Mostafa Mahamed is an Australian- and U.S.-sanctioned preacher from Sydney who joined al-Qaeda’s former affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front (a.k.a. Jabhat Fateh al-Sham).David Wroe, “Notorious Australian jihadist pictured fighting against Islamic State,” Sydney Morning Herald, August 28, 2014, http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/notorious-australian-jihadist-pictured-fighting-against-islamic-state-20140828-109jxg.html. As director of the Nusra Front’s media relations, Mahamed disseminated materials on Twitter and has conducted a series of interviews with foreign media outlets in promotion of the group, including with the BBC and Sky News.SkyNews, “Syrian Rebel Group On Ending The Siege In Aleppo,” YouTube video, August 18, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SG7VOuGYEF0;
BBC Newsnight, “Jabhat Fath al Sham in depth interview - BBC Newsnight,” YouTube video, September 16, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wU1a61yAQWQ&feature=youtu.be. On October 17, 2016, Mostafa Mahamed posted an announcement via Twitter formally acknowledging his dissociation from the Nusra Front earlier that month to “pursue a number of projects independently.”Mostafa Mahamed, Twitter post, October 17, 2016, 3:18 p.m., https://twitter.com/AbuSulaymanMM/status/788096804709687297. According to the announcement, Mahamed did not resign as a result of the group’s formal distancing from al-Qaeda, a move which he said he believed was “in the best interest of [the Nusa Front].”Mostafa Mahamed, Twitter post, October 17, 2016, 3:18 p.m., https://twitter.com/AbuSulaymanMM/status/788096804709687297.
Before Mahamed’s purported resignation, the Nusra Front representative had been described in various news outlets as Australia’s highest ranking al-Qaeda member,Geoff Chambers, “Aussie sheik Abu Sulayman is hunted by both IS and US forces,” Daily Telegraph (London), October 15, 2014, http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/national/aussie-sheik-abu-sulayman-is-hunted-by-both-is-and-us-forces/story-fnpn0zn5-1227090642757; Dylan Welch, “Abu Sulayman: The rise of Australia's most senior man in Al Qaeda,” ABC News, July 25, 2016, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-25/abu-sulayman-australias-most-senior-alqaeda-operative/7657744.with Australian officials calling Mahamed a “magnet” for foreign fighters traveling to Syria.Geoff Chambers, “Aussie sheik Abu Sulayman is hunted by both IS and US forces,” Daily Telegraph (London), October 15, 2014, http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/national/aussie-sheik-abu-sulayman-is-hunted-by-both-is-and-us-forces/story-fnpn0zn5-1227090642757. During his time with the Nsura Front, Mahamed had reportedly occupied a number of high-level positions, including serving as a member of the group’s General Islamic Council, as well as a senior spiritual advisor and top sharia official.Mark Schliebs, “Top Aussie terrorist warns of ‘perpetual war’ on Twitter,” Australian (Surry Hills), May 14, 2015, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/in-depth/terror/top-aussie-terrorist-warns-of-perpetual-war-on-twitter/story-fnpdbcmu-1227354039977; Geoff Chambers, “Aussie sheik Abu Sulayman is hunted by both IS and US forces,” Daily Telegraph (London), October 15, 2014, http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/national/aussie-sheik-abu-sulayman-is-hunted-by-both-is-and-us-forces/story-fnpn0zn5-1227090642757; Mosafa Mahamed, Twitter profile, accessed September 29, 2016, https://twitter.com/AbuSulaymanMM.
Although unconfirmed, Mahamed reportedly remains on a U.S. kill list.Mark Schliebs, “Kill-list Aussie terrorist Mostafa Mahamed launches PR blitz,” Australian (Sydney), June 28, 2016, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/in-depth/terror/killlist-aussie-terrorist-mostafa-mahamed-launches-pr-blitz/news-story/19c3b35f08590fa8245ee87c2a4ba503. Mahamed was sanctioned by the U.S. government in May 2016, at which point the U.S. government noted Mahamed’s success in both recruiting Australians to the Nusra Front as well as helping to finance it.“Treasury Designates Al-Qaida, Al-Nusrah Front, AQAP, And Isil Fundraisers And Facilitators,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, May 19, 2016, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl0462.aspx.
May 19, 2016
The United States designated Mostafa Mahamed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT).“Counter Terrorism Designations and Removals,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, May 19, 2016, https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20160519.aspx.
August 20, 2015
Australia added Mostafa Mahamed to its terrorist sanctions list.“Mostafa Mahamed - Australian Citizen Added to Terrorist Sanctions Lists,” Defence Portal, August 20, 2015, http://defenceportal.com.au/defence-news/global/middle-east/mostafa-mahamed-australian-citizen-added-to-terrorist-sanctions-lists.