A lot of Amāq statements on IS inspired attacks, like the one in Charleroi, quote : مصدر أمني
Yet the correct translation would be ‘a trusted (or reliable) source’ as the Arabic verb أمن in Classical Arabic means ‘to be faithful, reliable, trustworthy’ (The Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, p. 35)
Mostly, in my impression, these ‘reliable sources’ refer to official statements as reported by Western news agencies or, in some cases, exclusive reports by these exact same agencies. Then, once noticed by the network behind the Amāq news agency, attacks like the one in Charleroi might be chosen to enrich the propaganda. Once out, the idea or hint that it indeed was IS related gains the upper hand. And hence, IS scores twice, it can not only claim the attack but also ensured enough media attention to keep us busy until the next hit.
A follow up with Al-Maqalaat – By Tore Hamming
The assessing subject: An open source movement
“In your interview with Pieter Van Ostaeyen, you highlight that Jihad is both theory and reality and that al-Qaida follows a pragmatic approach. IS continuously claims that this pragmatism is actually a deviation from the path or Manhaj of Usama bin Laden and that IS now follows the Jihad that Usama bin Laden initiated. What is your response to this?”
“There is a statement by Shaykh Usamah bin Laden which should be written in gold. This statement indicates his sharp strategic and pragmatic insights, and it would be enough to quote this statement alone as answer. He said in a speech titled “Glad tidings” published for the first time by Al-Qaedah in its entirety in July 2014, at the outset of the infighting in Shaam, because of its relevance. Unfortunately ISIS did not take any heed from it.
“Imagine you had an RPG. If a tank of the enemy attacked, and we would spread the explosive substance in the rocket of an RPG over other smaller units. Image if we would spread this explosive substance and it delivered us thousand bullets for a Kalashnikov. If we would fire these thousand bullets on the tank, will it harm the tank in any way? No it will not. Even if your intention was good and your goal was to stop this enemy tank. But a good intention is not enough it must be accompanied by a constructive righteous action and laws of nature created by our Lord (cause and effect). Like the Hadith states; the head of the matter is Islam, its pillar is prayer, and its peak is Jihaad. The disbelievers also have a head, striking the head suffices us from many problems and other obligations.
You have a disbeliever, and you are making plans how to cut his small toe, and you say ‘he will suffer much from this’. Yes he will suffer but he will be able continue his march and fight. Or you make a plan on how to cut his thumb. Just summarize the issue, as I said it is risky, so shoot him in the head between his eyes and it will be enough for all the other matters. Some brothers say ‘this officer hit me and humiliated me in prison and said such and such’. He could have uttered a word of disbelief, which places him outside the thresholds of religion, and his blood becomes permissible. But this person is not even a branch; he is a branch, of a branch, of a branch, of a branch. You must cut the rotten tree from beneath, and it will relieve you from everything, this is the methodology.
“Fight against the leaders of disbelief, for surely, their oaths are nothing to them; so that they may stop.” (9:12) These people will not stop, these children who follow them, until you strike the leaders of disbelief. Hundreds of thousands of them in the Arab countries, rather millions, do you want to deal with every one of them to teach them a lesson? But if you strike the head of disbelief all of them will surrender. You understand? Strike the big teacher and all the children will learn. So focus on the big heads, the Jews and the Crusader Americans. But lets say that the death of a person is caused by striking the ear. And I said cut the ear of this disbeliever. It would be same if you cut the right or the left ear, he will die either way. America and Israel are two sides of the same coin. So if you see that your enemy has protected his right ear and fortified it well, don’t waste your time hitting the right ear: cut off the left ear and he will die. The result is the same.
The Americans are spread all over the world, and they do not have a doctrine like the Jews who want to stay in Palestine, but they support the Jews. Antar was asked what he did in order for people to fear him. He said I stand and watch in to the faces of people, and I cut the head of the one who has a weak heart, because he is easy. When his blood flows the strong heart also becomes afraid. The Americans do not have a cause, not in occupied Palestine nor in the Arabian Peninsula, as soldiers that is. Their leaders have a cause but the soldiers do not. And their interests are spread all over the world, so striking them is easy. We can quickly strike them and raise the morale of the Muslims.”
He goes on and explains that the number of bullets we have are few compared to the military capabilities of the disbelieving world powers, so we have to summarize and hit the head. This is a clear example of the methodology Shaykh Usamah bin Laden used to teach, and the leaders of Al-Qaedah of today are still teaching. ISIS however tries to convince its followers that the internal and close-by enemy deserves the first priority. Someone could say that Al-Qaedah supported the Jihaad against the Shia Rawafid in Iraq, so they agreed with the strategy of ISIS. Let’s look at what they said about this war.
After the martyrdom of Shaykh Abu Musab Zarqawi, when Shaykh Abu Hamza Al-Muhajir took over the leadership of Al-Qaedah in Iraq, Shaykh Ayman Zawahiri gave a very important interview with As-Sahab Media titled “Hot Issues” published in September 2006. I would like to quote some items from this interview, which will give a very clear insight in to the history of the disagreement between Al-Qaedah and ISIS. This will also give a summarization of the pragmatic strategy of Al-Qaedah. Notice that ISIS did not oppose these stances which Shaykh Ayman Zawahiri explained in 2006, nor did Shaykh Usama bin Laden oppose or reject them. This will proof that the current Al-Qaedah under the leadership of Shaykh Ayman Zawahiri did not change nor deviate and that the current positions of Shaykh Ayman Zawahiri are in fact the same as before.
Notice also how he described the current behavior of ISIS as a Jewish plot. He explained how the Western media wants to portray the Mujahideen as unreasonable, half-mad, bloodthirsty maniacs who fight for the sake of fighting and will continue to fight until the very last individual. Unfortunately the media today does not even have to bother itself with this task, because ISIS already portrays the Mujahideen as bloodthirsty lunatics in their gorish propaganda, who slaughter people senselessly and randomly, Muslim or not.
Excerpts from the interview with Shaykh Ayman Zawahiri “Hot Issues”:
“Shaykh Usama bin Laden’s instructions to the brothers in Iraq, especially Abu Musab Zarqawi were that they should focus their efforts on the Americans and neutralize the rest of the powers as best as they could. However, he gave them some freedom of movement, telling them that the witness sees what the absent does not. He told them that for two reasons, the first was to give them freedom of movement in confronting any current which might ally itself with the Americans against the Muslims in Iraq, whatever his race or sect. And the second reason was to give them freedom of movement against any current causing strife and waging a war of annihilation against the Muslims in Iraq. It has become clear to all that there is a war of annihilation being waged against the Muslims in Iraq. And that war is being carried out by forces under the command of the Iraqi government who exploit their official status in executing their crimes and massacres.
It goes without saying that someone busy with fighting the Americans will be more eager than anyone to lessen his enemies and increase his friends. How could he not when is facing the strongest power in the world? That’s one. The second point is that in Iraq, there are many non-Muslim sects like the Christians, Jews, and Yazidis. Yet Al-Qaedah has not done anything to them. Because Al-Qaedah in Iraq is busy with the Jihad against the Crusader occupier. As for those who agreed with the Americans before the invasion to rule Iraq in exchange for winking at the Crusader presence in Iraq and encouraging and supporting it and fighting those who resist it, they have the greatest interest in opening new fronts for the Mujahideen to lighten the pressure on the Americans. This is a division of roles which has taken place between the Americans and these factions.
I tell the Western peoples, your leaders are hiding from you the true extent of the disaster, which will shock you. The days are pregnant giving birth to new events with Allah’s permission. I tell them, you have provided us with all the legal and rational reasons to fight you and retaliate from you, as you have committed ugly crimes and broke the treaties which you used to impose on others. For our part, we have repeatedly warned you and repeatedly offered a truce with you, and so we now have all legal and rational justifications to continue to fight you until your power is destroyed or you give in and surrender. The Jews know that the main reason for the catastrophes which are befalling you, one after the other, is your backing and support for them, which is why they try to suppress the facts as much as they can. From their plots in suppressing the facts is their portrayal of the Mujahideen as half-mad, bloodthirsty maniacs who will continue to fight you until the last individual from you. Whenever the Mujahideen address you with the language of reason, they confuse the things for you and divert you from that in order to keep you in the battlefield to be killed for their protection.. We have repeatedly declared our political offer to the West, but the leaders of the West are keen to cause confusion about that. Shaykh Usama offered a ceasefire to the West. And before that I have told the West that the way to peace is by withdrawing from our countries, stopping the plunder of our resources, and ending support for the corrupt governments in our lands.”
