Monthly Archives: July 2016

Did Jabhat al-Nusra leave Qaidat al-Jihad or it is Qaidat al-Jihad that is part of Nusra now?


Analysis of Abu Mohammed Joulani new front: From Nusra to Fath al-Sham

Key words: Nusra, Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaida, Qaidat al-Jihad, Syria.

By Elijah J. Magnier : 

Original article published    via 


The leader and Emir of Jabhat al-Nusra (JaN) Abu Mohammed al-Joulani introduced a new front with a new name “Jabhat Fath al-Sham” (JFS) – as published by this author on the 26th of this month – and the abolishment of the old JaN title. But did Joulani and his Mujahedeen break with Qaidat al-Jihad (AQ) in Khorasan, or is it the AQ core leadership and Mujahedeen (in Syria since the war began), who have merged into this new group JFS?

Just before Joulani’s video message showing his portrait for the first time, Al-Manara al-Bayda’ official outlet released an audio of Ahmed Hassan Abul-Khair, first deputy Emir of AQ Central (Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri) speaking about JaN, saying that it had become “a force to be reckoned with, excellently managing the liberated territories (Idlib/Syria) with legitimate courts that rule with the Law of Allah, and organising service institutions that guard and take care of what matters to people – a new generation brought up on the jurisprudence of honour, and on the Jihad as the means for protecting the region. The stage which the Ummah (Islamic nation) has now reached in terms of the spread of the Jihad and its penetration into the Muslim community (shifting from the understanding of an elitist jihad to the Jihad of a nation) should not be driven by group mentality or by a single organisation”.


Within the same audio of Abul-Kheir, from Ayman al-Zawahiri, a short message will be found: ”The organisational links are transient-metamorphic (…) Your union and your association and the unity of your groups rises above any organisational affiliation (…).” Zawaheri was clearly blessing JaN’s widely coordinated and thoughtful move towards the other groups operating in the Levant.


It is clear that neither JaN nor its Emir Abu Mohammed al Joulani have regressed by a single step on their Jihadist operational line, their ideology and their creed. These include the objectives and concept of the Islamic nation as understood by the Mujahedeen. Not only that, but JFS have raised, above AQ level, an organisation capable of providing moral and knowledge support, with its Emir acting as a father, but without the necessity to offer financial support or weapons.

Khorasan, the base of Qaidat al-Jihad, looks from afar toward its sons in Yemen, Somalia, Syria and other countries that host the same ideology but also have enough men fighting for their objectives. JaN’s move is not new to Qaidat al-Jihad. What used to be known as Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) had also changed name. Today it is known as “Ansar al-Sharia”, “Sons of Hadramout” or “sons of Abyan”. Therefore, the question arises, what is the need and the motivation for making so much fuss around a name changed from JaN to JFS: especially when the objectives and the ideology are both stable and robust?

Abu Mohammed al-Joulani was being honest when he said “Jabhat Fath al-Sham has no affiliation to any external entity”. The new JFS has all the right elements to receive and host the Mujahideen – Mujahideen from all over the world – because it is already, as Ahmed Hassan Abul-Khair said, established in “a liberated territory”, running an Islamic administration and courts, raising the banner of “there is only one God” and is promoting jihad “for God’s sake”.

Therefore, it cannot be overstated that the exit of JaN from under the mantle of AQ is not a change of creed but a step already requested, in fact, and promoted by the head of AQ Legal Council, the late Sheikh Atiyah Allah al-Libi. He said: “The declaration of the Mujahideen that they are al-Qaeda and that they have link to al Qaeda, even this link existed, should not be expressed now, since it lacks any operational interest. The only people to gain are the Americans, who wish it because it serves their political ends. Because in word public opinion the name of AQ is now distorted, it is appropriate to keep away from it and not manifest any link to it (AQ). Perhaps, through this new stage, God is expressing his will otherwise”.


Joulani did not come out with his announcement (breaking ties with AQ, or stating that Jabhat Fath al-Sham has no affiliation to any external entity) to please the United States of America and Russia. His brief message with Abu Faraj al Masri on his right (real name Ahmad Salama Mabruk, who accompanied al-Zawahiri for many years until he reached the Levant and became a member of JaN Shura Council) is no coincidence. Joulani is relatively carefree about the attitude of stand of Russia and the US. His message in the first place is to the Mujahedeen of Nusra to say that the creed hasn’t changed, is sound and is well guarded. This is seen as a purely internal move directed towards the Syrian groups. Joulani is responding to insistent demands by all the local Syrian organisations expressing a readiness for unity, provided that Nusra disengage with the base of Qaidat al-Jihad (“the motherland”).


Al-Zawahri and his deputy therefore agreed on any step that would lead to the connection of all groups in al-Sham, moving away from any narrow organisational link. All they want from Nusra is to expand towards a much larger global jihad to including al-Sham (the Levant). This must spread and consolidate the ideology and doctrine on the ground, to unite jihadi and non jihadi groups, and integrating the rest of the Syrian and other Muhajereen (foreign fighters). That way they all become one strong front prepared for when President Barack Obama leaves.

