Writing by Ethar Abdulhaq
(Zaman Al Wasl- Exclusive)- In its most recent issue of its official journal “Dabiq”, Islamic State confirmed death of Abu al-Athir al-Shami, the group's mastermind and effective leader of ISIS-controlled areas in Syria.
Abu Baker al-Baghdadi's first man in SYria, was killed in a U.S.- led airstrike
on al-Shadadi town northeast Syria on March 3, 2016, has paved the way for Isis
and enabled its entrance into Syria. Amr al-Absi, or al-Shami, was the person
initially responsible for transforming Isis from a faction into a “Caliphate
State” where everyone must pledge their loyalty to its Caliphate “Amir
al-Mu'minin” as Isis’s fighters and supporters argue.
announcement about the death of al-Absi brought to the forefront discussions
about a mysterious and highly influential man. Accounts of his history are
contradictory, but it is agreed generally that he is harsh, bloodthirsty, and
has an excessive urge to call for atonement.
In conjunction with the announcement of his death, Zaman al-Wasl went through the intelligence archive at its disposal to extract some information concerning Abu al-Athir, and this is the first time this information is published in the media.
The charm of mystery
Abu al-Athir al-absi appeared 4 times in the intelligence archive, once under the name Omar Absi bin Muhammad and I’timad Termanini and three times under the name Amro Absi bin Muhammad and I’timad. As the archive indicates, he was born in 1985 (and not 1979 as is commonly known), so the man died in his prime (31 years of age). Despite his relatively young age, over the past few years he rose up through the leadership ranks with rocket speed, acquiring acceptance from “Sheikhs” and “elders”.
intelligence archive reveals the existence of 4 warrants issued by the Syrian
regime in the name of al-Absi. Two of the warrants called for his arrest were
distributed by the general intelligence administration in 2012.
warrants were released in a short time span as there are only 53 warrants
between them. In addition, there are two other prior warrants to ban his travel
from Syria that were issued in 2008. These were issued by the intelligence
branch and the military intelligence branch, branch 235 specifically, know
commonly as Palestinian branch which is specialized in following the cases of
In a related
issue, the intelligence archive reveals that there is no blood relationship
between Amro al-Absi and Shaker al-Absi, and that all that unites them is a
resemblance in their surname. Al-Absi senior according to the archive is
Jordanian national of Palestinian origin and born in 1955 to parents Yousef and
Fatima. Al-Absi junior (Amro) is Syrian national born in 1985 to parents
Muhammad and I’timad. The difference in their parents’ names negates the
stories that they are brothers since some tried to promote the story that
Shaker and Amro are half-brothers.
Shaker al-Absi who was arrested by al-Assad’s
intelligence in 2002 and then released, is listed in the intelligence archive
in the lists of those wanted for arrest for two warrants issued by the military
intelligence and political security in the years 2007 and 2009.
is the head of Fatih al-Islam that fought in the bloody confrontations in Nahr
al-Bared camp for Palestinian refugees in Tripoli (Lebanon) in the summer of
Shaker has a prior history which rendered him accused by the Jordanian government of killing an American diplomat in 2002. He was found guilty in absentia and sentenced to death by hanging, the same sentencing Isis’s prominent leader Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi received. It seemed this contributed to increasing the halo around Shaker and later on around Amr who benefited directly or indirectly from the shared surname of al-Absi leaving a wide scope for people to fabricate stories in an atmosphere of charming mystery.
Al Qaeda’s Nucleus
While it is certain that Shaker is not Amro’s brother, not even his half-brother, it is confirmed that Amr has a brother by the name of Firas who is wanted by the military intelligence since the year 2000, so 11 years prior to the start of the revolution.
Firas who was born in 1973 influenced his brother Amr, ideologically and organizationally. It is enough that Firas was the first person to introduce words such as “Jihad” and its derivatives into the names of the military factions in Syria during the revolution. He established what is named “al-Mujahedeen Shura Council” which of course included his brother Amr.
It is also said
that Firas was the first to raise Isis’s black flag in Syria officially and
publically. The flag known in “Jihadist” literature as the “flag of punishment”
was raised above Bab al-Hawa border crossing point after it was liberated from
the regime forces.
In the fall of 2012, Firas was killed in suspicious circumstances, amidst accusation of particular persons and particular brigades’ involvement in his killing. This was a turning point in Amro’s life. As a turning point, it bore resemblance to another turning point in his life that affected his personality following his arrest and imprisonment in Sednaya military prison for several years prior to Bashar al-Assad releasing him as part of a “pardon decree” issued in the summer of 2011. An arrest warrant was issued for him again in 2012, confirming suspicions about the real aims behind the “pardon.”