Shaykh Ayman Zawahiri repeatedly explained that Al-Qaedah mainly focuses on the US, while avoiding secondary enemies, and allies with those who share this priority. Commenting on the war in Iraq he for instance said in his third interview published on April 2007 “The one who is waging Jihaad against the strongest Crusader Zionist coalition in history can not possibly preoccupy himself with any side conflict. Rather he is in the most need of someone to help and strengthen him, and he is the last one who would want to scatter his limited capabilities, especially at the outset of the Jihaad.”
Many Islamic movements recognized that there was a crisis in the Ummah and that we needed a solution for our situation. Every movement and school of thought came with a solution. The Tabligh for example were convinced that we should focus on our manners and behavior, which will eventually change society as a whole. The Ikhwan were convinced that we could change the governments in our countries from within through politics. The Tahrir were convinced that we should wait for someone with power who could lead the Ummah. The Salafis were convinced that we should correct our beliefs (Aqeedah) first, as this would change our situation automatically. The Sufis were convinced that we should divorce the world and feed our souls with worship, etcetera.
The political and non-political movements could be very different but they share one main characteristic; they mainly avoid armed confrontations with the tyrant government and the puppet masters that direct them, thus avoiding a confrontation with the root cause of the crisis in the Ummah. Some of them, especially the political movements, even ended up in the ranks of the tyrants. But generally speaking these movements more or less do have good intentions, as they all try to rescue the Ummah from its crisis, all be it incorrectly. That is why we could cooperate with them in certain situations, as long as our main goals are shared. Various movements: the Tabligh, the Ikwan, the Surooris, the Qutbis, etc. all of them achieved many good things. Some of them even participated in several Jihaadi fronts. They even influenced the global Jihaad movement a great deal, even ISIS can not deny that their methodology is influenced by these movements.
However the Mujahideen of the global Jihaad movement were actually the only ones who did not shun an armed confrontation with the enemies of the Ummah, they took the Islamic religion as a whole and combined the physical Jihaad with all the other necessary Islamic aspects; Dawah, Sharia politics, purifying the soul, raising awareness, upbringing and manners, asceticism, (Tasfiya, Tarbiya and Zuhd), education, correcting beliefs, etc. As the crisis in our Ummah consists of both physical and psychological problems, this means that they need a solution which targets both aspects of our problems. Of course the global Jihaad movement was not born in one day, it went through a process of evolution. Influential people like Shaykh Abu Musab Suri played an important part in developing this movement. One of the major shifts in the movement was the prioritization of the main enemy, after multiple failed experiences against the replaceable local enemies.
As for the Takfirs, they chose a completely different solution. They were convinced that there wasn’t anything good left in our societies; they have become apostates and the only way we could change our societies was by waging a ruthless Jihaad against them, including the various Islamic movements whether political or not, including the various Mujahid groups. Like Ibn Kathir said almost a millennium ago in Al-Bidaya wa Nihaya “If the Khawarij ever gained power they would corrupt the whole earth, Iraq and Syria, they would not leave a boy or a girl, nor a man or a woman. For in their view the people have become so corrupt that they cannot be rectified except by mass killing.”
This is why Shaykh Abu Musab Suri said that nothing is more destructive for Jihaad than the Takfir mentality. As Jihaad needs the mobilization of the Ummah on the fronts. While the Takfir mentality makes Takfir on the Ummah and pushes them away from it; making Jihaad an elitist project restricted to a select group of individuals. The Takfir mentality transfers the war towards the Ummah, instead of directing Jihaad through the Ummah. There can be no Jihaad without men. That is why the Takfir mentality works in the benefit of our enemies. They actually want the spread of this mentality among the Mujahideen and even help create it in prison through their secret services. This is proven many times in Egypt, Algeria, Syria and Saudi Arabia. The secret services understand that it is in the benefit of the tyrants to push the youth to this mentality, as this will withhold the Ummah from a popular Jihaad against the internal and external enemies. Rather the Ummah itself will become the target, like we have seen in many suicide bombings.
Looking at the methodology of Shaykh Usama bin Laden concerning the establishment of an Islamic State it becomes apparent that ISIS does not share his methodology. There is for example a three part series by the Shaykh titled “Methodological directives” in which he explained his methodology. The Shaykh explains how the Prophet (SalAllahu Alayhi wa Selam) sought assistance from the tribes surrounding Mekkah whom he called towards Islam; until he was able to establish an Islamic State in Medina with the assistance of the tribes of Aws and Khazraj. He searched and waited 23 years in Mekkah for this popular support in Medina. This is the same approach of Al-Qaedah. Shaykh Usamah even compared the foundations of an Islamic State to the five pillars of Islam; the supportive community, who listen and obey, who wage Jihaad and to whom you can migrate. He stressed that it is impossible to establish a state without these foundations.
We must realize that peoples are the building stones of an Islamic State, they are the power source that pushes the convoy of Jihaad forth. Shaykh Usama bin Laden said in his methodological directives, commenting on the groups in Afghanistan after the Soviet-Afghan war “Everyone wants to establish an Islamic State by himself, and every group wants to erect an Islamic State in his country of birth, as if we are prisoners of these thoughts.” He clearly rebuked those who try to hijack the project of the Ummah. They want to establish an Islamic State exclusively without involving the rest of the Muslims.
So building an Islamic State without including the rest of the Ummah is not the methodology of Al-Qaedah, rather it is impossible to do this as history has proven several times. ISIS however declared the Caliphate, not only a State, without at least consulting the Mujahid leaders and scholars in Syria, let alone the rest of the notables of the Ummah. This is a major mistake as isolation from the Ummah equals an open invitation to the enemies, like we have seen in Iraq and Syria. The Prophet (SalAllahu Alayhi wa Selam) said “Stick to the flock for the wolf eats the sheep that strays off on its own.”
Different Mujahid groups in Syria allied, cooperated and coordinated with Al-Qaedah. Take the operations room of Jaysh Al-Fath for example, different factions allied, cooperated and coordinated with Al-Qaedah in Shaam represented by Jahbat Nusra previously. We could then conclude that these Mujahid groups and factions had ties with Al-Qaedah. So why did the US single out Jabhat Nusra as if they were only ones with ties to Al-Qaedah? The other factions also had ties with Al-Qaedah as they allied, cooperated and coordinated their Jihaad with Jabhat Nusra. Why didn’t the US or UN place them on the terror list for these obvious ties? These factions are still allying, cooperating and coordinating with the newly formed Jabhat Fath Shaam, while the US announced that they will keep considering Jabhat Fath Shaam as part of Al-Qaedah, despite their name-change. This is surely a crime in the eyes of the US isn’t it? But we can not blame the US for their selectivity. Because the US chose to single out Jabhat Fath Shaam, for the exact same reason the Mujahideen single out the US as the main enemy of the Ummah.
We all know that the US will not accept any Islamic authority in Syria neighboring Israel, not even a democratic moderate authority painted with Islam, like the government of Mursi wasn’t accepted as an authority neighboring Israel or even the government of Erdogan for that matter. Rather they will not accept any independent authority in Syria neighboring Israel, even if it were to be a tyrant like Saddam who did not rule with Islam in the slightest. But despite this obvious western foreign policy the US can not attack all the factions in Syria at the same time with the same intensity; they have to prioritize.
The war in Syria is of historic importance, the hope of the Ummah is connected to it. The Mujahideen in Syria will proof to the Ummah that Jihaad is the answer to our crisis. After the failed democratic experience in Algeria in the nineties and the failed Egyptian experience in the Arab spring, the Ummah realized that democracy does not give our Ummah any solutions. Rather it is the stage set for the tyrants on which they stand to oppress the Ummah. When the democratic experiences in Algeria and Egypt failed the secret services of the Arab tyrants and the western powers quickly used the foolishness of the extremist to proof to the Ummah that Jihaad does not provide any solutions either. The extremism of the Khawarij in Algeria was destructive. But the holy land of Shaam is protected, so the damage caused by the foolishness of the Khawarij stayed very limited. The west led by the US has put all its efforts in sabotaging the Jihaad in Syria, to no avail. The growing US-Russian cooperation is one of the symptoms of their desperation.
