ISIS Hardliners Seize Control over Former Bin Laden Hideout

Ultra-hardline ISIS fighters have captured Tora Bora, a mountain cave complex in eastern Afghanistan that was once the hideout of Osama bin Laden, officials said Thursday, despite pressure on the extremists from US-led forces.

The militants seized the territory from the Taliban this week after days of heavy fighting, in a show of strength just two months after the US military dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat on a nearby ISIS stronghold.

“Tora Bora has fallen into the hands of ISIS fighters,” government spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP. “Afghan troops last night launched an operation to take it back from ISIS.”

Tora Bora in eastern Nangarhar province was the site of a major US military offensive in late 2001, when Al-Qaeda chief bin Laden was believed to be hiding there.

He later crossed into neighboring Pakistan, where he was killed in a US raid in 2011.

Local tribesmen confirmed to AFP that the Taliban had retreated from large parts of Tora Bora.

“When ISIS fighters launched their operation to seize Tora Bora, the Taliban fled the area and left us alone to protect our women and children,” said Juma Khan, a tribesman who fled the area with hundreds of other local families.

First emerging in 2015, ISIS’s local affiliate has made rapid inroads into Afghanistan, overrunning large parts of Nangarhar and Kunar provinces.

The fresh ISIS assault and capture of Tora Bora comes despite a heavy US-backed Afghan offensive against the militants.

The deployment in April of the US military’s so-called Mother Of All Bombs on another tunnel-and-cave complex in nearby Achin district killed dozens of armed radicals, but fighting in the area has continued unabated.

The fall of the Tora Bora has also prompted heated discussion in the Afghan parliament, with lawmakers warning the government of growing ISIS activity in eastern Afghanistan.

“Is this government unaware of the problem? Is this government here to kill us?” asked MP Hazrat Ali.

Bin Laden’s Son Steps into Father’s Shoes as al-Qaeda Attempts a Comeback

This image made from video broadcast Nov. 7, 2001, shows a young boy identified as Hamza bin Laden

The voice is that of a soft-spoken 28-year-old, but the message is vintage Osama bin Laden, giving orders to kill. When the audio recording began turning up on jihadist websites two weeks ago, it was as if the dead terrorist was channeling himself through his favorite son.

“Prepare diligently to inflict crippling losses on those who have disbelieved,” Hamza bin Laden, scion of the Sept. 11, 2001, mastermind, says in a thin baritone that eerily echoes his father. “Follow in the footsteps of martyrdom-seekers before you.”

The recording, first aired May 13, is one in a string of recent pronouncements by the man who many terrorism experts regard as the crown prince of al-Qaeda’s global network. Posted just two weeks before Monday’s suicide bombing in Manchester, England, the message includes a specific call for attacks on European and North American cities to avenge the deaths of Syrian children killed in airstrikes.

The recording provides fresh evidence of ominous changes underway within the embattled organization that declared war against the West nearly two decades ago, according to US, European and Middle Eastern intelligence officials and terrorism experts.

“Al-Qaeda is trying to use the moment — [with] Daesh being under attack — to offer jihadists a new alternative,” said a Middle Eastern security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss counterterrorism assessments and using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “And what could be more effective than a bin Laden?”

Hamza bin Laden is hardly new to the Islamist militant world. His coronation as a terrorist figurehead has been underway since at least 2015, when longtime al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri introduced him in a video message as a “lion from the den” of bin Laden’s terrorist network. But in recent months, he has been promoted as a rising star on pro-al-Qaeda websites, with audio recordings from him urging followers to carry out attacks or commenting on current events. Longtime terrorism analysts say the promotion of Hamza bin Laden appears calculated to appeal to young Islamist militants who still admire Osama bin Laden but see al-Qaeda as outdated or irrelevant.

“Hamza is the most charismatic and potent individual in the next generation of jihadis simply because of his lineage and history,” said Bruce Riedel, who spent 30 years in the CIA and is now director of the Brookings Institution’s Intelligence Project. “At a time when Zawahiri and al-Baghdadi seem to be fading, Hamza is the heir apparent.” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the ISIS leader.