However, there is a difference between aiming at consolidation and managing to achieve real unification. There are secular groups and others related to and directly financed by the various countries of the region, including some supported by the US. A unification of all these groups seems far from reality. Joulani and the leadership around him are aware of the Syrian theatre and the multi-diversity of its conditions for belonging. Joualni, by announcing a new front, disarms all excuses previously presented as obstacles to the unification. This was a necessity, because if these were to remain active but hidden, faced with this very public move, it cannot be ruled out that JFS might in the future adopt a more aggressive and confrontational attitude against anyone who stands in the way of the jihad.

Joulani has appeared publicly with a warm smile stretching out his hand not to America or Russia to avoid being hit, but to the Sham theatre. Will the base respond to him? Achieving unity among different factions is a daunting, near impossible task weighing not only on Joulani, but also on al-Zawahiri himself. Even Osama bin Laden was struggling with the group Joulani was belonging to previously (Islamic State in Iraq) up to the day of the divorce: then followed the rivalry and animosity between Zawaheri and the Caliph of the “Islamic State” group, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

So far, Ahrar al-Sham (another Salafi jihadi group considered the largest in numbers in the north of Syria), Tajam’mo Ahl al-Elm Fil-sham , Ansar al-Din, Hizb al-Islami al-Turkistani, Fajr al-Sham and Ajnad al-Sham have welcomed Nusra’s step. The communiqué of Jund al-Aqsa, a salafi jihadist close to both al-Qaida and the “Islamic State” group (ISIS), is quite revealing, unwittingly stating that nothing has changed but the name. More groups may follow, but the overall enthusiasm to embrace a unity of all groups under one command is still shy.  If Ahrar accepts to merge into one group with Nusra in its new group JFS, this step will create confusion, forcing the US and Russia to rethink their attitude toward rebel groups. If not the change of name will have been tactical, merely mythical.



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There is no doubt that the Mujahideen of al-Qaeda had been absorbed in the Levant within JaN, and now today, within the new organisation JFS. Every step Joulani made was accurate, calibrated and indicates the presence of an entire team with broad experience in the jihad arena. These moves measure the consequences of every decision taken, seeking to minimise collateral and internal damage. Despite being core AQ, these moves have showed pragmatism in dealing with the various groups involved, and this includes secular ones and others connected, trained and paid for by the CIA.

There is therefore now little doubt that Qaidat al-Jihad has became part of Nusra, title “Jabhat Fatah al-Sham”.



From Jabhat al-Nusra to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham : Nusra breaks its ties with Qaidat al-Jihad




By Elijah J. Magnier: 

Nusra Front (Al-Qaeda in the Levant) is no longer a branch of Qaidat al-Jihad (AQ), led by Ayman al-Zawahiri and his two deputies. The disengagement is official now, waiting for the public announcement. Nusra envoys were sent to various branches and to the Qaidat al-Jihad leadership to inform these about the decision: not to consult or to seek advice, because the decision had been taken.

The Shura Council had been meeting along with dozens of leaders of Nusra first and second level of command, and deliberating on the matter of breaking ties with AQ for some time now with scholars, before they reached a consensus. It was agreed “in the interests of the Islamic nation and Sham, the disengagement was approved to eliminate all excuses and pretexts from the infidels (the United States and Russia), to prevent the destruction of the Syrian opposition forces, and to avoid weakening Muslims. The ideology and doctrine remain untouchable even if the organisational belonging to AQ has ended. The AQ old guards were consulted and the official pronouncement will be delivered in due course once all administrative procedures have ended ”.

Is breaking allegiance with AQ considered a betrayal?

Nusra sources consider that the allegiance of Nusra Emir Abu Mohammed Joulani to his Qaidat al-Jihad Emir Ayman al-Zawahiri is “pledge of war and struggle in the cause of God” (bay’at Kital fi sabil Allah). It may certainly be revoked when important barriers are present, preventing its continuity, and to dismiss a greater danger for the Islamic nation (Ummah), prevailing on the interests of the individual and the organisation. This is an extraordinary pledge of allegiance, not a general pledge of allegiance. Therefore, it is not considered wrong-doing or betrayal. Nusra group is different from Qaidat al-Jihad. AQ has no army, nor the responsibility to rule and administrate a population, offer services, handling infighting among other groups, having to co-exist with secular groups and those from all walks of life and beliefs: it doesn’t have a front line facing an enemy and is not exposed to daily temptation as is the case of Jabhat al-Nusra. These are the daily challenges Nusra has had to confront daily in Syria. Nusra can be patient until Islam dominates, after repelling the greater danger, which is represented by the Syrian regime.

A new name circulates among Nusra fighters, Jabhat Fath al-Sham (JFS). Obviously, the leadership has instructed Nusra mujahedeen to be active on social media and prepare the ground so the big announcement (of breaking the ties with AQ) won’t come as a surprise, nor appear a wrong move. The choice of name is also thoughtful, indicating that the objective is still the “liberation of Syria”. After all, all foreign fighters came for that purpose, even if they came also to establish an Islamic Emirate. That last particular point has not been raised or tackled and it would be very difficult for the new “JFS” to hold its promises in this respect.