Like Al-Qaedah is prioritizing the US as the main enemy, the US prioritizes the so-called extremist, fundamentalist, the political Islamist and terrorist as the main enemy, while it considers the rest of the “moderate” Muslims as a secondary enemy. They wage a strong ideological war combined with military campaigns against their prioritized enemy, while it puts their war against the rest of the Muslims on hold at times. This is their policy towards the Ummah in general on a macro level, and this is also evident in their policy in Syria on a micro level. All the factions in Syria are armed, and the majority of them are fundamentalists in teaching and political Islamists in orientation. But the US can not attack all of them together at the same time, with the same intensity, this would also expose their cloaked support for the Syrian regime, the Russians, the Shia militias, and their outrageous war crimes. So the US singles out a select number of factions or groups; those who pose the greatest threat, like Jabhat Fath Shaam, or those who form the easiest target, like ISIS. But in the end all the Muslim factions and groups are on their to-do list.
This is not a conspiracy theory, the United Stated Sectary of State John Kerry said it very blatantly at the Aspen Ideas Festival on June 28, when he talked about Jaysh Al-Islam and Ahraar Shaam for example. He said very unambiguously: “From Orlando to San Bernardino to the Philippines and Bali, we’ve seen pictures and we’ve heard testimony of shocking crimes committed by Al-Qaedah, by Boko Haram, by Jaysh al-Islam, by Ahrar al-Sham, by Al-Shabaab, ISIS, and other groups against innocent civilians. The most important thing is seeing if we can reach an understanding with the Russians about how to, number one, deal with ISIS and Nusrah. Jabhat Nusrah is a designated terrorist group by the United Nations. And there are a couple of subgroups underneath the two designated ISIS and Jabhat Nusrah; Jaysh Al-Islam and Ahrar Shaam particularly.”
So like the Mujahideen, the US also applies certain criteria for their enemy prioritization, which are very similar to the criteria of Al-Qaedah for their enemy prioritization, which I explained briefly in the second part of this interview series with Pieter Van Ostaeyen. The US, and Al-Qaedah, prioritizes the enemy who poses the greatest long term- and the most immediate threat and the enemy which forms the easiest target. This explains why the US did not yet attack Jabhat Fath Shaam, while they do attack ISIS. Jabhat Fath Shaam does indeed pose the greatest threat for the foreign policy of the US, especially in the long term, as they seek to destroy the US dominance, influence and directives in our countries. But they are not the easiest target. ISIS however does not pose a long term threat, but they did pose an immediate threat, and most importantly; they were a very easy target. They were an easy target because they excluded themselves from the Muslim community in Syria, and they announced an Islamic State, which worked like a visiting card.
Why does the US always wait until a Mujahid group declares an exclusive State before they unite a Western coalition against them? This question is important so we can understand why Al-Qaedah did not declare an exclusive Emirate in Syria. The US gathers a Western coalition against a Mujahid group when they declare an exclusive State because they will have become easy targets. As a State must have established institutions and governmental bodies (Diwan). While a guerilla movement has mobile bases. The Prophet said “Shoot and ride.” So we must stay mobile, but a State with all its necessaries institutions prevents us from being mobile. It is self-explanatory why the West attacks the Mujahideen when they have declared a State, and why they are restricted and held back from attacking a Mujahid organization when they are a mobile guerilla movement who are knotted with the Ummah and who enjoy popular support from the general Muslims.
Al-Qaedah in Syria has put much of its efforts in gaining local support and integrated with the Muslim community of Syria. They rooted themselves in to the community instead of alienating and excluding themselves from the Muslim community. As this popular support base is an essential environment for Jihaad to flourish. This also explains the recent independent formation of Jabhat Fath Shaam, which is even more popular than Jabhat Nusra. Al-Qaedah learns from their experiences and history. The Taliban achieved what Hekmetyar could not, while the Taliban were much weaker at that time. Hekmatyar was very powerful in military terms, they were one of the strongest and most organized groups. But because the Taliban enjoyed the popular support of Afghans they were able to liberate Kabul and brought stability to the country, unlike Hekmatyar.
The effects of exclusivity versus unity are very obvious. ISIS lost many territories in Iraq and Syria, despite their military strength, because they wage an exclusive Jihaad with no popular support base. While we see the Mujahideen in Syria including Jabhat Fath Shaam gain victory after victory throughout the country, in Idlib, Aleppo, Latakiyah, Qalamoun, etc. Allah bestowed these victories upon them because they united their efforts and because they enjoy popular support from the local Muslims and the Ummah in general.
This explains why the Mujahideen must unite with the Ummah instead of straying of on their own, and why they must focus on eliminating the influence of the US before they can actually build a State. Declaring an exclusive State is exactly what the West wants so that they can fight against us on their own terms; efficiently and without any major losses, while causing major losses on our side with ease, without confronting the rest of the Muslims as we are excluded from the Ummah. If we declare an exclusive State without the involvement of the Ummah we have fallen for the strap set by the enemies. We can not declare a State outside its conditions, and before we have reached its reality. Every Muslim agrees that it is obligatory to pray like it is necessary to rule with the Sharia and establish an Islamic State. Prayer has physical and non-physical qualities, Jihaad has the same qualities. If we do not pray towards the prescribed direction our prayers become void. If we deviate from the guidelines of praying, like praying without purification or praying outside the prayer times, then all our prayers become void.
The ability to establish an Islamic State is strongly linked to the influence of the US in the Muslim countries. If we do not prioritize the US as our main enemy and we do not eliminate the influence of the US in our countries, then the establishment of an Islamic State will remain a mere air castle. So this approach is not really a matter of choice. Shaykh Qaasim Ar-Reemi explained this very well. When the influence of the US is eliminated the establishment of an Islamic State becomes a consequential fact. If the oppression of the enemies is stopped, then the religion will atomically flourish. As Allah said “Fight them until there is no more oppression; and the religion belongs to Allah. But if they cease, then let there be no hostility except against the oppressors.” (2:193)
It well known that Shaykh Usamah bin Laden prioritized the US as the main enemy and that he would refrain from secondary conflicts. This pragmatic approach of the Shaykh is generally known so it is rather surprising that ISIS was able to fool this many youths with their false claims about his methodology. This goes to proof that most of the new generation soldiers and supporters of ISIS are not familiar with the history of the global Jihaad led by Shaykh Usamah bin Laden. ISIS merely uses the symbolic name of the martyred Shaykh as they do not have to fear that he will denounce them or refute them, unlike his successor Shaykh Ayman Zawahiri. But if they want to claim his symbolic name, then his son Hamza who shares his name is very much alive.
Hamza ibn Usamah has confirmed multiple times that the current Al-Qaedah is still on the methodology of his father, while he does not recognize the Caliphate of ISIS, thereby refuting the false claim of ISIS that Al-Qaedah has deviated from the methodology of Shaykh Usama and that ISIS still follows his methodology. But like expected ISIS does not have the guts to attack and defame his son, like they do not have the guts to attack and defame his father, while both of them share the exact same methodology as Shaykh Ayman Zawahiri. Hamza did not denounce Al-Qaedah nor did he give his pledge to ISIS. Rather he reaffirmed the methodology of Shaykh Ayman and praised him, and he praised many other Mujahid leaders, including Shaykh Abu Muhammad Al-Joulani, while he did not utter one word of praise about ISIS. He also explained the pragmatic approach of his father in his message titled “The greetings of Salaam to the people of Islam.”
He said: “The head of international infidelity is trying very hard in their wars not to directly confront the Jihaadi lions, and that is something we will not allow. One of the greatest blessings of Allah on the Mujahideen led by my father, may Allah have mercy on him, was putting a strategic plan to lure the head of the global infidel snake. Allah the Great and Exalted blessed him with it and its success. He was able to concentrate on the head of the infidel snake, America, and to exhaust it as much as possible, to the point that it lost its prestige and position, and lost its soldiers, and dissipated its economy for a costly war. Thus making its stay in our country more expensive than robbing our wealth, and forcing them to retreat and leave. Focusing on the head of international infidelity requires staying as far away as possible from its local agents and allies in an effort to provide the most direct blows, which will result in its fall and them abandoning their agents, which will make it easy to deal with them after that, with permission from Allah.
