Questions on al-Qaeda’s Possible Return

al-Qaeda

Cairo – In mid-August al-Qaeda threatened to derail Britain’s train system, urging its supporters to heed its call. This brought up the debate about whether the extremist organization was on the rise again, 16 years after the United States declared war against it.

There are many factors that support this possibility, starting with the defeats that the ISIS terrorist group has been dealt on the ground and also with the Taliban regaining some of its foothold in Afghanistan. Contrary to his pledges during his electoral campaign, US President Donald Trump vowed to send more forces to combat al-Qaeda in Afghanistan to prevent it from returning to power. So have Washington and the world failed in confronting al-Qaeda throughout a decade-and-a-half?

Al-Qaeda threats

Security agencies in Europe took seriously al-Qaeda’s threat to target the British railways. They consequently upped security at train lines throughout the country, which shows, in one way or another, that al-Qaeda’s plotting has not weakened in recent years. In fact, it may have taken advantage of the world’s preoccupation with the fight against ISIS to quietly regroup to build resources and alliances to continue its eternal war against the United States.

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy released one of the best reports to address al-Qaeda’s future and reawakening in light of the consecutive ISIS failures. It examined the extremist group’s ability to rise again from the rubble of the war against it in Afghanistan. It also tackled the recent crises in the region and the emergence of ISIS, which was originally a dogmatic and more radical branch of al-Qaeda itself.

Al-Qaeda and new host environments

It is perhaps ironic that the years of the so-called Arab Spring would produce new host environments for al-Qaeda and provide it with new allies that would allow it to continue its approach, as un-innovative as it is.

Syria was without a doubt the prime background for the reemergence of al-Qaeda. Since the beginning of the conflict, the extremist group has looked for new allies there and it appears to have found them in al-Nusra Front, which boasts thousands of fighters that believe in al-Qaeda’s ideals and goals. There is no doubt that al-Qaeda took advantage of the civil unrest in a number of Arab countries to gain new followers.

Some of the new host environments for al-Qaeda lie in Libya. The whole world saw how one country, Qatar, had the sole purpose to spread al-Qaeda’s forces in the North African country to seize control of it.

Perhaps the Libyan national consensus government security agencies’ unveiling of a terrorist plot to target with chemical weapons officials in the country’s capital spurred western circles to action. The plot was to be carried out by one of al-Qaeda’s branches in the Arab Maghreb. Revealed in August, the plan raised questions among European security agencies about whether these lethal chemical weapons are still in al-Qaeda’s possession in Libya. Are these weapons being used locally or will they cross the Mediterranean to be used in a terrorist attack in Europe?

Al-Qaeda: From Yemen to Africa

In early August, the US Department of Defense dispatched special forces to Yemen to help the pro-legitimacy forces in their operations against al-Qaeda in the country. Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis stated that the special forces’ operations will be focused in the Shabwa province where the extremist group is particularly active in the Arab peninsula. So what can we interpret from this statement?

Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups have certainly taken advantage of the situation in Yemen, which is on the verge of being declared a failed state. The country today is divided between pro-legitimacy forces, led by President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, and a fragile alliance between former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Houthi insurgents.

Amid the complexities of this scene, al-Qaeda has found ways to recruit new members and spread its network beyond the Arab peninsula and reach the Arab Gulf. The organization may be weak in Yemen, and not as powerful as the media, especially western ones, claims. This does not mean that the group is not any less active in the absence of the state. Its power grows as the state weakens. The equation is simple: As long as the civil war in Yemen rages on, al-Qaeda will be able to strengthen itself and defeating it will be difficult.

The catastrophic spread of al-Qaeda in Yemen will have consequences on Africa, where the group is seeking to spread, through Libya and Yemen’s coast that is near several African countries.

In fact, al-Qaeda has not stayed away from the spotlight in Africa and it has claimed responsibility for violence there. The latest of its terrorist crimes was an August 10 attack against a restaurant in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou. The country itself has been a target of al-Qaeda attacks and it boasts the very active Ansar al-Islam group, led by Ibrahim Malam Dicko, as one of its affiliates. Established in 2016, this group’s ideology is more in line with al-Qaeda than ISIS.

The question about al-Qaeda’s future was best answered by former aide to US forces in Afghanistan, Seth Jones. Now a political scientist at the RAND Corporation specializing in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism, Jones published an article in the American Foreign Policy magazine in which he discusses al-Qaeda’s future.