But Hamza bin Laden is not advocating his father’s style of jihad. Osama bin Laden was notorious for his ambitious, carefully planned terrorist operations, directed by al-Qaeda’s generals and aimed at strategic targets. His son, by contrast, urges followers to seize any opportunity to strike at Jewish interests, Americans, Europeans and pro-Western Muslims, using whatever weapon happens to be available.

“It is not necessary that it should be a military tool,” he says in the May 13 recording. “If you are able to pick a firearm, well and good; if not, the options are many.”

Strikingly, for a man who aspires to be the jihadist world’s next rock star, Hamza bin Laden insists on keeping most of his personal details hidden from public view. Even his face.

No confirmed photographs exist of the young terrorist since his boyhood, when he was portrayed multiple times as an adoring son posing with his famous father. He is believed to be married, with at least two children, and he lived for a time in the tribal region of northwestern Pakistan, although his whereabouts are unknown.

His refusal to allow his image to be published may reflect a well-founded concern about his personal safety, but it complicates the militants’ task of making him a terrorist icon, said Steven Stalinsky, executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that monitors Islamist militancy on social media.

“People loyal to al-Qaeda and against ISIS are looking for inspiration, and they realize that he can provide it,” Stalinsky said. “But for today’s youth, you need more than audio and an old photograph.”

What is known about Hamza bin Laden comes from his numerous recordings as well as intelligence reports and scores of documents seized during the 2011 raid by US Navy SEALS on Osama bin Laden’s safe house in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Included in the document trove were personal letters from Hamza to his father, as well as written instructions from the elder bin Laden to his aides on how Hamza was to be educated and provided for.

The documents reveal a special bond between Hamza bin Laden and his father that persisted despite long periods of separation. The 15th of Osama bin Laden’s estimated 20 children, Hamza was the only son born to the terrorist’s third wife.

He spent his early childhood years with his parents, first in Saudi Arabia and later in Sudan and Afghanistan, where his father began to assemble the pieces of his worldwide terrorism network. A family friend who knew Hamza bin Laden as a child said he showed both promise and early flashes of ambition.

“He was a very intelligent and smart boy, very fond of horseback riding, like his father,” said the friend, a longtime associate of the al-Qaeda network, contacted through a social-media chat service. “While his parents wanted him to stay away from battlefields, he had arguments with them about it.”

(The Washington Post)

Bin Laden’s Wife: Someone Betrayed Us on the Night He Was Killed

Osama bin Laden

Islamabad – Amal Ahmad al-Saddah, Osama Bin Laden’s fourth and youngest wife, has finally spoken about the night US forces raided their home in their compound in Abbottabad and killed her husband on May 2011.

Amal recently recounted the story of the night her husband died at the hands of US special forces, Seals, and the clashes with the sons and daughters of Bin Laden.

Amal recounted the events to Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clarke, for their book “The Exile: The Flight of Osama bin Laden” which was mentioned in British newspaper Sunday Times. Along with Amal, six of her children, Osama’s second wife Khairiah, third wife Seham and son Khalid, 22, were all in the house.

She said that they all gathered on the top floor of the main house, “they want me, not you,” he finally said, instructing his wives to go downstairs with the children.

Amal refused to move, while his oldest daughters, Miriam and Sumaiya, hid on the outside balcony with some of their younger half-siblings. Amal, bin Laden and their son Hussein were alone, listening as the US forces charged into their house.

Bin Laden, Amal and their young son Hussein remained in the room, “It was clear,” she thought, “our safe house was a death trap and someone from our inner circle had betrayed us.”

Amal’s story tells how after six years of isolation, Osama had no emergency procedure aside from some euros sewn into his underwear along with emergency numbers for his deputies in Waziristan.

Meanwhile, the Seals blasted a locked door and entered the house before heading upwards.

Amal was right in front of her husband and rushed towards the Seals as they entered the room. She tried to push them away, but was shot and collapsed onto the bed. Bin Laden was shot and as more Seals entered the room, more rounds were fired into his body.

