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Abu Musab al-Suri

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Abu Musab al-Suri

Mustafa Setmariam Nasar
Born c. 1958
Aleppo, Syria
Other names kunya: Abu Musab al-Suri,[1]
Umar Abd al-Hakim,[2][3]
Occupation none
Children 4
Mustafa bin Abd al-Qadir Sitt Maryam Nasar (Arabic: مصطفى بن عبد القادر ست مريم نصار‎, also known as Abu Musab al-Suri) is a suspected al-Qaeda member and writer. He has held Spanish citizenship since the late 1980s following marriage to a Spanish woman.[4]

He is considered by many as 'the most articulate exponent of the modern jihad and its most sophisticated strategies'.[4] [5]

Nasar was reportedly captured in the Pakistani city of Quetta in late October 2005, although exactly where and when is disputed.[1] He was captured by Pakistani security forces and handed over to American custody a month or so later. He was not among the 14 high-profile al-Qaida suspects transferred to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in late 2006, and it appears that Nasar was renditioned to Syria,[5] where he was a wanted man.[6] He is also wanted in Spain for the 1985 El Descanso bombing, which killed eighteen people, and (as a witness)[3] in connection with the 2004 Madrid train bombings.[6]

Life

Nasar has ginger hair, green eyes, and a brown complexion. He was born and grew up in Aleppo in Syria, and attended four years of university studies there at the University of Aleppo's Department of mechanical engineering. In 1980, he joined the Combatant Vanguard organisation, a radical offshoot of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, which was at the forefront in the Islamic uprising in Syria against Hafez Assad's regime. Nasar was forced to flee Syria at the end of 1980. He then joined the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood organisation in exile, receiving training at their bases and safe houses in Iraq and Jordan. He is reported to have participated in the uprising of Hama in 1982.[4] He emigrated to France and later to Spain in the mid-1980s.

In 1987, Nasar and a small group of Syrian friends left Spain for Peshawar where they met Abdallah Azzam, the godfather of the Arab-Afghan movement. Nasar was enlisted as a military trainer at the camps for Arab volunteer fighters, and he also fought at the frontlines against Soviet Union in Afghanistan and the Communist regime in Kabul after the Soviet withdrawal in 1988.

Nasar met Osama bin Laden in Peshawar and claims to have been a member of his inner circle and working for bin Ladin until sometime around 1992, when Nasar returned to Spain. In Peshawar, Nasar became well-known under his pen name Umar Abd al-Hakim after he published a 900 page treatise in May 1991, entitled 'The Islamic jihadi revolution in Syria’, also known as 'the Syrian Experience' (al-tajrubah al-suriyyah). The treatise was a vehement attack on the Muslim Brotherhood and constituted an important part of the intellectual foundation for al-Qaida and the jihadi current during the 1990s.

From 1985 to 1995 Nasar adopted Spain as his primary place of residence, even though he traveled extensively and spent much time in Afghanistan. In Spain, he married his wife Elena Moreno in 1987 (or 88), who converted to Islam, which allowed him to become a Spanish citizen. They have four children.

Among his associates there were Imad Eddin Yarkas alias Abu Dahdah, head of al-Qaeda's Madrid cell, who was arrested in November 2001, on suspicion of membership in al-Qaida and of involvement in the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States. He was later acquitted of charges of assisting the 9/11 plotters, but convicted of membership in a terrorist organization.

Nasar first moved to London in 1994, and brought his family along in mid-1995. It is possible that he fled Spain because of suspicions he was involved in the 1995 Islamist terror bombings in France. For a time Nasar edited al-Ansar, the most important jihadi magazine at the time, with ties to the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA). Nasar left the journal in 1996 partly due to disagreements with the new GIA leadership in Algeria and partly as a result of a conflict with its chief editor, Umar Mahmud Uthman Abu Umar, better known as Abu Qatada al-Filastini. The latter is widely regarded as al-Qaeda's principal cleric in Europe.[7]

In 1997, Nasar established a media company called Islamic Conflict Studies Bureau with Mohamed Bahaiah. Through this media office he facilitated two important media events for bin Ladin in Afghanistan, in particular Peter Bergen's famous CNN interview with bin Laden in March 1997.[1]

In the autumn of 1997 Nasar left London for Afghanistan, operating initially as a lecturer and trainer in the Arab-Afghan camps and guesthouses. He settled there with his family in 1998. In 1999 he formed a media and research center in Kabul and in 2000 he was allowed to open his own training camp, the al-Ghuraba Camp, located in Kargha, near Kabul. Nasar's camp was formally part of Taliban's Ministry of defense, and separate from al-Qaida and bin Ladin's organization, whom he had fallen out with in 1998. In a seven-page letter from mid-1998, Nasar launched scathing criticism of bin Ladin for his disdain al-Qaeda has shown towards the Taliban leadership of Afghanistan, including Mullah Omar. He is also highly critical of their strategies, and has denounced al-Qaeda's 1998 attacks on the US embassies in East Africa, and the 11 September attack on New York's Twin Towers, which he argues put a catastrophic end to the jihadi cause.[4]

Due to his prolific writings on strategic and political issues, and his guerrilla warfare experience, Nasar was a popular lecturer and to a certain degree an unofficial adviser for a wide range of jihadi groups in Afghanistan. Organizationally, however, he remained a rather independent figure. While some reports have linked him to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who later led al-Qaeda's component of the insurgency in Iraq, his network of contacts was much wider, and included jihadis from Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraqi Kurdistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Uzbekistan, and elsewhere. Media reports have also alleged that one of his associates, the Moroccan Amer Azizi, (Uthman al-Andalusi), had met 11 September organizers Mohamed Atta and Ramzi bin al-Shibh in Tarragona, Spain weeks before the attacks, but this seems to be incorrect.

