Amru al-Absi

Amru al-Absi was a member of ISIS’s ruling Shura Council, reportedly in charge of ISIS’s media arm.Richard Barrett, “The Islamic State,” Soufan Group, November 2014, 52, http://soufangroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/TSG-The-Islamic-State-Nov14.pdf. The Shura Council is responsible for disseminating orders from ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Al-Absi reportedly acted as a liaison between ISIS and religious leaders in the region.Richard Barrett, “The Islamic State,” Soufan Group, November 2014, 30, http://soufangroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/TSG-The-Islamic-State-Nov14.pdf.

Al-Absi was responsible for ISIS’s social-media campaign.Britta Sandberg, “Hashtags and Holy War: Islamic State Tweets Its Way to Success,” Spiegel Online, November 19, 2014, http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/interview-with-former-fbi-agent-and-islamic-state-expert-ali-soufan-a-1003853.html. In this capacity, al-Absi oversaw a cadre of mostly anonymous bloggers, writers, and researchers throughout the Middle East and North Africa to maintain ISIS’s media campaign on Twitter, YouTube, and other sites.Richard Barrett, “The Islamic State,” Soufan Group, November 2014, 30, http://soufangroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/TSG-The-Islamic-State-Nov14.pdf.

Analysts have credited al-Absi’s social-media strategy in part for ISIS’s successful recruitment of foreign fighters and ability to credibly present ISIS as a modernized alternative to al-Qaeda.Britta Sandberg, “Hashtags and Holy War: Islamic State Tweets Its Way to Success,” Spiegel Online, November 19, 2014, http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/interview-with-former-fbi-agent-and-islamic-state-expert-ali-soufan-a-1003853.html. By June 2014, ISIS had attracted 12,000 foreign fighters.Britta Sandberg, “Hashtags and Holy War: Islamic State Tweets Its Way to Success,” Spiegel Online, November 19, 2014, http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/interview-with-former-fbi-agent-and-islamic-state-expert-ali-soufan-a-1003853.html. The number had grown to 16,000 by November 2014.Britta Sandberg, “Hashtags and Holy War: Islamic State Tweets Its Way to Success,” Spiegel Online, November 19, 2014, http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/interview-with-former-fbi-agent-and-islamic-state-expert-ali-soufan-a-1003853.html. Al-Absi also reportedly convinced Chechen fighter Omar al-Shishani and his Army of Emigrants and Partisans to fight under the ISIS banner.Suhaib Anjarini, “Chechen jihadists in Syria: The case of Omar al-Shishani,” Al-Akbar English, May 1, 2014, http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/19615.

Al-Absi was previously ISIS’s governor of Syria’s Aleppo region. He became the provincial governor of Homs in July 2014.“Designations of Foreign Terrorist Fighters,” U.S. Department of State, September 24, 2014, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/09/232067.htm. The U.S. has accused al-Absi of orchestrating ISIS’s kidnappings.“Designations of Foreign Terrorist Fighters,” U.S. Department of State, September 24, 2014, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/09/232067.htm. Great Britain’s Telegraph dubbed him the “kidnapper-in-chief.”David Blair and Raf Sanchez, “Senior Isil commander raised £1.25 million from Qatari nationals, says US Treasury,” Telegraph, September 26, 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/qatar/11124714/Senior-Isil-commander-raised-1.25-million-from-Qatari-nationals-says-US-Treasury.html.

Al-Absi’s older brother Firas al-Absi led the rebel group Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen, or the Shura Council.Nour Malas, “As Syrian Islamists Gain, It’s Rebel Against Rebel,” Wall Street Journal, May 29, 2012, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323975004578499100684326558. Firas al-Absi went missing in late August 2012 and his body was discovered in early September.Nour Malas, “As Syrian Islamists Gain, It’s Rebel Against Rebel,” Wall Street Journal, May 29, 2012, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323975004578499100684326558.  The younger al-Absi took command of Majlis Shura al-MujahideenCharles Lister, “Islamic State Senior Leadership: Who’s Who,” Brookings Institute, November 2014, http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Research/Files/Reports/2014/11/profiling%20islamic%20state%20lister/en_whos_who.pdf. and swore revenge on the rebel group al-Farouk Battalions for killing Firas.Khaled Yacoub Oweis, “Turf war feared after Syrian rebel leader killed,” Reuters, January 11, 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/11/us-syria-crisis-assassination-idUSBRE90A07N20130111. Al-Absi reportedly grew Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen from 180 fighters to 540.Radwan Mortada, “Al-Qaeda Leaks II: Baghdadi Loses His Shadow,” Al-Akbar English, January 14, 2014, http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/18219.

A Twitter user called WikiBaghdady credits Al-Absi for first proposing the idea of a singular caliphate to Baghdadi.Radwan Mortada, “Al-Qaeda Leaks II: Baghdadi Loses His Shadow,” Al-Akbar English, January 14, 2014, http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/18219.

 
United States

The U.S. Department of State designated Amru al-Absi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224 on September 10, 2014.“Department of State’s Terrorist Designation of Ibrahim Assan Tali Al-Asiri,” U.S. Department of State, March 24, 2011, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2011/03/158911.htm.

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