She knew she had to play dead if she wanted to survive, so she closed her eyes and tried to slow her breathing. Her son Hussein was near her and he had witnessed everything. The Seal picked him up, threw water on his face and put him down next to his mother.

Amal remembered how both Mariam and Sumaiya were grabbed and held over their father’s body, demanded to identify the man, as his second wife Khairiah sat beside him.

It was then when Amal realized that after six years cooped up in this airtight place, the end they had never dared to discuss had come and gone in minutes.

Osama’s youngest wife had caused many problems to Pakistani authorities when she was detained. She was on hunger strike for the way authorities treated her. She continued her strike because local authorities wouldn’t allow her to leave. A relative said she never received proper medical treatment after her wound during the raid.

Amal is from Yemen and has five children with Osama.

Osama’s wives were part of a long diplomatic debate. His two older widows are of Saudi origins but they were stripped from their nationalities in 1994 when Osama was stripped as well on the account of extremist activities.

Ties with Qatar Revealed in Bin Laden Documents

Qatar

With the arrival of a new administration to the White House, Washington has decided to speak out against Qatar’s relations with terrorism in the Middle in a bid to calm the situation and control the growing terrorism in the world, reported Al-Arabiya.net on Friday.

Qatari officials were warned about their country’s continued support to the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical movements that are linked to extremist organizations such as al-Qaeda and ISIS, added the report. The warning was issued by US Defense Secretary James Mattis during his visit to the region.

Qatar has been accused, more than once, of financing terrorist groups or turning a blind eye to the Qatari financiers such as Salim Hassan Khalifa Rashid al-Kuwari, who works at the Qatari Interior Ministry, said the report.

He is accused of “transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars to al-Qaeda through a terrorist network”. He was part of the US list of persons who are accused of officially financing terrorism in 2011.

In October 2014, the official documents of the US Treasury stated that 37-year-old Kuwari was involved in “the financial and logistical support of al-Qaeda, with the help of another Qatari man, Abdullah Ghanem al-Khawar, 33.

The latter has facilitated the movement of terrorist members and contributed to the release of al-Qaeda members in Iran, said the Al-Arabiya.net report.

Abdul Rahman bin Omair al-Nuaimi, was also blacklisted by the US and the UN, was accused of transferring 1.25 million GBP per month to al-Qaeda militants in Iraq, and 375,000 GBP to al-Qaeda in Syria.

Abbottabad documents

Qatar’s relations with al-Qaeda were meanwhile revealed in Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad documents that were seized by US forces during the attack on his residence in Pakistan, said the Al-Arabiya.net report.

Among these documents was a long letter bin Laden had sent to, Khayria Saber, his younger wife before his death where he asked her if she was willing to travel to Qatar.

In addition to funding terrorist groups, Qatar has been accused by the international community of hosting a number of al-Qaeda militants, Arab Afghan and Taliban fighters, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who planned to blow up 11 US aircraft over the Pacific Ocean, reported Al-Arabiya.net.

Mohammed is the nephew of Ramzi Yousef who had planned to attack the World Trade Center in 1993.

He was transferred to Qatar at the request of the Minister of Labor. In Qatar, he worked as an engineer at the Ministry of Electricity and Water and traveled repeatedly at the Ministry’s expense.

Although he was working in a government institution, Qatar claimed, according to US intelligence, that it could not find him, and later on, it secretly planned his escape from the country, said the report.

Another suspect, Abdel-Karim al-Majati, who is the most dangerous wanted man in Morocco for his role in establishing terrorist cells and recruiting suicide bombers in Morocco, had moved from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia with a Qatari passport, said the Al-Arabiya.net report. His Moroccan wife Fatiha al-Majati attested to this, adding that she had accompanied her husband also using Qatari a passport.

Another Moroccan, Younis al-Hayari, the leader of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, who was killed in a security operation in the neighborhood of Rawda in 2005, managed to enter Saudi Arabia through Qatar with a Bosnian passport.

