Black flags at the border: ISIS betting on Al-Talli joining its ranks

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Fighters from al-Qaeda’s main affiliate in Syria, al-Nusra Front, last April near Aleppo. AFP/Guillaume Briquet

By: Radwan Mortada

Published Monday, December 29, 2014

The al-Nusra Front has shifted from defense to offense. The group’s legitimate emir Sami al-Aridi criticized the followers of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), describing the reluctance to fight them as a disregard for the blood of the Sunni people. Meanwhile, the emir of al-Nusra Front in Qalamoun seems to be distancing himself from the Syrian branch of al-Nusra. Will he eventually join al-Baghdadi?

The emir of al-Nusra Front in Qalamoun, Abu Malik al-Talli, did not change his policy towards ISIS. Despite the group’s public policy – which considers the soldiers of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as enemies, fanatics, and Kharijites – the “emir of the outskirts” is keen to remain on good terms with his hard-line twin. Although ISIS’ clerics have declared the al-Nusra followers as infidels, and despite the first fiery statement made by the newly-appointed legitimate emir of the Syrian al-Nusra Sheikh Sami al-Aridi – also known as Abu Maaz – in which he called for fighting the “ISIS soldiers, who have proved beyond doubt to be Kharijites,” the son of the Syrian town of al-Tall continues to adopt the policy of disassociation.

Will al-Talli eventually swear allegiance to al-Baghdadi, and thus become – according to ISIS’ spokesman – one of the “honest ones who God will eventually bring on” -- also as circulated in ISIS circles?

ISIS’ activities on the Lebanese-Syrian border related to the reorganization of its internal structure might indicate that the bearers of black flags, led by al-Baghdadi, will inevitably reach Lebanon.

This assumption is reinforced by the banner that was raised by the group, carrying under the “The Islamic State” slogan, “We will target Shiites with bombs, from Diyala to Beirut.” The picture of the banner was circulated on websites popular in the Qalamoun area, particularly the official page that publishes news about the group from the area’s outskirts.

According to security reports, the group is also preparing to launch attacks on the villages of Central Bekaa, which constitute a breeding ground for militants and include thousands of displaced Syrians. The group’s leadership sees this expansion as inevitable, to the extent that an ISIS leader in Qalamoun jokingly told one of the negotiators in the kidnapped Lebanese army soldiers’ file, “We are not in a hurry to swap the prisoners with some of the prisoners in Roumieh, because in all cases, within a few months, we will enter the prison to free them.”

Furthermore, al-Qaeda-affiliated websites have posted an audio recording for the Syrian al-Nusra’s legitimate emir Sheikh Sami al-Aridi – aka Abu Maaz – who was recently appointed after the dismissal of Abu Maria al-Qahtani, who remains with al-Nusra despite rumors to the contrary. Aridi launched a fierce attack against ISIS, and called for fighting them because they are “Kharijites.”

“God has commanded us to use the sword in various ways, including the sword that should be drawn against the Kharijites,” said al-Aridi, adding that ISIS “is a category that has proved beyond doubt to belong to the Kharijites... and this has been proved without any doubt.”
He referred to their description of al-Nusra Front as tyrants, saying that “Abu Hamza is legitimate and others are fanatical and infidels. Fighting them is legitimate based on the teachings of the Prophet who said: If I live to see them, I will kill them as the killing of ‘Ad.. Happy is the one who kills them and they kill him.”

He justified his call for killing them by saying, “They refrained from applying the Sharia Law, have captured women, and have implemented all methods of fighting.”

“Today, there is no room for reluctance in fighting them, because those who refrain from doing so are disregarding the blood of Sunnis... because you saw what happened in al-Sh’aytat and al-Sharqiyah,” he concluded.

“We do not want them to ruin the Jihad in Daraa and the people of Damascus. We must uproot them applying the Prophet’s method,” meaning to kill them.

This audio recording was preceded by a tweet by al-Aridi saying, “Jihad has taught me that leniency in dealing with extremists and Kharijites is disregard for the blood of the Sunnis and the Mujahideen. Every Jihad arena they enter, they shed the blood of the mujahideen.”

In other related news, the Twitter account of “al-Baghdadi’s grandson Abu Musab” – it previously featured pictures of the execution of two Lebanese soldiers in Qalamoun by ISIS – carried tweets, titled “Learn from the experience in al-Qusayr,” in which he spoke about “the Lebanese army besieging the Mujahideen in the Qalamoun outskirts, and preventing the entry of food and basic needs.”

He recalled the battle of Qusayr to say that the army is besieging the militants in preparation for a battle to be launched against them. Baghdadi directed his tweets to the people of Tripoli, Sidon, and the Bekaa.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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