Abu Yahya ash Shami has been reported as having been killed waging jihad for the Islamic State, so it is unclear who this new commander really is, but if he is indeed Australian, he highlights one of the West’s most important new exports: jihad terrorists.
“Sydney jihadist named commander of Iraqi Islamic State unit,” The Australian, September 1, 2014:
ASIO is investigating reports the head of Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has appointed a 40-year-old Sydney man to a senior military leadership role in northern Iraq.
An Iraqi news website is reporting that an Australian fighting with Islamic State, and who goes by the name Abu Yahya ash Shami, has been named the military commander for the town of Jalula in northern Iraq.
Citing a local source, the Iraqi News site said the Australian had proved his allegiance to Islamic State after he beheaded four people who refused to swear a bayat, or oath of allegiance, to Baghdadi. “The Australian was fighting in the front of Deir al-Zour (in Syria) before arriving to Jalula,” the website quotes the sources as saying. “The new commander beheaded four militants belonging to different factions (who) were detained a week ago because they refused to swear allegiance to Baghdadi.”
The report could not be verified and there is a possibility it is a case of mistaken identity, as the nom de guerre quoted was used by Zakaryah Raad, an Australian man who was killed while fighting with Islamic State. The report also carried a picture of Raad, who appeared in an Islamic State propaganda video before his death. But ASIO, which in recent weeks has issued several high-profile warnings about the threat posed by foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria, is understood to be investigating the claim.
Attorney-General George Brandis has said publicly that a number of Australians in Iraq and Syria had progressed from being mere foot soldiers and were now occupying leadership positions with jihadist groups. As many as 60 Australians are believed to be fighting in Iraq and Syria, with dozens more supporting the terrorist outfit from Australia.
Among them is former Sydney man Abu Sulayman, who is a sharia official and operational planner with Jabhat al-Nusra, al- Qa’ida’s affiliate in Syria and bitter rival of Islamic State. Sulayman is considered by ASIO to be among the most senior terrorists ever produced by Australia. The report came as more details emerged about a Brisbane father now fighting for Islamic State in Syria.
As revealed in The Weekend Australian, Afghan-born Zia Abdul-Haq, who has adopted the nom de guerre Abu Yusseph, is believed to be in a unit with other Westerners from Canada and France, after leaving a son and former wife behind to enter the conflict. He had also sought a wife in Syria, bragging to friends on Twitter that one woman had told him his fighting in the “jihad” would be his dowry to her.
Brisbane newspaper The Sunday Mail yesterday reported that Abdul-Haq was a finance officer and moved to Australia in his late 20s. He had been “brainwashed” after hearing a talk by prominent radical cleric Musa Cerantonio. Mr Cerantonio, who was deported from The Philippines this year and has been identified as one of the most influential English-speaking clerics for Western fighters in the conflict, yesterday hit out the brainwashing claims. “At the time that I gave the talk that was mentioned in the article, the Islamic State did not even exist — it was given two years before the group was even founded,” he said.
Abdul-Haq has claimed that some things being reported about him were “lies”. His friends and supporters have rallied behind him on social media, with one urging him not to provide too much information on Facebook.
Abdul-Haq and two former Melbourne men in the Syrian conflict whose photographs were published in The Weekend Australian — Mounir Raad and a man known only as Abu Khaled al-Cambodi — have not responded to requests for comment.