The media vehicle

There is a Qatari satellite channel that has been the main window for extremist organizations, al-Qaeda leaders, al-Nusra Front and other extremist radical movements and organizations. It broadcast all of al-Qaeda’s interviews and messages, including those of bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and others.

Dennis Ross had warned about the role of this channel in serving as a platform for broadcasting extremist views. The channel has recently hosted in a special interview, Abdullah al-Muhaysini, the religious judge of al-Nusra.

Bin Laden had praised the relations with this Qatari channel and called upon preserving good ties with it. He said that all channels were working against them, except this one due to common interests. He added that this channel is an important media platform for them in the region, said Al-Arabiya.net.

Asharq Al-Awsat Attends Trial of Qaeda’s Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi in Guantanamo

Iraqi

[inset_right]Guantanamo (Cuba) – A new round of pretrial sessions for prominent al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi got underway in Guantanamo Bay on Monday.

The official trial is expected to start in a date to be specified by the court during the summer of 2018.

The military court has charged Iraqi with committing war crimes. He is also facing accusations of attacking properties and conspiring to carry out attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan between 2001 and 2004, in addition joining a terrorist organization (al-Qaeda) in 1996.

Asharq Al-Awsat was present when Iraqi entered the court accompanied by two guards. Unlike his pictures, he appeared similar to Osama bin Laden with his long white beard. He appeared quiet and sat next to his defense team, holding a rosary in his hand.

He had a brief conversation with his volunteering lawyer Brent Rushforth and shook hands with the four lawyers assigned by the US Department of Defense.

The morning session lasted three hours during which Rushforth raised doubts about the US government providing legal rights to Iraqi and he complained that the trial sessions took long because he was not given the documents and information.

According to the Pentagon, he was the link between al-Qaeda and its branch in Iraq and the head of external operations of the group. He was also known for managing training camps for terrorists in Afghanistan. During that period, he was in charge for planning attacks against US forces and Coalition forces from 2002 to 2004.

He was arrested in 2006 in Turkey, during his attempt to reach Iraq from Afghanistan following orders of Osama bin Laden to provide assistance and consultation to the group in Iraq. He was detained for 170 days by the CIA and then referred to Guantanamo in April 2007.

Terrorism’s Ideological Crisis and Propagandists’ Wars

terrorism

Dubai – The identity of the enemy of terrorists has changed in recent decades in that it is no longer limited to the West and the United States, but has come to include fellow terrorists, who do not share the same ideology.

Infighting among extremists has become more frequent as their propagandists and representatives clash over how they view regional and global crises. This will not only shake up the core of these extremist groups, but also spell their end.

Extremist groups were initially united in their ideology, governance, writing and battles. They sought to “globalize jihad and violent extremism in the early years of the 1990s.” They were united in their war against systems of rule and shared a common enemy, dividing the world into believers and infidels.

These fundamentalists remained united under al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. Under his leadership, they were able to repel criticism from within their own ranks and strike counterattacks, the most violent examples of which were the revisionist waves of 2008 and 2009 in Iraq and Libya.

All this began to change however with the eruption of Arab revolts, especially the one in Syria in 2011.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq saw in Syria an opportunity to overcome its own crisis that was sparked by its loss of the Anbar province in 2007 and in the Sons of Iraq (“Sahwat”) offensive that ended in 2009.

This paved the way for the emergence of the ISIS militant group in Iraq, led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Initially, bin Laden had insisted that al-Baghdadi’s term be temporary. Ayman al-Zawahari had also later urged him to “repent” in order to ease the bloodshed in Syria.

The extremist groups have been a major burden on the noble agenda of the civilian uprising in Syria. This has been well exploited by the regime that has used these groups to justify its war and its sectarian militias that have tarnished the image of the revolt.

But as the extremists have infiltrated the revolution, they too have been infiltrated by opportunists from their own ranks. This has been demonstrated by ISIS’ insistence to fight all who do not agree with them, whether they are westerners, civilians or fundamentalists alike.

