ISIS Releases Nasheed Video "Blood for Blood"

ISIS news of note this week: Al-Hayat Media, ISIS' official media arm, has released a new "nasheed" video featuring child fighters. It's called "Sang Pour Sang" (Blood for Blood). The children sing in French, but there's an English and French option for viewing the words. The point of the video: to warn the U.S. and its allies that revenge for the airstrikes is coming.

Via Belgian researcher and analyst Pieter Van Ostaeyen, here are the words in English. He has also posted the video here. [Heads-up, there are graphic images of bombing victims but with one exception that I saw, no victims of ISIS killings. The exception is a very small still image of someone being beheaded in the frame accompanying the words "to slice necks". So if that will upset you, don't watch the video. I'm writing about the video because I think it's important to know what ISIS says it believes. In order to defeat your enemy, you first must understand it. ( The Art of War.)][More...]

Sang for Sang (Blood for Blood)

You grant yourselves the right to massacre us
In the name of your so-called precious freedoms
Your goods, your lives, to us none of it is sacred
Your blood will flow for your heinous crimes

While your fighter jets bomb and destroy
Your intellectuals look on without shame
Your media conceals all the atrocities
Our dead are not worth being mentioned
You are murderers, manipulators,
Lying is the hallmark of your speakers.
Beware, we have what we need to defend ourselves
Well armed soldiers are ready to kill you

You grant yourselves the right to massacre us
In the name of your so-called precious freedoms
Your goods, your lives, to us none of it is sacred
Your blood will flow for your heinous crimes

Your laws allow collateral damage
Your soldiers kill our children and you call them heroes
You weep bitterly for a few dead
As for the thousands you killed you show no remorse
You fool the world with your eloquence
While legalizing your delinquency
Beware, we are ready to fight back
Our swords are sharpened to slice necks

You grant yourselves the right to massacre us
In the name of your so-called precious freedoms
Your goods, your lives,to us none of it is sacred
Your blood will flow for your heinous crimes

Beware, men are ready to blow themselves up
Ready to respond to the evil you have brought
Beware, your roads will soon be rigged with mines
By well-trained and determined brothers
Beware, your end is already planned
Our warriors are everywhere, ready to sacrifice themselves
Beware, our orphans are growing
They feed their thirst for revenge in rage

In other ISIS news, a new issue (number 9) of ISIS's french magazine, Dar al Islam, was released this week. You can read it here (in French). As teased in the last issue of Dabiq, it features an extensive account of how Jihadi John (Mohammed Emwazi) got from London to Syria, written by whoever traveled with him. (See pages 25 to 36). It took a lot of time to paste it into google translate but I slogged through it, waiting for something exciting to happen, or for it to reveal something interesting about him, but it didn't. He went through Belgium, Albania, Greece and Turkey, but it reads mostly like "over the hills and through the woods, to grandmother's house we go." If I come across the English version, I'll update this post with the link.

One thing the Emwazi account makes clear is that he crossed from Turkey to Syria at the Bab al-Hawa crossing.

We arrived at Bab al-Hawa where we entered the Sham smoothly and all praise is due to Allah. Abu Usamah happened by car we recovered side Syrian border and congratulated us. Prostrated ourselves we thank for Allah and jumped into the car. The rest is history. A much bloody history for United States and the United Kingdom.

This is interesting because this is the crossing controlled by Amr al-Absi, and before him his brother of Firas al-Absi. Amr al-Absi was killed in airstrike in March, 2016 in Aleppo.

I've written so many times that all roads to the U.S. and British hostages seem to begin with the al-Absi brothers. The British, Belgian, French and Moroccan torturing prison guards all are linked to Amr al-Absi. Amr al-Absi hooked up with Chechen Omar al-Shishani, who brought his group of foreign fighters to ISIS. Emwazi was directly connected to al-Absi and al-Shishani. Just as significantly, many of the Paris and Belgium attackers were recruited by al-Absi.

