MAYSAR ALI AL-JABOURI ENCOURAGES JABHAT AL-NUSRA-ISIS SPLIT IN SYRIA
Nicholas A. Heras
Shaykh Maysar Ali bin Musa bin Abdullah al-Jabouri (a.k.a. Abu Marya al-Qahtani) is the amir (commander) of the eastern region of Syria for al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (Victory Front). Al-Jabouri is also considered to be the organization’s chief mufti and qadi (religious leader and religious judge), one of the three members of its Islamic council and a friend and confidant of Jabhat al-Nusra leader Abu Muhammad al-Julani (as-Safir [Beirut], February 9; March 31; for more information on Abu Muhamad al-Julani, see Militant Leadership Monitor, May 2013). Al-Jabouri has also served as al-Julani’s personal liaison with the leadership of other important armed opposition organizations fighting in the Syrian civil war, including Zahran Alloush, the leader of the Damascus-based group Jaysh al-Islam (Islamic Army), and the head of the military bureau of the Islamic Front (IF) armed opposition coalition (for further information on Zahran Alloush, see Militant Leadership Monitor, October 2013). 
Al-Jabouri, a native of Mosul, Iraq, was designated a Global Terrorist by the U.S. Department of the Treasury on December 11, 2012. The Treasury Department asserts that al-Jabouri has been a member of al-Dawlat al-Islamiya fi Iraq (Islamic State of Iraq – ISI), and that he moved from Mosul to eastern Syria at the end of 2011. In coordination with the leadership of al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Treasury Department asserts that he worked to establish Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria and opened the group’s first training camp in the country.  It is also reported that prior to the removal of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power in 2003, al-Jabouri was an officer in the “Fedayeen Saddam” branch of the Iraqi army and that he subsequently lost his job after the army was disbanded under the Coalition Provincial Authority in 2004 (al-Iraqiya [Baghdad], February 10). Subsequently, he is believed to have worked as police officer in Mosul and to have joined ISI and rose to become a leader of the organization, ultimately becoming an important intermediary between the local Arab Sunni tribes and the ISI (al-Iraqiya [Baghdad], February 10).
Believed to have been sent to Syria to create Jabhat al-Nusra by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, then the leader of ISI and the current leader al-Dawlat al-Islamiya fi Iraq wa’l-Sham (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS), al-Jabouri is reported to have developed a personal distrust of al-Baghdadi (as-Safir [Beirut], February 9). It is also asserted that al-Jabouri was one of the most vocal critics of al-Baghdadi’s proposed merger between Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS. He was instead in favor of al-Nusra’s independence from ISIS and preferred the leadership of al-Qaeda’s Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri over that of al-Baghdadi (as-Safir [Beirut], February 9). As a result of Jabhat al-Nusra’s active role as an antagonist against ISIS, the organization’s refusal to acknowledge al-Baghdadi’s leadership over the Salafist armed opposition movement and his own personal animosity toward al-Baghdadi and ISIS, al-Jabouri is currently the target of ISIS assassination attempts in Deir al-Zor governorate (as-Safir [Beirut], March 31). In November 2013, an explosive planted by ISIS at al-Jabouri’s family home near the city of Deir al-Zor failed to kill him (Syria Now [Damascus], November 25, 2013).
An important figure within the Syrian armed opposition movement, al-Jabouri maintains a frequently updated Twitter account, alghreebmohajer, which has over 54,000 followers.  He is alleged to have personally carried out the execution of an Alawite Syrian military officer in the town of Abu Kamal near the Syrian-Iraqi border, which was recorded and disseminated via YouTube.  In addition to his long experience as an insurgent field commander in Iraq and Syria, al-Jabouri is also a charismatic religious leader for the organization’s rank-and-file and an ambassador for Jabhat al-Nusra to the other armed opposition groups and the predominately Sunni Arab tribal population in eastern Syria (as-Safir [Beirut], March 31). 
