Schlagwort-Archive: Jordanien

Daten gegen Dschihadisten

Von Florian Flade

Bei der Operation „Gallant Phoenix“ sammeln Militärs, Geheimdienste und Polizeibehörden aus 27 Ländern Informationen über IS-Terroristen. Auch Deutschland ist dabei.

Eine kleine, internationale Gemeinschaft ist hier entstanden. Auf einer Militärbasis nahe der jordanischen Stadt Zarqa, nordöstlich der Hauptstadt Amman. Soldaten, Geheimdienstler und Polizisten aus der ganzen Welt sind hier stationiert, machen gemeinsam Sport, treffen sich zum Grillen. Auch Beamte aus Deutschland sind dabei, vom Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) und vom Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND). Sie sind Teil einer geheimen Militäroperation, die Terroranschläge verhindern und Terroristen ins Gefängnis bringen soll – der Operation „Gallant Phoenix“.

Es ist ein Projekt unter Federführung des US-Militärs, ins Leben gerufen schon im Jahr 2013, um die ausländischen Terrorkämpfer („Foreign Terrorist Fighters“) in den Blick zu nehmen, die nach Syrien und in den Irak zogen. Bereits ein Jahr später waren weitere Nationen an der Operation beteiligt, richtig los ging es jedoch erst im Jahr 2016, nach den verheerenden Terroranschlägen in Paris und Brüssel mit mehr als 130 Toten. Mittlerweile ist „Gallant Phoenix“ zu einer einzigartigen Austauschplattform für Behörden aus rund zwei Dutzend Ländern herangewachsen – und zur größte Datenbank mit Material der Terrormiliz „Islamischer Staat“ (IS).  Weiterlesen

Death Of A Online-Jihadi – From Cyberspace To Battlefield

by Florian Flade

Cyber Jihadi Abu Kandahar az-Zarqawi

„Remember the name Abu Kandahar al-Zarqawi. You´ll be hearing that name again“, Evan Kohlmann, American Terrorism Consultant and founder of „Flashpoint Partners“ told the New York Magazine early December, „He´s lining up to be the next Humam al-Balawi (Jordanian suicide bomber that attacked CIA Khost base).“

Once again, Kohlmann, the leading expert on Jihadi online activities, was right. Last weekend the name „Abu Kandahar az-Zarqawi“ appeared again, in the online forums when the al-Qaida sympathizers and cyberspace mujahideen applauded the martyrdom death of one their own. Known by his kunya or nome de-guerre Abu Kandahar from Zarqa (Jordanian town), the person behind that name was a Jordanian al-Qaida supporter dedicated to jihad on the internet and willing to die on the real battlefields. His civilian name was Haitham Bin Muhammad al-Khayat.

For years, al-Khayat used the pseudonym „Abu Kandahar“ to spread jihadi propaganda messages in the most influential Arabic-speaking online forums. He acted as a administrator and moderator in the now closed Al-Ekhlaas and Al-Fallujah forums, and gathered a quiet significant fan base of al-Qaida sympathizers. „Distinguished Pen“, the Al-Ekhlaas forum named al-Hayat and gave him authority to write as a main contributor to the jihadi online network.

On August 24th 2008, „Abu Kandahar az-Zarqawi“ posted a message on Al-Ekhlaas informing the members of the death of one forum member called „Abu Hurayrah 2“, who was killed fighting alongside al-Qaeda militants in northern Iraq. Abu Kandahar told the other forum members that he had received a letter from Iraq informing him about the death of fellow online jihadi „Abu Hurayrah 2“. This was one of the first signals that this jihadi supporter sitting in front of his computer was in fact in touch with those actively fighting Jihad. Abu Kandahar´s contacts with real terrorists not only the cyberspace wannebees became more obvious in the years to come.

Probably the most famous online Jihadi turned into an actual terrorist – Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi known in the cyberspace world as „Abu Dujanah al-Khorasani“ – carried out a devastating suicide bombing in Khost, East Afghanistan, on December 30th 2009. Al-Balawi´s victims were CIA operatives, a team of al-Qaeda experts and terrorist-hunters stationed near the border to Pakistan, gathering information on al-Qaeda terrorists and giving target information to the CIA´s deadly drone project. The Jordanian al-Balawi rose to the highest levels of online Jihadi importance, standing out of the mass because of his poetic messages urging Muslims to fight Jihad. Jordan´s intelligence agency became aware of the increasingly celebrated online Jihadi „Abu Dujanah“ and recruited him to infiltrate al-Qaeda.

Humam al-Balawi was turned into a spy and sent to North Waziristan, Pakistan, to join al-Qaeda. Without realizing their mistake, the Jordanians fulfilled al-Balawi´s dream of a lifetime and made him a real Mujahed on the battlefield. Contrary to what the Jordanian intelligence agents thought, al-Balawi never sold his loyalty but told al-Qaeda about who and why they had sent him to Waziristan. In cooperation with the Pakistani Tehrik e-Taliban, al-Balawi planned an attack on the counter-terrorism team. He succeeded in convincing the Jordanians to bring him to the CIA team stationed in Afghanistan. When he arrived at that base, the whole crew showed up excited about the new information al-Balawi would reveal. Instead, the Jordanian double-agent detonated an explosive device and killed seven CIA agents and an Jordanian intelligence official.

Eleven days after al-Balawi had carried out the suicide attack in Khost, his online propagandist colleague and fellow Jordanian „Abu Kandahar az-Zarqawi“ posted the martyrdom message the suicide bomber.“Beware, beware that you are satisfied with writing on the forums without going to the battlefield in the cause of Allah“, Abu Kandahar quoted al-Balawi, „Running away from hell-fire and gaining paradise is a personal matter that concerns only you. I see no path to this except for death in the cause of Allah.“

Abu Kandahar, it became clearer from the postings that followed, admired the CIA attacker al-Balawi. While most of those Islamist active in the Jihadi forums are only supporting Jihadi with their writings and spreading of propaganda and the message of fighting as a duty ordered by Allah, al-Balawi alias „Abu Dujanah al-Khorasani“ had acted. „Writers can create something big, but under one condition: They die so that their thoughts can live“, Abu Kandahar wrote, „Do not forget his (al-Balawi´s) will and go on his path.“

Certainly Abu Kandahar did not forget al-Balawi´s plea. After years of acting as the cyberspace ambassador for global Jihad, he wanted to fight and experience the battlefield first-hand. Sitting in front of the computer screen was no longer satisfying as the wish for the martyr´s death – even before al-Balawi carried out the attack on the CIA base – grew. In September 2009, the CIA-bomber posted a message saying „brother Abu Kandahar“ arrived in Waziristan. Some months later, in April 2010, Abu Kandahar was interviewed by „Global Islamic Media Front“ (GIMF) and urged Muslims of Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Jordan to start a guerilla war with sniper attacks, assassinations and IED attacks.

Last Sunday, a online jihadi named „Raheeg“ posted a message stating Abu Kandahar az-Zarqawi had become a martyr in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region without naming details or circumstances of his death. Soon the online Jihadi community rushed to congratulate the Jordanian to his martyrdom and celebrate the death of one of their own, a fellow writer and propagandist.

With Abu Kandahar, a close associate of CIA suicide bomber al-Balawi turned the latter´s message of „die so that your thoughts can live“ into reality. The case shows the path from cyberspace to real battlefield is not an impossible journey but rather worrying reality as numerous other internet activists will highlight Abu Kandahar´s story as an example to follow.

Online forums remain a window into the world of actual terrorism even if most of the members of the various forums will never turn their words of hatred into reality. Some are writing their way into martyrdom, creating a new practice where the Jihadi writer needs to sacrifice himself to his own message otherwise words will always remain words.

The Prison-Shaykh

by Florian Flade

A few days ago news out of Jordan spread through Jihadi online forums and later even made it in Western mainstream news – as a small note „Terror-Shaykh arrested“.

Issam Muhammad Tahir al-Barqawi has been arrested in Jordan last Friday – again. He had not returned home, family members told the media.
It is the fourth time al-Barqawi was detained since the 1990s. Years of abuse in prison cells had not changed the preacher´s view on Jihad previously, why should it now?.

All that does not sound that unusual for a cleric of the militant Salafi movement. The problem is: Isam Muhammad Tahir al-Barqawi better known as Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi is not a usual clerical figure.

The Palestinian-Jordanian cleric is widely regarded as the most influential Jihadi intellectual of our days. He is the most important theological-philosophical pillar of today´s Salafi Jihadi movement, ranging from small militant factions in Gaza and the Levant to al-Qaeda´s worldwide network and radical Jihadi loners around the globe.

In a 2006 study on trends in radical Islam, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi is identified as „the most influential living Jihadi Theorist“.

„Maqdisi is part of a new trend revealed by our data: there has been a shift in intellectual influence from laymen in Egypt (like Sayyid Qutb) to formally trained clerics from Palestine (often living in Jordan) and Saudi Arabia“, the report says.