Yesterday, Raconteur published an excellent new article, Masterminds of Terror, by journalist Emma Beals on the al Absi brothers. She remarks on how curious it is that the U.S. (and the U.S. media) trumpeted the drone killing of Mohammed Emwazi but glossed over the airstrike that killed mastermind Amr al Absi.

The battle with the so-called Islamic State is as much one of symbols and words as it is one of airstrikes and boots on the ground — on both sides. The death of Emwazi in November 2015 was celebrated at the highest levels of government in the US and the UK; when Amr al-Absi was killed in March 2016, it passed without comment. This rhetorical war has fuelled a narrative of a “clash of civilisations” and increased the divisions within European society, creating a feedback loop of ostracisation and radicalisation. The path of Firas al-Absi, his brother Amr, and the men they led and worked with, is the story behind the realpolitik, rhetoric, and violence.

Firas began recruiting European fighters in Syria in early 2012. In July, he raised an al Qaida flag at the Bab al-Hawa crossing. Also that day, his men kidnapped John Cantlie and Jeroen Oerlemans, as they entered Syria near Bab al-Hawa. (This was Cantlie's first capture, and both were freed by the Free Syrian Army a week later.)

The flag incident angered the Free Syrian Army and Firas was murdered in August, 2012 when the Syrian rebels took back the crossing. Amr was enraged that his brother was killed and moved his group to Aleppo (al Atmeh) in Northern Syria and took over his brother's group, merging it with his own. His chief assistant was the now dead Shariah4Belgium leader, Houssien Elouassaki. Through Eloussaski, lots of Belgian and Dutch fighters came to Syria to join al Absi. So did the British and others.

The group became a lightning rod for foreign jihadists looking to join the fight in Syria. That year, Mohammed Emwazi, a young Kuwaiti-born British citizen, would land in Atmeh and fall in with Amr. Emwazi would go on to shock the world when he was unmasked as “Jihadi John’.

Emwazi later coaxed two of his friends from West London — Alexanda Kotey and Aine Lesley Davis — into joining him in Syria. Together, they, along with a British fighter who remains unknown, became the jailers macabrely dubbed “The Beatles” by their captives. The group quickly began taking hostages.

On Thanksgiving 2012, John Cantlie and fellow journalist James Foley were driving to the Turkish border from Binnish when masked men grabbed them. A Syrian source said his early inquiries into their abduction resulted in terrified Syrians telling him that “this was Absi and his men, don’t ask me about this again”.

This was only the start of their torment, which would end fatally nearly two years later for Foley and continues to this day for John Cantlie. The group kidnapped British aid worker David Haines and his colleague four months later in the same area.

In 2013, al Absi pledged allegiance to al Baghdadi. I wrote a week after Foley's beheading:

Regardless of who is in the video, or when Foley was actually beheaded (how long before the video was filmed), it's pretty clear someone higher up in ISIS ordered the execution and the video. Who's in charge of prisons in Raqqa and Aleppo? A man hired by al Baghdadi himself -- Amr al-Absi, also known as Abu al-Athir al-Shami. His story (and that of his murdered brother, Firas al Ibsi) is here and here. All these events, from Foley's kidnapping to the foreign recruits, have at least one thing in common: The Turkish border.

Here is one of the source articles I relied on in writing that post. Another early post on al-Absi here. Also see this article on page 6, and Shami Witness' article, which was cited by several prominent journalists and researchers before his arrest, and is still available here.

More from Emma Beals:

For his loyalty, Amr was rewarded with the title of Emir of Aleppo, the highest position in the city and its environs. It was in this role that he orchestrated and supervised the kidnapping of dozens of foreign hostages and then detained them in the Aleppo hospital complex, which they converted into a jail. The kidnapping of foreigners reached epidemic proportions in the country; “The Beatles” were responsible for at least two dozen of them.

As to the recent Belgian attacks,

Najim Laachraoui, a young Belgian of Moroccan descent...left his home in the suburb of Schaerbeek, Belgium, for Syria in February 2013, joining Amr’s group. He subsequently returned to Europe several times before building the bombs the Paris attackers used in November 2015, finally detonating himself in Brussels Airport last month.

