Sami al-Oraidi

Sami al-Oraidi is a U.S.-designated member of the Shura Council of Syrian extremist group Hurras al-Din.Josko Baric, “Syrian War Daily – 28th of February 2018,” Syrian War Daily, February 28, 2018, https://syrianwardaily.com/2018/02/28/syrian-war-daily-28th-of-february-2018/. He was previously the Nusra Front’s main sharia authority Hassan Abu Haniyeh, “Who’s who in the Nusra Front,” Al-Araby, December 15, 2014, http://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/politics/1993dc89-9ba6-47c1-b168-21e1fea50307. and reportedly served as the group’s second-in-command “Syria Al-Qaeda affiliate says will free UN troops,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, September 11, 2014, http://globalnation.inquirer.net/110949/syria-al-qaeda-affiliate-says-will-free-un-troops/. before he resigned from the Nusra Front in 2017 after the group announced that it would cut ties with al-Qaeda.Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, “Success for al-Qaeda in Syria?” Middle East Forum, December 18, 2017, https://www.meforum.org/articles/2017/success-for-alqaeda-in-syria.

Al-Oraidi has a bachelor’s degree in religious studies and a doctorate in Hadith (Islamic prophetic traditions) studies from Jordan University.Hassan Abu Haniyeh, “Who’s who in the Nusra Front,”Al-Araby, December 15, 2014, http://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/politics/1993dc89-9ba6-47c1-b168-21e1fea50307. He has used social media to release sermons and declarations on behalf of the Nusra Front. He previously maintained a Twitter account under the handle @sami_oride and reportedly tweeted that the “ideal” jihadist is a moral individual watched by God and the public. “Nusra’s Sharia Cleric, Al-‘Oraidi: Who is he? And what is his response to the (IF/Sham Legion/etc) Revolutionary Code of Honor?” Tahrir Souri, May 19, 2014, http://tahrirsouri.net/2014/05/19/nusras-sharia-cleric-al-oraidi-who-is-he-and-what-is-his-response-to-the-ifsham-legionetc-revolutionary-code-of-honor/. Al-Oraidi has also used social media to attack ISIS, particularly after the group declared its caliphate in June 2014. Rita Katz, “The ‘Comical Caliphate,’” INSITE Blog on Terrorism & Extremism, July 1, 2014, http://news.siteintelgroup.com/blog/index.php/entry/196-the-comical-caliphate. Al-Oraidi said ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani “does not know what comes out of his head.” Rita Katz, “The ‘Comical Caliphate,’” INSITE Blog on Terrorism & Extremism, July 1, 2014, http://news.siteintelgroup.com/blog/index.php/entry/196-the-comical-caliphate. He also referred to ISIS’s leaders as “Muslim killers.” Rita Katz, “The ‘Comical Caliphate,’” INSITE Blog on Terrorism & Extremism, July 1, 2014, http://news.siteintelgroup.com/blog/index.php/entry/196-the-comical-caliphate. He declared war on ISIS in a December 2014 sermon posted to YouTube. “الشيخ الدكتور سامي العريدي المسؤل العام لجبهة النصرة يحرض على قتال الخوارج داعش,” YouTube video, posted by الصوارم على الخوارج صليل, December 27, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIrnl_Rhsgg.

Al-Oraidi is influenced by the teachings of Syrian jihadist Abu Musab al-Suri. Hassan Hassan, “A Jihadist Blueprint for Hearts and Minds Is Gaining Traction in Syria,” National [UAE], March 4, 2014, http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/a-jihadist-blueprint-for-hearts-and-minds-is-gaining-traction-in-syria. Al-Suri fought against the Syrian regime in the 1970s and ’80s. He became a media liaison between Western journalists and Osama bin Laden before the 9/11 attacks. David Samuels, “The New Mastermind of Jihad,” Wall Street Journal, April 6, 2012, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303299604577323750859163544. He believes Muslims should take on individual jihad that isn’t tied to any one group. David Samuels, “The New Mastermind of Jihad,” Wall Street Journal, April 6, 2012, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303299604577323750859163544. The CIA captured him in 2005 and turned him over to Syrian authorities. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad released him in December 2011. David Samuels, “The New Mastermind of Jihad,” Wall Street Journal, April 6, 2012, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303299604577323750859163544. The Wall Street Journal dubbed him “the new mastermind of jihad.” David Samuels, “The New Mastermind of Jihad,” Wall Street Journal, April 6, 2012, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303299604577323750859163544.

Al-Oraidi resigned from the Nusra Front on February 8, 2017.Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, “Success for al-Qaeda in Syria?” Middle East Forum, December 18, 2017, https://www.meforum.org/articles/2017/success-for-alqaeda-in-syria. On November 27, 2017, Nusra Front leader Abu Mohammad al-Golani ordered the arrests of al-Oraidi; Abu Julaibib al-Ordoni, former Nusra Dara’a commander; Iyad Nazmi Salih Khalil, former Jabhat Fateh al-Sham commander; Abu Khadija al-Ordoni; and Abu Mussaab al-Libi. All four were prominent Nusra leaders with strong ties to al-Qaeda.Mona Alami, “HTS Continues to Evolve,” Syria Source, December 1, 2017, http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/syriasource/hts-continues-to-evolve. Following these arrests, several members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the current incarnation of the Nusra Front, resigned, and several large factions threatened to break away.“Weekly Conflict Summary, November 30–December 6, 2017,” Carter Center, December 6, 2017, https://www.cartercenter.org/resources/pdfs/peace/conflict_resolution/syria-conflict/weekly-conflict-summary-2017.11.30-12.05.pdf. Oraidi was released from an HTS prison that December.Aymenn. al-Tamimi, Twitter post, December 11, 2017, 11:37 a.m., https://twitter.com/ajaltamimi/status/940259316526931969.

Subsequently, several subgroups of devoted al-Qaeda supporters defected from HTS. On December 5, 2017, HTS faction Jaish al-Badia defected, creating a new Telegram channel devoted to al-Qaeda.Tore Refslund Hamming and Pieter Van Ostaeyen, “The True Story of al-Qaeda’s Demise and Resurgence in Syria,” Lawfare, April 8, 2018, https://lawfareblog.com/true-story-al-qaedas-demise-and-resurgence-syria. Jaish al-Malahem followed three weeks later, also indicating support for al-Qaeda in its new Telegram channel, while on February 7, 2018, a new al-Qaeda-supporting group, Jund al Shariah, announced its formation.Tore Refslund Hamming and Pieter Van Ostaeyen, “The True Story of al-Qaeda’s Demise and Resurgence in Syria,” Lawfare, April 8, 2018, https://lawfareblog.com/true-story-al-qaedas-demise-and-resurgence-syria. On February 28, 2018, these three groups, along with three other small militant factions, announced a merger under the name Hurras al-Din (HaD), or Guardians of the Religion, and declared themselves an unofficial affiliate of al-Qaeda.Tore Refslund Hamming and Pieter Van Ostaeyen, “The True Story of al-Qaeda’s Demise and Resurgence in Syria,” Lawfare, April 8, 2018, https://lawfareblog.com/true-story-al-qaedas-demise-and-resurgence-syria. Al-Oraidi joined HaD’s Shura council and reportedly began talks with al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to make HaD the official al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria. HaD remains at odds with HTS.Tore Refslund Hamming and Pieter Van Ostaeyen, “The True Story of al-Qaeda’s Demise and Resurgence in Syria,” Lawfare, April 8, 2018, https://lawfareblog.com/true-story-al-qaedas-demise-and-resurgence-syria.

In September 2019, the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the capture of al-Oraidi and four other HaD leaders.“Rewards for Justice – Reward Offer for Information on Senior Leaders of Hurras al-Din,” U.S. Department of State, September 12, 2019, https://www.state.gov/rewards-for-justice-reward-offer-for-information-on-senior-leaders-of-hurras-al-din/.

Given al-Oraidi’s leadership position in HaD as well as his role in promoting and inciting terrorist acts in support of al-Qaeda, on May 30, 2022, the Council of the European Union added al-Oraidi to the EU sanctions list.“EU fight against terrorism: one group and two individuals added to the EU sanctions list,” Council of the European Union, May 30, 2022, https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2022/05/30/eu-fight-against-terrorism-one-group-and-two-individuals-added-to-the-eu-sanctions-list/.

Also Known As

Extremist entity
Hurras al-Din
Type(s) of Organization:
Non-state actor, religious, terrorist, national, violent
Ideologies and Affiliations:
Jihadist, pan-Islamist, Salafist, Sunni, takfiri
Position(s):
Shura Council member

Hurras al-Din (HaD) was formed on February 27, 2018, by a merger of seven hardline Syrian rebel factions. Ten more minor rebel factions joined the group in the months following its formation, all with a history of ideological and leadership ties to al-Qaeda. HaD is avowedly loyal to al-Qaeda and its leadership is dominated by non-Syrian al-Qaeda veterans.

Extremist entity
The Nusra Front (Jabhat Fateh al-Sham)
Type(s) of Organization:
Insurgent, non-state actor, terrorist, transnational, violent
Ideologies and Affiliations:
Al-Qaeda and affiliated groups, Islamist, jihadist, Qutbist, Salafist, Sunni
Position(s):
Main sharia authority, second-in-command

Hurras al-Din (HaD) was formed on February 27, 2018, by a merger of seven hardline Syrian rebel factions. Ten more minor rebel factions joined the group in the months following its formation, all with a history of ideological and leadership ties to al-Qaeda. HaD is avowedly loyal to al-Qaeda and its leadership is dominated by non-Syrian al-Qaeda veterans.

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