12 Jan 2014 – by Matthew Barber – SYRIA COMMENT
A new Twitter account that appeared last month is making waves within the jihadi community and rebel groups of Syria. It has not yet been noticed by the international media, but if the author’s claims are legitimate, it may significantly help to shape our understanding of ISIS.
The author of the @wikibaghdady Twitter account claims to be leaking inside information about the background and activities of ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, the most powerful al-Qaida force fighting in Syria). He started posting on December 10, and continues up to today. He presents a cursory sketch of the history of the Islamic State in Iraq (al-Qaida in Iraq), Jabhat al-Nusra, and the background leading up to ISI’s attempt to subsume Nusra within a larger, unified jihadi command, the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).
The first question that emerges is whether this posted material is authentic or cleverly-composed fiction. If it is the latter, it is very clever indeed. The author doesn’t give information that would identify himself. Did he belong to ISIS/Al-Qaida in Iraq and defect? One thing that seems possible is that the account may take a position sympathetic to Jabhat al-Nusra. The author is ready enough to reveal all information about ISIS, but he never frames Nusra in a negative light. In responses to angry accusations by ISIS members on Twitter that the leaks are spurious, some connected observers have asserted that the author’s knowledge is real and all the material is true. It waits to be seen whether the account represents internal dissatisfaction with ISIS or part of the recently-deepening rift between ISIS and Nusra.
Though not highly detailed, the leaks do present us with some interesting insights into the structure of al-Qaida in Iraq, including protective strategies used to insulate key leadership figures, as well as al-Qaida’s readiness to embrace thievery and extortion to fund their own operations. What is also interesting is the claim that Nusra was created by al-Qaida in Iraq, not because they were serious about fighting the Syrian front, but merely as a measure to preserve their own powerbase in Iraq, which they feared might erode if too many became enthusiastic about participation with the jihad in Syria. Nusra’s fame would then grow to overshadow ISI’s, and the U.S. adding Nusra to the terror list further bolstered their prestige, fueling an eventual competitive clash between the two factions. The author of the leaks also claims that ISI ordered Nusra to attack FSA commanders.
One of the most significant insights that the leaks can provide is the alleged role of a previously-unknown figure, Hajji Bakr, who ostensibly acted as al-Baghdadi’s right-hand, but who in reality seems to have been the real power and mastermind of the group. (For background on al-Baghdadi and al-Julani, the leaders of ISI and Nusra, respectively, see these posts by Pieter van Ostaeyen: 1, 2) Unconfirmed reports have recently claimed that Hajji Bakr has been killed Tel Raf’at, in Aleppo province, in clashes with other rebels. It’s all a bit odd; no one had ever heard of this person before this twitter account went live, and soon after he is reported dead. His death was reported by some Islamic Front rebels. There is still a question about the existence of this individual and we need more information that can confirm these claims. Following reports of Hajji Bakr’s death, a video parody participating in the online “Hitler meme” appeared online; all the names used in this parody rely heavily on the @wikibaghdady tweets.
We can’t establish the authenticity of the leaks, but as they do appear reasonably credible and likely true, we are posting selected translations of the leaks, below. (While we were preparing this post, al-Akhbar released an article reporting on these leaks.)
The author began his twitter feed (December 10) with a series of prefacing questions that he planned to answer:
The first account to expose the secrets of the Dawlat al-Iraq wa al-Sham organization [ISIS] and who runs it… Who is al-Baghdadi? Have you seen his picture? The names of his council? What are his plans? Wait for us soon…
He tweeted that message several times, tagging well-known anti-ISIS/pro-jihadi figures on twitter, then asked more rhetorical questions:
Why did al-Baghdadi come to Syria?! And when?! Who was the first to welcome him?! Who are the sharia’a legislators who gave fatwas saying bayaa should be given him?! Who is the Iraqi officer that accompanies him?! Soon, here…
Who are the closest people to al-Baghdadi? What are their names?! Who are they who support him from outside, especially from Saudi Arabia?! Who manages the anonymous twitter handlers that support him?! Soon, here…
Where does al-Baghdadi get his money from?! Is [his organization] infiltrated?! And How?! Who gives him the fatwas for killing?! Soon, here…
Who supports al-Baghdadi in Saudi Arabia: who is the former Saudi officer Bandar al-Shaalan?! What is his role in moving and supporting the Daesh movement in Saudi Arabia?! Soon, here…
On December 14 he began to provide answers to the questions he laid out:
We will now start tweeting with Allah’s permission.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a real person but who uses a fake name and title, and everyone around him does the same thing. There’s no member of al-Baghdadi’s council [his inner circle] who uses his family name or real title.