„By all measures, Maqdisi is the key contemporary ideologue in the Jihadi intellectual universe — he is the primary broker between the Medieval Authorities, the Conservative Scholars, and the Saudi Establishment Clerics on the one hand, and the Jihadi Theorists on the other“, the study coordinated by Jarret Brachman, expert on Jihad ideology figures.

Who is Shaykh al-Maqdisi?

Al-Maqdisi, born 1959 in Barqa near the Westbank town of Nablus, has put himself in the position of a „writing warrior“ for the Jihadi cause.
His family fled Palestine when he was a four-year old boy, moving to Kuwait. There he got in touch with radical rejectionist groups like „Ahl ul-Hadith“, a movement allied with Juhayman al-Utaybi, the leader of a ultra-religious Salafi group who occupied the Grand Mosque of Mecca in 1979.

Influenced by the Salafi, Anti-Government movements emerging in Saudi-Arabia and Kuwait in the 1970s, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, experienced his first own radicalization when he moved to Mosul in northern Iraq to study at the local University. In Mosul, native and foreign radical Islamist theologists shaped his way of thinking about religion and politics.

Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi became an outspoken enemy of the Iraqi Baath regime and was arrested and sent to Saudi-Arabia in 1984, where he first settled in Mecca and later in Medinah.
At the University of Medinah al-Maqdisi intensively studied the work Saudi cleric Muhammad Ibn Abdel Wahhab and supported Abdel Wahhabs idea of returning to strict 7th century Islam without Western influence.

Writing his own theological texts and essays, al-Maqdisi very soon became a famous yet amateurish Salafi ideologue in the Middle East.

In the 1980s al-Maqdisi made connections with Islamic relief organizations operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He travelled to Peshawar in 1988 to follow the stream of young Jihadis from the Middle East who went to the Hindukush to fight the invading Soviet Army in Afghanistan.

Among the Arab Mujaheddin, al-Maqdisi rose to the position of a well-regarded prominent War-Cleric, preaching Jihad against the atheist communists and corrupt Arab regimes.

Meeting Bin Laden

The Palestinian Salafi preacher met a fellow countryman, Dr.Abdullah Azzam, the first Jihadi cleric of his generation. Azzam was the driving intellectual force behind the foreign jihadis coming to Afghanistan and he was the main spiritual mentor of Osama Bin Laden.

In 1988, one Arab Mujahid remembers, al-Maqdisi, Abdullah Azzam and Bin Laden had dinner in one house in Islamabad, sharing their view of Jihad.

Al-Maqdisi moved to Jordan in the early 1990s and began his work as a preacher in different mosques in the country. Jordanian authorities were concerned about the 32-year old Salafi cleric and monitored his lecturing activities closely. The Palestinian had just published a book titled „Democracy is a Religion“ in which he said the doomed citizens of democratic countries were „kuffar“.

Besides his preachings Abu Muhammed al-Maqdisi was also actively recruiting young Jordanians to join the al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. Those Jordanian, Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian veterans returning from the battlefields in Afghanistan, al-Maqdisi contacted to form terror cells in the region.

Becoming Zarqawi´s mentor

Eventually, in April 1994, al-Maqdisi was arrested and sent to notorious Suwaqah prison for inciting violent Jihad and calls to topple the Jordanian government. In prison he shared cells with a young Jordanian veteran of the Afghanistan Jihad named Ahmad Fadil al-Khalaila alias „Abu Musab az-Zarqawi“ . Both men had met in Pakistan for the first time and became like father and son.

Az-Zarqawi had returned to Jordan from Afghanistan in 1993. He was excited to reunite with al-Maqdisi who was his intellectual godfather. The spiritual Warrior-Shaykh al-Maqdisi and the former criminal turned Jihadi soldier az-Zarqawi formed a small terror group to carry out attacks in Jordan against American and Israeli targets.

Five days prior the Jordanian police´s arrest of Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi in March 1994, az-Zarqawi was detained for planned terror attacks.
While in prison the two radicals began to influence cellmates, building up a hierachry of prisoners ruled by Sharia.

„The brothers elected me as their Emir“, al-Maqdisi later recalled time in Suwaqah, „I was the leader for about one year, then I focussed on religion. I decided to pass the leadership to Zarqawi. This was not the result of an argument between us. We just wanted to act like one voice, one leadership, in talks with the prison guards.“

Al-Maqdisi continued writing about theology and Jihadi theory while in prison, giving theological advice to Zarqawi and his followers. What Azzam was to Bin Laden, al-Maqdisi was to Zarqawi – one was the thinker, the other acted.