However, Nusra says the new name was chosen because it is believed the US and the UN will not include the new organisation on the list of terrorism, and therefore won’t target it. Nusra is convinced “Russia and the US will be confused about the next move and will hold their guns back. This will give Nusra and the other rebels an opportunity to unite, avoiding being weakened by air strikes and consolidating the internal front. The danger of the “crusaders” (US) is greater than the one of khawarij (ISIS). Therefore it was essential to break the ties and change the name”.

AQ lost one of its most important bases in the Middle East when, several months ago, Zawahiri asked all Mujahideen to migrate to the Levant and that became their new Kibla (Muslim direction of prayer), unless it is the same Zawaheri who approved the step, following intensive consultation between Sham and Khorasan. If Nusra believes that its new change won’t dilute its members with other groups or seduce many away from it in time of peace (the long cease-fire) it is certainly mistaken. An internal dispute among various different groups is a well-known behaviour when no battles are uniting men. The groups do indeed have sponsors, who have different agendas and plans for Syria.

Nusra has responded to the call of the countries of the region who were influenced by the US request. This means the US is enjoying its greatest victory over AQ (without firing a single bullet) by triggering a break of Nusra ties with its Emir in Khorasan. Nusra will certainly not return to AQ in a yo-yo movement, now that it is declared a Syrian group with around 2000 foreign fighters (ff), still, among its ranks. Will these remain and accept the new clothes Nusra is wearing? Are the Muhajereen (ff) going to leave Syria, split or join ISIS? Are the various opposition groups going to unite? Are the US and Russia going to accept this new theatre where a name change does not dictate a change of creed, doctrine and objectives?

These are questions no one can answer today, waiting for the new Leader (no longer Emir perhaps) of JFS Abu Mohammed Joulani, to officially declare the disengagement with AQ, soon. He has already sent his electronic social media army ahead to prepare the ground and leak information: Nusra are the most disciplined and controlled fighters, specially on social media, not leaking unwittingly any information unless instructed to do so.

There is no doubt that the coming days will be exciting and interesting in the Levant .


Read also:

  • Will Jabhat al-Nusra break its ties with Qaidat al-Jihad, so as to avoid being hit by US

  • How to become famous: be a Middle Eastern expert and analyst


Will Jabhat al-Nusra break its ties with Qaidat al-Jihad, so as to avoid being hit by USA and Russia?




By Elijah J. Magnier: 

There is much talk about the US – Russia deal over in Syria and the decision to hit the “Islamic State” group (ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh) and Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaida in the Levant). In return the deal commits Washington will provide the Kremlin with coordinates for the Syrian opposition groups’ location on the ground, to avoid bombarding them, as they are considered “moderate”. On the other hand, the Russians operating in Syria will commit to implementing the cease-fire on the whole Syrian territory (excepting land controlled by ISIS and Nusra). They will maintain constant demarcation lines on all Syrian territory, freezing fronts and creating red lines. If implemented, this agreement would be considered a positive and significant achievement for both super power countries in the Middle East.

However, the completion of such an agreement requires consensus and commitment from both the sides involved (both the opposition and the regime forces) and from countries in the region offering logistic and financial support to the opposition groups. Therefore, voices have been raised calling for a stronger united opposition front, including Jabhat al-Nusra. For that, a disengagement from Qaidat al-Jihad (AQ Central) is needed to lift the legitimacy of bombing by both Russia and the US against its Mujahedeen. If Nusra becomes a target and therefore is weakened, the opposition groups will certainly become fragile and won’t be able to hold out against the regime forces and its allies. The situation could indeed become unstable during President Obama’s transition of power over the next few months, and with the arrival of a new President whose intentions toward the Middle east may be different and this could once again bring war to Syria.

The Syrian opposition groups have called upon Jabhat al-Nusra to disengage ties with Qaidat al-Jihad (AQ) so as to avoid repercussions, and so that the “unity among the various other groups could be reached”. That unity is impossible for the moment, so the various rebels believe as long as Nusra is on US and the UN list of terrorist groups. And the countries of the Middle East involved in Syria have informed their proxies about the adamant intention of both Russia and USA to start bombing all non-moderate groups starting from next month (August).

But what are the implications and possibilities of this move?

A long time ago Nusra demanded integration with Ahrar al-Sham, the largest Syrian (with a small number of foreigners) rebel group in the north of the country. The request was rejected. Had the project seen the light of day, the merger would have created the largest and strongest opposition group in the country, able to impose its will on all the other groups. Nusra’s courage and ideology would have slowly but surely swallowed Ahrar al-Sham. Instead, the various groups asked Nusra to disengage from Qaidat al-Jihad. The argument was as follows: is the fact that Nusra breaks ties with AQ is enough to unify all Syrian opposition groups? Changing the name -would it also change the ideology and creed? Would the opposition groups break ties with donors and financers? Questions which have remained unanswered to date.

Nusra is not only the strongest in Syria among the opposition but the most powerful jihadi organisation among all Qaidat al-Jihad franchises. It has an army that combines classical and guerrilla warfare, using of infantry, artillery and tanks, drones and various military arms never seen since Al-Qaida was born. Nusra has managed to earn “hearts and minds” of the Syrian population and the respect of all various opposition groups and enemies. It has offered suicidal bombers in every battle and inghimasi (the first wave of suicidal combatants in every frontal attack). Nusra was the only group who managed to defeat Hezbollah and Iranian forces in years of war, in two battles, Al-Eiss and al-Khalsa, north of Syria. In relation to recruitment, Saudi scholar Abdallah al-Moheisni supported a campaign called “Infir”, which drew hundreds of recruits but distributed these among various groups, not exclusively to Nusra.

