Ibrahim al-Rubaish

Saudi national Ibrahim al-Rubaish was a U.S.-designated senior cleric, or mufti, of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).“Counter Terrorism Designations; Counter Narcotics Designations,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 18, 2014, http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20141218.aspx;
“Rewards for Justice - Reward Offers for Information on Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) Leaders,” U.S. Department of State, October 14, 2014, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/10/232932.htm.
He was responsible for issuing religious rulings and providing theological justifications for the group’s acts of terror.“Rewards for Justice - Reward Offers for Information on Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) Leaders,” U.S. Department of State, October 14, 2014, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/10/232932.htm. Rubaish’s writings were regularly published in AQAP’s online English magazine, Inspire.Ibrahim Ar-Rubaysh, “The Crusade and the Swap of Stances,” Inspire Magazine 12 (2014): 26. Rubaish was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen on April 12, 2015, according to AQAP.Polly Mosendz, “Ibrahim al-Rubaish, Top Al-Qaeda Leader in Yemen, Killed in Drone Strike,” Newsweek, April 14, 2015, http://www.newsweek.com/ibrahim-al-rubaish-top-al-qaeda-leader-yemen-killed-drone-strike-322277/.

Rubaish was captured by Pakistani officials in Afghanistan in December 2001 and transferred to Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, where the Department of Defense’s Joint Taskforce Guantanamo (JTF) classified him as a member of both the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The JTF determined that Rubaish was of medium intelligence value, and posed a medium level risk to the United States, its interests, and allies.“The Guantanamo Docket: Ibrahim Sulayman Muhammad Arbaysh,” New York Times, accessed March 8, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/guantanamo/detainees/192-ibrahim-sulayman-muhammad-arbaysh.

According to JTF summaries, Rubaish grew up in Saudi Arabia and attended Jamiate Al-Emam Mohammed Bensawut in Al-Brida, Saudi Arabia, where he earned a degree in Islamic jurisprudence. He was deeply influenced by Sheikh Hamoud al Uqala, who urged Muslims to join in violent jihad.“The Guantanamo Docket: Ibrahim Sulayman Muhammad Arbaysh,” New York Times, accessed March 8, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/guantanamo/detainees/192-ibrahim-sulayman-muhammad-arbaysh.

Rubaish first sought to join jihadist movements in Chechnya. Upon his decision to take up jihad, Rubaish connected with an al-Qaeda recruiter based in Saudi Arabia, who encouraged him to travel to al-Qaeda training camps in the Af-Pak region.  Rubaish is believed to have traveled to Pakistan in May of 2001 before fighting with al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan.“The Guantanamo Docket: Ibrahim Sulayman Muhammad Arbaysh,” New York Times, accessed March 8, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/guantanamo/detainees/192-ibrahim-sulayman-muhammad-arbaysh.

During his detainment in Guantanamo, Rubaish was determined to be non-compliant, at times allegedly assaulting officers there. He contributed a poem to Marc Falkoff’s Poems from Guantanamo: the Detainees Speak, published by the University of Iowa Press in 2007.  Among the contributors to Falkoff’s collections were Afghan citizen and fellow Guantanamo detainee Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost who, upon his repatriation to Afghanistan, would return to terrorism and serve as an ISIS commander in the Af-Pak region.“Poems from Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak,” University of Iowa Press, https://www.uipress.uiowa.edu/books/2007-fall/falpoefro.html.

Rubaish was repatriated to Saudi Arabia in December 2006 and was enrolled in the national de-radicalization program, Care.Siobhan Gorman, “U.S. Terror Alert Prompted by High-Level al Qaeda Communications,” Wall Street Journal, August 5, 2013, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323514404578650333681440310. Rubaish later escaped and joined AQAP in Yemen.Siobhan Gorman, “U.S. Terror Alert Prompted by High-Level al Qaeda Communications,” Wall Street Journal, August 5, 2013, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323514404578650333681440310.

Following the deadly Paris attacks in January 2015, Rubaish issued an audio message calling for more attacks against the West, especially in France. Though the chief theologian of a major al-Qaeda branch, Rubaish praised al-Qaeda’s competitor, ISIS, for that group’s major military successes in Iraq and Syria.“In Audio Message Released On Twitter, Top AQAP Cleric Calls For Targeting Anyone Insulting Muhammad, Threatens Continuous Attacks In The West: 'The Unbelievers Should Be Struck In Their Own Countries... [The Jihad] Must Continue... We Must Push Them,” MEMRI, February 1, 2015, https://www.memri.org/jttm/audio-message-released-twitter-top-aqap-cleric-calls-targeting-anyone-insulting-muhammad.

On October 14, 2014, the U.S. Department of State announced a reward of up to $5 million for information on Rubaish’s location.“Rewards for Justice - Reward Offers for Information on Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) Leaders,” U.S. Department of State, October 14, 2014, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/10/232932.htm. In December of that year, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated Rubaish as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224).“Counter Terrorism Designations; Counter Narcotics Designations,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 18, 2014, http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20141218.aspx. He was also placed on “most wanted terrorists” lists in both Saudi Arabia and Yemen.“Interior Ministry issues list of extremists wanted for extradition,” Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, February 3, 2009, http://www.saudiembassy.net/latest_news/news02030902.aspx;
Siobhan Gorman, “U.S. Terror Alert Prompted by High-Level al Qaeda Communications,” Wall Street Journal, August 5, 2013, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323514404578650333681440310.

On April 12, 2015, Rubaish was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen.“Senior al-Qaeda Leader in Yemen Killed in US Strike,” Al Jazeera, April 15, 2015, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/4/15/senior-al-qaeda-leader-in-yemen-killed-in-us-strike. His death, alongside that of several other militants, was confirmed two days later by AQAP in a statement posted on Twitter.“Yemen’s al-Qaeda Branch Says Its Top Cleric Killed in Drone Strike,” CBS News, April 14, 2015, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/yemens-al-qaeda-branch-says-its-top-cleric-ibrahim-al-rubaish-killed-in-drone-strike/. In the announcement, he was celebrated for spending “two decades of his life in jihad, fighting America and its agents.”“Senior al-Qaeda Leader in Yemen Killed in US Strike,” Al Jazeera, April 15, 2015, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/4/15/senior-al-qaeda-leader-in-yemen-killed-in-us-strike.

 
United States

The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated Ibrahim al-Rubaysh as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist pursuant to Executive Order 13224 on December 18, 2014.“Counter Terrorism Designations; Counter Narcotics Designations,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 18, 2014, http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20141218.aspx.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia included Ibrahim Salman Mohammed Al-Rubeish in its list of “85 men wanted by security authorities for participating in extremist activities abroad” on February 3, 2009.“Interior Ministry issues list of extremists wanted for extradition,” Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, February 3, 2009, http://www.saudiembassy.net/latest_news/news02030902.aspx.

Yemen

Yemen included Ibrahim Suleiman al-Rubaish in its list of 25 “most wanted terrorists” on August 5, 2013.Siobhan Gorman, “U.S. Terror Alert Prompted by High-Level al Qaeda Communications,” Wall Street Journal, August 5, 2013, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323514404578650333681440310.

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