Qaida affiliate in Syria previously known as Jabhat al-Nusra. In short, al-Maqdisi has accused HTS of abandoning al-Qaida and diluting jihadi ideology, while Abu Qatada has praised HTS as the harbinger of a more practical and more inclusive jihadism. This has led to mutual recriminations. Al-Maqdisi and his allies routinely accuse Abu Qatada and his followers of “fusionism” (talfiq), that is, of attempting to fuse jihadi ideology with mainstream Islamism, including its tolerance of democracy and ideological diversity. The so-called “fusionists” (mulaffiqa), in turn, have cast al-Maqdisi and his friends

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Caliph Incognito: The Ridicule of Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi

The last week of October 2019 was an eventful one in the history of the Islamic State. On October 26, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, its leader and caliph, blew himself up during a U.S. special forces raid on his compound in Idlib Province, Syria. The next day, official spokesman Abu al-Hasan al-Muhajir, a potential successor to al-Baghdadi, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in nearby Aleppo Province. On October 31, the Islamic State confirmed the fatalities in an audio statement read by al-Muhajir’s replacement, Abu Hamza al-Qurashi, who went on to announce the appointment of a certain Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi as the new “commander of the believers and caliph of the Muslims.” The adjective Qurashi in their names denotes descent from the Prophet Muhammad’s tribe of Quraysh, one of the traditional qualifications of being caliph. In his statement, Abu Hamza called on all Muslims to proffer the bay‘a, the traditional

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How Did the Islamic State Pick Its New Leader?

The world’s most wanted man, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, may be dead at the paws of Conan the Hero Dog, but the ISIS crisis isn’t over. Just three days after the killing of the so-called Islamic State’s leader, the group issued a statement announcing the name of his successor as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurashi. Like his predecessor, he assumed the title of caliph, or successor to the Prophet Mohammed. In other words, he sees himself as the legitimate ruler of all Muslims—a claim that most of the world’s 1.8 billion Islamic faithful will find either deeply offensive or hilariously corny, but that the Islamic State cult’s own members are deathly serious bout. (An unofficial English translation has been posted online by Aymenn al-Tamimi, a British-Iraqi expert on the Islamic State.) So who is the new guy? The short answer is: we don’t know. Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurashi is a nom de

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Mourning Morsi: The Death of an Islamist and Jihadi Divisions

Following the death of Mohamed Morsi, the former Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt, on June 17, 2019, a contentious debate broke out in the world of Sunni jihadism over the proper reaction to his demise. The Islamic State exhibited no grief whatsoever, its Arabic weekly noting the passing of “the Egyptian apostate idol-ruler … [who] rose to power by means of polytheistic democracy and spent one year in power, [ruling] by other than what God has revealed.” For the Islamic State, Morsi’s loss was no loss at all. He was no better or worse than any other apostate ruler in the Islamic world. But for those jihadis in the orbit of al-Qaida, the matter was not so black-and-white. Some rued his loss, others objected to their doing so, and passions ran high. The debate highlights the significance and endurance of a widening ideological divide in this segment of the jihadosphere. Al-Maqdisi

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