Just like in the blessed plan of Umar ibn Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him. Narrated in Saheeh Bukhari from Umar ibn Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him: “He sent the people to the great countries to fight the polytheists. When Al-Hurmuzan embraced Islam, Umar said to him. “I would like to consult you regarding these countries which I intend to invade.” Al-Hurmuzan said, “Yes, the example of these countries and their inhabitants who are the enemies of the Muslims, is like a bird with a head, two wings and two legs; if one of its wings got broken, it would get up on its two legs, with one wing and the head; and if the other wing got broken, it would get up with two legs and ahead, but if its head got destroyed, then the two legs, two wings and the head would become useless. The head stands for Khosow, and one wing stands for Caesar and the other wing stands for Persia. So, order the Muslims to go towards Khosrow.”
I figured that the Zionist-Crusader alliance led by America today is like a bird: America is its head, NATO is one wing and the Jewish state in the occupied Palestine is the other wing, and the legs are the oppressive dictators sitting on the chests of the peoples of the Muslim Ummah. By concentrating on the head, with permission from Allah, it guarantees that all will go. This is the general plan of the Mujahideen. As far as the Rafidah, the Mujahideen, praise be to Allah, are vigilant to their danger and aware of them.”
In his speech “We are all Usamah” he also said: “Shaykh Usamah, may Allah mercy on him, was victorious because he achieved what he foresaw by striking America and exhausting it in wars until it weakened and abandoned its proxies in the Islamic world so that the Muslim peoples could revolt against them and were able to overthrow them and to replace them with a righteous Islamic rule. The Shaykh was victorious in achieving the first part and it is upon the Muslim peoples to seek the achievement of the second part.”
There is a major difference between the methodology of ISIS and Shaykh Usamah bin Laden on many fronts, especially how Shaykh Usama bin Laden would address and approach the Muslim Ummah and other Mujahid groups. The message and the project of Al-Qaedah concerned the Ummah as a whole, while the isolated project of ISIS only concerns their own soldiers and followers. Shaykh Usama bin Laden constantly focused on the Palestinian cause for example, while ISIS hardly pays any attention to is. Shaykh Usama bin Laden explained that the attacks of 9-11 were an answer to the US support for the Zionist occupation of Palestine, while Al-Qaedah did not even have any physical presence in occupied Palestine. ISIS however only avenges their own personal causes, their attacks in the West are exclusive retaliations for the coalition air strikes against their Caliphate. ISIS made their Caliphate the cause for the conflict, while Shaykh Usamah bin Laden explained that the western occupations are the cause for the conflict, especially Israel.
Al-Qaedah does not claim that the war is between the West and them, but they acknowledge and explain that the war is between the West and the Ummah as a whole. ISIS however sees this as an exclusive conflict between the West and their Caliphate. ISIS sees their Caliphate as the Jamaa’ah (the Muslim community), their spokesperson Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani said this literally, while Al-Qaedah sees themselves as part of the Jamaa’ah and the Muslim Ummah. Shaykh Usama bin Laden repeated this numerous times. This is why he had good relations with several other Mujahid groups, he cooperated and coordinated with them, he advised them and praised them. Unlike ISIS who makes Takfir on them and claims that their legitimacy has become void since the announcement of their Caliphate. ISIS forces other Mujahid groups to join their State while Shaykh Usamah bin Laden did not force anyone to join the Islamic Emirate of the Taliban in Afghanistan. And unlike Al-Qaedah, ISIS only acknowledges and praises the Jihaad that is waged under their exclusive command. Shaykh Usamah bin Laden saw Al-Qaedah as a mere means to an end, while ISIS sees their Caliphate as the end goal itself.
When ISIS declared a state in Iraq and Shaam they forced it upon the other Mujahid groups, when they declared a Caliphate they likewise forced it upon the rest of the Ummah. This was never the methodology of Al-Qaedah. If we look back we would see that even though Al-Qaedah supported the Islamic State in Iraq, before it was hijacked by Abu Bakr Al-Bagdadi and his Baathist henchmen, they did not force this state upon the other Mujahideen in Iraq who did not recognize this state. Al-Qaedah respected the opinion of the other Mujahid groups who were convinced that the time was not ripe for the creation of an Islamic State in Iraq. Al-Qaedah respected both opinions, the opinion which was convinced that the time was ripe for the creation of an Islamic state and the opinion which was convinced that the time was not ripe. Al-Qaedah called for unity and cooperation between them even if they did not recognize the Islamic State in Iraq. I refer to the speech of Shaykh Ayman Zawahiri titled “The advise of one concerned” published in June 2007. If ISIS adopted this tolerant approach nobody would really have a problem with the creation of their state in Iraq and Shaam and their Caliphate. The Mujahideen would consider this to be a matter of opinion and interpretation like they did previously in Iraq.
Al-Qaedah calls for a general mobilization of the Ummah to wage a defensive Jihaad against the transgressing enemies, without the request that they should or must do so under the umbrella of Al-Qaedah. This would be illogical as this request narrows the call significantly. The Muslim Ummah is very diverse, there are a lot of schools of thought and there are many different movements and even deviant sects. Al-Qaedah calls upon all of them as long as they are Muslims. So we can not expect that all of these different segments within the Ummah will agree with the methodology and the strategy of Al-Qaedah. Must all of them agree with the insights of Al-Qaedah before then can wage Jihaad against the enemies of the Ummah? Who would claim such a thing except a fool? Nor does Al-Qaedah need to explain their methodology and strategy in detail to mobilize the Ummah. The participants only need to agree on certain core principals and goals.
Jihaad today is not monopolized by noble elite, unlike a couple of decades ago when only those who understood detailed theological concepts waged Jihaad. If we were to look at the Mujahideen in Syria for example. Before the revolution and before they started to wage Jihaad, they were like many other Muslims in the world. A lot of them were sinners and heedless. Many of them do wage Jihaad but this does not mean that they have become sinless devout worshipers overnight who are well taught on all matters of the religion. So this shows us that we can and must mobilize the general population of the Ummah in the language they understand despite their deficiencies. Many Muslims still do not understand the issue of Al-Haakimiyah (legislation) and they are still not fully convinced that the tyrant governments are apostates. But they are convinced that these tyrant governments are corrupt treacherous puppets of the West. So do we then engage in a theological discussion with them about their apostasy while we can mobilize them by showing their obvious corruption and treachery? If we look at the popular Jihaad against the Algerian government in the nineties then we would come to know that most of the Muslims who picked up arms were not convinced that they were fighting apostates. But they fought against the government because of their obvious corruption and treachery.
We must look for the key which brings us closer to our goal. The Prophet (SalAllahu Alayhi wa Selam) explained that everyone who is killed defending his wealth and belongings, or his honor, or his life, or his relatives, or his religion is a martyr. There are a lot of reasons and motives we can use to mobilize the Ummah. If the Muslims are hesitant to fight because they are not convinced by the apostasy of the transgressing enemy, then why should we focus on this theological issue? The Khawarij of ISIS are not apostates, but if they attack the Muslims and threaten to violate their wealth, their honor and lives; is it then not permissible to repel their transgression? Rather it is obligatory. To conclude, we must look for the key which mobilizes the Muslim Ummah, and this means that we at times must operate outside the organization of Al-Qaedah. Because some people are still not convinced by their project, or their methodology, strategy and goals. We must use the language the people understand in order for the Ummah to reach its goals.
Narrowing the call to wage Jihaad to your own movement or organization will not benefit the Ummah in any way, rather it will only benefit the enemies of the Ummah who are uniting against us. A defensive Jihaad to expel the transgressing enemies requires a general call, it requires a general mobilization of the Ummah with all its different segments. Al-Qaedah does not seek an elitist and exclusive Jihaad of nobles, but a Jihaad of the Ummah. This means that they must look and reach beyond their organization.
