April 26, 2015

Jamaat Ansar al-Islam: Eulogy to Abu Ahmad of Mosul: Translation and Analysis

A woman walks through her village outside of Mosul, Iraq on Jan. 4, 2008. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kieran Cuddihy)

This latest statement from Jamaat Ansar al-Islam is intended to commemorate Abu Ahmad of Mosul, a leading figure in Jamaat Ansar al-Islam's Iraq branch who was reportedly killed by the group's traditional rivals the Islamic State, whose claim to a state/caliphate it has officially rejected. However, on account of ideological overlap in that Jamaat Ansar al-Islam is also aspiring to a caliphate and the overwhelming power of the Islamic State [IS] inside Iraq, the overwhelming majority of … [Read more...]

Is ISIS Islamic, and Other “Foolish” Debates

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

"Do they think we are Jewish now? lol," responded one ISIS fighter in Syria when asked for his thoughts on the current public debate about whether the Islamic State is actually Islamic. He went on to make an argument, as many of these fighters often do when interviewed, that not only is the Islamic State Islamicbut it is the purest and most pristine form of Islam, the kind most in line with what God and His Prophet had intended all along. Another ISIS fighter from South Africa, when asked how … [Read more...]

Review of ISIS: The State of Terror

ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern & J.M. Berger (Ecco, 2015)

The ISIS phenomenon that has swept Iraq and Syria with global repercussions has produced a demand for information on the origins, rise, operations and future of arguably the most brutal jihadist movement yet. Following on from "ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror," Berger and Stern's book is the second major title to come out on the subject. In 11 chapters, the authors begin with the origins of ISIS through Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi and his predecessor groups in the days of the Iraq War, with the … [Read more...]

The Islamic State and Its “Sinai Province”

"Wilayat Sinai: By God's permission not a drop of gas will reach the state of Jordan until permitted by the Amir al-Mu'mineen [Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the proclaimed Caliph]."

In November 2014, the Gaza-Sinai jihadist group Jamaʿat Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis(JABM: "Supporters of the Holy House," i.e. Jerusalem) pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS). The IS's Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi officially acknowledged JABM's pledge as the creation of a new "Sinai Province" (Wilayat Sinai),alongside other recently proclaimed IS provinces in Yemen, Libya, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia. The IS leadership's acknowledgment of these pledges of allegiance and annulment of the groups' … [Read more...]

“Oh Son of Yemen”- New Nasheed from the Islamic State’s Ajnad Media

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

This is the latest nasheed to be released by the Islamic State's Ajnad Media. Similar to its the nasheed 'The Land of Sinai', this represents an elevation of the importance of the fight in Yemen to the Islamic State's international expansion. One should compare with the statements the Islamic State distributed on the ground in Yemen (here and here) promising bloodthirsty attacks on Houthis prior to the bombings in Sanaa: though the U.S. may be mentioned briefly as a force of evil, the focus … [Read more...]

Archive of Jabhat al-Nusra Billboards and Murals

On right: quotation of Qur'an 28:83. On left, partial quotation from Qur'an 2:197: "And take provisions, but the best provision is fear of God."

The Islamic State [IS] has become well known for its elaborate murals and billboards in keeping with its state building project (e.g. see my posts here and here). However, Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been increasingly building up its own proto-Islamic emirate project in northwestern Syria partly to rival IS, has also been putting up plenty of billboards and murals to advertise its presence. Reflecting that phenomenon are the photos below, most of which date from the last 4 months or so, by … [Read more...]

Hamas Condemns Islamic State Tunisia Terror Attack

Hamas mural in West Bank

From Voice of al-Aqsa (Arabic): "The Hamas movement condemned on Thursday the incident of the attack on tourists in the Bardo museum in Tunis that killed more than 20 people and wounded around 50 of the innocent, describing it as a 'criminal' deed. The movement said in a summary statement: 'This criminal deed against civilians is a crime against human values, against glorious Tunisia in its people and leadership who have outlined a shining example of democratic operation, peaceful … [Read more...]

The Administration of the Local Council in Azaz

Outside the Azaz Media Center: in solidarity with the people of Raqqa living under Islamic State rule. The image alludes to "Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently."

Readers of my report on my visit to the north Aleppo town of Azaz near the border with Turkey will recall that authority in Azaz is divided between two bodies: the local council and the Shari'a committee. Broadly speaking, the local council covers the realm of public services, while the Shari'a committee, working with the Northern Storm Brigade as the police force, is responsible for criminal law and order, family and public morality. Both bodies are officially 'civil' (madani) and … [Read more...]

Jamaat Ansar al-Islam, Iraq’s Insurgency and the Islamic State [IS]: Testimony of Abu Omar al-Falastini

Iraqi insurgents

Readers of my blog will be familiar by now with the story of the jihadist group Jamaat Ansar al-Islam. Originally based in Iraq and primarily operating in Ninawa and Kirkuk governorates, the group expanded into Syria in 2011 and spread across the north of the country. However, the emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) meant that the group's branch in Syria lost contiguous connection with its original Iraqi parent branch, losing out to ISIS in both Raqqa and Hasakah provinces … [Read more...]

The Return of Iraqi Shi’i Militias to Syria

Syrian President Bashar al-Asad.

It has long been known that the Assad regime, facing a shortage of manpower in its regular army, has had to rely on irregular paramilitaries in its bid to reverse rebel advances. This became particularly apparent in 2013, when Hezbollah openly declared its participation in the capture of Qusayr, a town in Homs Province on the border with Lebanon. Since then, the presence inside Syria of Iraqi Shi'i militias, most of them proxies of Iran, has been extensively documented. When the militias first … [Read more...]