A question arises: if the disengagement with Qaidat al-Jihad doesn’t happen, will Nusra become a target showered by bombs and lava from the sky? The answer is yes. The US showed its air capability by targeting the “Khorasan group” last year, painfully hitting Nusra. The beginning of a US-Russia air campaign against Nusra might split the group and reduce its power and capability. Locals who are part of Nusra are expected to leave the group in this case for fear of becoming targets even though Nusra doesn’t attract recruits with money (unlike ISIS). Other rebels wouldn’t be able to support or stand by Nusra, who would be left to be bombed.

And even if disengaged, its creed and doctrine is not expected to be altered.

Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi, a Takferee scholar known in the jihadi circle, said “disengagement does not change the faith”. A true comment even if al-Maqdisi is not a decision maker and, indeed, has retracted his view relating to Nusra’s disengagement. If Nusra is bombed, the reaction could go beyond the borders of the Levant and hit the US at home. AQ has greater influence and is more organised that ISIS in the US, that only if Nusra keeps its link to Qaidat al-Jihad.

On the other hand, it is clear to Nusra that the opposition is not trustworthy and may very well disengage from any future unity even if the disengagement is announced. Opposition groups support Nusra heartily but their swords are ready to be pulled against it if Nusra is weakened in Syria.

Nusra mujahedeen commented, “The clutch we have on religion is as painful as holding hot coals in one hands. We knew that the entire world would fight us. We keep our faith in God because disengagement from AQ is equal to the disengagement of Islam.”

It is not unlikely that the breaking of ties with Qaidat al-Jihad could shake Nusra and break it apart. A large number of foreign fighters came to the Sham and declared loyalty to Nusra Emir Abu Muhamad al-Joulani. These hold an ideology that doesn’t move with the US decisions, like Nusra is doing by breaking its ties with AQ. Nusra will be accused of being the “Jew of the Ummah (Islamic nation)”, its leadership members are “under-grown adolescents” (ahdath al-sinan) , only willing “to survive for the love of Duniya (Earth not paradise)”.

The Emir of Qaidat al-Jihad Ayman al-Zawaheri knowing the pressure Nusra is facing, called for all Mujahedeen to join the land of Sham to protect it and give it strength. Indeed, the decision is not up to one person, joulani, but to the Shura council and tens of scholars and commanders all together. These are affected neither by social media pressure nor by al-Maqdisi opinion. Nusra, therefore, will be facing a fateful decision: either hold on to its dogma, creed and face the future with patience or to be fragmented allowing groups to join ISIS and watching other groups go looking for another land of a more solid Jihad. But it seems Nusra has decided already to disengage with Qaidat al-Jihad. This is not the first time for Joulani to revoke his Bay’a (loyalty) to his Emir.

Original article:


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How to become famous: be a Middle Eastern expert and analyst



By Elijah J. Magnier – 

If you are a young analyst and would like to be noticed, Syria is your best destination to cover…do it on social media.

In Syria, there are three camps:

  • Government forces and their allies,
  • The Syrian opposition groups and their financier, and
  • The Jihadists groups represented mainly Al-Qaeda (and its allies) and the “Islamic State” group (ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh)

We shall concentrate in this article on al-Qaeda in the Levant, better known as Jabhat al-Nusra, the “front for the support/victory of the people of the Levant” (JAN).

You may need to start following accounts related to JAN. It is very rare to meet someone rude or ill-mannered among the Mujahedeen because attitude is important for the image of al-Qaida. So you won’t find it difficult to have someone answer your questions, as long as they are not security-related. But You, of course, will have realised that in the Levant everything is security-related…

Oh, by the way it helps if you are already an arab specialist, or can have a translator on hand. Think tanks, specially those based in the Middle East, are part of the concept you are now promoting. This is why.

You see, the Saudi scholar Abdallah al-Moheisni, who pretends not to be part of JAN but part of Jaish al-Fateh, an umbrella of various groups but mainly under JAN and Ahrar al-Sham. He pretends to be a “moderate” and welcomes all groups, including the secular Free Syrian Army. He is managing to keep an excellent balance, image wise, and is equipped with convincing religious arguments. He might say: ”We shall have an Islamic Emirate soon”.

This is where you need to rush off and write an article, in a respectable magazine, about “How al-Qaida will declare an Emirate this year”. Is it wise to predict from a single source or an enthusiastic speech on twitter? Don’t worry. You can catch up later. People forget very quickly.

Then you read that Abu Muhamad al-Maqdisi, the Takfeere inspirer jihadist of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi when he was in jail in Jordan (Zarqawi disengaged from Maqdisi later and criticised him), has said: “It is alright if Jabhat al-Nusra disengage overtly from al-Qaida. It won’t change its ideology”. Here you rush again to tweet, saying:”Jabhat al-Nusra will disengage from al-Qaida”. Now you are looking more interesting because it shows you have some insight into al-Qaida. Not many people read jihadists accounts. Those who do have no time to tell you off.