Everyone of al-Baghdadi’s council are 100% Iraqi; no other nationality is accepted because he doesn’t trust anyone.
The size of al-Baghdadi’s military council increases and decreases between 8 and 13 people.
al-Baghdadi’s military council is led by 3 people from the former Saddam army who belong to the Ba’ath party.
Those three are led by [the chief of the 3 is] Staff Brigadier General Hajji Bakr who was a former officer in the Saddam Baathist army.
Who is Hajji Bakr?! And what is his relationship to al-Baghdadi and when did it start?! That’s what we’ll talk about an hour from now with Allah’s permission.
[Briefly in the meantime,] Who writes under fake, Daesh names?
Here he gives a list of those twitter accounts supposedly corresponding to members of ISIS:
Who is Abu Doujana @almohajer9225
Who is AlHezbr @Alhezbr_
Who is Haqiqat Al Sororia @hnt1433
Who is Qorin Kalash @K_L7
Who is Gharib @kmkmmmsmsm
Who is Salafi from Iraq @abdalrahmaniraq
Who is Al Sarouria Tabor Khames @bmr8000
And the list goes on. We’ll reveal 5 names to you every so often.
1) As we said, al-Baghdadi’s military council is led by 3 [individuals] and those 3 are headed by a former officer in the Baath party named Staff Colonel Hajji Bakr.
2) Colonel Hajji Bakr joined the Islamic State in Iraq when the state was led by Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. [former ISI leader]
3) Hajji was a military member who offered his military service along with his experience in the Ba’ath army to al-Baghdadi’s organization.
4) Staff Colonel Hajji demonstrated his commitment and his repentance from the Ba’ath party and he is considered the most important military commander close to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.
5) There was no previous acquaintance between the two; he was recommended to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Hafs al-Muhajir by middlemen and he was accepted under the condition that he connect them with leadership [commanders] and useful information in the army.
6) The Staff Colonel was brought close to the leaders of the Islamic State in Iraq as a military advisor for Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Hafs al-Muhajer.
7) The Colonel Hajji Bakr provided the leadership with military information and plans and connected them with former military commanders from the remnants of the Ba’ath party.
8) Within a few weeks, Colonel Hajji Bakr became closer and closer to the leadership of Dawlat al-Iraq because he was a military treasure and an important commander.
9) The strange thing about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Da’esh today, is that he wasn’t present in the command council of the previous leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi [he didn’t join the council] until [around the time of] the death of the latter.
10) Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was a member in the organization of Islamic state of Iraq outside of the organization’s command. He resided in western Iraq, specifically in Al-Anbar Province, specifically in Falujah.
11) He had been in the command as an adviser for al-Baghdadi and Al-Muhajer for nearly 50 days when the catastrophe hit the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Baghdadi and Abu Hafs were targeted with a shell and they all died.
12) Colonel Hajji Bakr was not harmed but the top commanders of the Islamic State were all killed at the same time and all the command was vacant [وكلمت حجي تقدير الجميع – ?]
13) There is another Colonel who is a friend of Hajji Bakr named Mazen Nahir and he often visits Hajji Bakr. He went with him to Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi one time as a collaborator with the organization and an unofficial member.
14) This other colonel Mazen Nahir is regarded by Hajji Baker as a trustworthy agent who [can be used] to inflitrate the regime; [therefore] he doesn’t like to appear in the organization’s leadership or its councils.