In it he quoted Daniel Byman of Georgetown University as saying that the extremist group will weaken due to its poor popular support and the effective international efforts to combat terrorism. In addition, he said that resentment has grown against the group due to its killing of Muslim civilians

Others in Jones’ article shared a different view. Former FBI agent Ali Soufan said that al-Qaeda will undoubtedly make a comeback. He explained that the group is now transforming itself from a small terrorist organization to a powerful network. He asserted that it has grown in numbers, developed its fighting ability and is spreading in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Jones examined many hypothetical scenarios where al-Qaeda either returns to power of weakens.

One of the most dangerous scenarios is the probability that with ISIS’ demise, its members would join al-Qaeda and form a new organization. Al-Qaeda is different from what it was a decade ago and its movement is less centralized, meaning loyalties to it are changeable and therein lies the catastrophe.

Al-Qaeda welcomes Trump’s plan

On August 21, Trump announced a new plan on Afghanistan that sees the deployment of more US troops there in an attempt to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Has this plan come as the kiss of life for al-Qaeda, in Afghanistan in particular, and its supporters across the globe?

The truth is that prior to Trumps’ announcement, al-Qaeda saw in him and his former aide Steve Bannon a new lifeline to return to spotlight. How is that?

Very simply, before he was sacked, Bannon was the screaming voice of the US administration that claimed that “the power of Islam cannot be stopped by peaceful means.”

Bannon here gave al-Qaeda an opportunity to re-portray the West as being at an existential war with Islam. This is the way that the organization justifies its violence and fundamental ideology.

Now Trump is planning to start a new military war against Taliban and the remaining al-Qaeda affiliates, which will undoubtedly redraw the world map between peaceful and war-torn countries.

The New York Times recently said that even if all the world’s terrorists were killed tomorrow, they will come back again as long as both religious and racial fundamentalism and the lucrative heroine trade on the Afghanistan Pakistan border remained.

So does the solution in Afghanistan lie in leaving the country like Barack Obama did?

Of course not, because that will transform it into a new ISIS hub even if the name of the group changed. Perhaps Trump’s new strategy will provide a temporary solution.

Is there an end?

The extremism embodied by ISIS and al-Qaeda will not suddenly disappear for good. The hostile ideologies will remain in one way or another – whether in the wars in Africa or Asia or the Middle East and as long as central issues are unresolved and preachers of hatred, the end of the world and the clash of civilizations remain.

Rohingyas Reject Involvement of Qaeda, ISIS in Rakhine Conflict

Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar have denied any links to global terror groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS.

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) wrote on Twitter that “it is necessary to make it clear that it has no links with al-Qaeda, ISIS … or any transnational terrorist group.”

“We do not welcome the involvement of these groups in the Arakan (Rakhine) conflict,” the group said in a statement posted on its Twitter account.

ARSA called on states in the region “to intercept and prevent terrorists from entering Arakan and making a bad situation worse.”

The statement came after al-Qaeda issued a statement urging Muslims around the world to send aid, weapons and military support to the Rohingya in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine.

Meanwhile, the United Nations appealed on Thursday for massive help for nearly 400,000 Rohingyas who have fled to Bangladesh, with concern growing that the number could keep rising, unless Myanmar ends what critics denounce as “ethnic cleansing”.

The Rohingya are fleeing from a Myanmar military offensive in Rakhine that began after a series of guerrilla attacks on Aug. 25 on security posts and an army camp.

“We urge the international community to step up humanitarian support and come up with help,” Mohammed Abdiker, director of operations and emergencies for the International Organization for Migration, told a news conference in the Bangladeshi capital. The need was “massive”, he added.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council on Wednesday urged Myanmar to end the violence, which he said was best described as ethnic cleansing.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also said on Thursday that Myanmar is facing a “defining moment” and must stop the violence against the Rohingya population.

“I think it is important that the global community speak out in support of what we all know the expectation is for the
treatment of people regardless of their ethnicity,” he added.

“This violence must stop, this persecution must stop.”

Saudi Pilot Killed in Yemen’s Abyan after Technical Failure

A Saudi pilot was killed in southern Yemen while providing air support for an operation against al-Qaeda militants, the official spokesman for the Coalition for the Restoration of Legitimacy in Yemen said Thursday.

The Saudi Royal Air Force plane crashed in the southern province of Abyan on Wednesday night “due to a technical failure,” Colonel Turki al-Maliki told the official Saudi Press Agency.

He identified the pilot as Lieutenant Colonel Muhanna bin Saad Al-Baiz.

