Syrian national Taha Sobhi Fahla—known by his alias Abu Muhammad al-Adnani—was the spokesman of ISIS and the group’s emir (leader) in Syria.“Terrorist Designation of Abu Mohammed al-Adnani,” U.S. Department of State, August 18, 2014, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/230676.htm; “NARRATIVE SUMMARIES OF REASONS FOR LISTING: QI.A.325.14. ABOU MOHAMED AL ADNANI,” United Nations, August 15, 2014, https://www.un.org/sc/suborg/en/sanctions/1267/aq_sanctions_list/summaries/individual/abou-mohamed-al-adnani. He also reportedly led ISIS’s Emni unit, a cell responsible for exporting terror attacks internationally, including to Paris and Brussels.Rukmini Callimachi, “How a Secretive Branch of ISIS Built a Global Network of Killers,” New York Times, August 3, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/04/world/middleeast/isis-german-recruit-interview.html?_r=0. In June 2014, Adnani publicly proclaimed an Islamic caliphate on ISIS’s behalf, and named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as its so-called caliph (leader of the Caliphate).Edith M. Lederer, “UN approves measure to combat al-Qaida fighters,” Associated Press, August 15, 2014, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/un-approves-measure-combat-al-qaida-fighters; Aaron Y. Zelin, “ISIS Is Dead, Long Live the Islamic State,” Washington Institute, June 30, 2014, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/isis-is-dead-long-live-the-islamic-state.
On August 30, 2016, ISIS’s Amaq news agency reported that Adnani had been “martyred” near Aleppo while “surveying the operations to repel the military campaigns.”Amaq Agency, Telegram post, 1:50 p.m, https://web.telegram.org/#/im?p=c1077979077_8373715439778760227. On September 12, 2016, the Pentagon confirmed that a “U.S. precision airstrike” on August 30 had targeted and killed Adnani. Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook referred to Adnani as ISIS’s “chief propagandist, recruiter and architect of external terrorist operations.”“Statement from Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook on Strike Against ISIL Senior Leader,” Department of Defense, September 12, 2016, http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/941733/statement-from-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-strike-against-isil-senio. The Pentagon’s announcement directly contradicted Russia’s claim on August 31 that its forces had carried out the strike.“IS leader Adnani: Russia says its air strike killed him,” BBC News, August 31, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37234207.
According to the U.S. State Department, Adnani was one of the first foreign fighters to battle Coalition forces in Iraq alongside al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in the early 2000s.“Terrorist Designation of Abu Mohammed al-Adnani,” U.S. Department of State, August 18, 2014, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/230676.htm. During this time, Adnani reportedly met and formed a close relationship with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former leader of AQI who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in 2006. Zarqawi reportedly recruited Adnani into his jihadist group, Ansar al-Islam, in 2002. Adnani was one of the first members of AQI when the group formed in 2004.Michael Weiss, “The ISIS Attack Dog Reported Dead,” Daily Beast, August 30, 2016, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/08/30/the-isis-attack-dog-reported-dead.html?via=desktop&source=twitter.
Adnani was reportedly captured by U.S. troops in 2005 and held until 2010. During this time, he was imprisoned at the U.S.-run Camp Bucca in Iraq, where he reportedly met Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.Tara John, “Everything We Know About ISIS Spy Chief Abu Mohammad al-Adnani,” TIME, August 4, 2016, http://time.com/4438388/abu-mohammad-al-adnani-isis-emni-profile/;
Ali Hashem, “The many names of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” Al Monitor, March 23, 2015, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/en/originals/2015/03/isis-baghdadi-islamic-state-caliph-many-names-al-qaeda.html. Adnani was appointed ISIS’s emir in Syria in early 2013 after ISIS split with the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s former affiliate in Syria.“NARRATIVE SUMMARIES OF REASONS FOR LISTING: QI.A.325.14. ABOU MOHAMED AL ADNANI,” United Nations, August 15, 2014, https://www.un.org/sc/suborg/en/sanctions/1267/aq_sanctions_list/summaries/individual/abou-mohamed-al-adnani. He became known as ISIS’s spokesman in June 2014, when he announced the group’s declaration of the caliphate.Matt Bradley and Ghassan Adnan, “ISIS Spokesman Adnani Wounded in Airstrike Iraq Says,” Wall Street Journal, January 7, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/isis-spokesman-adnani-wounded-in-airstrike-iraq-says-1452203409?cb=logged0.8802728686616703;
Tara John, “These are the Most Wanted Members of ISIS,” TIME, March 15, 2016, http://time.com/4259075/isis-most-wanted-leaders-abu-bakr-al-baghdadi-islamic-state/;
Hania Mourtada and Rick Gladstone, “Iraq’s Branch of Al Qaeda Merges With Syria Jihadists,” New York Times, April 9, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/10/world/middleeast/Iraq-and-Syria-jihadists-combine.html;
Amaq Agency, Telegram post, 1:50 p.m, https://web.telegram.org/#/im?p=c1077979077_8373715439778760227.