15) After the assassination of the leaders, colonel Hajji Bakr told people close to him and from the leadership that he gave bayaa to a new emir to lead the Islamic state of Iraq and that being Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
16) The news was a surprise to everyone! In another meeting soon we’ll talk about the Islamic state of Iraq under the leadership of the new emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his constant companion Colonel Hajji.
Addendum: Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, the companion of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi is Egyptian and his name is Abd Al-Moneem Izz Al-Din Badawi. He had two other nicknames before he joined al-Baghdadi: 1. Abu Ayub 2. Abu Hafs
The next meeting with deal with the new commander of the Iraq State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the real engine behind his state: Colonel Hajji Bakr
The new era of Dawlat al-Iraq under the command of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Staff Colonel Hajji Bakr – Part 1
1) When Colonel Hajji Bakr suggested the emirship to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a private meeting in the first hours after the death of the leader al-Baghdadi (the first) and al-Muhajir, Abu Bakr expressed concerns.
2) Colonel Hajji Bakr gave assurances and said that he would provide support and assistance from the background; this is what al-Baghdadi has confided to those close to him since the begining of his leadership.
3) A new era began for the Islamic State in Iraq with two leaders, the leader in the front, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the leader in the shadow, Staff Colonel Hajji Bakr.
4) ISI began to work amid concerns about the presence of an emergent figure, Haji Bakr, who is very close to and the right-hand man of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
5) The image of the clean-shaven Colonel next to the leader disturbed the members of the State and both leaders, al-Baghdadi and the Colonel, noticed it.
6) The Colonel started growing his beard and changing his appearance and the way that he talked in the first weeks, and no member was allowed to question anything about the leadership,
7) because questions plant doubts and planting doubts is breaking the ranks which might permit blood and assassination in one way or another.
8) Nobody in the Dawlah organisation knew the Colonel 2 months prior to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi taking the leadership.
9) Colonel Hajji Bakr started meeting privately with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to restructure the new State and the first agreement was to give attention to two apparatuses:
10) An apparatus that could protect the cohesion of the State and protect it from the inside through security units that eliminate any threat to the entity and another apparatus that guarantees financial resources.
11) First, the security apparatus: the first secuirty steps were taken by the Staff Colonel Hajji Bakr to protect the leader in the front, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, by keeping him from meeting the leadership of the subdivisions,
12) so as not to affect him with influence or guidance [so that other commanders wouldn’t influence al-Baghdadi]. And the emir’s orders came through the leaders of the Shura Council, which was formed by the Colonel later.
13) Colonel Hajji Bakr became a permanant fixture next to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and doesn’t leave his side anywhere, like a personal minister, but in reality he is the leader in the shadow.
14) The second step in creating the security apparatus was to set up security detachments that carry out eliminations and secret assassinations. It was created by the Colonel with 20 people in the beginning.
15) It then reached 100 people; these detachments take their orders directly from the leadership and do not follow any regional emir.
16) These people were selected by the Colonel. Most of them come from his former occupation within the desolved Iraqi Baathist regime and are highly trustworthy.
17) Their mission is to secretly eliminate anybody showing signs of dissent or disobedience: whether members of ISI or even field commanders or sharia legislators.
18 ) So that assassination orders don’t go through the chain of command of the men of ISI and then become leaked, the Colonel appointed these detatchements to an officer and a former colleague of his named Abu Safwan Rifai.
19) Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi started to feel very safe and was grateful to Colonel Hajji Bakr and he started seeing him an as indispensable man,
20) to the point that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi felt that he couldn’t remain in control without Colonel Hajji Bakr because, with his military background, he plays the role of both the defense and intelligence ministries.
21) Second, the financial resources: the State of Iraq with the leadership of the former commander Abu Omar al-Baghdadi made great strides in bringing in high financial resources based on the following:
22) First: Confiscating the money of all Shi’a, Christian, and Druze minorities, and all regime agents, even if they were Sunnis.
23) Second: The takeover of oil resources and generation, power and oil stations, government factories, and any governmental financial resources because [they consider] its money as owned by Dawlat al-Iraq.