When King Hussein of Jordan died in 1999, the new monarch ruling in Amman, King Abdullah, pardoned most political prisoners, including radical Salafis like al-Maqdisi and Zarqawi.
Both were among those 3,000 prisoners released in March 1999 as part of the new government´s Royal Amnesty.

The Student Becomes Mass-Murderer

Abu Musab az-Zarqawi did not feel safe in Jordan, he knew all his activities were monitored by the Jordanian intelligence. So he left for Afghanistan, first traveling through Iran into Pakistan joining with the al-Qaeda forces of Osama Bin Laden and Ayman az-Zawahiri.

His spiritual guide, Shaykh al-Maqdisi, instead stayed in Jordan, returning to writing theological essays, some of which were later discovered in the Hamburg flat of the 9/11 Hijacker cell.

Due to al-Maqdisi´s continued preaching against corrupt un-islamic regimes, including that of King Abdullah of Jordan, al-Maqdisi was rearrested on charges of supporting terror attacks against Western targets in the country.

During his second term in jail, al-Maqdisi witnessed his ambitious student az-Zarqawi rising in the ranks of al-Qaeda, becoming the group´s Emir in Iraq after the US-invasion in 2003.
As al-Qaeda´s general in Iraq, az-Zarqawi was building up a powerful and deadly terror network, kidnapping Western hostages and killing them personally by beheading them in front of a video camera.

Az-Zarqawi´s brutality and growing aggression against Iraqi Shiites led al-Maqdisi to condemn his acts. Out of his prison cell in Jordan, al-Maqdisi urged az-Zarqawi to stop the borderless bloodshed of civilians and stick to the moral rules of Jihad, outlines by late Abdullah Azzam in the 1980s.

Al-Maqdisi distanced himself from the al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, saying he does not agree with az-Zarqawi´s line on killing as many Shiites as possible and thereby triggering an Iraqi civil war in which US troops would suffer heavily.

In Juli 2005, Jordan released al-Maqdisi, telling him not to publish any literature calling for Jihad. After he gave an interview to Arab TV channel Al Jazeera in the very same month, Jordan authorities detained the cleric again. He had called Osama Bin Laden a „Shaykh“ in the interview and told about abuse and torture in Jordanian prison cells which only hardens the Salafi belief in political revolution meaning the implementation of Sharia in the Arab states.


Three years without trial, then came the second release of al-Maqdisi from a Jordanian jail in March 2008. Meanwhile the Jihadi mentor had built up a significant supporter and sympathizer community on the internet.
On his own website „tawheed“, al-Maqdisi was uploading hundreds of books and documents dealing with the religious justification for jihad. Fatwas were issued, comments written about actual political events in Iraq and Afghanistan.

„Battle-hardened“ by his time in prison Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi rose to prominence in the online-jihad community, outrunning the other al-Qaeda linked clerics of his time like Abu Musab as-Suri.

Some of the Zarqawi and al-Qaeda supporters suspected al-Maqdisi of being to soft in his stand on the Shiite question. Prison had made him a regime-loyal preacher, many jihadis claimed. To defend himself against these claims, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi quoted US-based think-tanks and terrorism reports in which he was named as the top influential Jihadi theologist.

His own son was killed recently in Iraq in clashes with U.S. forces, showing the radical theology of the scholar had a clear impact on his own family, reaching far outside of his Jordanian residence.

A Salafi group in Belgium called „Sharia4Belgium“ asked for al-Maqdisi´s advice on how to act in their strife to implement Quranic law in Europe. Other online activists wanted to know what is the best way to support the mujahideen in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Why Re-Arrested?

Now the Jordanian authorities decided it was time for al-Maqdisi to spend another round in prison. Why he was arrested this time, remains unknown. Officially the fact he wrote a book critical of Arab regimes, mainly the Saudi monarchy and Egyptian government, was named as the reason to detain al-Maqdisi this time.

„I am innocent of what you worship besides Allah, your corrupt laws, the ideologies, constitutions and principles of your rotten governments, your courts, slogans and media.“ – Maqdisi wrote in his latest book about the As-Saud-monarchy.

The big question is: Does throwing the radical cleric into Jordanian dungeons over and over again, solve the problem?
Al-Maqdisi remains a strong symbol as well as a powerful influence on al-Qaeda´s newest generation. Remember what happened when a street criminal, tattooed alcoholic from poor Zarqa town met the charismatic Palestinian preacher. Prison intensified their relationship and opened the doors for al-Maqdisi to brainwash numerous young men who felt the regime´s oppression physically and psychologically every day.

Al-Qaeda´s most blood-thursty radical was al-Maqdisi´s most ambitious student – for sure he was not the last one.