Nasar's best known work is the 1600-page book The Global Islamic Resistance Call (Da'wat al-muqawamah al-islamiyyah al-'alamiyyah) which appeared on the Internet in December 2004 or January 2005.[6] In it author Lawrence Wright reports that Nasar

'proposes that the next stage of jihad will be characterized by terrorism created by individuals or small autonomous groups (what he terms `leaderless resistance') which will wear down the enemy and prepare the ground for the far ambitious aim of waging war on `open fronts' .... `without confrontation in the field and seizing control of the land, we cannot establish a state, which is the strategic goal of the resistance.'

The American occupation of Iraq, he declares, inaugurated a `historical new period' that almost single-handedly rescued the jihadi movement just when many of its critics thought it was finished.[7]

In September 2003, Spanish magistrate Baltasar Garzon indicted 35 members of the Madrid cell for its role in the 11 September attacks, including Nasar. In November 2004, the United States Department of State named Nasar a Most Wanted Terrorist and offered a reward of US$5 million for information about his location.[8]

Reports of secret detention on Diego Garcia and subsequent transfer to Syria

There have been persistent reports that he was one of the ghost prisoners held in secret detention on Diego Garcia.[9]

Reportedly ran a Kabul guesthouse

On 19 January 2009, FBI interrogator Robert Fuller testified during a hearing before Canadian Omar Khadr's Guantanamo military commission that Khadr during interrogations in October 2002 Khadr confessed to staying at a Kabul guest house run by "Abu Musab al-Suri".[10] Fuller testified that Khadr said he saw fellow Canadian Maher Arar at this guest house. This report stirred controversy in Canada, because an official inquiry had cleared Arar of all the US justification for his extraordinary rendition to Syria, where he was tortured. In particular, his assertion that he had never been to Afghanistan.

Spain requests information on his current location

On 14 April 2009, Spanish magistrate Baltazar Garzon sent out queries as to Nasar's location.[11] Daniel Wodlls, reporting for the Associated Press, reported that Garzon queried Britain, the USA, Pakistan, Syria and Afghanistan. The report stated US officials have confirmed that Nasar was apprehended in Quetta, Pakistan in November 2005. The Spanish newspaper El País attributed Garzon's query United States President Barack Obama's announcement that the Guantanamo detention camp, that the CIA's black sites would be closed.

Publication of articles in Inspire

In June 2010, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was reported to have published Inspire magazine – its first English language publication.[12] It contained an article published under the name Abu Mu'sab al-Suri.[13] This article was the beginning of a series entitled: "The Jihadi experiences". Further articles in this series appeared in the next 5 issues of Inspire. These excerpts were copied from a translation of "The Global Islamic Resistance Call" which appeared in a biography of Abu Musab al-Suri. [14]

Reports of release from detention

In late 2011 rumours emerged that Abu Musab al-Suri had been released from a Syrian jail.[15] This appeared to receive confirmation in early 2012 by a posting on an alleged al Qaeda linked web forum.[16]

References

Further reading

  • Lia, Brynjar Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of Al Qaeda Strategist Abu Mus'ab Al-Suri (2008), Columbia University Press ISBN 978-0-231-70030-6
  • Lacey, Jim, ed. A Terrorist's Call to Global Jihad: Deciphering Abu Musab al-Suri's Islamic Jihad Manifesto (2008), Naval Institute Press ISBN 978-1-59114-462-5

External links

  • Secret Prisons and Gag Orders Continue Under Obama The New American 10 August 2009
  • Brynjar Lia, Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of Al Qaeda Strategist Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri (London & New York: Hurst & Columbia Univ. Press, 2007)
  • The Al-Qaida strategist Abu Musab al-Suri: A profile (FFI-Paper by Dr. Brynjar Lia, 15 March 2006)
  • Brynjar Lia, Al-Suri's Doctrines for Decentralized Jihadi Training – Part 1-2, Terrorism Monitor (Jamestown Foundation) 02/01/2007
  • Lorenzo Vidino, 21 May 2004
  • Sunday Times profile by Nick Fielding and Gareth Walsh, 10 July 2005
  • CNN.com profile by Henry Schuster, 9 March 2006
  • Washington Post profile by Craig Whitlock, 23 May 2006
  • The New Yorker by Lawrence Wright, 4 September 2006
  • Fourth-generation warfare and the international jihad Jane's Intelligence Review, 26 September 2006

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