Nasser Ahmed Muthana, known in jihadist circles as Abu Muthanna al-Yemeni, is a British propagandist, recruiter, facilitator, and foreign fighter for ISIS and an internationally designated terrorist. Muthana often encourages fellow Muslims to make hijrah (migration) to ISIS-held territory,Abul-Muthanna Yemeni, Twitter post, June 29, 2015, 8:09 a.m., https://twitter.com/mistyvt_the/status/615492325398192129. and has directed viewers to his private messaging account on Surespot.Abul-Muthanna Yemeni, Twitter post, June 29, 2015, 7:13 a.m., https://twitter.com/mistyvt_the/status/615478067348271104. He has also published incendiary and violent messages threatening the lives of kuffar (nonbelievers). In 2014, Muthana appeared in an ISIS video in which he propagandized for the group and told viewers that its fighters “will even go to [fight in] Jordan and Lebanon with no problems, wherever our sheikh [Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi] wants to send us.”“Abu Muthanna al-Yemeni from Britain - ISIS ‘No Life Without Jihad’ Video,” LiveLeak, accessed July 8, 2015, http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=6a5_1403639105#u4qsCO6H0hJxZMlb.99.
Muthana has issued veiled threats toward the United Kingdom, once posting a picture of homemade bombs to Twitter writing, “So the UK is afraid I come back with the skills I've gained.”“Jihadist Nasser Muthana's Home-Made Bomb Pictures,” BBC News, July 3, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-28140639. Muthana has turned overtly hostile toward his home country, openly celebrating the deaths of his compatriots:
Muthana was part of a network of English-speaking recruiters and facilitators. On Twitter, U.K.-born recruiter Raphael Hostey (a.k.a. Abu Qaqa) called Muthana “a beloved brother” who has “been here since I entered Syria.”Qa’qa’ al-Baritani, Twitter post, June 5, 2015, 3:39 a.m., https://twitter.com/an_Najdee/status/606726996111048704. Neil Prakash (a.k.a. Abu Khaled al-Cambodi) also referenced Muthana, and touted Muthana’s violent history.Abu Khaled the Australian, June 3, 2015, 6:13 a.m., https://twitter.com/Ak47zNeedLove/status/606041016861343744.
Before joining ISIS, Muthana had been on track to study medicine, and had received offers to study at four U.K. universities. He was last seen in the United Kingdom in November 2013.Tom Whitehead, Claire Duffin, Philip Sherwell and Richard Spencer, “Iraq crisis: British student identified as recruiting Isis jihadists,” Telegraph (London), June 20, 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/10916124/Iraq-crisis-British-student-identified-as-recruiting-Isis-jihadists.html. That month, the 20-year-old Muthana traveled from London to Istanbul to Syria. He called his family three days after leaving Cardiff to tell them he had arrived in Syria. In February 2014, Muthana’s 17-year-old brother, Aseel, followed him to Syria.Thomas Deacon, “‘My sons left home to become terrorists and I don’t know if they’re alive or dead,’” Wales Online, March 31, 2019, https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/my-sons-left-home-become-16028202. The brothers’ father, Ahmed Muthana, told British media that he believed his sons radicalized after someone gave them the first-person shooter videogame Call of Duty. The elder Muthana blamed whoever purchased the game for them for also encouraging them to go to Syria.Mia De Graaf, “British brothers fighting for Isis in Syria were groomed by extremists using Call of Duty, claims their father,” Daily Mail (London), July 30, 2014, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2710478/British-brothers-fighting-Isis-Syria-groomed-extremists-using-Call-Duty-claims-father.html. A member of Nasser Muthana’s mosque claimed he had been radicalized online.Liam Moffett, “Welsh muslim in a terror-recruiting video was radicalised online, says Cardiff mosque leader,” Wales Online, June 21, 2014, https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/welsh-muslim-nasser-muthana-terror-recruiting-7305385?pageNumber=2.
In June 2014, Nasser Muthana appeared alongside fellow Cardiff foreign fighter Reyaad Khan in an ISIS propaganda video called “There Is No Life Without Jihad.” In it, Muthana boasted that ISIS will “come back and we will even go to Jordan and Lebanon with no problems, wherever our sheikh [Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi] wants to send us.”“Abu Muthanna al-Yemeni from Britain - ISIS ‘No Life Without Jihad’ Video,” LiveLeak, accessed July 8, 2015, http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=6a5_1403639105#u4qsCO6H0hJxZMlb.99; “Cardiff Jihadist ‘willing to die’ for Isis fight in Syria,” BBC News, July 2, 2014, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-south-east-wales-28116575. In November 2014, Muthana was reportedly identified standing alongside British ISIS executioner Mohammed Emwazi, a.k.a. Jihadi John, in an ISIS video featuring the severed head of aid worker Peter Kassig. The Times of London later used facial recognition software to determine that Muthana had not appeared in the video.Jay Akbar, “British ISIS fighter who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Jihadi John in gruesome execution video has been 'killed in battle,’” Daily Mail (London), May 6, 2015, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3070654/ISIS-fighter-stood-shoulder-shoulder-Jihadi-John-gruesome-execution-video-killed-battle.html; “Father ‘spots’ son in IS beheading video,” IOL, November 17, 2014, https://www.iol.co.za/news/world/father-spots-son-in-is-beheading-video-1781737; John Hall and Peter Allen, “Find Jihadi John's execution squad: Massive manhunt for international ISIS assassins as notorious BELGIAN is discovered among killers and family of French scooter salesman speak of their horror,” Daily Mail (London), November 18, 2014, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2839065/Find-Jihadi-John-s-execution-squad-Massive-manhunt-international-ISIS-assassins-intensifies-family-French-scooter-salesman-converted-Catholicism-speak-horror.html. Rumors of Muthana’s death circulated British media in May 2015 after the Daily Mail identified him as the ISIS militant Ikrima al-Nomani, who had been killed fighting in Syria that month. Muthana’s family and the British counter-extremism thinktank Quilliam Foundation denied the reports.Ruth Mosalski, “Claims Cardiff jihadi Nasser Muthana has been killed fighting for IS in Syria are ‘categorically untrue,’” Wales Online, May 7, 2015, https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/reports-cardiff-jihadist-nasser-muthana-9199678; Jay Akbar, “British ISIS fighter who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Jihadi John in gruesome execution video has been ‘killed in battle,’” Daily Mail (London), May 6, 2015, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3070654/ISIS-fighter-stood-shoulder-shoulder-Jihadi-John-gruesome-execution-video-killed-battle.html.