But wait! What about that Emirate expected to be declared at the end of this year? Seriously! That article was written few months ago. Do you still really remember it? Come on. Let’s move on. We have something more serious to follow.

Then you see a known al-Qaida account saying: ”Tomorrow, a meeting will be held to announce the break of ties between Jabhat al-Nusra and Al-Qaida”.

Now it is your opportunity to tweet: “ Sources in al-Qaida tell me that an announcement is expected tomorrow where JAN will break ties with al-Qaida”.

Hey! What if JAN doesn’t make the announcement tomorrow? What if JAN doesn’t make the move at all or reject it? This could seriously undermine your expert position. Ok then you need to add a small but significant detail:

“Tomorrow JAN will break its ties with al-Qaida. Unconfirmed. I never thought JAN would do it. I am sceptical but this is the information I have manage to collect from Ayman al-Zawaheri entourage”.

The Al-Zawaheri entourage? Are you crazy? Do you have access to the Emir of Al-Qaida? Wow!… Well no. But al-Zawaheri sends his messages via twitter. I am on twitter so we are all neighbours and within the same entourage, naturally…

Ok. I guess you can get away with it. After all, you have been copying all the social media information, writing articles and saying most of the time “sources told me in person”, while you are in the back of beyond (over the phone of course and via DM on twitter).

Also, every time you share information stick to the sequence: make sure you contradict it, confirm it, say unlikely to happen but most probably will happen. Like that you can return and say: See! I told you… I am right and I said it before anyone else.

So here you go: Welcome to the world of experts and analysts of the Middle East.

And if you can also start saying to the American administration: ”You should bomb this group and leave that group”, people will be very impressed by your authority and will respect you even more.

And lastly the big one: super power countries are actually governed/influenced by people in the shadow. Why don’t you join them?


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How you become a famous “Terrorist Expert” on social media.



Des attaques en Europe ? Le soi-disant “Etat Islamique” change de style et de tactique médiatique : il opère maintenant en Europe à travers des cellules dormantes/actives.

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D’Elijah J. Magnier: @EjmAlrai


Malgré sa perte de territoires importants en Irak et en Syrie, l ‘ «Etat islamique» (EI/ISIS/Daesh/ISIL) est en train de changer et de s’adapter à un nouveau style tactique. En pratiquant (en dehors des frontières du Moyen-Orient et en Europe en particulier, mais pas exclusivement) des attaques terroristes d’une manière presque discrète, suivie d’une première réclamation presque timide de sa responsabilité, à travers son média « A’maq ». Les récents attentats terroristes le confirment: ISIS a fait valoir son entière responsabilité, par le biais d’un message vidéo, quelques jours plus tard, suivie d’une menace au Président François Hollande proclamant de frapper plusieurs villes en France.

Cette nouvelle approche est en phase, avec la dernière déclaration officielle de l’ ‘EI » (Abou Mohammad al-Adnani), qui reconnaît que l’organisation perd des territoires au Moyen-Orient. Il rappelle que l’ « EI » est parti de rien en 2003 et qu’en dépit de son déclin apparent, l’organisation saurait retrouver son élan à l’avenir.

Examinons la récente attaque à Nice où plus de 84 personnes ont été tuées ainsi que 200 personnes blessées. L’auteur de l’attentat, le tunisien Mohamed Salman Lahouaiej Bouhlel, âgé de 31 ans, n’a pas de casier judiciaire, relié au terrorisme et ne figurait pas sur la liste des suspects, ni chez les Français, ni auprès des autorités européennes. Il a réussi toutefois, d’obtenir une arme à feu, et à être formé dans son utilisation, tirant sur les forces de sécurité au cours de ses deux kilomètres de route, meurtrière, à bord d’un camion pesant 19 tonnes. L’idée d’utiliser une telle machine à tuer afin de maximiser le nombre de victimes ne vient pas d’un jeune immigrant, soi-disant radicalisé, rapidement en ligne, selon des médias et des responsables français.

Il vient plutôt d’un esprit possédé, fasciné par différentes méthodes d’engendrer la mort. Nous l’avons vu tout au long des années en Syrie et en Irak, depuis l’annonce du Califat en Juillet 2014. Certaines de ces façons sont: la mort par le feu (pilote jordanien Maaz Kassasbeh à Raqqa, Syrie), par noyade (Iraq – Hit), par un RPG anti-armure (l’exécution de quatre soldats syriens), le piétinement par un char d’un soldat capturé (un commandant de char syrien), des explosifs attachés autour du cou des prisonniers (Afghanistan, contre les détenus des talibans).

Le but est non seulement de tuer, mais aussi que le monde parle des méthodes d’abattage, et que l’attention des médias soit attirée par la brutalité utilisée, laissant le spectateur choqué et durablement impressionné. Pour l’ « EI », que l’on en parle positivement ou négativement signifie atteindre un objectif hautement souhaité : étaler le nom « État islamique » aux quatre coins de la Terre.

