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Raqqa docs reveal how ISIS tracked and killed prominent civil activist and lawyer

Local | 2017-01-31 15:03:00
Raqqa docs reveal how ISIS tracked and killed prominent civil activist and lawyer

(Zaman Al Wasl)- Lawyer Abdullah al-Khalil disappeared in mid-May 2013, 75 days after al-Raqqah was liberated and the regime forces expelled.

 Al-Khalil was one of the most prominent figures in the revolutionary movement in al-Raqqah and most of the eastern area. He disappeared, and there is still to date no information about his fate.

Documents reveal how ISIS rules Raqqa since 2013

With the start of the revolution, al-Khalil hastened to announce his alignment with the revolution, a position which he paid for with regime harassment and repeated detention. After al-Raqqah was liberated, al-Khalil took the position of “Local Council President” in Free al-Raqqah, a position that can be equated to that of governor.

Many saw him as a political activist defending freedoms. Others, namely the Islamic State, saw him as a suspicious figure who must be surveilled and written about. Ironically these were the same people with whom al-Khalil celebrated the liberation of al-Raqqah.

Noticeable Indicators

In the following, Zaman al-Wasl will focus on the Islamic State security records from the period when the Islamic State took complete control of the province and expelled all other factions. Abdullah al-Khalil’s name is repeated in the files from that time where he is referred to as a civil society commander. The records mention that he was based in the northern electricity building where he had set up broadcasting equipment and antennas on the roof. Using satellite internet, he was able to communicate with channels and people outside Syria.

New ISIS data leaked by Zaman Al Wasl: documents

The report indicated the presence of armed guards at al-Khalil’s headquarters adding, “The aforementioned, who is head of what is called a youth collective, hung up signs around the city calling for the protection of public institutions. He wrote at the bottom of the signs ‘al-Raqqah Local Council’ on 3 May 2016. The largest meeting for Abdullah al-Khalil was in the education division, al-Saat roundabout, on 15 May 2013. Most of the attendees were youths. The attendees were somewhere between 80-100 people among them, women and young women.”

The second date noted above is just a few days before al-Khalil’s disappearance. On the day of his disappearance, al-Khalil was driving in his car with three other people when a car began following them when they were in front of the Immigration and Passports building. The car followed them until they were opposite the Military Court when it intercepted them. Several people got out of the car. They demanded al-Khalil and the passengers’ identity cards. They then tied their arms and covered their eyes before leading them to an unknown location.

Multiple eye witnesses repeated this story and adopted by the Syrian Committee for Human Rights.

Returning to Islamic State records, al-Khalil’s records are unique among the documents as his file includes detailed notes written in the comment section describing the make and number plates of the cars that frequented al-Khalil’s headquarters. The appearance of these notes in his file and not in others raises questions of why and how this information was useful.

The Islamic State security operative (suggested to be Abu Hamzeh Riyadiyat), meticulously and intentionally wrote the following, “The cars that frequent the Abdullah al-Khalil’s building: Turkish Mercedes driven by a man with a long beard 255502 Aleppo black; Toyota pick-up grey 548166; Chevrolet Deir Ez Zor carrying foreigners 707782, Kia Rio silver al-Raqqah 572672; Honda light green al-Raqqah 660196 mostly driven by Abdullah al-Khalil; Kia white Damascus 524951 new jeep.”

Another document in his file was updated after al-Khalil was kidnapped or vanished as the report author phrased it. In that document, al-Khalil was described as a “Civil Society Commander in al-Raqqah,” but the tone used to describe him was disparaging and insinuated accusations and hearsay. The report described him as, “An opportunistic man who sees himself as a hero or miracle… his foreign ties are unlimited, and he is the Coalition’s representative in al-Raqqah, or he received sums of money from the Coalition.”