The command of joint forces for operations of Renewal of Hope offered its deepest condolences to his family.

Erdogan Confirms Turkey, Russia, Iran Share Same Stance on Syria’s Idlib

Idlib

Ankara – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed on Tuesday the importance of the sixth round of the Astana talks on Syria that will focus on the future of the region of Idlib.

He told reporters as he returned to Turkey from a trip to Kazakhstan: “The operation in Idlib is ongoing according to a previous agreement with Russia. We have no dispute with Russia over this. We also have no dispute with Iran over this.”

“I believe that the fruitful contact between these three countries will continue after Astana,” he added.

“I can say that the sixth round of Astana will witness many positive developments, especially over Idlib,” he stated in reference to efforts to expel al-Qaeda affiliates from the Syrian district.

The sixth round of talks is set to kick off on Wednesday.

Turkish military sources had revealed on Monday that Turkey’s preparations for a wide military operation in Idlib had reached their final phases.

Russia also backs this operation, which could also include Afrin that is controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units that are affiliated with Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Union Party.

Diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Ankara, Moscow and Tehran are in agreement over the Idlib operation.

In addition, Turkish television on Monday reported on the training of Free Syrian Army factions and Turkish forces in northern Syria that will take part in the Idlib and Afrin operations.

Separately, Erdogan denied claims that he had met in Kazakhstan with Syrian regime head Bashar Assad.

He told reporters: “I did not meet Assad and I have no intention to meet him either.”

WHO: Over 600,000 Infected by Cholera in Yemen

Cholera

Over 600,000 people are suffering from cholera in Yemen, announced the World Health Organization and Yemeni health ministry on Tuesday.

They revealed that the outbreak has infected 612,703 people and killed 2,048 since it began in April, and some districts are still reporting sharp rises in new cases.

The overall spread of the epidemic has slowed in the past two months, with the daily number of new suspected cases cut to around 3,000 in recent days.

However the epidemic, the most explosive on record in terms of its rapid spread, has continually confounded expectations. Soon after it began, WHO saw a worst-case scenario of 300,000 cases within six months.

But by the end of June, WHO was hoping 218,000 cases might be the halfway mark. In late July it said the spread had peaked after infecting 400,000.

Epidemics normally decline as quickly as they arise, so the peak of the disease – which is spread by contaminated food and water – should be roughly half the eventual total caseload.

But the decline in the epidemic has been bumpy, and the number of new cases rose in two of the past four weeks.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said some of the most affected areas, such as Sana’a and the governorates of Hajjah and Amran, had seen falls in the numbers of new cases.

But there had been a “sudden and significant increase” in the number of suspected cases reported from 12 districts, in the governorates of Hodeidah, Al Jawf, Al Mahwit, Ibb, Dhamar, Al Bayda and Aden.

“WHO is currently investigating the reason for this increase. A key aim of the investigation will be to determine whether the numbers are accurate and whether the spike in suspected cases is, in fact, caused by cholera or another diarrhoeal disease like rotavirus,” Jasarevic said.

Save the Children, a charity running cholera treatment centers, said last Friday that suspected cases in Hodeidah governorate had jumped by 40 percent in three weeks amid heavy rains and a heatwave, and in some districts weekly caseloads were double their previous peaks.

The United Nations has said the epidemic is man-made, driven by a civil war that has left 15.7 million people without clean water or sanitation.

Meanwhile, a new UN human rights report on Yemen said al-Qaeda’s local branch has become “operational” in the southwestern city of Taiz.

The report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council, which re-convenes next week, also takes stock of the disastrous human rights situation in Yemen over much of the last three years.

The report Tuesday points to continuing human rights violations, security vacuums and recruitment of child soldiers.

ISIS, ‘Hezbollah’ Deal Reveals Hidden Agendas

ISIS

Dubai – Recent developments have seen opposing extremist groups, both Sunni and Shi’ite, set aside their differences in order to achieve their interests. Survival instincts and Machiavellian schemes run deeper than ideological victories that only the people kill themselves for.

We saw this when al-Qaeda members involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks sought refuge in Iran where they were eventually trained at the hands of “Hezbollah” and its late commander Imad Moghnieh, as proven in a report on the attacks.

It is strange that ISIS, with its Zarqawi creed, would come together with “Hezbollah,” its historic enemy, most prominent arm of Iran’s Wilayat al-Faqih and most important backer of the survival of the Syrian regime. Through the latter’s sponsorship, we witnessed in late August an agreement – or deal – between “Hezbollah” and ISIS.

Such a deal is not strange when one notices the history that binds al-Qaeda and Iran together. Zarqawi himself had fled Afghanistan’s Herat to Iran, where he resided for two years. Ousama bin Laden had in his last years and for various reasons called against targeting Iran. Among these reasons is its role as a safe haven for dozens of Qaeda fugitives as proven in documents obtained from his Abbottabad residence.

The possibility of ISIS and Iranian groups coming together is always possible when interests demand it. This was seen in “Hezbollah’s” agreement with ISIS through Syrian regime chief Bashar Assad’s blessing. ISIS is in a position of weakness after its defeats in Syria and Iraq, but Assad chose to leave the Tabaqa military base open for the taking by the terror group as he did various cities and weapons caches. He did this with total disregard of the danger ISIS poses to neighboring countries.

After liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, the Syrian borders became a main passage for extremists from all over the world heading to Iraq, prompting many Shi’ite cities to call for the overthrow of terrorism and the Syrian regime that supports it.

Dangerous deal and angry reactions

Several questions were raised and uncertainties were voiced after the August 26 “Hezbollah”-ISIS agreement that saw two opposing fundamentalist groups come together. The deal caught the attention of the allies of either group, especially “Hezbollah”, which is the more powerful side of the equation.

“Hezbollah” and its media announced on August 27 that an ISIS convoy will depart the Lebanese-Syrian border to Syria’s Albou Kamal city in Deir al-Zour. Some sides questioned the silence of the Najaf authority over the deal and its failure to condemn it even though it would see ISIS members return close to the Iraqi border, which would undermine the recent victories achieved by the US-led international coalition and Iraqi army in Nineveh, Talafar and other areas. The Najaf authority appears to be aware of the Iranian goal, which serves the interests of Assad, and it appears to have disregarded Iraqi interest.

Iraqi officials have however voiced their condemnation of the agreement. Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and various political blocs rejected the Syrian regime-sponsored “Hezbollah”-ISIS deal. Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabbouri expressed his rejection of any agreement that would restore ISIS to Iraq or bring it close to its borders. He added that Iraq will not pay the price of deals that harm its stability and security, calling on the government to take all necessary measures to counter the repercussions of this agreement.

The return of ISIS to Deir al-Zour will allow the terrorist organization to regroup in a strategic area that would allow it to carry out attacks against Iraq from Syrian territory, especially since it is only about a 100 kilometers away from Iraq.

Contradictory stances

“Hezbollah” leader Hassan Nasrallah’s approval of the deal with ISIS stands in stark contrast to his rejection of the Iraqi forces’ operation to liberate Mosul. He feared at the time that ISIS members would flee Mosul and seek refuge in Syria’s eastern regions. At the time of the announcement of the operation in October 2016, Nasrallah addressed the Iraqi people, urging them to reject what he called the “American deal” to expel ISIS into Syria, which would harm Iraqis and Syrians alike.

He declared that the “real Iraqi victory against ISIS lies in arresting its leaders and fighters, jailing them, and later putting on a fair trial. This victory does not lie in opening a route for them in Syria, because their presence there will pose a major danger to Iraq above anything else.”

It appears that these warning evaporated when it came to the “Hezbollah”-ISIS deal because it ensured that its interests and those of Assad were achieved.

In justifying his warning, Nasrallah claimed that ISIS’ return close to the Iraqi border would lead Iraqi forces into Syria to expel them He also claimed that in returning to Syria, ISIS will pave the way to its return to Iraq where the Anbar, Salaheddine, Nineveh and Mosul areas were under government control. So how did ISIS originally enter them? They entered from Syria’s Raqqa and Deir al-Zour, alleged Nasrallah.

This is historically incorrect because ISIS had initially emerged in Iraq after a demonstration was suppressed by force by Nouri al-Maliki’s forces. The group then seized the weapons left behind by Maliki’s forces and headed to Syria. It appears however that Nasrallah has forgotten or claims to have forgotten his own statements. He instead fell back on old allegations of combating the “Great devil” or “American deception” to justify his actions.

The “Hezbollah”-ISIS agreement reveals that the interest of the Syrian regime in the Iranian agenda is more important that the Iraqi regime and people, who have made great sacrifices in recent months in their war against ISIS. The deal also reveals that Iran, a nation that harbors dozens of violent extremist groups and many “Hezbollahs” that defend its identity and role, will not hesitate in striking deals with ISIS and al-Qaeda and their ilk whenever its interest and need demand it.

In New Strategy, Trump Commits to Open-Ended War in Afghanistan

US

US President Donald Trump unveiled late on Monday his administration’s long-awaited new strategy on Afghanistan, committing to an open-ended conflict in the country.

He signaled that he would send more troops to Afghanistan, vowing a “fight to win” against Taliban insurgents, who have gained ground against the US-backed Afghan government. Trump also singled out Pakistan for harboring militants.

“We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists,” he said in a prime-time televised address at a military base outside Washington.

Trump ran for the US presidency calling for a swift US withdrawal from Afghanistan, and he acknowledged on Monday that he was going against his instincts in approving the new campaign plan sought by his military advisers.

“The consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable,” he said. “A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al-Qaeda, would instantly fill.”

The Republican president, who has criticized his predecessors for setting deadlines for drawing down troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, declined to put a time line on expanded US military operations in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s government applauded Trump’s speech for focusing on needs and conditions instead of timelines.

Afghan Ambassador to the US Hamdullah Mohib calls it a “10 out of 10.” He told The Associated Press by telephone from Kabul that Afghans heard “exactly what we needed to.”

Mohib said critiques of the speech for failing to disclose troop numbers are misguided. He added that the focus on numbers detracts from the “real focus” on conditions and support needed for Afghanistan to succeed and achieve peace.

The ambassador stated that Afghanistan has made progress and is committed to pursuing reforms to show it merits continuing help from the US.

Trump now inherits the same challenges as predecessors George W. Bush and Barack Obama, including a stubborn Taliban insurgency and a weak, divided government in Kabul. He is laying the groundwork for greater US involvement without a clear end in sight or providing specific benchmarks for success.

Trump warned that US support “is not a blank check,” and insisted he would not engage in “nation-building,” a practice he has accused his predecessors of doing at huge cost.

US officials said he had signed off on Defense Secretary James Mattis’ plans to send about 4,000 more troops to add to the roughly 8,400 now deployed in Afghanistan.

Mattis said he had directed the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to carry out the strategy and that he would be consulting with NATO and US allies, several of which had also committed to increasing troops.

Trump saved his sharpest words for Pakistan.

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens,” Trump said. “Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor terrorists.”

A Pakistani army spokesman said on Monday that Pakistan had taken action against all extremist militants including the Haqqani network, which is allied to Afghan Taliban insurgents.

“There are no terrorist hideouts in Pakistan. We have operated against all terrorists, including (the) Haqqani network,” spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor told a media briefing in Islamabad.

A US-led coalition invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban government for harboring al-Qaeda militants who plotted the September 11 attacks. But US forces have remained bogged down there through the presidencies of Bush, Obama and now Trump. About 2,400 US forces have died in Afghanistan since the invasion.

US military and intelligence officials are concerned that a Taliban victory over Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government would allow al-Qaeda and ISIS’ regional affiliate to establish bases in Afghanistan from which to plot attacks against the United States and its allies.

In Kabul, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid dismissed Trump’s speech as “old” and his policy as “unclear.”

Last week the Taliban issued a 1,600-word open letter to Trump warning against a troop surge, saying it would prolong what is already the United States’ longest war. Trump steered clear of discussing troop numbers, but said US forces are in Afghanistan to win.

The Taliban have also said they aren’t ready for any peace talks, at least not until the US and NATO give a time frame for withdrawal — something Trump says isn’t going to happen.

Britain on Tuesday welcomed Trump’s speech.

“The US commitment is very welcome,” British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said in a statement.

“It’s in all our interests that Afghanistan becomes more prosperous and safer: that’s why we ‎announced our own troop increase back in June.”

Saudi Arabia Sentences Two al-Qaeda Members to Death

Riyadh– Al-Qaeda’s involvement in the assassination of Saudi top security officer 12 years ago will soon be concluded after Saudi court sentenced two terrorists to death and a third to 28 years in prison.

The three defendants in this case are members of a terrorist cell of nine members, eight of which were trialed in 2013 for providing logistic support to terrorists Mansour al-Thubaity and Kamal Foudah the main executors of the assassination of Lieutenant Colonel Mubarak al-Sawat.

On June 18, 2005, terrorists assassinated Lieutenant Colonel Mubarak al-Sawat in the suburb of al-Sharie in Makkah in front of his house as he was leaving for work.

Thubaity and Foudah were killed during a police raid in 2005, while eight others were arrested.

On Monday, Criminal Court issued its new verdicts on this case with the presence of the three criminals. One was sentenced to death by Hirabah punishment and the other was sentenced to Discretionary penalty.

The terrorist cell’s role revolved around three primary elements: planning the operation, surveillance, and arming the executors. The cell also attempted to carry out several terrorist operations inside Saudi Arabia and coordinate to transfer several Saudi militants to the hot zones.

Four years ago, Specialized Criminal Court heard the case against the eight terrorists of the cell four years ago. The court refused the death sentences and issued life in prison of total 152 years, of maximum 25 years and minimum 10 years.

However, the Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia specialized in hearing death penalties, overruled the sentence of three defendants for their primary involvement in the assassination of Lt. Sawat and ordered the Specialized Criminal Court to retrial them again, which in turn sentenced two to death and the third to 28 years in prison.

Yemeni Gets 19 Years in Prison for Supporting Qaeda

Yemen

Riyadh- The Specialized Criminal Court on Monday sentenced a Yemeni to 19 years in prison and ordered him deported from the Kingdom following his sentence.

The defendant was found guilty of adopting ‘takfirist’ ideology and pledging allegiance to the former leader of al-Qaeda.

His frequent travels to Afghanistan were proven where he joined Qaeda camps in addition to training young people on how to use weapons.

Among the defendant’s charges was not informing security authorities of his knowledge that someone from Qaeda was targeting oil facilities in Yanbu and oil pipelines in the Kingdom, spreading of Osama bin Laden’s speeches, copying discs containing methods for preparing explosives and placing toxins and knowing a person suspected of raising funds within the Kingdom for Qaeda and his involvement in the investment of these funds.

He was also willing to provide a computer device for Leader of Qaeda in the Kingdom Abdulaziz al-Muqrin, training a group of young people in the Kingdom on how to use weapons, trading in weapons for profit and having knowledge of a group of people preparing a camp inside the Kingdom to train Saudi youths to join militants in Iraq.

The court sentenced him to 19 years in prison from the date of arrest and ordered confiscation of the arms, ammunition, computer and radio communication devices in his possession.

The court also ordered the defendant to be deported following the completion of his sentence.

Hamid al-Ali: Nusra Front’s Life Line

Ali

Riyadh – Once again, Kuwait appears on the list of names of persons declared terrorist by the four states fighting terrorism, over 40 days since a previous list was issued. The list included Kuwaiti Hamid Abdullah al-Ali, a cleric who is not afraid to show his support to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (founder of the group that later became ISIS with the support of Qatar.)

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE issued a statement overnight on Tuesday blacklisting a new Hamid, who shares a black history with the Hamid who was named in the first list.

Hamid bin Hamad al-Ali is described as one of Qatar’s messengers and is known for his support for al-Nusra Front and ISIS despite the power struggle between the two organizations that share the same terrorist goals.

He studied Sharia at the Islamic University of Madinah, receiving a master’s degree in Tafsir and Quranic studies. Al-Ali served as a professor of Islamic studies at Kuwait University and was an orator in one of Kuwait’s mosques. He allegedly has several followers.

Nowadays, al-Ali, who is the former Secretary of the Salafist Movement, no longer orates and preaches religion because he was blacklisted by the UN Security Council in 2014. He was accused of cooperating with extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, which is close to the truth. In reality, he has, since ISIS’ formation in Iraq in June 2014, been a supporter of the terrorist group and an inciter through his Twitter account, which was suspended in September of that same year.

At the time Kuwait, pledged to commit to the UN blacklist order that bars his travel and freezes his assets.

Security Council reports said that al-Ali had attempted to mediate a reconciliation between the leaders of al-Nusra Front and ISIS and had met with their respective leaders Abu Mohammed al-Joulani and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He had also traveled to Syria several times to provide humanitarian and financial support in an attempt to cement the “united image” of the extremists on the field.

What he saw on the ground however did not meet his expectations. He wrote of the division on the field and spite among the ranks of the extremists. He persevered however and stressed that he will continue on pursuing reform.

Hamid had previously been arrested by Kuwaiti authorities, a few days after security clashes erupted between security forces and the pro-Qaeda Peninsula Lions sleeper cell in early 2005.

He was arrested after leader of the cell, Amer al-Enezi, was detained by authorities. Al-Enezi was a frequent attendee of al-Ali’s lectures at university and the mosque. Al-Ali was later released without charge.

Al-Ali had made several stance in support of al-Zarqawi and had even eulogized him upon his death.

As for his ties with Qatar, the most prominent stance he made was in 2013 when he voiced his support for the Ahrar al-Sham group.