Adnani was believed to control nearly all of ISIS’s operations in Syria.Michael Weiss, “The ISIS Attack Dog Reported Dead,” Daily Beast, August 30, 2016, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/08/30/the-isis-attack-dog-reported-dead.html?via=desktop&source=twitter. He was tasked with leading ISIS’s Emni unit, which, according to Western intelligence documents, was behind nearly all major ISIS attacks in the West since at least early 2014, including the Paris attacks in November 2015 and the Brussels attacks in March 2016. Adnani was also believed to coordinate the movement of ISIS fighters, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.“Statement by Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook on Precision Airstrike Targeting Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani,” Department of Defense, August 30, 2016, http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/930843/statement-by-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-precision-airstrike-targeti. According to former ISIS member Harry Sarfo, Adnani was the head of ISIS’s so-called “special forces.” “Everything goes back to [Adnani],” Sarfo told the New York Times in early August 2016.Rumini Callimachi, “How a Secretive Branch of ISIS Built a Global Network of Killers,” New York Times, August 3, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/04/world/middleeast/isis-german-recruit-interview.html.
In addition to leading the Emni unit inside ISIS-controlled territory, Adnani was known for his fiery rhetorical skills and for urging ISIS sympathizers in the West to carry out lone-wolf attacks.“Islamic State: Abu Muhammad al-Adnani ‘killed in Aleppo,’” BBC News, August 30, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-37224570. In September 2014, ISIS released a speech by Adnani in which he called on Muslims in the West to target civilians and military personnel in their own countries. Adnani declared: “If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be.”Caleb Weiss, “Islamic State spokesman again threatens West in new speech,” Long War Journal, September 21, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/09/islamic_state_spokesman_again.php.
Adnani again called on followers to attack civilians in the West in May 2016. In a speech titled “That They Live by Proof,” Adnani said, “The smallest bit of work that you can carry out in their countries is far better and beloved to us than any major [operations] here. [These operations] would be of much success and more harmful to them.”“ISIS Spokesman Al-'Adnani Urges 'Caliphate Soldiers,' ISIS Supporters To Target Civilians In Europe, U.S. During Ramadan,” MEMRI, May 21, 2016, http://www.memrijttm.org/isis-spokesman-al-adnani-urges-caliphate-soldiers-isis-supporters-to-target-civilians-in-europe-us-during-ramadan.html.
When Adnani announced the formation of the so-called caliphate in June 2014, he was reported to be the only Syrian among ISIS’s top leaders, the rest of whom were Iraqi.“Who are ISIS’ top 20 leaders?” Al Arabiya English, September 19, 2014, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/09/19/Meet-ISIS-top-20-leaders.html. Before Adnani’s death, analysts suggested that he would lead ISIS in the case of Baghdadi’s death.Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister, and Michael Weiss, "Who might lead ISIS if al-Baghdadi dies?," CNN, July 2, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/11/middleeast/isis-leadership/. He was designated as a terrorist by the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Treasury Department, the United Nations, and the United Kingdom.“Counter Terrorism Designations,” US Department of the Treasury, August 18, 2014, http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20140818.aspx;
“Terrorist Designation of Abu Mohammed al-Adnani,” U.S. Department of State, August 18, 2014, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/230676.htm;
“Security Council Adopts Resolution 2170 (2014) Condemning Gross, Widespread Abuse of Human Rights by Extremist Groups in Iraq, Syria,” UNSCR Press Release, August 15, 2014, http://www.un.org/press/en/2014/sc11520.doc.htm;
“CONSOLIDATED LIST OF FINANCIAL SANCTIONS TARGETS IN THE UK,” GOV.UK, last modified September 3, 2014, http://hmt-sanctions.s3.amazonaws.com/sanctionsconlist.htm.
The U.S. Department of State designated Abu Mohammed al-Adnani a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224) on August 18, 2014.“Terrorist Designation of Abu Mohammed al-Adnani,” U.S. Department of State, August 18, 2014, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/230676.htm.
The United Nations added Abu Mohammed al-Adnani as an individual associated with Al Qaida: UN 1267/1989 “al-Qa’ida Sanctions list” on August 15, 2014.“Al-Qaida Sanctions List,” United Nations, last modified August 26, 2014, http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/AQList.htm.
The United Nations condemned ISIL and al-Nusrah front and any individuals associated with them on August 15, 2014.“Security Council Adopts Resolution 2170 (2014) Condemning Gross, Widespread Abuse of Human Rights by Extremist Groups in Iraq, Syria,” UNSCR Press Release, August 15, 2014, http://www.un.org/press/en/2014/sc11520.doc.htm.
The United Kingdom designated Abu Mohammed al-Adnani as an Asset Freeze Target on August 15, 2014.“CONSOLIDATED LIST OF FINANCIAL SANCTIONS TARGETS IN THE UK,” GOV.UK, last modified September 3, 2014, http://hmt-sanctions.s3.amazonaws.com/sanctionsconlist.htm.
The European Union added Abu Mohammed al-Adnani to the list referred to in Articles 2, 3 and 7 of Council Regulation (EC) No 881/2002 imposing certain specific restrictive measures directed against certain persons and entities associated with the Al-Qaida network, by virtue of Commission Regulation (EU) No 914/2014 on August 22, 2014.“Notice for the attention of Abdelrahman Mouhamad Zafir al Dabidi al Jahani, Hajjaj Bin Fahd al Ajni, Abou Mohamed al Adnani, Said Arif, Abdul Mohsen Abdallah Ibrahim al Charekh and Hamid Hamad Hamid al-'Ali which were added to the list referred to in Articles 2, 3 and 7 of Council Regulation (EC) No 881/2002 imposing certain specific restrictive measures directed against certain persons and entities associated with the Al-Qaida network, by virtue of Commission Regulation (EU) No 914/2014,” EUR-Lex, August 22, 2014, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=uriserv:OJ.C_.2014.277.01.0012.01.ENG.