The security operative continued accusing al-Khalil of stealing money he was giving and that the ‘Turks’ sent him to al-Raqqah before it was fully liberated so that he would present them with a report about the different actors who participated in liberating the city and the factions which have the most influence on the ground. The Front, a reference to al-Nusra Front, was repeatedly mentioned in the reports.

The frequency indicates that the Islamic State, its commanders and security operatives saw al-Nusra Front as their mirror image, as in without any noticeable differences that require distinction, in contrast to what events a few months later when differences emerged, and they became traitors, apostates and fighting ensued between the two groups.

Returning to the report on al-Khalil’s, it said about his relationship with al-Nusra Front, “Abdullah al-Khalil says that people accuse him of being with the Front, but no one accused him of this. It was his attempt to counter suspicion that he is against the Front… after close observation, we found that his aim is a civil state with an Islamic nature according to him, an absurd idea.”

In another report concentrated on monitoring the affairs of the Free Syrian Army, the Islamic State operative mention al-Khalil’s name in their discussion about Abu Stif, the commander of the Oumana al-Raqqah brigade (Trustees of al-Raqqah Brigade) saying, “He was greatly bothered after Abdullah al-Khalil was kidnapped.” The record indicated the place that he started to sleep in with his guards and that he is “trying to criticize the method,” in a remark indicating that Islamic State’s ideology and formations as there are even some people referred to as the “method fraternity.”

These comments and quotes offer sufficient information to show how the Islamic State imagined and portrayed al-Khalil. Al-Khalil appeared in files were Islamic State operatives were monitoring other people. He appears in the report on Jassem al-Khatib, who was watched by Abu Farah Shuada al-Kassam. The report concerned al-Khatib’s comment in a meeting for Oumana al-Raqqah when in the presence of Abdullah al-Khalil and others he said, “Why do the Ahrar take the bank and the Front the oil… we will cooperate with the European Union and bring drones to bomb their headquarters.” Al-Khatib voiced a direct threat, and those listening to him were implicated If they voiced agreement or remained silent as al-Khalil did.

The accusations listed in the Islamic State security records can be considered an assassination of al-Khalil’s person before he was kidnapped and disappeared from the al-Raqqah scene. It must be noted that many Syrians, and many people from al-Raqqah even, had not heard of al-Khalil until after the start of the revolution in the spring of 2011. Al-Khalil, however, was not only critical of the regime but confronted it in several instances on some of the regime’s most sensitive and dangerous projects and issues.

In 2006, while some people and even Arab governments were boiling over tense news of increasing Iranian activity to make Syrians Shiite, the regime and its intelligence were silencing any voice speaking about the issue. Several media outlets published investigations and reports about this phenomenon, its prevalence, and the ramifications it will have. In one such investigation entitled “Iran’s Strategy to Spread Shi’ism in Syria,” a comment was attributed to lawyer Abdullah al-Khalil saying, “The Syrian government presented the Aweys al-Qarni cemetery in al-Raqqah where one of the Prophet’s companions Ammar Bin Yasser is buried as a gift to the Iranian government. They built a Shiite center on the ruins, and a big mosque named the Ammar Bin Yasser shrine, and it is now a site for turning people to Shiites.”

Al-Khalil continued highlighting the implicit ramifications of this event that the center is considered the first Shiite center in al-Raqqah and that there is a plan to expand it by establishing residences and a market similar to al-Sayeda Rokyha in al-Najaf in Iraq.

Zaman al-Wasl recently obtained an exclusive series of Islamic State documents and records. The documents include information about the Islamic State’s internal order, actors and resource management as well as intelligence documents. Intelligence files were drawn up about a wide array of people civilian, military, public figures, private people, men, and women. The intelligence records highlight the Islamic State’s security operatives involved in surveilling people and the various accusations they made against different people.

Quote: “There were public figures who worked with al-Nusra Front at the time but their orientation was towards the Islamic State. They later seceded and turned to the Islamic State, so the file mixes mentioning the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front according to the involvement of these figures and their loyalty to the two sides.”

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