Shaykh Abu Musab Suri explained it very well when he talked about a system rather than an organization; an accessible broad open source movement. He continuously called for a decentralization of the classic organizational hierarchy which only used to limit the Mujahideen and their cause. Al-Qaedah operates on this flexible platform and works within this evolving framework. So we must not look at Al-Qaedah as a constrained organization with a select list of members. The classical organizational hierarchy caused major weaknesses for the Mujahid groups in the past, especially on the level of security. Such organizations were relatively easy to dismantle by the tyrant Arab secret services.
Many terrorism analysts still do not seem to understand this concept, even though the leadership and theorists of Al-Qaedah explained these views repeatedly. This becomes very evident when we look at the commentary of analysts on the recent formation of Jabhat Fath Shaam, and their uncertain assessments concerning this move. We must look from the aforementioned perspective at the branches of Al-Qaedah, and their approach towards the Ummah, and their cooperation and coordination with other Mujahid groups. Otherwise you will not understand the policy of Al-Qaedah. The branches of Al-Qaedah can work independent from the core-movement; expanding, merging, connecting, allying, etc. Yes, and they could even dissolve from the core-movement while staying loyal to it. So then what is the binding structure? It is Islamic brotherhood, doctrine and faith.
Shaykh Usama bin Laden was not that attached to the name Al-Qaedah. He explained this for example in the interview with Al-Jazeera following 9-11, saying “This matter isn’t about me or any specific person, and it is not about Al-Qaedah. We are the children of an Islamic Nation, with Prophet Muhammad (SalAllahu Alayhi wa Sallam) as its leader, our Lord is one, our Prophet is one, our Qiblah is one, we are one nation, and our Book is one. And this blessed Book, with the tradition of our benevolent Prophet has religiously commanded us with the brotherhood of faith and all the true believers are brothers. So the situation isn’t like the West portrays it, that there is an “organization” with a specific name and so on. This particular name is very old. It was born without any intention from us. Brother Abu Ubaydah Al-Banshiri created a military base to train the young men to fight against the vicious, arrogant, brutal, terrorizing Soviet Empire –a truth witnessed by all observers. So this place was called “The Base” (Al-Qaedah), as in a training base, so this name grew to what it became. We aren’t separated from this nation.”
As a Muslim nation we do not really need an organization to wage Jihaad and liberate our countries, we already have all the binding elements which form an organization. These elements shape the strongest structure a movement can have, as these bonds can not be broken by a Muslim, meaning they can not be dissolved without leaving the religion. Let’s look at Abu Baseer Thaqafi for example. He formed a guerilla movement of around 300 men in the dessert between Medina and Mekkah during the treaty of Hudaybiyah. They did not have any official ties with the Islamic State of the Prophet (SalAllahu Alayhi wa Selam) in Medina. But does this then mean that they did not have any bond of servitude, loyalty and brotherhood with the Prophet? Of course not, because this bond is unbreakable. The enemies want to break this bond between the Muslims, but this is impossible. When Shaykh Muhammed Abu Faris and several parliamentarians of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan paid their condolences to Shaykh Abu Musab Zarqawi’s family members in Jordan, they were imprisoned by the Jordanian government for doing so. They were not part of Al-Qaedah, they have very different views than Al-Qaedah. But the mere fact alone that they paid their condolences to another Muslim brother and sister in faith, was reason enough to be imprisoned for the tyrant puppets of the West. So it is not about the organizational ties with Al-Qaedah, rather it is about Islamic brotherhood.”
This draft text was submitted to IHS Jane’s for publication. For an extensive, edited version please see here.
Best article on this topic thus far: see here.
On Sunday July 24, 2016 some analysts, activists and reporters started speculating on an upcoming video release of Jabhat an-Nusra. It was widely believed that Jabhat an-Nusra would sever its ties with its mother organization al-Qaeda. Although only some claimed to have the necessary contacts, described as high ranking islamists, for corroborating the claim, a lot of details became known. It was said the video would be released on Wednesday, that Abu Muhammad al-Julani would for the very first time show his face, that Jabhat an-Nusra was going to be called Jabhat Fath as-Sham, there were even pictures making the tour of what was supposedly the new flag of the organization.
In the course of the next few days the speculation went on, only to be fueled wider by speculative guesses on the nature of the message to be released by Jabhat an-Nusra. What was pointed out by some is that this message probably would come as a response to the talks between the United States and Russia to cooperate intensely in targeting Nusra as a high value goal in oppressing the al-Qaeda organization to gain a foothold in Syria and from there on plot attacks against the West. Dutch contacts within Jabhat an-Nusra confirmed to me that Abu Muhammad al-Julani would indeed appear bare-faced in the expected video release and that he would make a statement on the groups stance towards al-Qaeda and the other rebel groups in Syria. They wouldn’t disclose any details however, yet said they would address me after the video was broadcasted (the fact that they’re now fighting in the Aleppo offensive doesn’t promise a soon reply however).
After a lot of what ifs and when’s a first audio statement was announced by the new general Twitter account of Jabhat an-Nusra, al-Manara al-Bayda, early Thursday 28th of July. The audio statement was published shortly after. In the audio statement we heard the deputy of al-Qaeda’s general leader, Dr. Ayman az-Zawahiri, Shaykh Ahmad Hassan Abu al-Khayr state that they would “[…] work and use any possible means to safeguard the Jihad in as-Sham, righteously and strong, and to remove from it any weak excuses which the enemy places to split the Mujahidin from their supporting Sunni environment.” He pointed to the division and separation between the several groups involved in the war on the regime, and in the tradition of Jabhat an-Nusra’s previous communications, calling for unity, stated: “efforts must be headed towards a future stage that establishes an entity for the Sunnis which represents their demands and requests their rights.” His most important message followed shortly after when he stated: “We call upon the leadership of Jabhat Nusra to work for that which works in the interest of Islam and the Muslims and safeguards the Jihaad of the people of Shaam and we press them on taking the appropriate steps towards this matter.” He concluded saying that this strategic move by Jabhat an-Nusra wasn’t only approved but even supported by al-Qaeda’s senior leadership, including Dr. Ayman az-Zawahiri.
The video wasn’t even five minutes out before mainstream media outlets started spewing out articles on how al-Qaeda gave its permission to Jabhat an-Nusra to sever its ties with the main organization. It seemed as if the majority of the articles published were all pre-edited, rather based on the rumors circulating earlier that week, than on the audio that was just published. The general message however did never include the option of breaking ties between both groups. Al-Qaeda just stated that all means should be used to reinsure the success of the revolution against the al-Assad regime and repeated its call for unity within all groups fighting the regime.
Shortly after the release of the audio-statement by al-Qaeda, al-Manara al-Bayda announced a new video featuring Abu Muhammad al-Julani. For the very first time the man’s face wasn’t covered. The video itself opened with al-Julani explicitly thanking the al-Qaeda leadership for “their stance, whereby they gave priority to the interests of the people of al-Sham”. Al-Julani continues “They have practically implemented the words of Sheikh Osama bin Laden (may Allah have mercy on him), when he said, “The interests of the Ummah take precedence over the interest of any state; the interests of the state take precedence over the interest of any Jama’ah (group); the interests of the Jama’ah (group) take precedence over any individual.” Remarkably enough al-Julani didn’t only praise Osama bin Laden, he appeared dressed like him wearing military clothing and a white turban. In what follows al-Julani stresses the need for unification of the groups if the struggle against the unjust oppressor is to be won. He mentions the group wants “to expose the deceptions of the international community, the leaders being the US and Russia, in their relentless bombardment and displacement of the Muslim masses of Al Sham under the pretense of targeting Jabhat al Nusrah, an al Qaeda affiliate.”
For these reasons al-Julani states “we declare the complete cancellation of all operations under the name of Jabhat Al Nusrah, and the formation of a new group operating under the name “Jabhat Fath Al Sham,” noting that this new organization has no affiliation to any external entity.” Nowhere in the entire statement did al-Julani say that his organization would break ties with al-Qaeda, what he does state is that Jabhat Fath as-Sham would be an organization with “no affiliation to any external entity”. This points however, for those willing to read between the lines, to the fact that the leadership of al-Qaeda already is represented in this ‘unaffiliated’ new organization. We know for a fact that several senior al-Qaeda operatives were active within the ranks of Jabhat an-Nusra, changing the organization’s name is not going to change that.