24) Third: Any companies that have contracts with the al-Maliki regime are agents [of the regime], whether a maintenance or cleaning company, or fuel stations, or telecommunications companies.
25) And if something can’t be seized completely, the owner receives a death threat or a threat to blow up the company or the store, if monthly taxes are not paid and the money gets paid in fear for his [the owner’s] property.
26) Fourth: Placing checkpoints on long roads to take money from commerical trucks, as high as $200 in some cases
27) Under the leadership of Abu Bakr and the Colonel, Dawlat al-Iraq came to possess very large and very alluring amounts of money that increased salaries and rewards and military operations.
28) With the increase in financial stature and a large income, the love of joining al-Dawla grew and the Iraqis were the most loyal.
29) A financial command was put in place for Dawlat al-Iraq and oddly, this command was handled by Colonel Hajji Bakr himself along with his military command, and he positioned 5 other managers with him.
30) During this period, the colonel put together advisers and called them the Shura council of Dawlat al-Iraq. They were between 7 to 13 [members] with no non-Iraqi among them, out of fear of a breach.
31) I will leave Dawlat al-Iraq for now and move to:
32) What is the origin of the idea for Dawlat al-Iraq wa al-Sham; who made the suggestion; al-Baghdadi’s entry to Syria 3 weeks before its announcement; and where did he live
33) Why was the announcement rushed? [This is in reference to the public declaration of an Islamic state in April of last year that involved Ayman al-Zawahiri and which Nusra felt was premature, earlier post here] And why did he chose to live by the Turkish borders before the announcement?! And why did he choose to live in a portable room made of steel not too far from refugees?!
34) And what is the threat that he sent to Abu Mohammed al-Joulani [leader of Jabhat al-Nusra] before the al-Dawla announcement? What did he ask of al-Joulani to do, either nullify Jabhat al-Nusra or dissolve it?!
35) There’s a picture of al-Baghdadi with his advisers taken at the Turkish borders a week before the announcement of Dawlat al-Iraq wa al-Sham and the dissolution of Jabhat al-Nusra that we will publish later if it helps you.
We’ll answer all these questions in a coming meeting….
http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n1sefj [the author compiled his own tweets here]
1) The Syria revolution started and the attention of the members of Dawlat al-Iraq turned to Syria, especially among the non-Iraqis and the Syrians.
2) Colonel Hajji Bakr feared losing members of Dawlat al-Iraq [to Syria] which would cause a weakening and fracturing in the State and an excuse
3) for some members and commanders within Dawlat al-Iraq, who were looking to defect, to use Syria as their escape door from al-Dawlat.
4) Colonel Hajji Bakr advised Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to instruct all the commanders not to think about going to Syria and that anybody that went would be considered a defector and an outsider.
5) Indeed, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi did deliver that instruction, loaded with the threat, the apparent reason [stated in his instructions] being that the situation is not clear and that they should hold off on Syria.
6) There was a boiling excitement within Dawlat al-Iraq which pointed toward possibilites of defections and leaks and flight, especially among non-Iraqis, to Syria, out of control.
7) Colonel Hajji Bakr suggested the formation of a group of non-Iraqis that would go to Syria under the command of a Syrian, in order to block any Iraqi commander in al-Dawla from going.
8) He saw that this would protect Dawlat al-Iraq from defections and the new command in Sham would bring in non-Iraqis and attract new members from outside.
9) Jabhat al-Nusra was established and started to grow under the leadership of Abu Mohammed al-Joulani until its name grew and swelled and the name of Abu Mohammed al-Joulani rose up internationally.
10) Many mujahidin from the Gulf, Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Europe, and Yemen started flocking to Jabhat al-Nusra in great and frightening numbers.
11) This surge in numbers became alarming to the Colonel and al-Baghdadi because there was no loyalty to Dawla al-Iraq or to al-Baghdadi within the ranks of Jabhat al-Nusra.
12) Colonel Hajji Bakr was afraid of the growth of Jabhat al-Nusra and al-Joulani which might threaten Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Dawlat al-Iraq [due to their own] absence from the field.