Pour revenir à Nice, la mise en pratique de l’idée de conduire un camion (l’idée est déjà apparu dans le magasine d’Al-Qaeda « Inspire » mais jamais exécutée) au milieu d’une grande foule ne vient pas du jour au lendemain, mais par une organisation ordonnée. Une telle attaque nécessite l’esprit d’un planificateur militaire, sur place, qui organise dans l’ombre, loin des projecteurs, comment effectuer une attaque dans une vieille Européenne. Le planificateur doit avoir plusieurs cellules indépendantes, trouver une proie adéquate, manipulable, un enthousiaste désireux de «faire quelque chose» et prêt à mourir pour ses convictions. Pas nécessairement un militant, ayant un engagement religieux fondamentaliste, et encore moins- un casier judiciaire ni quelqu’un qui fréquente un milieu spécifique, vu ou connu des forces de l’ordre. Pour les autorités, une telle proie ne doit pas être un profil facile à identifier et neutraliser.

Cette nouvelle situation demande de la part des autorités un changement de stratégie adaptée, si les kamikazes ne peuvent plus être identifiés, il est dorénavant essentiel de se concentrer sur le planificateur et non sur « sa » proie.

En sus, la recherche d’un exécutant adéquat, l’attaque exige une cible, comme dans le cas de l’attaque terroriste de Nice, un événement public connu et planifiée à l’avance par la municipalité: un rassemblement des milliers de personnes, y compris des étrangers, le 14 Juillet le long de la côte méditerranéenne dans cet espace connue sous le nom “la Promenade des Anglais”.

Il est essentiel que la tête de la cellule, le planificateur, ne soit pas identifié par l’exécutant – surtout dans le cas du fond « pas strictement religieuse » de Bouhilal. Ceci prévient l’éventualité que le terroriste change d’avis (ceci est arrivé déjà en Irak et en Syrie, où des kamikazes se sont livrés eux-mêmes aux autorités locales avant l’acte) ou soit blessé et capturé par les forces de sécurité. En outre, il existe le besoin d’un formateur minutieusement préparé – l’Officier du Cas (CO) – capable dé-radicaliser l’exécutant et l’encadrer pour qu’il recueille, seul, ses outils et les équipements logistiques de l’attaque (location d’un camion, la reconnaissance, la route, l’acquisition d’un pistolet…). Il est important que ce “CO” rapporte à la tête de la cellule, l’enthousiasme ou l’hésitation de BouHilal afin de mesurer si l’exécutant est suffisamment chargé en idéologie et en motivation pour mener son acte jusqu’au bout.

Ce n’est pas une chose ordinaire pour un exécutant nouvellement préparé, sans expérience du champ de bataille, de devoir tuer des dizaines de civils, des enfants et des femmes. Encore plus difficile, de maintenir son acte meurtrier pendant deux longs kilomètres avec une main accroché au volant et une autre, tenant une arme, prête à ouvrir le feu sur les forces de l’ordre. Et encore plus impensable, de tuer froidement des musulmans, (30% des victimes), alors que l’exécution d’un musulman est lourdement condamnable dans l’Islam. Impossible d’imaginer un tel scenario d’horreur, effectuer par un individu seul et isolé.

Il est également probable que l’exécutant ait été informé seulement dans les derniers jours de sa destination finale, comme nous l’avons vu à Sanaa, au Yémen, en Mars 2015, lorsque les deux kamikazes – qui ont tués plus de 130 personnes – ont été informés la veille. Cette information a pu être révélée grâce à l’analyse des Whatsapp échangés entre militants que j’ai pu recueillir dans mes investigations après l’attaque, dans les médias sociaux. A cette époque, l’ « EI » n’avait pas établi un “Hisba Tweeter” (police des médias sociaux) pour surveiller les fuites d’informations classées, l’intrusion de faux partisans et pour fournir des instructions appropriées mais limitées pour ceux qui voyagent à l’étranger qui sont désireux de se joindre au Califat.

Les éléments rassemblés ci-dessus conduisent à la forte possibilité de nouvelles attaques terroristes en Europe, à une grande échelle, comme Paris, Nice, Bruxelles, ou une petite échelle, come Wuerzburg. L’ « EI » souhaite maintenir une stratégie qui vise à faire parler de lui, sans arrêts. L’intervalle entre une attaque et un autre n’est pas un indicateurs-clé. L’Occident est pour l’heure une cible de choix comme les conséquences de toute attaque sont beaucoup plus impactantes qu’au Moyen-Orient, déjà habitué à des attaques quotidiennes meurtrières.

Une autre question se pose par rapport à la façon dont l’ « EI » traite avec les informations et les médias. L’organisation n’annonce plus directement ses attaques en dehors du Moyen-Orient, mais utilise d’abord son bureau médiatique – A’maq – et attend quelques jours avant de les confirmer. Ceci est arrivé avec l’attaque de Nice, ainsi que celle de en Allemagne, Wuerzburg, où un adolescent Afghan, également annoncé par « A’maq » comme un «soldat de l’Etat islamique”, a poignardé et blessé cinq personnes à bord d’un train. Il n’est pas exclu que les deux événements soient mentionnés dans le prochain numéro du magazine de l’ »EI », “Dabiq”, avec peut-être plus d’informations sur les attentats-suicides. Cela peut être pertinent parce que ISIS n’est plus en mesure de produire des vidéos ou des événements spectaculaires et devra à l’avenir adopter des moyens plus modestes. Il utilisera toutefois toujours l’internet pour diffuser sa propagande alors même qu’il perd du terrain et jouit moins facilement d’un accès à sa technologie sophistiquée.

