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Where in the world is Abu Musab al-Suri?

[ by Charles Cameron –on the whereabouts of the jihadist thinker, and the importance of careful reading ]

For those interested in the question of whether Abu Musab al-Suri has been released by the Syrians, where he is and how he’s doing, this tweet today from Mr. Orangetracker is probably the state of the art:


I sat up and took notice of this tweet today, both because I think al-Suri’s whereabouts is and should be a matter of considerable concern and interest — and also because it reminded me of a conversation a day or two back, which began (or at least, those parts that I can see from my own feed began) with a comment from Will McCants on the recently posted Institute for the Study of War report, Jihad in Syria, and led Jane’s analyst Charles Lister to comment that the report “Also concretely claims Al-Suri was released in Feb; that wasn’t confirmed, right?”

The exchange continues:

McCants: i haven’t seen anything credible. but Aaron tracks the story more closely
Aaron Zelin: Credible sources at the forums said al-Suri was released then, but no word on him since.
Raff Pantucci: I wonder if he was ever actually freed tho. maybe a scare story from Syrian intelligence?

I hadn’t particularly noticed the conversation up to this point, but here is where I noticed a tweet from Zelin to Pantucci:

Raff Pantucci is another student of these matters whom I follow. As the discussion continues, he agrees with Zelin’s assessment:

Pantucci: that would make sense. he certainly wouldn’t be on their side if they let him loose at home!
Yassin Musharbash: the thing is that we simply cannot know what kind of state – physically, psychologically and ideologically – he is in
Zelin: Agreed.


As a matter of fact, the report did indeed state [p. 15] that Abu Musab al-Suri has been released:

In early February 2012, the Syrian government released Mustafa bin Abdel Qadir Sitt Mariam Nassar, also known as Abu Musab al-Suri. Al-Suri is an important jihadist ideologue and a top al-Qaeda operative, with experience fighting against the Assad regime during the 1979—1982 Islamic Uprising. As the alleged mastermind of the July 2005 London Bombings, Al-Suri had been in Syrian custody since he was allegedly transported there by the CIA six years ago.

But here’s where it gets interesting. In connection with these sentences, the report carries this footnote [# 29]:

“Syria’s Assad releases alleged al-Qaida mastermind of 2005 London bombings,” Haaretz, February 5, 2012.

Significantly IMO, that footnote omits the first word of the Haaretz headline, which reads:


“Report claims Syrian President released” is simply not the same as “Syrian President released”.

On such tiny details are the webs and fogs of misunderstanding often based.

2 Responses to “Where in the world is Abu Musab al-Suri?”

  1. spongedocks Says:

    I gave WyldDarkHeart some clues on Suri today. In summary it would make perfect sense that he is on the BHO ‘kill list’ and after his release, giving his engineering education and particular affection for dirty bombs, he fled to Iran, where drones would not strike his head.

  2. Charles Cameron Says:

    Thanks. I’m sorry I didn’t respond sooner —
    My own personal interest in al-Suri has to do with his (Sunni) Mahdist expectations, and I’m not at all sure how they’d be received in Iran, considering the Imamist preoccupations of the Iranian Shi’a and given that he has apparently tended to take sectarian positions in the past:  

    in captured training videotapes, Abu Musab al-Suri, architect of the flat hierarchical structure and “individual terrorism” of al-Qaida’s post-9/11 periphery, spurns any form of cooperation between Shi’a and Sunni, arguing that Shi’a groups like Hizbollah in Lebanon have had a negative influence on the Palestinians. 

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