Abu Usama al-Gharib

Abu Usama al-Gharib, previously known as Mohamed Mahmoud, is an Austrian-born ex-convict of Egyptian parentage and a foreign fighter and propagandist for ISIS.“Austrian jihadist poses in front of corpses,” Local (Stockholm), November 5, 2014, http://www.thelocal.at/20141105/austrian-jihadist-poses-in-front-of-corpses. According to terrorism expert Guido Steinberg of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), al-Gharib is “an enormously important figure… [despite] his somewhat ridiculous appearances on the Internet.”“Austrian jihadist poses in front of corpses,” Local (Stockholm), November 5, 2014, http://www.thelocal.at/20141105/austrian-jihadist-poses-in-front-of-corpses.

Al-Gharib has a long history of associations with other extremist Islamist groups and leaders. According to a detailed New York Times account, al-Gharib has a “virtual Rolodex of Qaeda leadership connections….”Souad Mekhennet, “Austrian Returns, Unrepentant, to Online Jihad,” New York Times, November 15, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/16/world/europe/austrian-returns-to-online-jihad.html?_r=0. In 2007, he was convicted and sentenced to a four-year prison term in Austria for actively supporting al-Qaeda and its affiliates. Shortly after his release in September 2011, he started the Millatu-Ibrahim group with the stated goal of improving treatment of Islamist prisoners, especially females.Souad Mekhennet, “Austrian Returns, Unrepentant, to Online Jihad,” New York Times, November 15, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/16/world/europe/austrian-returns-to-online-jihad.html?_r=0. Despite its purportedly benign goals, German authorities carried out nationwide raids on its offices in 2012 prior to banning Millatu-Ibrahim for promoting extremism and violence.“Major Police Raids: Salafist Organization Banned in Germany,” Spiegel (Hamburg), June 14, 2012, http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/germany-bans-salafist-organization-and-stages-police-raids-a-838832.html.

Al-Gharib appeared to renounce his Austrian citizenship by burning his passport in a posted video in March 2013.“Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM) Weekend Summary,” Middle East Media Research Institute, March 23, 2013, http://www.memri.org/report/en/print7095.htm. Previously, al-Gharib was a leader of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Global Islamic Media Front, helping to translate Arabic media into German.Souad Mekhennet, “Austrian Returns, Unrepentant, to Online Jihad,” New York Times, November 15, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/16/world/europe/austrian-returns-to-online-jihad.html?_r=0.

Al-Gharib is also the reported husband of another well-known ISIS propagandist, Ahlam al-Nasr. On October 11, 2014, al-Gharib reportedly married al-Nasr in Raqqa, Syria, establishing a “jihadi power couple.”Robyn Creswell and Bernard Haykel, “Battle Lines: Want to understand the jihadis? Read their poety,” New Yorker, June 8, 2015, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/06/08/battle-lines-jihad-creswell-and-haykel. It appears al-Gharib and his wife continue to operate out of Raqqa, ISIS’s de facto capital city in Syria, since the fall of 2014.Natasha Bertrand, “’The Poetess of the Islamic State’ embodies everything dangerous about ISIS,” Business Insider, June 22, 2015, http://www.businessinsider.com.au/the-poetess-of-the-islamic-state-embodies-everything-dangerous-about-isis-2015-6.

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