New Additions to the Designated Terror List

Yesterday, the U.S. added additional suspected terrorists and groups on its designated terror list. More than one are connected to kidnappings and beheadings.

Among the new names I recognize: Amru al-Absi

As of mid-July 2014, Amru al-Absi was selected as ISIL’s provincial leader for Homs, Syria, in the Aleppo region. As a principal leader of ISIL in Syria, he has been in charge of kidnappings.

I wrote about him here, but check the source articles I relied on, here and here. [More...]

A name that's new to me: Salim Benghalem

Salim Benghalem is a Syria-based French extremist and ISIL member, who carries out executions on behalf of the group.

I think the most prominent name is ISIS military commander in Syria, the Chechen named Omar (Umar) al Shishani, whose real name is Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili. The press release describes him this way:

As of mid-2014, Batirashvili was a senior ISIL commander and Shura Council member located in al-Raqqah, Syria. He was identified as the ISIL military commander in a public video distributed by the group in late June 2014. Batirashvili oversaw an ISIL prison facility in al-Tabqa, close to al-Raqqah, where ISIL possibly held foreign hostages. As of mid-2014, Batirashvili also coordinated closely with ISIL's financial section and had a base of operations for the terrorist organization in the Minbij, Syria area.

...Earlier this year, Batirashvili was described as a member of ISIL's Shura Council, and he maintained unique authority within ISIL. In May 2013, he was appointed northern commander for ISIL by its leader Ibrahim 'Awwad Ibrahim 'Ali al-Badri (AKA Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi), who was designated by the U.S. Department of State as an SDGT on October 4, 2011, with authority over ISIL’s military operations and ISIL’s forces in northern Syria, specifically Aleppo, Raqqa, Latakia, and northern Idlib provinces. As of late 2013, he was the ISIL Amir (leader) for northern Syria and was located in and around Aleppo Province. He was also in charge of fighters from Chechnya and elsewhere in the Caucasus. At this time, Batirashvili led approximately 1,000 foreign fighters for ISIL to attack the Syrian regime at Jabal Shuwayhnah, Rif Aleppo, Syria.

....Batirashvili pledged allegiance to ISIL and al-Baghdadi in mid-2013. In pledging his allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Batirashvili said that some members of the brigade he commanded, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, which was also designated as an SDGT by the U.S. Department of State today, joined him in swearing allegiance to ISIL. According to a December 2013 statement Batirashvili released, his pledge of allegiance to ISIL and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi came after fighting alongside ISIL and following a consultation held among other fighters from Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar.

Yesterday's designation also included two groups with foreign fighters, both formed in 2013: Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (JAMWA)and Harakat Sham al-Islam (HSI), as well as some groups previously designated by the U.N. al Qaida Sanctions Committee.

As to Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (JAMWA):

Formed in February 2013, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (JAMWA) is a Chechen-led terrorist organization based in Syria that consists primarily of foreign fighters. Cooperating with other violent extremist organizations in Syria, including al-Nusrah Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), JAMWA has launched deadly assaults against civilian communities, and kidnapped civilians and other foreigners in Syria.

The site Chechens in Syria which contains extensive information of the various Chechen groups aligned with ISIS and/or al Qaida, takes issue with some of the facts in the designation.

Another person added to the list reportedly has bomb-making experience, Muhannad al-Najdi.

Muhannad al-Najdi is a Syria-based al-Qa’ida facilitator of Saudi nationality. Prior to traveling to Syria in 2013, al-Najdi was involved in facilitation and operational planning in support of attacks in Afghanistan. Since at least 2010, al-Najdi has also been involved in the development of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) for use in Afghanistan and Syria.

In August, 2014, the Treasury added Sanafi al-Nasr and some other members of Jabhat al Nusrah and al Qaida to its list.

Al-Sharikh is a senior ANF leader and al-Qaida facilitator based in Syria. He moved to Syria in the spring of 2013 with other al-Qaida fighters and joined ANF, later becoming one of its top strategists. In this role, al-Sharikh has used social media posts to demonstrate his aspiration to target Americans and U.S. interests. He is included on Saudi Arabia’s list of most wanted terrorists.

Prior to his work in Syria with ANF, al-Sharikh served in early 2013 as chief of al-Qaida’s Iran-based extremist and financial facilitation network before the return of already designated al-Qaida facilitator Yasin al-Suri to the position. Al-Sharikh has also previously served al-Qaida as a key financial facilitator in Pakistan.

Long War Journal reports he is a leader of the so-called Khorasan group (which really is not an independent group but part of Jabhat al Nusra and al Qaeda) and has more on him here. Many reported him dead in 2013, but he later popped up, with some saying his death was faked for security reasons. According to Long War Journal here:

In tweets posted since early 2013, Nasr has revealed a number of details concerning al Qaeda's operations. In one tweet, for instance, he explained that al Qaeda's senior leadership decided to deploy trusted veterans to Syria, where they were embedded within both the Al Nusrah Front and Ahrar al Sham.

His twitter feed (still active) is here.

The media has been talking about a training camp near Aleppo where fighters learned to make explosives, as part of the reason the Government is now concentrating on the so-called Khorasan group, which is part of Jabhat al Nusra and al Qaida (not a separate group, see this article.).

Here is a video of a camp of Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar (JAMWA) in Aleppo, published by Akhbar Sham in March, 2014. Check at 5 minutes in, there's an explosives making class and they then go plant some outside and blow them up.

Who ran this camp in March, 2014? It's too complicated for me to figure out, but I think it is aligned with al Qaida and Nusra, not ISIS and Omar al Shishani. Long War Journal has this article on the camp. and the video. (While Shishani started JAMWA, he left it and started another group. The group continues to exist, and seems to be aligned with another Chechen militant leader, Muhammed al Shishani, who is aligned with al Qaida. I really don't know how anyone keeps these groups and militants straight given the similarity of names and shifting of alliances.)

In related news: Yesterday, the UK arrested 9 people with ties to ISIS, including Abu Rumaysah (@aburumaysah1403), Mizanur Rahm (@Abu_Baraa1) and Anjem Choudary (@anjemchoudary.)

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