Has al-Qaeda Replanted its Flag in Syria?

Artwork by supporters of the newly established group, Hurras al-Deen.

On February 27, pro-al-Qaeda (AQ) Telegram channels began distributing a statement from a group calling itself “Hurras al-Deen” (“Guardians of the Religion”). In its inaugural message, the group demanded action regarding besieged Eastern Ghouta, chiding Muslims for “eating and drinking and living joyfully” during such humanitarian atrocities. It promised Muslims in Ghouta:

…we shall do the best of our efforts to relieve your siege or to stab your oppressor in the waist to paralyze him or distract him from you, for we give our necks to save yours and our blood to save your blood.

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Is ISIS’ Comment on the Manhattan Attack Out of the Ordinary? Not Really.

The Islamic State (IS/ISIS) has desired to attack New York City for years, and there is no doubt that ISIS-pledged Manhattan attacker Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov committed his devastating attack in response to the group’s incitements. 

But contrary to reporting by some prominent news outlets, the group didn’t actually take responsibility for Saipov’s attack, and its message regarding the attack was not atypical. ISIS' report about the Manhattan attack, actually, was well in line with those of other ISIS-inspired attacks.

The following article analyzes ISIS’ response to Saipov and his attack by the following variables: ISIS’ language and statement formatting for coordinated attacks vs. inspired attacks; timings in which ISIS releases statements on attacks; the outlets through which ISIS issues statements on attacks; and the group’s history of claiming or endorsing attackers while they are still alive.

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No, the Manhattan Attack is not the Result of ISIS Losing in Iraq and Syria

Americans are still trying to processes the horrid damage left behind by 29-year old Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, who killed eight and injured at least ten people on Monday. It’s a painfully familiar scenario: an Islamic State (ISIS)-inspired young man plowed a rented truck through a crowd of innocents—this time on a bike path in Manhattan.

Emerging from recent discussions on the tragedy, which ISIS has not as of yet claimed, is a new narrative: Saipov’s attack is the result of ISIS desperation as it rapidly loses ground in Iraq and Syria; in other words, ISIS is losing, so it instead hits us at home.

But is this the case?

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Who Killed U.S. Troops in Niger, and Why Haven't they Claimed Responsibility?

On October 4, 2017, four U.S. Special Forces service members were killed in an ambush near the western Niger village of Tongo Tongo in an attack that has since gone unclaimed by any terrorist entity.

U.S. military officials believe the attack came from the Islamic State (IS/ISIS) in the Greater Sahara. However, if ISIS did carry out the attack, why didn't it claim it—especially after its claims of responsibility for attacks like Las Vegas and dozens of others which contain no direct connection to it?

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Disarray in the Syrian Jihad is Making Perfect Conditions for an AQ Revival

Al-Qaeda (AQ) found itself on the losing end of a years-long investment in July of 2016 when Nusra Front (NF) leader Abu Muhammad al-Julani announced the group’s leave from AQ to become Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), thus breaking his pledge to AQ leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Julani, the man who ignited a bloody conflict with the Islamic State (IS) after abandoning Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to establish a new AQ affiliate in Syria, had ironically removed AQ’s formal presence in the country altogether.

But stress the word formal in “formal presence,” because AQ planted its Syrian foundation much deeper than Julani and others may have anticipated.

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