13) Hajji Bakr compelled al-Baghdadi to order al-Joulani to annouce with an audio clip that Jabhat al-Nusra officially belongs to Dawlat al-Iraq under the command of al-Baghdadi.
14) al-Joulani promised to think and ponder the issue. He took days without releasing anything. al-Baghdadi sent him a rebuke and censure and he [al-Joulani] promised to think and consult those who are around him from mujahidin and scholars.
15) al-Joulani sent a letter to al-Baghdadi that said that the annoucement would not be in the interest of the revolution, in the opinion of everyone in his Shura council.
16) The Colonel was outraged and al-Baghdadi was angry and they sent spies in the disguise of mujahidin and Shura from al-Baghdadi’s branch, to be close to al-Joulani and monitor his movements.
17) Out of fear of any [unwanted] orders or [an order to] merge with another group, al-Joulani was very worried and started limiting his movement and actions, and would praise Dawlat al-Iraq and al-Baghdadi to those that sit with him.
18) [He made a pretense of complimenting al-Baghdadi as a practice of] taqiya, fearing that mistrust in him would grow and that he would get assassinated. His worries grew and his fear for his safety grew very strong.
19) America started droning on about adding Jabhat al-Nusra to the terrorist list and al-Joulani to the top wanted list.
20) It was an opportunity for al-Joulani to hide from the people sent by al-Baghdadi to monitor him and to isolate himself in a closed command circle of people of his choosing.
21) America adding Jabhal al-Nusra to the terror list and al-Joulani to the most wanted list in Syria increased the fears and worries of Colonel Hajji Bakr and al-Baghdadi about Nusra competing with al-Dawla.
22) Abu Mohammed al-Joulani was a rational politician trying to walk a middle ground to reassure al-Baghdadi.
23) But the fears of the Colonel and al-Baghdadi outweighed al-Joulani’s assurances, which made the Colonel consider advanced steps to merge Jabhat al-Nusra with Dawlat al-Iraq.
24) Colonel Hajji Bakr advised al-Baghadi to direct al-Joulani to carry out a military operation against the commanders of the Free Army during any meeting in Turkey that would contain any possible targets from among commanders of the Free Army [in other words, to hit any FSA commander they could reach]
25) And al-Baghdadi did indeed send an urgent letter to al-Joulani ordering him to carry out two bombings, one in Turkey and one in Syria, the two of which would target gatherings of Free Army commanders.
26) And this was justified as the targeting of future Sahwat, agents of America, and eliminating them before they built themselves up in al-Sham and their popularity became strong.
27) Commanders of the Free Army were specified for assassination by name (we withhold the names) [author’s words, not SC] and the orders were received by the command of Jabhat al-Nusra like a lightning strike [i.e., the order was too much to handle].
28) A meeting of the Jabhat al-Nusra Shura was convened and the order was rejected in the meeting. A detailed reply was sent to al-Baghdadi that Nusra with its Shura had rejected it.
29) It justified the rejection on the basis that they’re Muslin and because Turkey cannot be targeted because it is a very sensitive country and a big supporter of the revolution and it would disrupt the march of Jihad,
30) and that the Jabhat with its councils sees the reality up close. The anger of the Colonel Haji Bakr and al-Baghdadi grew and they saw in this an explicit rejection of obedience (الطاعة).
31) The Colonel and al-Baghadi sent a strongly-worded letter and gave al-Joulani two choices: either execute the orders or Jabhat al-Nusra will be dissolved and replaced with the creation of a new entity.
32) al-Joulani stopped replying and the Colonel and al-Baghdadi waited for a reply and the wait was long. al-Joulani appeared reasonable in ignoring them because the sweetest of the two choices was sour.
33) al-Baghdadi sent a messenger to meet with al-Joulani and hear from him and al-Joulani tried to apologize for not meeting because of his situation and the messenger waited for a long time and went back.
34) al-Baghdadi felt the real danger, that Jabhat al-Nusra saw itself as a bigger entity than him and outside of his control, so the Colonel suggested to al-Baghdadi what follows:
35) To send Iraqi subdivision commanders to meet the subdivisions of Jabhat al-Nusra and test their pulse and suggest the dissolving of Jabhat al-Nusra and see how receptive they are to al-Baghadi and how popular he is.
