An old face appears poised to play a new role in the jihadist movement. On Feb. 2, plugged-in online jihadists confirmed that one of the jihad’s most original and respected theoreticians, Abu Musab al-Suri, had been released from a Syrian prison.
While not a household name like Osama bin Laden, Suri enjoys a burgeoning influence on the global jihadist movement, and particularly those based in the West. The veteran Syrian jihadist, whose real name is Mustafa bin Abd al-Qadir Sitt Maryam Nasar, is best known for his 1,600-page treatise Dawat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah al-Alamiyyah (Call of Global Islamic Resistance), which articulates a strategy of decentralized jihad, rather than one that depends on clandestine organizations. If there is an architect of the jihadists’ post-9/11 line of attack, it’s Suri.
Suri’s ideas have been popularized in jihadist circles over the past few years. They have been taken up by prominent figures like the head of al Qaeda’s media department, Adam Gadahn, and Yemeni-American jihadist Anwar al-Awlaqi, as well as being featured by Samir Khan in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Inspire Magazine.
Rumors about Suri’s status had been flying around online since Dec. 23, when Sooryoon.net, a Syrian opposition newspaper, published a story saying Suri and his assistant Abu Khalid had been released. It is surprising that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would release a man who is not only a confirmed enemy of his regime, but that of his father Hafez as well. By releasing a major jihadist figure, Assad is playing a dangerous game with the West, which is already debating whether to intervene in the bloody uprising in Syria.
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