Over the course of the next few days it became clear how well the entire transition was planned. Group after group released a statement applauding the newly formed Jabhat Fath as-Sham as an important faction in the war on the regime, praising Abu Muhammad al-Julani for his excellent work. After the fundaments were casted for what would likely become a formidable union of several rebel groups, the next step was taken soon. On Sunday July 31st a massive counteroffensive started in southern Aleppo. In an area where the regime forces probably did not expect it, the joint groups cooperated on a massive scale attacking the Syrian army frontlines again and again. By the end of the day the rebel forces were close to even breaking the siege that holds Aleppo’s rebels and multiple civilians in a tight grip. It is to be expected that this offensive will continue in the next few days and weeks. If the rebel groups really manage to keep on cooperating in this offensive it would mean that leaving al-Qaeda in name was a master move by the former Jabhat an-Nusra, a move that might lead to a durable rebel coalition in Syria’s northern provinces. As one foreign fighter in Jabhat Fath as-Sham stated: “Today in Aleppo there isn’t a difference between FSA, JaF, This group or that group. All answered the call and moving together ….”
August 3, 2016 – by Pieter Van Ostaeyen and Guy Van Vlierden
Belgian fighters in Syria & Iraq – an important review of our data
After a thorough review of our data, we do estimate the total number of Belgian foreign fighters who were active at some point in the current Syrian-Iraqi at 543 individuals now. Almost 70% of them have joined Islamic State, while Shariah4Belgium and the so-called Zerkani network remain the most important recruiters. 127 people have returned to Belgium, while at least 105 were reportedly killed.
We have been keeping track of Belgian foreign fighters for several years now, and we felt that a review of our data was needed. At the time of our very first publication, most of the information was vague and much records in our database lacked sufficient identification.
While adding details, the risk of double counting grew. We are pretty confident that the number of fighters not discovered yet, greatly compensated for that. But with all the sources we have now — both publicly available as confidential ones — we thought it would be wise to omit as much of potential doubles as possible.
Therefore, we have reviewed every single entry in our database, investigating the chance that the same person occurred elsewhere. Apart from a rather small number of obvious cases, we finally decided to omit an even number of completely anonymous records dating from before 2014 as the number of fighters we know in detail who had left already at that same time. That is a rather arbitrary measure, but we do believe that it helps to make our estimate more accurate.
On the other hand, we added all the information that we have about minors taken to the battlefield, records that we previously didn’t count. It can be feared that the foreign fighters phenomenon will last for many years, and while the minors of today probably will be the fighters of tomorrow, it becomes relevant now to count them in.
Definition of Belgian fighters
Altogether, we do estimate the number of Belgian foreign fighters in the current Syrian-Iraqi conflict at 543 now, defining them as follows:
1) every person of Belgian origin, foreign origin but living in Belgium for a significant time, or clearly recruited by an entity operating from Belgium and departed to the conflict zone via Belgian soil;
2) having at least physically tried to reach the war zone of the Syrian-Iraqi conflict that started in March 2011;
3) with a clear intention to join a local fighting party there, be it as a fighter themselves or in any other role.
While it has to be stressed that this definition is broader than Sunni Islamists, actually 534 (or 98% of all our records) can be considered as such. Other kind of affiliations, such as pro-regime fighters in both Syria and Iraq, certainly are a very small part of the foreign figher phenomenon in reality too. But they are also underrepresented in our database because the focus of our active investigations is the Sunni Islamist part.
In the near future, we may try to get a clearer picture of those other kind of affiliations too. More specifically, we would like to add figures about Kurdish fighters, who aren’t included at all for the moment, although we know for sure that they too have Belgian fighters in their ranks. Another possible extension of our database could be the Belgian foreign fighters who have joined Islamic State in Libya.
Our count versus the official one
Although our total estimate is considerably lowered by the review, it is still higher than the number of 458 mentioned by Interior Minister Jan Jambon in April of this year. Probably, authorities do limit their number to fully identified and thus juridically relevant cases, while our database also includes anonymous cases for which the source was deemed reliable. But with much more limited means, we still identified 324 individuals with their full names.
Of all the people in our database, 493 have reached the battle zone — a rate of 90.8%. 32 or 5.9% were stopped somewhere abroad, and 18 or 3.3% before they left the Belgian soil. We have information about 127 people who returned to Belgium — which is slightly higher than the official figures of 114 à 117 mentioned recently. 401 of our records are males, representing 74%. 64 or 12% are females, while the gender is not known for another 78 or 14%.
We have information about 27 children taken to the war zone as minors, of whom at least 18 male and 6 female. These numbers do exclude however youngsters who were juridically still minors at their moment of departure, but apparently have left at their own will. According to official sources, there are at least 48 Belgian minors who have left, of whom 32 were younger than twelve.
Islamic State by far the most important group
217 people in our database joined the Islamic State. That is 67.4% of all 322 records for which an exact affiliation is known. Jabhat an-Nusra, the Syrian branch of the global terrorist network al-Qaeda that has rebranded itself into Jabhat Fath as-Sham very recently to indicate a split from al-Qaeda, is the second most important group with 43 people for whom it is their last known affiliation.
It must be noted that affiliations often changed in course of time. The third most important group for instance, Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen, became a part of the Islamic State early in 2013. Until then, it was the group joined by almost all the recruits of Shariah4Belgium. Some of them followed their leaders into the Islamic State immediately, while a significant number of others initially switched side to Jabhat an-Nusra. 33 people are still listed in our database with Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen as last known affiliation, because we do not know in which group they landed. But the total number of Belgians who have belonged to Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen at a certain point amounts to 77.
Other Sunni Islamist groups with Belgians in their ranks are Suqur as-Sham (joined by the notorious Brussels based cheikh Bassam Ayachi, and merged in March of last year with Ahrar as-Sham) with 13 people; Katibat al-Khadra and the so-called Katibat des Français with two individuals; and Faylaq as-Sham, Jabhat Ansar al-Din, Jaysh Muhammad, Jund al-Aqsa, Katibat al-Muhajiroun and the Turkistan Islamic Party with each one.
Shariah4Belgium & Zerkani network main recruiters
Looking at recruitment organizations, the Antwerp based Shariah4Belgium still is the most important one. 97 people were at least in touch with that organization before their departure. Second comes the network around the Brussels recruiter Khalid Zerkani, with 72 individuals. An overlap exists, mainly in the circles of the Brussels recruiter Jean-Louis Denis. He worked together with both networks, and has influenced at least 55 people who tried or succeeded to reach the battle zone. The Centre Islamique Belge of the mentioned Bassam Ayachi had proven ties with four fighters, while the so-called ‘Terloplein Group’ and ‘The Way of Life’ — both of which can be considered as spin-offs of Shariah4Belgium — had ties with respectively five and one who’ve tried.
Geographically, the Brussels Capital Region has the highest number of Belgian foreign fighters with 179 individuals on a total of 403 for whom the origin is known, including at least 40 from the now notorious municipality of Molenbeek-Saint-Jean. Antwerp is the second most important place of origin with 98 people, while Vilvoorde (29) and Mechelen (17) add to the importance of the axis Brussels-Antwerp as hotbed of the Belgian jihad.
105 deaths, of whom 11 by suicide attacks
Of the Belgian foreign fighers in our database, 105 were reportedly killed. For nine of them, that happened after their return to Europe to commit a terrorist attack: Khalid Ben Larbi and Soufiane Amghar during a police operation on January 15, 2015 in Verviers (Belgium); Bilal Hadfi and Ibrahim Abdeslam while conducting suicide attacks on November 13, 2015 in Paris (France); Abdelhamid Abaaoud and Chakib Akrouh during a police operation following the Paris attacks on November 18, 2015 in Saint-Denis (France); Mohamed Aziz Belkaïd during a police operation on March 15, 2016 in Forest (Belgium); and Najim Laachraoui and Ibrahim El Bakraoui while conducting suicide attacks on March 22, 2016 in Brussels (Belgium).