Following Firas’s death Amr found himself almost automatically in the position of head of “al-Mujahidin Shura Council” which is the hardcore nucleus of Isis on Syrian territory. From the uterus of the council and with its help Isis was born in al-Sham’s soil, developed, and it grew to the point Abu al-Athir became the spiritual father of the Isis branch in Syria.
influence was deeper and more expansive than that, as the youth did not suffice
himself with paving the way for Isis, he also later contributed in anchoring
rules, providing initiatives, and entrenching ways to deal with others.
all helped in drawing Isis’s process and defining its destiny. More dangerous
than these is that it contributed in transforming the Syrian revolutionary
process, and turned many of its balances to the advantage of, deadly, side
conflicts, rather than maintain the focus on the primary conflict between the
regime and the rebels.
A security report written by a former “Salafi” prisoner in Isis’s prisons where he talks about Abu al-Athir but refers to him with the surname of al-Halabi.
"He is the
former governor of Aleppo, a youth who has in him a childishness of mind which
is unimaginable. I saw it during his conversation with me and in his manner of
dealing with others in front of me. These are the deeds that made him a reason
in the sedition that lead to fighting between Isis and other groups.
I do not know if he is pushed by others or this is his individual behavior. He imprisoned al-Sheikh Aba Omar Hussein Rida al-Kuwaiti, student of al-Sheikh Suleiman al-Alwan and al-Sabouni in Isis’s prisons just because he came to him with a comprehensive plan on how to preserve Isis from entering the fighting with the other factions and bring them under Isis’s banner. I do not know if the man is still alive in their prisons or he has been killed.
He has been the reason for the arrest of many of Isis’s young men after the wondrous debate that happened between them, in what they refer to as the exclamation headquarters, on the issue of the prescribed penalities of Allah.
The prisoner al-Sheikh Abi Shuayb al-Masri was the reason that al-Athir was revealed in front of everyone in his desire to not implement Sharia in Levant. He and those with him such as al-Qahtani, al-Iraqi, al-Anbari, Abi Muslim al-Masri, Abi Amar al-Masri and others. He fought them and ran after al-Masri until he arrested him by distributing his name in the Isis check points and security centers. He arrested him al-Raqqah, whose prisons are infamous for being dirtier and filthier than Bashar’s prisons in their dealing with Muslims, accusing them, and torturing them to the point that headquarters came to resemble a torture factory".
On the Security Council Lists
Al-Absi, according to stories, knew of his
urge to call for atonement since his days in Sednaya prison. The regime used
the prisons to foster extremists in order to use them when the time is ready.
It is more than likely that his leaning towards extreme atonement (which in
practice means executing the violator physically or mentally), is what
facilitated Amro’s sudden rise in the ranks of Isis’s leadership and his
membership in the tight circle that gives non-disputable instructions to tens
of thousands of members.
Al-Absi’s influence and his strength began to appear properly in 2012, according to stories that indicate he struck a “master’s strike” by calling al-Nusra Front traitors and not brigade of less jihadi weight. The move may have been to prove to those around him that he is more of a statesman.
Moving from calling al-Nusra Front and its
leader, al-Julani traitors, Amro craved a path into the “al-Baghdadi’s” mind
and heart. Al-Baghdadi appeared to lean towards al-Absi especially after he
suggested to him to come to Syria to oversee the establishment of an entity of
an “international” type.
It is said that when al-Baghdadi came to Syria,
he made sure to meet a limited number of persons, and at their forefront was
Amro al-Absi who provided his obedience and loyalty. He introduced al-Baghdadi
to Omar al-Shishani who voiced his support of al-Baghdadi later on and became
one of his most trusted men to the point he handed him the leadership of Isis’s
Al-absi was rewarded by making him Amir over
“Aleppo province.” When al-Absi’s name was added to the Security Council’s
list, he occupied the position of Amir “Homs province” after Isis had fought
long and hard to expel the rebels.
In the UN resolution whose details Zaman
al-Wasl studied it was mentioned that: “According to the resolution of
paragraph 33 of 2161 resolution (2014)… Amr al-Absi is listed in the list
(related to Isis) on the 29th of September 2015, working from
paragraphs 2 and 4 of resolution 2161 (2014) as someone who is connected to
Isis due to participation in funding activities, or Isis activities, or
planning for these activities, or activities to facilitate, prepare, commit, or
participate with or in his name, or as his representative or in support of
The UN report included “additional information”
about al-Absi: “In the middle of the year 2014, Amro al-Absi was chosen as a
leader for Isis in the province of Homs, in the Syrian Arab Republic. Isis’s
leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, included in the list under the name Ibrahim Awad
Ali al-Badri al-Samarani, had appointed him before that as governor of Aleppo,
in the Syrian Arab Republic.
Al-Absi oversees all of Isis’s operations inside the province, was responsible for kidnapping operations, and named as responsible for the kidnapping. Al-Absi is a member of the governing Isis Shura Council and he is responsible for the media branch of Isis. The Shura Council is responsible for communicating the commands from Isis’ commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Al-Absi’s group was the first branch of Isis in the Syrian Arab Republic, and al-Absi was one of the first leaders who met al-Baghdadi and pledged their allegiance to Isis.”