Le changement du style ISIS qui fournit moins d’informations sur ses attaques à l’étranger, et le fait qu’il dépend davantage de son bureau sont des indications de changements à l’intérieur de la stratégie opérationnelle et tactique du groupe. C’est un fait que le groupe perd du terrain en Irak, en Syrie et en Libye où il occupait autrefois la majorité du terrain. Néanmoins, il est également bien connu (ou il devrait l’être) que le terrorisme ne pourra jamais être éradiquée totalement, seulement contenu afin de réduire ses conséquences sur les sociétés civiles, tant que la lutte contre le terrorisme n’est par une opération conjointe entre les pays du Moyen-Orient et de l’Europe au niveau des services de renseignement.

Des pays tels que l’Arabie Saoudite, le Koweït, la Tunisie, l’Egypte et le Maroc sont les principaux fournisseurs de djihadistes et extrémistes. La collaboration de ces pays avec les services de sécurité européenne est essentielle à tous les niveaux. En outre, les services de renseignement internes, au niveau national, devraient examiner toutes les possibilités, y compris s’intéresser à ces mosquées qui ne sont PAS fréquentés par des extrémistes. Arriver à identifier les cellules dormantes exige de la part des renseignements de la diligence et une compréhension fine du terrain. Ils ne doivent pas perdre de vue que l’EI a hâte de déclencher une réaction contre la communauté musulmane de manière à recevoir à bras ouverts ceux qui ont subi l’expérience amère du racisme et des amalgames trop rapides.

Vaincre ce genre de terrorisme est difficile et complexe. Il faudra sans doute plusieurs générations, un changement radical dans l’enseignement générale et aussi religieux, ceci couplé avec la conscience que certaines personnes peuvent développer des idées extrémistes. En effet, l’Europe, ainsi que les Etats Unis, ont permis la construction de plus de 16000 mosquées, où le culte de la haine est le socle de l’enseignement extrémiste radical et non l’enseignement d’une pratique religieuse non-violente.

Il est important de mentionner que le fondamentalisme frappe aussi, aujourd’hui, les terres des constructeurs de ces mosquées. La haine semble tourner, comme un effet boumerang contre ceux qui ont cru que la religion de l’Islam pouvait se limitée à une seule interprétation, celle du Da’wa, ou de la prédication, sans devenir une machine à tuer.

La terre du vieux continent risque de trembler encore sous des nouvelles frappes terroristes. Ces attaques, qui continueront malgré la perte de vastes territoires, ne sont ni un signe de force, ni de faiblesse de l’EI.

Cette situation annonce, brutalement, qu’il est dorénavant nécessaire de coexister avec le terrorisme et que nous devons collaborer pour inventer de nouveaux moyens afin d’en réduire ces effets au minimum.


Traduit par: Maurice Brasher @MGPBrasher , Senior expert in Conflict Resolution.


English version:


Arabic Version:


The “Islamic State” group is changing its style and tactical media: it is operating in Europe through sleeping-active cells.




More attacks are expected in Europe


Key words: France, Nice, Nice attack, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, Terrorism

Arabic v

French version


By Elijah J. Magnier: @EjmAlrai

Despite its loss of significant territories in Iraq and Syria, the “Islamic State” (ISIS) is changing and adjusting to a new tactical style by adopting and executing terrorist attacks outside the Middle Eastern borders (Europe, especially but not exclusively), in a more secretive almost discrete way, followed by a shy unusual initial claim of responsibility through its A’maq media outlet. We see this in recent terrorist attacks: it claimed full responsibility through a video message days later followed by a menace to the French President Francois Hollande promising to hit more cities in France.

This new approach is in tune with the latest official ISIS statement from Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, in which he recognises that ISIS is losing territories in the Middle East, reminding us that the organisation rose from nothing in 2003. Adnani’s aim was to indicate that ISIS would regain momentum in future covert action, despite its apparent decline.

Look at the recent attack in Nice where more than 84 people were killed and over 200 wounded. The executor, 31 year-old Tunisian Mohamed Salman Lahouaiej Bouhlel, had no criminal record related to terrorism, and was not on the list of suspects by neither the French nor the European authorities. But he was able to obtain a gun, and was trained to use it, firing on the security forces during his two kilometres deadly drive on-board of a truck weighing 19 tons. The idea of using such a killing machine to maximise victims doesn’t come from a young immigrant, supposedly quickly or radicalised online as claimed by media and French officials.

It comes from a mind obsessed by fantasy and intrigued with ways of killing. We have seen this throughout the years in Syria and Iraq, since the announcement of the Caliphate in July 2014. Some of these are: death by burning (Jordanian pilot Maaz Kassasbeh in Raqqa, Syria), by drowning (Iraq – Hit), by an anti-armour RPG (execution of four Syrian soldiers), trampling by a tank on a captured soldier (a Syrian tank commander), explosives tied around the neck of prisoners (Afghanistan, against detainees from the Taliban), to several other different methods, all for killing.