It has to be stressed that the death of 96 others in the war zone cannot be verified. There are for instance several cases known already of foreign fighters faking their death to lure security services, including the already mentioned Abdelhamid Abaaoud prior to the Verviers plot and the Paris attacks. So, being mentioned in the list of people killed we publish beneath, only means that relevant sources have announced the death of that person, without clear signs that it was inaccurate. Altogether, 11 Belgian fighters have died while committing suicide attacks: six in Iraq, two in France, two in Belgium and one in Syria.
List of Belgian foreign fighters reportedly killed
- Julian André Harinton, aka Abu Abdullah al-Belgiki, convert from Antwerp who most likely joined the Free Syrian Army and was killed in April 2012
- Hamdi Mahmoud Saad, a Syrian living in Brussels who joined the Free Syrian Army and was killed in Latakia governorate in August 2012
- Rustam Gelayev, son of Chechen warlord Ruslan Gelayev who lived a while in Belgium, killed in Aleppo governorate in August 2012
- Soufiane Chioua, Brussels recruit of Denis & Zerkani networks who left in October 2012, joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed at an unkown date
- Bilal Zinati, recruit of the Denis network who left in December 2012, joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed at an unknown date
- Sean Pidgeon, a convert from Brussels recruited by the Denis & Zerkani networks, killed in Aleppo governorate in March 2013
- Anonymous fighter from Mechelen, killed before April 2013 according to an imam who assisted his family
- Anonymous fighter from Vilvoorde whose death was announced in April 2013. He was barely eightteen years old and got killed by a sniper two weeks after his arrival in Syria
- Ahmed Stevenberg, the alias of an unidentified fighter of Jabhat an-Nusra, killed by the Syrian army in the Latakia governorate in April 2013
- Raphaël Gendron, aka Abdurauf Abu Marwa, a Frenchman raised in Brussels, killed in the ranks of Suqur as-Sham in April 2013
- Tarik Taketloune, aka Abu Khattab, figher from Vilvoorde who was recruited by Shariah4Belgium and joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen, killed in May 2013
- Saïd Amrani, Denis recruit from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg who was killed in May 2013
- Ismail Amgroud, a fighter from Maaseik who joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in June 2013
- Noureddine Abouallal, aka Abu Mujahid, a leader of Shariah4Belgium who joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in July 2013
- Younis Asad Rahman, the alias of a fighter also known as Asad ar-Rahman al-Belgiki, killed in August 2013 in Latakia governorate
- Abu Salma al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter killed in August 2013 in Deir ez-Zor governorate
- Younes Kharbache, Denis recruit from Brussels and brother of Hamza Kharbache. Joined Islamic State and was killed in August 2013 in Damascus governorate
- Ahmed Daoudi, aka Abu Mochsin, Shariah4Belgium recruit who joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen, but reportedly soon switched to a hospital job. Was active as a medical worker during the Al Ghouta chemical attack in August 2013, went missing shortly afterwards and was reported dead
- Abdel Rahman Ayachi, aka Abu Hajjar, son of the Brussels-Syrian cheikh Bassam Ayachi, killed in the ranks of Suqur as-Sham in September 2013
- Abdelgabar Hamdaoui, a Shariah4Belgium recruit fighting for Jabhat an-Nusra, killed in September 2013
- Ahmed Dihaj, aka Abu Ateeq, a leading figure within Shariah4Belgium, who left early in 2013 to join Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in September 2013
- Houssien Elouassaki, aka Abu Fallujah, Shariah4Belgium recruit who became the emir of the foreign chapter within Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen. Switched side to Jabhat an-Nusra and was killed in September 2013
- Mohamed Bali, aka Abu Hudayfa, Shariah4Belgium recruit coming from Antwerp, killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in September 2013
- Abdelmonhim R’ha, Sunni Islamist fighter from Antwerp, reportedly a relative of former Belgian Guantánamo detainee Moussa Zemmouri. Killed in September 2013
- Ibrahim El Harchi, aka Abu Ali, a recruit of Jean-Louis Denis fighting for Islamic State, killed in mid December 2013 during clashes with Ahrar as-Sham in Idlib governorate
- Sabri Refla, aka Abu Tourab, Denis recruit from Vilvoorde, who subsequently joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and the Islamic State. Committed suicide attack in Iraq in December 2013
- Abu al-Baraa al-Belgiki, an anonymous fighter of Algerian descent, who served as emir for Islamic State in the Syrian town of Saraqib and was killed there in January 2014
- Ouafae Sarrar, aka Umm Djarrah, wife of Shariah4Belgium recruit and Islamic State fighter Ilyass Boughalab. Reportedly killed around January 2014
- Abdelmonaïm Lachiri, aka Abu Sara, recruit of the Zerkani network and a son of its ‘pasionaria’ Fatima Aberkan, killed in the ranks of Jabhat an-Nusra in February 2014
- Feisal Yamoun, aka Abu Faris, a leader of Shariah4Belgium who left with wife and three young kids, killed in February 2014
- Hamza Kharbache, Denis recruit from Brussels and brother of Younes Kharbache, who joined the Islamic State and was killed in February 2014 in Aleppo governorate
- Brahim Labrak, Denis recruit from Brussels with French roots, who joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen, switched to Islamic State and was killed in February 2014
- Nabil Ajraoui, Denis recruit who left as a minor in November 2013 and was killed in February 2014
- Ilyass Boughalab, aka Abu Djarrah, Shariah4Belgium recruit killed in March 2014 and mentioned afterwards as a member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar
- Yoni Mayne, aka Abu Dujana al-Mali, Zerkani recruit from Brussels with Belgian father and Malinese mother, killed near ar-Raqqah in March 2014 and mentioned afterwards as member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar
- Saïd El Morabit, aka Abu Muthanna, Shariah4Belgium recruit from Antwerp, killed between ar-Raqqah and Hasakah in March 2014 and mentioned afterwards as member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar
- Abdelilah Jab-Allah, aka Abu Omar, Brussels recruit of Denis & Zerkani networks. Joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in March 2014
- Karim Mahrach, aka Abu Azzam, recruit of Jean-Louis Denis from Brussels, killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in April 2014
- Mohamed Said Haddad, Zerkani recruit from Brussels and brother of the Verviers terrorist plot member Abdelmounaim Haddad. Killed in April 2014
- Khalid Bali, aka Abu Hamza, brother of Mohamed Bali, killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in May 2014 at the age of seventeen
- Khalid Hachti Bernan, aka Abu Mehdi/Abu Qa’qa, member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar, originally from Virton, who was killed in May 2014
- Nabil Azahaf, aka Abu Sayyaf, Shariah4Belgium recruit from Vilvoorde who became a member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar and was killed in May 2014
- Abu Handalah, anonymous Jabhat an-Nusra fighter who appeared in the video ‘Turning Point’ and was killed in May 2014 near Aleppo
- Yassine El Karouni, aka Abu Osama, Shariah4Belgium recruit coming from the Netherlands, but living in Antwerp. Joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in May 2014
- Kiéran Luce, aka Abu al-Qada al-Faransi, recruit of Denis network coming from the French-Caribbean island of Martinique. Joined Islamic State and committed suicide attack in northern Iraq in May 2014
- Iliass Azaouaj, an imam from Brussels who left to get Belgian fighters back home, then joined Islamic State himself, but was executed on suspicion of being a spy around July 2014
- Anonymous Belgian fighter killed in July 2014 in al-Keshkeyyi, Deir ez-Zor governorate
- Adem Ben Amro, aka Abu Obayda at-Tunisi, Tunisian who lived as refugee in Antwerp, joined the Islamic State in July 2014 and committed a suicide attack in Kobanê at an unknown date
- Souleymane Abrini, Zerkani recruit and brother of Paris & Brussels attacks accomplice Mohamed Abrini. Joined the Islamic State and was killed in August 2014
- Abu Jihad al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed in battle for airport in Deir ez-Zor governorate in August 2014
- Zakaria El Bouzaidi, best friend of Sean Pidgeon, who was recruited together with him by the Denis & Zerkani networks. Killed in September 2014
- Abu Mohsen at-Tunisi, anonymous Belgian fighter of Tunisian descent, fighting for Islamic State and killed in September 2014 during a battle near the airport of Deir ez-Zor