What made him Syria’s Baghdadi
The information included in the UN security
council text intersects- to a noticeable degree- with what is said about
al-Absi, who has been deeply influential on Isis, and as a result on the Syrian
revolution’s process given the changes in its image and upturning of many of
its balances with the mere entrance of Isis into the field and its line of
atonement and fiercely fighting the factions.
Al-Absi probably had the larger share and
greater contribution in jihadi defections, as he was of the first
and fiercest believers in the atonement approach and branding the brigades
operating on Syrian territory as traitors. He was the one who first branded
al-Nusra Front as traitors and called for their atonement as we mentioned
To avoid discussing him for longer and increasing his popularity, we will present in the following a list of the most important “achievements” and “initiatives” undertaken by al-Absi that altered Isis and had a noticeable effect on the Syrian revolution:
Abu al-Athir was part of a strong nucleus of
Isis in Syrian territory. Where his brother Firas established the
“al-Mujahedeen Shura Council,” Al-Absi made the council influential and a dividing
force between the brigades. He paid attention to “distinguish” his fighters
ideologically which qualified them to be the first effective persons under the
banner of Isis when it expanded to Syria.
Abu al-Athir was responsible for a large number
of dissents that happened in Jihadi brigades, at the forefront al-Nusra Front.
These instances of dissent played an important role in attenuating those
brigades’ positions while strengthening Isis’s position and enlarging its
membership. It also had a deep effect in prolonging the life of Isis after it
was faltering in the shadow of the rebels agreeing to fight it, prior to the
fight being directed to the internal fighting that has been bloody and costly,
not only for brigades but for the Syrian people and their revolution in
Abu al-Athir was the initiator who sparked the
idea in al-Baghdadi’s head to announce the caliphate state. Abu al-Athir saw
that there is no means to confront the Jihadi brigades in Syria and no means to
control them better than Isis announcing itself as the “caliphate state”. In
the process, Isis situates itself at a higher level than any other brigade,
entrenches the idea that it is necessary to pledge support on the basis it is
the awaited caliphate state and its leader is “Amir al-Mu'minin”.
Abu al-Athir placed a financial system for Isis
which made Isis more astute and capable in managing their financial resources
gained from petrol, spoils, and others. There is no doubt excelling in
financial management gave Isis a military and organizational superiority, and
made them capable of extending outside Syria and Iraq to Libya, Yemen, Egypt,
Philippines, and others.
Abu al-Athir is one of the important etchers
and executors of Isis’s “media politics.” It is a politics that enabled them to
recruit tens of thousands of youths from different parts of the world, from
different nationalities and countries, and instilled in their minds the idea
that Isis is the legitimate and exclusive representative for Jihad. Later on,
Isis entrenched the idea that Isis is the exclusive and legitimate
representative to unite Muslims given Isis revived the idea of the caliphate
and embodied it in practice.
Abu al-Athir was one of the first and fiercest instigators and participants in fighting the Syrian revolutionary and jihadi brigades operating on Syrian soil, describing them as representing projects of apostasy and treason. There was no way to deal with these groups other than remove them entirely. There is no need to present here the catastrophic effects on Syria’s people.
Abu al-Athir is one of the executors of gangster style approach to kidnapping, killing hostages or
compromising on them financially. In this regard, al-Absi reserves an advanced
seat for himself, as Aleppo became during his time as Amir a hotbed for Mafias
working in kidnapping and human trafficking. Al- Absi, according to reports,
oversaw kidnapping operations and the buying of journalists and aid workers;
the most famous of them being the American journalist James Foley and the
British volunteer aid worker Alan Henning whose executions were documented by
video during which Muhammad Emwazi, nicknamed Jihadi John appears. Al-Absi
contributed to Emwazi’s dissent from al-Nusra Front in 2013 for him to come
under al-Absi’s command and one of the bloodiest persons in Isis.
Abu al-Athir once studied computer engineering in Union University, a private University in Aleppo, before the regime placed him in the “university of Sednaya.” Abu al-Athir was bloody to a dangerous degree, but he was also apparently drawing independent plans, had vision in attracting and recruiting the proper people for his personal outlook and Isis’s outlook.
Dabiq revealed in its final issue, in a subject discussing the Brussels cell that Najm al-Ashrawi nicknamed Abu Idris al-Belgiki who was one al-Absi’s students from the days of the al-Mujahedeen Shura Council. The journal described al-Ashrawi: “He began his migration in 2012 when he heard the cries of Muslims in Damascus. He joined the al-Mujahedeen Shura Council under the leadership of Abi al-Athir al-Absi before pledging his support to the Islamic state and fighting against the traitor al-Joulani.”
For this and
other reasons, Amro al-Absi deserved the title of the second Baghdadi, or
Syria’s Baghdadi given the trace his left on Isis before meeting his end in
al-Shaddadi in al-Hasakeh province in an airstrike that was mostly likely
conducted by NATO airplanes on the 3rd of March 2016. It is worth
noting that the Syrian center for documenting violations contradicted this
story and said al-Absi died during cross fire during clashes with the regime
To view ISIS leaks HERE