Abul-Mughirah al-Qahtani

In the September 2015 issue of its English-language magazine Dabiq, ISIS named Abul-Mughirah al-Qahtani as the leader of its wilayat (province) in Libya.“Interview With Abul-Mughirah Al-Qahtani,” Dabiq, September 2015, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/the-islamic-state-e2809cdc481biq-magazine-11e280b3.pdf. He was killed that November in a U.S. airstrike in Derna, Libya.Callum Paton, “New Isis leader in Libya – Abdel Qader al-Najdi threatens Daesh invasion of Rome through Africa,” International Business Times, March 10, 2016, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/new-isis-leader-abdel-qader-al-najdi-threatens-daesh-invasion-rome-through-north-africa-1548697. According to U.S. officials, al-Qahtani was the first ISIS leader targeted in Libya,“Statement From Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook on November 13 airstrike in Libya,” U.S. Department of Defense, December 7, 2015, http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/633221/statement-from-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-nov-13-airstrike-in-libya. and the first one successfully targeted outside of Iraq and Syria.Benoit Faucon and Tamer El-Ghobashy, “A Divided Libya Struggles Against Islamic State Attacks,” Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-divided-libya-struggles-against-islamic-state-attacks-1454552044. After his death, ISIS praised al-Qahtani as “the noble, brilliant, courageous and serious man, whom America and its allies refused to encounter on the ground through their agents.”Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, “Translation: Eulogy to Abu Nabil al-Anbari, Islamic State Leader in Libya,” Middle East Forum, January 7, 2016, http://www.meforum.org/blog/2016/01/abu-nabil-al-anbari.

At the time of al-Qahtani’s ascendency, the International Business Times cited an unnamed Libyan activist who suggested al-Qahtani might not be a native Libyan. According to the source, there had been no mention of al-Qahtani in Libya prior to ISIS’s announcement of his leadership. Further, the source claimed, al-Qahtani’s name had been mentioned on Facebook in connection with fighting in Syria. The source did not know whether al-Qahtani had already arrived in Libya, or if he would.Callum Paton, “Isis in Libya: New leader of Islamic State in Sirte – Abul-Mughirah al-Qahtani – steps out from the shadows,” International Business Times, September 14, 2015, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/isis-libya-new-leader-islamic-state-sirte-abul-mughirah-al-qahtani-steps-out-shadows-1519702. Sources later revealed that al-Qahtani had been a senior Iraqi commander who played a key role in ISIS’s 2014 battle in Tikrit, Iraq. Al-Qahtani was also suspected of narrating a February 2015 ISIS propaganda video featuring the execution of Coptic Christians.Callum Paton, “New Isis leader in Libya – Abdel Qader al-Najdi threatens Daesh invasion of Rome through Africa,” International Business Times, March 10, 2016, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/new-isis-leader-abdel-qader-al-najdi-threatens-daesh-invasion-rome-through-north-africa-1548697.

According to ISIS’s eulogy for al-Qahtani, the ISIS militant joined the Iraqi insurgency against U.S. forces after the 2003 invasion of that country. He was imprisoned in Baghdad in 2008 for a year and a half. After his release he returned to the battlefield. Al-Qahtani was soon re-captured and sent to Abu Ghraib prison, where he remained until an ISIS-led jailbreak in July 2013. ISIS credited al-Qahtani with participating in the establishment and growth of its caliphate and leading its expansion into North Africa.Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, “Translation: Eulogy to Abu Nabil al-Anbari, Islamic State Leader in Libya,” Middle East Forum, January 7, 2016, http://www.meforum.org/blog/2016/01/abu-nabil-al-anbari.

Al-Qahtani told Dabiq that Libya “has a great importance” for the global Islamic community because of its geography in Africa and proximity to Europe. He called Libya a “gate to the African desert stretching to a number of African countries,” and noted “Libyan resources are a concern for the kafir West due to their reliance upon Libya” for oil and gas. He further said ISIS control over Libya will cause “economic breakdowns” for Italy and the rest of Europe. The “Islamic State” in Libya is still young, he said, and needed medics, religious scholars, and administrative personnel, in addition to fighters.“Interview With Abul-Mughirah Al-Qahtani,” Dabiq, September 2015, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/the-islamic-state-e2809cdc481biq-magazine-11e280b3.pdf.

Al-Qahtani also called Ansar al-Sharia in Libya part of “the apostate regime” in Tripoli. He accused the group of receiving resources from “filthy hands.” Al-Qahtani blamed an August 2015 rebellion in the ISIS-held Libyan city of Sirte on followers of Libyan army General Khalifa Hafter, who had led the fight against Islamist groups in the country.“Interview With Abul-Mughirah Al-Qahtani,” Dabiq, September 2015, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/the-islamic-state-e2809cdc481biq-magazine-11e280b3.pdf. In mid-August, ISIS beheaded 12 of the rebellion’s leaders.Callum Paton, “Isis in Libya: 12 beheaded and crucified by Islamic State in city of Sirte,” International Business Times, August 17, 2015, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/isis-libya-twelve-beheaded-crucified-by-islamic-state-city-sirte-1515774.

In December 2015, the Pentagon confirmed the November 2015 death of al-Qahtani, using his aliases Abu Nabil and Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al Zubaydi.“Statement From Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook on November 13 airstrike in Libya,” U.S. Department of Defense, December 7, 2015, http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/633221/statement-from-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-nov-13-airstrike-in-libya. The following month, ISIS released a eulogy confirming al-Qahtani’s death.Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, “Translation: Eulogy to Abu Nabil al-Anbari, Islamic State Leader in Libya,” Middle East Forum, January 7, 2016, http://www.meforum.org/blog/2016/01/abu-nabil-al-anbari.

Also Known As

Extremist entity
ISIS
Type(s) of Organization:
Insurgent, territory-controlling, religious, terrorist, violent
Ideologies and Affiliations:
Islamist, jihadist, pan-Islamist, Salafist, takfiri
Position(s):
Former leader of ISIS in Libya (deceased)

ISIS is a violent jihadist group based in Iraq and Syria. The group has declared wilayas (provinces) in Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the North Caucasus. ISIS has also waged attacks in Turkey, Lebanon, France, Belgium, Iraq, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Tunisia, and Kuwait.

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