Tag Archives: Al Nusra Front

Spain: Businesses funding Islamic State, al-Nusra Front

File photo by UPI/Shutterstock/Steve Allen

MADRID, Feb. 10 (UPI) — About 250 businesses in Spain have transferred money through a network system to the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaida affiliate.Grocery stores, phone call centers and butcher shops used a network system called hawala, an alternative to Western banking practices originally developed in India. About 150,000 people manage their savings through hawala without any legal oversight, according to El País.

Hundreds of young Spanish residents, mostly Moroccan, have joined the Islamic State, but an exact number is not known. Terrorist organizations often use hawala for finance, according to officials.

Trust, family relationships and regional affiliations are used in the sort of “underground banking” system where hawaladars, or hawala dealers, transfer money “without money movement,” making it difficult to trace. Any documents that evidence the accounting are often destroyed.

There are about 300 hawaladars in Spain, mostly Pakistani, who are often used to pay the salaries of Spanish jihadists in Syria. The militants earn about $800 if single and $1,200 if married, according to police.

The U.S. embassy in Spain told Washington in 2004 that Spain was an important financing center for jihadists in Afghanitsan and Iraq.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks, reportedly used hawala agents in Spain.

In one instance, two Pakistanis living in Spain sent money through a hawala call center that went to terrorists responsible for the death of Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter, in 2002. The call center reportedly transferred about 18 million euros in 15 months, according officials.

In another instance, an Indian farmer in Spain sent almost 10,000 euros to a Pakistani ceramist. The money was later used to purchase a truck involved in a suicide bombing in Tunisia that killed 22 tourists in 2002.

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Al Qaeda Opens Syrian Jihad School

Al Qaeda affiliated Jabhat Al Nusra opens school for jihad in southern Syria, for children aged 10 to 15.

 

Syrian jihad school

Syrian jihad school
Screenshot

Jabhat Al Nusra, an Islamist group affiliated with Al Qaeda, maintains an infrastructure of governance as one of the central opposition forces. Aside from managing religious courts based on Islamic sharia law, the group has opened new schooling programs emphasizing Islam and jihad.

In the southern Syrian town of Daraa, a school established by the organization teaches roughly 30 students ranging in age from 10 to 15 to believe in Allah, follow Islam, and aspire to jihad holy war.

Video footage from the school shows students learning by rote passages from the Koran, reading “our path is the path of jihad.”

The use of child soldiers by rebel forces, including the more “moderate” Free Syrian Army (FSA), has been documented, and shows how the lessons learned in the school may quickly be turned into action.

On the walls of the classroom hang posters featuring verses from the Koran, including one praising jihadist “martyrs,” explaining that they aren’t “dead” but rather “living” with Allah.

One of the teachers explains that the students learn how to use weapons and are prepared to become jihadists. Video can be seen here:

The Islamist nature of the Syrian opposition forces has been a point of contention, with Russia recently claiming the West understands Syrian President Bashar Assad is “better” than the rebels.

The Russian comment came after Islamic Front battalions, which call for an Islamic state, took over warehouses held by the more secular FSA in early December, leading the US and Britain to suspend military funding to rebel factions.

Geneva II peace talks, aiming to end the 3 year conflict that has claimed over 100,000 lives and created over 2 million refugees, are set for January 22.

#Lebanon: Here comes Jabhat al-Nusra

Alex Rowell

The Syrian al-Qaeda franchise leader’s claim to have established a formal presence in Lebanon might not be entirely true, say analysts, but is still ominous nonetheless

Jabhat al-Nusra members take part in parade calling for an Islamic state in Aleppo, October 25, 2013

The recent assertion by the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, the official Syrian franchise of al-Qaeda, that the militant group has now formally established a presence in Lebanon appears to have confirmed fears – already fuelled by over a dozen deadly attacks and explosions, including suicide bombings – that the violent extremism engulfing Syria poses a growing danger to its small western neighbor.

Just days before Abu Muhammad al-Jawlani made his claim during his first-ever interview, videos circulated online showing a group calling itself “Jabhat al-Nusra in Lebanon” firing Grad rockets at the northeastern Beqaa town of Hermel, resulting in three injuries. And on Monday, unconfirmed reports emerged of Hezbollah ambushing and killing dozens of Jabhat al-Nusra gunmen in a border region east of Baalbek.

Despite these incidents, however, security analysts told NOW Jabhat al-Nusra’s presence in Lebanon likely took the form of only a few, geographically scattered individuals, rather than a physical base or a unified battalion.

“I doubt that Jabhat al-Nusra, or any terrorist organization, really has an official representation in Lebanon,” said Nizar Abd al-Qader, a former Lebanese army general. “Though I feel that in some places there are probably some individuals who sympathize with it or have been fighting along with them in certain battles, either in Iraq or Syria.”

“This needs to be verified. Jawlani’s statement is not enough,” concurred Riad Kahwaji, founder and CEO of the Institute for Near East & Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA), who nevertheless added that it would be unsurprising if it turned out to be true.

“Lebanon to start with is a country with a very weak central government. It also borders Syria, and we have today over a million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. So I would not be surprised if a few of them were with Jabhat al-Nusra or sympathized with them.”

One likely source of Jabhat al-Nusra support is the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh in the southern city of Sidon, according to Abd al-Qader. Sidon was the scene of deadly twin attacks on army checkpoints earlier this month by Lebanese and Palestinian militants. It also saw a two-day-long gun and rocket battle in June between the army and partisans of the Islamist cleric Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir, who is himself now rumored to be in Ain al-Hilweh. The camp has been known in the past to host fugitive militants from a variety of Islamist factions, including al-Qaeda affiliates.

Indeed, one prominent Islamist in the camp confirmed to NOW that there exist supporters not just of Jabhat al-Nusra, but of Syrian opposition groups of all stripes, though he too stressed that these were individuals rather than organizations.

“I am certain that we don’t have an official presence of Jabhat al-Nusra in the camp,” said Sheikh Jamal Khattab, leader of the Islamic Mujahid Movement. “No group has pledged allegiance (bay’aa) to Jabhat al-Nusra. But yes, people are sympathetic to them because of their achievements against the regime in Syria. There are even non-Islamists in the camp who support them for this reason.”

Another key reason for this comparative popularity, and the resultant decision by Jabhat al-Nusra to move into Lebanon, is Hezbollah’s military intervention in Syria, analysts and Khattab agreed.

“Hezbollah decided to intervene and be a major player in Syria, and therefore Jabhat al-Nusra has expanded and is now spreading into Lebanon. It’s natural to find combatants from Syria getting involved in the Lebanese scene as well. You can’t expect to go to a troubled place and not bring the trouble back home with you,” said Kahwaji.

And perhaps the great concern, said analysts and Khattab, was that this “trouble” would not be easily contained or banished.

“The Tripoli and Dahiyeh and Iranian embassy bombings prove that the battle already started in Lebanon,” said Khattab.

“It is extremely difficult to deal with individuals acting like guided smart missiles. Suicide attackers are elusive, they live among the people, and when their sympathizers are growing, they become even harder to combat or preempt,” said Kahwaji.

“This is what we have right now. This is one of the major negative consequences of Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria.”

Luna Safwan contributed reporting.