Salafist Abu Basir al-Tartusi had waged a vocal attack against ISIS, insisting that jihad be waged in Syria. He also adopted a more lenient approach towards its various factions. These were views shared by Salafists Abu Qatada al-Filistini and Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi.

ISIS retaliated by releasing various publications denouncing its critics, including al-Qaeda members. It held al-Zawahiri personally responsible for the clashes in Syria between ISIS and its rivals in other fundamentalist groups.

The differences over Syria will likely spell the end of these groups because they are now as divided as the country they have played a role in fragmenting. Their ever increasing intolerance and rejection of the other should be exploited to bring about their demise.

Last ‘WhatsApp’ Message

WhatsApp

Terrorist Khalid Masood who has attacked the Houses of Parliament in London had sent an important message that the British security failed to decode on WhatsApp. The terrorist is a prior suspect and was under surveillance – has the security bodies comprehended the letter they would have foiled the operation.

This is merely a hypothesis. Yet, social media messages and calls remain a battlefield between the security bodies and terrorists who now consider these means as their modern arm.

One of the basic reasons behind the collapse of al-Qaeda is that its leaders abstained from these means of communication — Osama bin Laden, in his last years, relied on sending envoys who would deliver oral or written messages to evade security forces who now are able to listen, record, translate, recognize voices and determine locations easily.

New terrorists believe that the modern technology makes them expand wider, attract more youths and provide a free propaganda that is worth the risk.

WhatsApp is a landmark portal to the world – or what we think is the real world. Those who benefit the most are users who make, market and distribute information to others who in their turn send it to more than one billion people in the world, unaware of the motives.

Can all this information be monitored? If WikiLeaks’ latest disclosures turned out to be true then this means that all phones are prone to surveillance. The document reveals that the US intelligence managed to develop systems capable of hacking into devices.

With the huge technical security development, it has become a daily game to arrest terrorists, shell their shelters or exploit them. This technique is cursed and appreciated at the same time, since on one hand it helps terrorists mobilize and cause damage and on the other hand it assists security bodies to arrest criminals.

Apart from the security military war field, countries failed to confront the ideology. They were unsuccessful in halting the brainwash targeting millions day and night, using religions and exploiting instincts and gaps through their messages.

Spying is effective in besieging terrorist groups and individuals but can’t win the first phase of the terrorist act: the intellectual phase. Majority of phase one activities are not coded and actually, happen publicly round the clock.

Peoples’ minds are being washed through messages sent via broadcasts including pieces of advice, information, news, ideas, speeches, discussions, jokes, lessons, pictures, drawings and videos.

Although these messages are open for everyone yet comprehending and confronting them is tougher than decoding the most complicated confidential codes because it is an oriented culture.

The solution lies in the alternative culture, which is not yet wide-spread enough to face extremist messages.

Syria: Zawahiri Deputy Killed in a Raid

Syria

London – Al-Qaeda deputy leader Abu Khayr al-Masri was killed in a drone strike along with other jihadists near the city of Idlib – extremists mourned him on the social media websites.

“Abu Khayr Masri is Abdullah Muhammad Rajab Abdulrahman and is considered the number two man in Qaeda – his name is also on the terrorism list of 2005 issued by the US government,” said fundamentalists to Asharq Al-Awsat in London.

They added, “Masri, born in 1957, traveled with Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to Sudan in the beginning of the 19s then to Afghanistan where they joined followers of late Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden who was killed in 2011 in Abbottabad, Pakistan.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights affirmed that the number two man in Qaeda was killed in a raid conducted by a drone. For its part, Tahrir al-Sham issued a statement on his death by a “cruciferous raid”.

Head of the Islamic Observation Center based in London Yasser Tawfiq Ali el-Sirri said that the name of Masri came to surface last year when Qaeda broadcasted a voice note that granted Jabhat al-Nusra the permission to dissociate from Qaeda.

“The other person killed with Masri is a member of Tahrir al-Sham,” added Sirri.

In his voice note, Masri said “after the increasing calls for this step to evade a US-Russian military operation, we welcome any decision that spares the blood of Tahrir al-Sham members.” He added, “Jabhat al-Nusra can take any necessary steps to maintain the battle in Syria.”