36) And indeed that happened; the Colonel and al Baghdadi sent tens of Iraqis to Jabhat al-Nusra and they entered the ranks of the mujahidin for 2 weeks.
37) And they met with the mujahidin and a few influentional people in Jabhat al-Nusra and especially the khalijis [Gulfers] and particularly the Saudis. The feedback was mixed between support and rejection.
38) There was a large group that supported the ambition and general Islamic dream of a state that stretched from Iraq to Sham under one leadership.
39) And the most supportive group were the new members in the Jabhat and those who had a history of conflict with the command of the Jabhat, in cases where the Jabhat would prevent the declaration of takfeer [applying the theological category of “infidel” to enemies] and would punish for doing so.
40) There were those who felt supressed by Jabhat al-Nusra for expressing inflamatory and takfiri feelings or who were punished for doing so by the Jabhat and who would love any entity that would give them more freedom.
41) Nusra imprisoned, punished, and confiscated the weapons of its memembers who propagated takfeer.
42) Of those imprisoned by Nusra were Abu Ritaj al-Sussi and Abo Omar al-Abadi (Tunisians), Abu DamDam al-Husni and Abu al-Hajaj al-Nuri (Moroccans), and Abu Bakr Omar al-Qahtani (Saudi).
43) The Saudi Omar al-Qahtani was punished by Jabhat al-Nusra who took away his weapons and imprisoned him 3 times on account of spreading a takfiri and inflammatory ideology against those who opposed Jabhat al-Nusra.
44) This group that was punished by Jabhat al-Nusra and people like them were the core of support for al-Baghdadi’s inclinations, which found an echo inside Nusra.
45) This last Saudi became a general Sharia councilor in Dawlat al-Baghdadi later on and was the first to defect when al-Baghdadi annouced the dissolving of Jabhat al-Nusra.
46) Two weeks later, the 10 spies of al-Baghdadi returned to Iraq with a foggy image about the acceptance of members of Jabhat al-Nusra were it to be dissolved [and folded into] a one-state entity.
47) Colonel Hajji Bakr suggested to al-Baghdadi not to make any decision to dissolve Jabhat al-Nusra and that the Colonel and al-Baghdadi himself travel and see the reality on the ground,
48) because the announcement of Dawlat al-Iraq wa al-Sham with Baghdadi not in Syria wouldn’t give it flare and [attract] many followers, since the people would wish to see al-Baghdadi and that his presence is effective.
49) al-Baghdadi accepted the Colonel’s idea and sent those who would arrange a place of residence and prepare a secure and secret place. He was called and a safe place near the Turkish border was selected.
50) The departure of al-Baghdadi from Iraqi was arranged by his personal bodyguard and Colonel Rokn Hajji Bakr and only three others.
51) What did al-Baghdadi do after entering Turkey, what location did he live in exactly, and how many days did he stay before announcing the dissolvement of Jabhat al Nusra?!
52) What did he do before the announcement?! Did Julani known about the arrival of Baghdadi or not?! And who did al-Baghdadi meet before the announcement?!
When did Baghdadi enter Syria? Where did he live? Who did he meet? And how was the annoucement of the dissolving of Jabhat al-Nusra made? And what role did Saudi officer Bandar Shaalan play in creating Baghdadi’s new state?
1) Baghdadi and Hajji Baker and their company entered Syria 3 weeks before the dissolving of Jabhat al-Nusra. They headed directly to the residence quarter at the Turkish border.
2) The preparations were as follows: Portable metal rooms were reserved in a place not too far from a Syrian refugee camp that was more secure for him and away from prying eyes.
3) Baghdadi and his company lived in these rooms on the basis that Baghdadi would meet Jabhat al-Nusra’s subdivisions’ commanders and make them feel like they’re dependents of his.
The account continues at great length and translating it is time consuming. We’ll stop translating for now, but we may provide more translation later, depending on how useful readers find it to be.