- Abu Adnan al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter of Algerian descent who switched from Jabhat an-Nusra to Islamic State at the end of 2013 and was killed in September 2014
- Abu Mohamed al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter killed in October 2014 in Deir ez-Zor governorate
- Abu Umar al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter of Saudi descent, killed in the ranks of Jabhat an-Nusra in October 2014 in Latakia governorate
- Abu Yahya al-Belgiki, anonymous member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar, killed in October 2014
- Abu Umar al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter mentioned on a list of deaths of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar, published in October 2014. It was later confirmed that this kunya doesn’t refer to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who faked his own death around the same time
- Abu Sulayman al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter of Maghribian descent, killed in Kobanê in November 2014
- Bilal Barrani, aka Abu Said, Zerkani recruit of French origin who was living in Brussels, joined Islamic State and was killed in December 2014
- Khongr Pavlovitch Matsakov, Sunni Islamist fighter from Ostend with roots in the Russian republic of Kalmykia, killed in January 2015
- Abu Taymiyya al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter killed in Kobanê in January 2015
- Khalid Ben Larbi, aka Abu Zoubeyr, Islamic State fighter from Brussels who was killed during a police operation in Verviers (Belgium) on January 15, 2015
- Soufiane Amghar, aka Abu Khalid, Islamic State fighter from Brussels who was killed during a police operation in Verviers (Belgium) on January 15, 2015
- Anis Bouzzaouit, aka Abu Ibrahim, a Zerkani recruit who entered the Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar and was killed in February 2015 in Deir ez-Zor governorate
- Fahd Asamghi, aka Abu Sabir, Shariah4Belgium recruit from Antwerp who subsequently fought for Jaysh al-Muhajirin wa’l Ansar and Jabhat Ansar al-Din. Killed in March 2015
- Younes Bakkouy, aka Abu Aziz, Islamic State fighter from Genk who left with two brothers, one of whom (and most likely him) was reportedly killed in March 2015 near Tikrit in Iraq
- Abu Bakr al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter from Brussels who committed suicide attack in Ramadi (Iraq) on March 11, 2015
- Mesut Cankurtaran, aka Abu Abdullah al-Belgiki. Islamic State fighter from Vilvoorde, recruited by Shariah4Belgium and the Denis network. Killed in March 2015 in battle for airport in Deir ez-Zor governorate
- Karim Kadir, aka Abu Abdullah al-Belgiki. Islamic State fighter from Charleroi, who committed suicide attack at the Iraqi-Jordan border on April 24, 2015
- Abu Tourab al-Belgiki, anonymous Sunni Islamist fighter from Brussels killed in May 2015 in Damascus governorate
- Abu Handala al-Belgiki, anonymous Sunni Islamist fighter killed in May 2015
- Abu Muslim al-Belgiki. Anonymous Islamic State fighter from Antwerp. His death was announced in June 2015, but reportedly happened around a year earlier
- Sami Ladri, aka Abu Waliya, Zerkani recruit from Brussels who joined the Islamic State and committed suicide attack near an-Nukhayba (Iraq) on June 22, 2015
- Fayssal Oussaih, aka Abu Shaheed, Islamic State fighter from Maaseik, killed in July 2015
- Abu Iliace al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter whose death was announced by an Islamic State source in ar-Raqqah in July 2015
- Mossi Junior Juma, teenager from Brussels with roots in Burundi, said to be taken to Syria by his mother and killed in July 2015 at the age of sixteen
- Lucas Van Hessche, aka Abu Ibrahim, convert from Menen with roots in Haiti, joined Islamic State and was killed in August 2015 in Hasakah governorate
- Abu Mariyya al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter from Bruges, apparently of Indian descent. Joined Islamic State and was reportedly killed during his very first battle in August 2015
- Abu Ayman al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed by British drone strike in ar-Raqqah in August 2015
- Brian De Mulder, aka Abu Qasim al-Brazili, convert from Antwerp with Belgian father and Brazilian mother, recruited by Shariah4Belgium. Died in October 2015 of wounds sustained by an air strike three weeks earlier
- Mohammed Hajji, Islamic State fighter from Antwerp, killed by an air strike in ar-Raqqah in October 2015
- Abu Abdullah al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State figher, killed in October 2015 by a French air strike on a training camp near ar-Raqqah
- Abdelmalek Boutalliss, aka Abu Nusaybah, Islamic State fighter from Kortrijk who committed suicide attack near Haditha (Iraq) on November 11, 2015
- Andy Bizala Lubanza, Zerkani recruit from Brussels with Congolese & Rwandese roots, joined Islamic State and was killed in November 2015
- Anonymous, Belgian wife of Islamic State emir ‘Abu Khabab’ from Saudi Arabia, killed with her husband in November 2015 in Deir ez-Zor
- Bilal Hadfi, aka Abu Mujahid al-Faransi, Islamic State fighter of French origin living in Brussels, who committed suicide attack in Paris (France) on November 13, 2015
- Ibrahim Abdeslam, aka Abu Qa’qa al-Belgiki, Islamic State fighter of French origin living Brussels, who committed a suicide attack in Paris (France) on November 13, 2015
- Abdelhamid Abaaoud, aka Abu Omar al-Belgiki, Zerkani recruit from Brussels, who joined Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar and was killed on November 18, 2015 during a police operation in Saint-Denis (France) linked to the Paris attacks
- Chakib Akrouh, aka Dhul-Qarnayn al-Belgiki, Zerkani recruit from Brussels, who joined the Islamic State and was killed on November 18, 2015 during police operation in Saint-Denis (France) linked to the Paris attacks
- Mohammed Jattari, Sunni Islamist fighter from Tienen, killed at unknown date in 2015
- Younes Ahllal, aka Abu Taymiyah al-Belgiki. Zerkani recruit from Brussels, killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in January 2016
- Anonymous Belgian fighter killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in Deir ez-Zor governorate on January 20, 2016
- Abu Umar al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed in al-Hawiqa near Deir ez-Zor on January 30, 2016
- Umm Shérazade al-Belgiki, anonymous woman from Brussels who joined the Islamic State and was reportedly executed for witchcraft in February 2016
- Anonymous Belgian fighter in the ranks of the Islamic State, reportedly executed for treason in Deir ez-Zor in February 2016
- Salahuddin al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, who was killed as an important battle commander in Deir ez-Zor governorate in March 2016
- Mohamed Aziz Belkaïd, aka Abu Abdulaziz al-Jazairi, Islamic State fighter of Algerian descent who was killed on March 15, 2016 during a police operation in Forest (Belgium) linked to the Paris attacks
- Najim Laachraoui, aka Abu Idriss, Brussels recruit of the Denis & Zerkani networks, who joined the Islamic State and committed a suicide attack at Brussels Airport (Belgium) on March 22, 2016
- Ibrahim El Bakraoui, Islamic State fighter from Brussels who was stopped on his way to Syria, but committed suicide attack at Brussels Airport (Belgium) on March 22, 2016 (Belgium)
- Abou Souleyman Belgiki, anonymous fighter from Brussels, who switched side from the Islamic State to Jabhat an-Nusra and was killed near Idlib in April 2016, reportedly by an American drone
- Abu Anas al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed near Mosul (Iraq) in April 2016
- Abu Dawoud al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter with Jabhat an-Nusra, identified as deputy emir of its foreign fighters in August 2013. Killed by an air strike in May 2016, targeting a meeting of Jabhat an-Nusra leadership at Abu Adh Dhuhur air base in Idlib governorate
- Abu Abdilah al-Belgiki, anonymous Jabhat an-Nusra fighter of Maghribian origin, killed in June 2016 by a tank attack of the Syrian army near Aleppo
- Anonymous Belgian fighter, killed as Islamic State commander in a battle near Deir ez-Zor in July 2016
- Abu Miqdad al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed in battle near Deir ez-Zor in August August 2016
 More about these 3 groups and their overlap can be found here: http://www.jamestown.org/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=45305&no_cache=1#.V5-AjiOLTLY
 For much more detail on the geographical spread of the Belgian foreign fighter phenomenon, please see http://www.ispionline.it/it/EBook/Rapporto_Hotbeds_2016/Cap.3.pdf
Third issue of this magazine published by Jihadi fighters in Syria
pdf: Al Risalah – Issue 3