Because of their English and Arabic language skills, the Muthana brothers worked as translators between Arabic and Western ISIS fighters. According to his father, Nasser Muthana married a Bangladeshi woman who had also left England. Muthana reportedly told his father that ISIS had forced both him and his brother to marry and move into houses in Raqqa, then ISIS’s declared capital. Nasser Muthana and his wife had two sons. Aseel Muthana married a Somalian woman from Glasgow, Scotland.Thomas Deacon, “‘My sons left home to become terrorists and I don’t know if they’re alive or dead,’” Wales Online, March 31, 2019, https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/my-sons-left-home-become-16028202.
In March 2015, the United Kingdom designated Nasser Muthana under its Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Act 2010 (“TAFA 2010”).“Operation of the UK’s Counter-Terrorist Asset Freezing Regime: 1 September 2014 to 31 December 2014,” HM Treasury, March 2, 2015, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/411231/2014Q4-WMS.pdf. On September 28, 2015, the United Nations added Muthana to its Al-Qaida Sanctions List of individuals.“Security Council Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee Adds Names of Four Individuals to Its Sanctions List,” United Nations, September 28, 2015, http://www.un.org/press/en/2015/sc12059.doc.htm.
Nasser Muthana continued to call his parents regularly while in Syria to update them. According to their father, ISIS treated the brothers poorly and they regretted leaving England. In approximately 2017, Muthana stopped calling after informing his parents he was in Raqqa. As of March 2019, Ahmed Muthana had not heard from his sons in two years.Thomas Deacon, “‘My sons left home to become terrorists and I don’t know if they’re alive or dead,’” Wales Online, March 31, 2019, https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/my-sons-left-home-become-16028202. Aseel Muthana appeared in an October 2019 ITV News report on a Syrian prison camp holding ISIS fighters. The younger Muthana told British media that he had traveled to Syria before the brutality of ISIS was widely known and wanted to return home. He did not mention whether Nasser Muthana was still alive.Tim Stickings, “Inside a filthy Syrian prison camp where thousands of orange-jumpsuited ISIS extremists - including British jihadists - are locked up after the ‘caliphate’ fell to pieces,” Daily Mail (London), October 3, 2019, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7532865/Inside-filthy-Syrian-prison-camp-ISIS-fighters-kept.html; “Aseel Muthana: Imprisoned Cardiff jihadist wants to return,” BBC News, November 15, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-50433354. The Independent reported in December 2019 that Nasser Muthana had died in a 2015 airstrike, but this could have been a reference to the misidentification of Muthanna as Ikrima al-Nomani as Muthanna’s parents recalled speaking with their son after 2015.Ruth Mosalski, “Claims Cardiff jihadi Nasser Muthana has been killed fighting for IS in Syria are ‘categorically untrue,’” Wales Online, May 7, 2015, https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/reports-cardiff-jihadist-nasser-muthana-9199678; Richard Hall, “There’s no way back for British Isis prisoners languishing in a Syrian jail,” Independent (London), December 18, 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-british-fighters-syria-baghdadi-aseel-muthana-ishak-mostefaoui-a9251391.html.
- Extremist entity
- Type(s) of Organization:
- Insurgent, territory-controlling, religious, terrorist, violent
- Ideologies and Affiliations:
- Islamist, jihadist, pan-Islamist, Salafist, takfiri
- Facilitator, foreign fighter, propagandist, recruiter
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.
- March 2, 2015
The U.K. Treasury designated Nasser Muthana under its Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Act 2010 (”TAFA 2010”).“Operation of the UK’s Counter-Terrorist Asset Freezing Regime: 1 September 2014 to 31 December 2014,” HM Treasury, March 2, 2015, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/411231/2014Q4-WMS.pdf.
- September 29, 2015
The U.S. Department of the Treasury added Nasser Muthana to its list of Specially Designated Nationals.“Counter Terrorism Designations,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 29, 2015, http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20150929.aspx.
- September 28, 2015
The United Nations Security Council added Nasser Ahmed Muthanna to its Al-Qaida Sanctions List of individuals.“Security Council Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee Adds Names of Four Individuals to Its Sanctions List,” United Nations, September 28, 2015, http://www.un.org/press/en/2015/sc12059.doc.htm.
Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.
On October 27, 2018, domestic terrorist Robert D. Bowers carried out an anti-Semitic attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. He fired on congregants as they gathered for worship, killing 11 people and wounding six others.