February 8, 2016

An Account of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi & Islamic State Succession Lines

Portrait of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (Courtesy of: Thierry Ehrmann via Flickr Creative Commons)

Abu al-Waleed al-Salafi, whose complete history of Jamaat Ansar al-Islam I have previously translated, has also written Twitter essays on Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and compiled lists of names of individuals who came to hold key positions within the ranks of the Islamic State and its leaders. I have also translated these essays. I do not necessarily vouch for all the information presented here and working out exact datings can be difficult. Nonetheless I have tried to summarize … [Read more...]

The Islamic State, Turkey, & Transportation

Sample vehicle one might take for a journey from Bab al-Salama to Raqqa

The Guardian recently published a story based on documents captured by the Kurdish YPG forces after expelling the Islamic State (IS) from the town of Tel Abyad in northern Raqqa province on the border with Turkey. The documents concern issues of transportation and migration. Since I helped the newspaper to verify the documents and did some additional research, I believe it worthwhile to write an extended commentary on this matter, not only to shed light on how transportation and migration work … [Read more...]

Archive of Islamic State Administrative Documents (cont.)

Specimen 12O: Leave permit, Aleppo province

Islamic State
Wilayat Halab

Leave permit/departure

The original raw archive of Islamic State administrative documents I began back in January 2015 now contains well over 300 specimens to view in the original and in translation. Owing to technical issues, no further specimens can be added to the original post and so the archive must be continued here. To avoid confusion, there will be continuity with the original classification system. Thus, the last specimen in the first post was Specimen 12J, and so the first specimen added here will be … [Read more...]

Eulogy to Abu Nabil al-Anbari: Islamic State leader in Libya

Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria.

Of all Islamic State [IS] affiliates abroad, the Libyan 'provinces' are by far the most successful. Despite being driven out of the city of Derna in the eastern Cyrenaica region last year, IS has been able to consolidate control over the city of Sirte in the Tripolitania region further west along the Mediterranean coastline, setting up an administration akin to its bureaucracy in Syria and Iraq with its various government departments. For instance, Sirte has a fully functioning IS court, … [Read more...]

The Syrian National Resistance: Liwa Khaybar

Liwa Khaybar emblem

    Emblem of Liwa Khaybar, featuring the Syrian flag used by the regime and a scorpion (hence the inscription "al-'Aqrab"- "The Scorpion"- referring to the leader of the group). The moniker of "resistance" (muqawama) is common to pro-Assad militias (e.g. The Syrian Resistance and The National Ideological Resistance in Syria): hardly surprising given Syria's membership of the "resistance" bloc led by Iran. The militia that is the subject of this profile fits … [Read more...]

Unseen Islamic State Pamphlet on Slavery

Islamic State slavery pamphlet

The news outlet Reuters has been a running a series of pieces on Islamic State documents and files obtained by U.S. special forces during the Abu Sayyaf raid earlier this year. A recent article by the outlet mentions a pamphlet on slavery that Reuters was able to view. It so happens I was able to obtain this pamphlet from a contact in northern Syria earlier this year, and I produce the text and my translation of this pamphlet for the first time in the public domain below. The pamphlet, issued … [Read more...]

Guide to Islamic State Document Hoaxes

Forged Islamic State Document: Price List for Sex Slaves

When it comes to looking at the Islamic State, a significant problem for research is that much of the content coming out of Islamic State-controlled territory is propaganda, primarily in the form of high quality videos and photo releases from the Islamic State's official media outlets. Though there is some important analysis to be done on this propaganda- see the work of Charlie Winter, for instance, analysing the themes in-depth, and a more recent piece by Aaron Zelin suggesting a decline in … [Read more...]

Quwat al-Jalil: A Pro-Assad Palestinian Syrian Militia

Quwat al-Jalil graphic.

Emblem of Quwat al-Jalil. On the top is a quotation from Qur'an 22:39, a classic verse used to invoke the concept of defensive jihad: "Permission [to fight] has been granted to those who are being fought because they have been wronged. And indeed God is capable of granting them victory." Beneath it is the name of Quwat al-Jalil's political wing: "Movement of the Youth of the Palestinian Return." On bottom: "Quwat al-Jalil" (al-Jalil forces). The Syrian civil war features multiple militias of … [Read more...]

The Archivist: “Until Our Hearts Submit To The Shari’a”- Da’wa Pamphlet from Jabhat al-Nusra

Jabhat al-Nusra da'wa pamphlet

Like the Islamic State, Syria's al-Qa'ida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra has its own department responsible for the distribution of da'wa [religious outreach] literature. This department of Jabhat al-Nusra is called the Maktab al-Da'wa wa al-Irshad (Da'wa and Guidance Office). However, whereas the Islamic State has unsurprisingly made many of the da'wa pamphlets it has produced via its al-Himma Library available online since 2013 as part of its strategy of flooding the Internet with propaganda … [Read more...]

A Complete History of Jamaat Ansar al-Islam

Jamaat al-Ansar twitter

Readers of this blog will be familiar with my coverage of the jihadi group Jamaat Ansar al-Islam, which is of Iraqi origin and expanded into Syria. For example, see here for a general overview of the group in early 2014, here for the rapid decline and virtual dissolution of the group in Iraq on account of defections to the Islamic State through summer 2014, and herefor the false claims of the dissolution of the group's Syrian branch in early 2015. Below is my translation of a full history … [Read more...]