...In all, at least nine of the attackers in Brussels and Paris are known to have spent time in Syria in the years prior to the attacks. Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Belgian-born mastermind of the Paris attacks, went to Syria in 2013 and became linked with Amr al-Absi, and subsequently to Mehdi Nemmouche, the militant who attacked the Jewish Museum of Belgium in 2014. Nemmouche, while in Syria, tortured the foreign hostages held under Amr’s command.

One thing Beals explains that I don't think I understood before is that after the Syrian rebels fought back against ISIS in 2014, which resulted in al-Absi and ISIS packing up and leaving Aleppo for Raqqa with the foreign hostages, al-Absi changed positions. He became the head of ISIS media communications.

They did, however, keep their precious cargo of foreign hostages, who were moved firstly to a prison outside of Aleppo for safekeeping. They were then handcuffed in pairs and transported on the back of trucks full of dates to a prison outside of Raqqa, a city in eastern Syria that would become the IS capital. “The Beatles” stayed with the hostages.

With Aleppo no longer under IS’ control, Amr was put in charge of media work and installed on the Shura Council, the governing body for the increasingly powerful militant group. This position would give him ample opportunity to wreak havoc in the coming months.

In July, 2014 the U.S. conducted the failed raid to free the hostages. A month later, James Foley was beheaded on camera by Mohammed Emwazi. Emma Beals writes:

Amr, in his role as head of media, oversaw the video’s production and release.

After Foley, Steven Sotloff, David Haines, Alan Henning and Peter Kassig were executed by Emwazi, the media focused almost exclusively on identifying Emwazi, and after he was identified, on picking apart every detail of his life. But as Beals reports, al-Absi was responsible for all of these videos.

All of these videos were released under Amr al-Absi’s direction as head of the media council. Not long after, he was promoted to Emir of Syria, a role which saw him become a more shadowy figure with fewer interactions with outsiders.

The planning of the Paris and Belgian attacks began under al-Absi.

On November 12, 2015, the news broke that “Jihadi John” had been killed in a targeted drone strike in Raqqa. British and American politicians and the public were jubilant. The following night, Abaaoud and his accomplices attacked Paris, killing 130 people.

Beals sums up al-Absi's role this way, and wonders why his death barely registered with the media:

He was 36. He had helped create IS in Syria; he had masterminded the kidnapping and public execution of Western hostages, overseen the media strategy that dragged the US and UK into the war, then brought that war to their doorsteps by recruiting and directing the men who attacked Paris. Outside of a few short news reports, though, his death barely registered.

Three weeks after his death, the French fighters he recruited attacked Brussels. Former al-Absi associate Najim Laachraoui was one of the bombers who blew himself up at the Brussels airport.

For a more academic take on how foreign fighters hook up with ISIS, this article on "Facilitation" is getting a lot of praise this week. I'm not sure who the intended audience is, but it is so filled with jargon I could barely understand it. One point I did get from it is that how the recruits actually get to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS is pretty much irrelevant. The question that should be examined is how these foreigners, with no connection to anyone in ISIS, manage to connect with them on social networks from their home country.

how do foreign fighter volunteers make the connection from their local circumstances to an insurgent entity in another country?

This study takes a mobilization approach (instead of radicalization) to address the question of foreign fighters. This research does not seek to understand the ‘why’ of their involvement in this activity but rather the ‘how’ of their participation. If most engagement in political violence is made possible through social networks–peers, kin or activist groups – how are foreign fighter volunteers able to make the connection from their local circumstances to an insurgent entity to whom they have no prior social ties? This question has not been dealt with explicitly in the research to date on foreign fighter mobilizations.

Which I guess brings me back to the middle of this post: The article in Dar al Islam about Jihadi John's route to Syria was pretty boring and un-enlightening. (And the al-Absi brothers, especially Amr al-Absi, is far more important than Emwazi. Here's an interesting Storify version tying all of the characters together.)

< Trump Unplugged in California: Advocates Torture | Saturday Open Thread >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort: