Islamism and Extremism

  • Under Threat of Extinction, Opposition Groups Unite in Northwest Syria

    When a new round of peace talks kicked off between armed opposition groups and the Syrian regime on January 23rd, a different situation played out on the ground. The talks, which took place in Astana, Kazakhstan under the auspices of Turkey and Russia, were fraught with tension between the regime and opposition delegations. However, inside Syria the tension was playing out within the opposition groups themselves.

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  • How the Regime Capturing East Aleppo is Affecting Syria’s Salafi-Jihadist Scene

    The regime retaking east Aleppo and decreased support from Turkey for Syria’s rebels is having a deep impact on Syria’s Salafi-jihadi scene. In the last couple of weeks, several statements, leaks, and information from other Islamist groups point to internal struggles in Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. In both cases, the power struggles within the two groups may herald a wave of break-ups and could hinder the two groups’ ability to work together. More broadly, these internal struggles could be followed by a reconfiguration of the Syrian Salafi-jihadi scene.

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  • Dar al-Qada statement in Jabal al-Summaq: Translation & Analysis

    The Dar al-Qada ('Abode of Judges') serves as the de facto judicial branch of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (previously known as Jabhat al-Nusra, Syria's official al-Qa'ida wing), whatever claims might be made of its supposed independence. Though the Dar al-Qada operates in certain areas where it enjoys wider backing (e.g. Hureitan in north Aleppo countryside), it primarily exists in strongholds of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham like Salqin in north Idlib countryside, which is the branch that issued the statement under consideration here.

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  • Nusra’s “Mobilize” Campaign to Recruit Children

    In April of last year, the Nusra Front—now called Jabhat Fateh al-Sham—launched a campaign they called, “Mobilize,” in northern Syria, intended to recruit children. The campaign was conducted by 300 recruiters from the group and adopted the slogan, “Don’t be one of the qaideen[people who do not actively fight; the opposite of mujahideen].” Although it was intended to last no more than a month, the campaign is still ongoing and has now attracted 5,000 recruits to combat Shia militias.

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  • Why Dabiq?

    Syrian opposition groups—speaking through the Euphrates Shield operations room and backed by Turkish tanks and warplanes—announced that they had taken control over the Syrian village of Dabiq, 10 kilometers from the Syrian-Turkish border and northeast of Aleppo. Compared to other places in the region, Dabiq has great symbolic value, both historically and religiously. It is mentioned in Islamic prophecies as the apocalyptic battlefield for the “end-of-times battle” between the Muslims and the Romans, as well as in Islamic history in connection to a historic battle that took place between the Ottomans and Mamluks in 1516. This battle opened the door to Ottoman control of the Arab region, which lasted until the end of World War I in 1918.

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  • The Symbolic War of Fatwas among Rebels in Syria and Its Implications

    The ongoing Turkish-led Euphrates Shield operation against the Islamic State (ISIS), backed with allied Syrian rebel groups and US air cover, has led opposition groups to issue a number of competing fatwas (religious rulings). Ahrar al-Sham issued a fatwa considering it permissible to participate in this operation under the Turkish flag. Two days later, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the rebranded former al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, issued a counter-ruling forbidding fighting alongside Turkish forces due to the absence of Sharia (Islamic law) conditions that could permit such a cooperation.

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  • Islamist Groups Ahrar al-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa Go to War

    A state of tension and outright war between Ahrar al-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa, two Islamist groups, prevails in Idlib and the countryside around Hama. Conflict between the two groups intensified soon after a security battalion from Ahrar al-Sham detained an ISIS cell in Saraqib in Idlib province that, according to Ahrar al-Sham, received orders directly from Raqqa. Clashes broke out between this cell and members of Ahrar al-Sham, and five fighters from Ahrar al-Sham were killed in Saraqib. Another fighter from Ahrar al-Sham, Ali Eissa, was kidnapped by an unmarked car that entered the city of Sarmin, near Saraqib. According to a tweet by Abu Elias al-Ansari, a former leader of Ahrar al-Sharm, the car then took him to a court in Sarmin operating under Jund al-Aqsa.

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  • What the Recent Infighting Between Islamist Groups Tells Us

    Clashes between Islamist opposition units Jund al-Aqsa and Ahrar al-Sham have continued for several days in a row in opposition-held areas of northern Syria. This recent string of fights began when Jund al-Aqsa attempted to abduct Ahrar al-Sham’s security officer in Saraqeb in Idlib province. The operation resulted in the death of his brother and wife, with the officer himself left in critical condition. Immediately afterward, clashes in Idlib province broke out between Ahrar and Jund al-Aqsa in Hama, which left, according to local sources, hundreds injured and dozens dead on both sides, including leaders of Ahrar al-Sham. Mohamed al-Munir, Ahrar’s commander in Jabal al-Zawiya, was killed after Jund al-Aqsa forces besieged the village of Hazareen, where he was hiding.

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  • Fighters from the Caucasus Join ISIS to Fight Russia

    People from the countries of the Caucasus, a region situated between Europe and Asia that broke politically from the Soviet Union in the late twentieth century, are an important resource for the Islamic State (ISIS).

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  • ISIS Spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani

    Editor's Update, August 30, 2016: On August 30, new reports began circulating that al-Adnani had been killed while monitoring fighting in Aleppo.

    Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, designated by the United States as terrorist, gained notoriety for his threats and statements against countries around the world. As the official spokesman for the Islamic State group (ISIS) and the group’s “Emir of Syria,” he is one of the most wanted terrorists in the world. In early 2014 and on May 5, the US State department offered a $5 million reward for information about him.

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