Saturday, December 17, 2016

Caleb Weiss — Moroccan jihadist group merges with local Syrian faction

Harakat Sham al Islam, a jihadist group founded by and primarily comprised of Moroccans, has announced its merger with the local Syrian jihadist faction Harakat Fajr al Sham al Islamiyya. The two groups previously operated as part of the al Qaeda-linked alliance Jabhat Ansar al Din.
According to a statement released on Twitter on Dec. 10, the two groups have merged under the Jabhat Ansar al Din name with a “total integration” of forces headed by former Harakat Fajr al Sham al Islamiyya leader Dr. Abu Abdullah al Shami.
It goes on to read that “this blessed move comes at a desperate time in the Syrian Revolution and its blessed jihad to close the ranks, unite, and gather efforts.” This move reportedly came after “listening to the scholars and reformers on the need for unity” to protect the jihad in Syria. “Scholars and reformers” is a reference to the line peddled by al Qaeda officials for its efforts in Syria. The “need for unity” is one of the main reasons behind the Al Nusrah Front’s re-branding into Jabhat Fateh al Sham, along with many other smaller bands.
Ayman al Zawahiri, the overall leader of al Qaeda, and his deputies have long stressed the need for jihadist unity. Before Nusrah’s rebranding, Zawahiri’s deputy, Abu Khayr al Masri, released a message blessing the re-branding to unify the ranks and “preserve the jihad” in Syria. Abu Muhammad al Jolani, the leader of al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, spoke in a similar tune in an interview to Al Jazeera in Dec. 2015. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Analysis: Al Nusrah Front rebrands itself as Jabhat Fath Al Sham.]
Harakat Sham al Islam was founded in 2013 by Ibrahim bin Shakran, Ahmed Mizouz, and Mohammed Alami, three Moroccans who were captured in Afghanistan after the US invasion in 2001, detained at Guantanamo Bay, and then released to the custody of the Moroccan government in 2004 and later released. Bin Shakran was released despite an assessment by Joint Task Force Guantanamo that identified him as a “high-ranking member” of the theological commission of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, an al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organization....
FDD's Long War Journal
Moroccan jihadist group merges with local Syrian faction
Caleb Weiss

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