On his twitter account, independent Egyptian jurist Sharif al-Hazaa wrote: “May his soul rest in peace. He told me days ago that he no longer holds his gun as he expects to be targeted from a warplane.”

According to fundamentalists’ sources, Masri was in charge of transportation and logistics affairs provided by Qaeda members who are sent to carry out foreign missions – he also had strong ties with Zawahiri.

In Egypt, a death penalty in absentia was issued in his case.

CIA: Bin Laden Opposes Ousting Ali Abdullah Saleh

CIA

Washington – An ISIS official sent al-Qaeda Leader Osama bin Laden a letter inciting him to take action as it was the perfect time for the organization to lay hand over Sana’a. Bin Laden perceived that establishing an Islamic state in Yemen is now supported by adequate conditions, but he did not find this idea favorable and replied in a letter, whose draft was later on found by the CIA when raiding his place of residence in May 2011.

In his letter, Bin Laden disclosed that al-Qaeda is keen that former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh remains in presidency and that the organization’s interest is embodied in maintaining peace with Saleh although seen as a disbeliever by al-Qaeda.

As for initial reasons, “We should quit thinking regionally. True, there are Sykes–Picot borders but all these borders will vanish when establishing an Islamic state.”

Practical Obstacles

Osama bin Laden called for being rational and not rushing in the establishment of an Islamic state in Yemen because “it will collapse by siege, poverty and negotiations with tribes’ sheikhs to fight us.”

“People perceive the concept of a state in a way that makes the state obliged to provide jobs, something which we can’t do at this stage,” continued bin Laden in his letter. He warned that any Islamic state will face a revolution within days of establishing it, regardless if people support it or not, due to lack of food which means their death.

Al-Qaeda Benefits from Saleh

“I would like to trigger one basic issue, the U.S. and Gulf were in a quest to change the regime of Saleh. This means that they see him an ineligible and they are aware of the huge financial and administrative corruption that urged the spread of Islamic attitudes,” the letter said.

It added, “We can’t spread our message amidst chaos. A country of no ruler to settle security will extract the aggressiveness in people who will have one priority: to protect themselves and their dignity.”

Bin Laden was Right

Bin Laden said several times in his letter that Gulf countries “will not leave the region’s countries without a ruler”. He added, “We support eradication of financial and administrative corruption. People are free to demand their rights. We contribute with the people in objectively criticizing the government without hinting on Saleh being an agent.

Osama Bin Laden’s Son: Misunderstanding Behind Egypt’s Entry Denial

Omar Osama bin Laden

Cairo – Egyptian authorities have denied entry to the son of former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, a local security source said Saturday.

In exclusive comments to Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Omar bin Laden said that there might be a misunderstanding behind the Egyptian authorities’ decision.

“I don’t know the reason behind the Egyptian decision, but I am sure it is a misunderstanding”, Omar said.

Omar bin Laden, a businessman, had arrived at Cairo International Airport late Friday aboard EgyptAir flight from Qatar.

“He was barred from entry after his name was found on a list of people banned from entering the country,” the source said anonymously because he was unauthorized to speak to media.

According to the source, he was deported to Turkey aboard an Istanbul-bound flight.

Omar is Osama Bin Laden’s fourth son. He spent most of his time in Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001. He was one of the direct relatives of Osama to have strongly opposed his father’s actions.

Osama bin Laden was killed at his Pakistani hideout by U.S. commandos in 2011 in a major blow to the militant group, which carried out the Sept. 11 attacks.

Osama bin Laden is believed to have around 20 sons from different marriages, according to Reuters.

Reuters also said that Omar has spent some years of his childhood in Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.

In an interview with Reuters in 2010, Omar said he was working with Saudi Arabia and Iran to end his separation from a group of brothers and sisters that dates back to the chaos in Afghanistan following the al Qaeda attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Omar said bin Laden’s children were trying to be “good citizens of the world” but suffered from the lack of a father and the stigma of being the al Qaeda leader’s children. None were part of al Qaeda, he said at the time.