The aim is not only to kill but also for the world to speak about the killing methods, attracting the attention of the media through the brutality used, shocking the viewer and leaving a lasting impression. For ISIS, speaking positively or negatively about it means reaching a desired goal that consists in spreading the name of the “Islamic State” to the four corners of the Earth.

To return to Nice, putting in practice the idea of driving a truck (although the idea has previously appeared in al-Qaeda “Inspired magazine) in the middle of a large crowd did not come overnight but through careful and cool layout, requiring a mind of a military planner to think away from the limelight how to do battle in the old European continent and beyond. The planner needs to have multiple unrelated cells, looking for an adequate first victim, the executor, enthusiastic to “do something” and ready to die for a conviction even without being a militant, having a deep religious background, or – as an added value – a criminal record or frequenting a specific milieu that could potentially put him under the security microscope. This is not at all an easy profile to find.

Moreover, the search for an adequate target requires, in the case of the Nice terrorist attack, the existence each year of a public event known and planned ahead by the municipality for years, where a gathering of thousands of people, including foreigners, is expected on the 14th of July along the Mediterranean coast known as “la Promenade des Anglais”.

It is also expected that the head of the cell, the planner, would not reveal himself to the executor – particularly with BouHilal’s not strictly religious background – in case the terrorist changes his mind (it happened before in Iraq and Syria where suicide bombers candidate deliver themselves to the local authorties before the act) or is injured and caught by the security forces. Moreover, there is a need of a religiously prepared trainer – Case Officer (CO) – to convert the terrorist and instruct him to gather, alone, his logistical tools and equipment for the attack (rent a truck, reconnaissance, route, acquisition of a gun…). It is important for this “CO” to report to the head of the cell the readiness or the hesitation of BouHilal and that he is either not ready or charged with enough ideology and motivation to carry his act to the end.

It is not an ordinary thing for a newly prepared executor, without battle field experience to see himself killing tens of civilians, including Muslims, children and women, and continue his death drive for two long kilometres with firm hands around the wheel. It is also likely that the executor was informed in the last days about his final destination, like we have seen in Sanaa, Yemen, in March 2015, when the two suicide bombers – which killed more than 130 people – where informed the night before according to Whats’app messages exchanged with a friend and collected by the author after the attack. At that time, ISIS had not establish a “Hisba Tweeter” (social media police) to monitor the leaks of classified details , the intrusion of false supporters and to provide proper but limited instruction for those travelling from abroad and willing to join the Caliphate.

The elements mentioned above lead to the strong possibility of further terrorist attacks in Europe on large or small scale. ISIS will keep a steady strategy consisting of keeping the name of the organisation going by word of mouth, most of the time. The interval between one attack and another is not a key indicator. This is possible to achieve through spectacular or minor attacks among the western societies, where the consequences of any attack is devastating in comparison to the Middle East, already accustomed to daily lethal attacks.

Another issue is the way ISIS is dealing with the news and media. It is no longer the organisation that is announcing the attacks outside the Middle East but it is using its media outlet first – A’maq – and abstaining for days before confirming it. This happened in the Nice attack as well as in the Wurzburg attack in Germany where an Afghan teen, also announced as a “soldier of the Islamic state”, stabbed and injured five people on board of a train. There is no doubt that both events will be mentioned in the next ISIS magazine issue “Dabiq”, with perhaps more information about the two men. That maybe irrelevant because ISIS may no longer be able to produce spectacular videos or issues once the two main cities – Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq – are recovered, and will have to adapt to more modest means in the future. But it will always use its electronic online outlet to spread its propaganda and news even while losing ground and enjoying less access to its usual sophisticated technology.

The ISIS change of style in providing less information about its overseas attacks and the fact that is relying more on its outlet are indications of changes within the group operational tactics and strategy. It is a fact that the group is losing ground in Iraq, Syria and Libya where it used to hold the vast majority of the ground. Nevertheless, it is a fact recognised by counter-terrorism experts that terrorism cannot be eradicated but contained and defeated to reduce its consequences on civilian societies, as long as the fight against terror is a joint cooperation between countries of the Middle East and Europe on intelligence services level. Countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Tunisia, Egypt, and Morocco are the main providers of extremist Jihadists. The collaboration of those countries with the European security services is essential on all levels. Moreover, internal intelligence services, on national level, should look at all possibilities, including interesting themselves in those not frequenting mosques of certain extremist milieus. For that, human Intelligence (HUMINTL) and signal intelligence (SIGINTL) are vital. More attacks in France, as expected, will have a devastating result among the population in all walks of life. ISIS is particularly looking forward to triggering a reaction against the Muslim community so as to receive with open arms those who have suffered bitter experiences due to racism.

Defeating this kind of terrorism is difficult and complicated. It will take generations and a radical change in political and religious education, coupled with awareness that certain Muslims can take certain extremist ideas further culminating in destructive acts of random killing of innocent people. There must be consciousness that radical extremist teaching has turned even against the origin of its diffusers who once believed that it is Islam, its is pure form, will be limited to Da’wa and will never become, as is now the case, a killing machine.

The land of the old continent will tremble again under terrorism hits. These attacks which continue despite the loss of vast territories, are not a sign of the strength or the weakness of ISIS. Their existence is a fact we have to coexist with and whose effect we need to minimise.