Due to these personal qualities, and Jabhat al-Nusra’s active role in combating both the Assad government and ISIS, al-Jabouri is one of the most important armed opposition commanders in the Syrian civil war. With the ongoing conflict between ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra in eastern Syria over the control of strategic routes of re-supply and communication between Syria and Iraq al-Jabouri’s charismatic leadership, religious credentials and fighting experience present a powerful alternative to the leadership of ISIS’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
1. “The Position of the Army of Islam on the Victory Front,” Jaysh al-Islam YouTube page, November 21, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lp8_cym39eY&feature=youtube_gdata_player.
2. “Treasury Sanctions Al-Nusrah Front Leadership in Syria and Militias Supporting the Asad Regime,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 11, 2012, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/pages/tg1797.aspx.
3. For more information on Shaykh Ali bin Musa bin Abdullah al-Jabouri’s Twitter account, see: https://twitter.com/alghreebmohajer.
4. “Sheikh Abu Maria al-Qahtani Executed a Nusayri Officer after the Liberation of Abu Kamal,” Echo of the Islamic Levant YouTube page, April 6, 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tr_ru6e3vuY&app=desktop.
5. “The Word of Abu Maria,” Media Platform YouTube page, May 3, 2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcxoECyuThM.
ANTI-BALAKA MILITIAS LED AND SUPPORTED BY FORMER MINISTER IN BOZIZÉ GOVERNMENT
Nicholas A. Heras
Continued communal conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) between predominately Christian anti-balaka (machete) militias and Muslims has led to over 2,000 deaths, 1.6 million residents of the CAR in need of urgent food assistance, 600,000 people internally displaced and more than 170,000 predominately Muslim refugees fleeing the CAR for neighboring Cameroon (AP, April 16; Reuters, April 11; for more information, see Terrorism Monitor, February 7). The fighting in the country has led to the deployment of a peacekeeping force of 2,000 French and 6,000 African Union (AU) troops, referred to as the Mission international de soutien à la Centrafrique sous conduite africaine (MISCA-International Support Mission to the Central African Republic). The joint mission has thus far been unable to stop communal violence inside of the CAR (Reuters, April 16). Concerned by the rising level of violence in the CAR, United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon described the situation in the country as “ethno-religious cleansing,” and the United Nations Security Council approved the deployment of an additional 12,000 international troops to support MISCA (AP, April 16; News 24 [Cape Town], April 5).
One of the most powerful leaders of the anti-balaka movement is Patrice Edouard Ngaissona, who was the Minister of Youth, Sports, Art, and Culture and the president of the CAR Football Federation in the administration of former president, Francois Bozizé (France 24 [Paris], December 5, 2013; Centrafrique Presse Info [Bangui], February 11, 2013; August 9, 2012). Ngaissona is a former MP for Bozize’s Kwa Na Kwa (KNK – National Convergence Party), who represented his home district of Boy-Rabe in Bangui (Centrafrique Presse Info [Bangui], February 11, 2013; Centrafrique-Presse [Bangui], August 9, 2012). Prior to Bozize’s ouster by Séléka rebels in March 2013, Ngaissona’s political opponents referred to him as a barely literate strongman from an impoverished background who became a rich and corrupt minister who could afford to purchase a home in Paris (Centrafrique Press Info [Bangui], February 11, 2013). He was detained by French customs police at Charles de Gaulle International Airport near Paris in August 2012 for under-declaring the amount of cash he was bringing with him into France, with a reported sum of 20,000 Euros confiscated from him (Centrafrique-Presse [Bangui], August 9, 2012). Ngaissona is accused of funding anti-balaka armed groups targeting attacks against Muslims in Bangui and providing the use of his home in the militia controlled Bangui neighborhood of Boy-Rabe as a command center and training area for anti-balaka militants (Anadolu Agency [Ankara], February 18; Le Parisien, February 15; France 24,December 5, 2013).
Ngaissona has made several public statements championing the anti-balaka militias’ cause, including a reference to these fighters as martyrs who had risen up to defend the CAR in the absence of a national military force (AP, February 11). Making further public comments voicing his support for the militant movement, Ngaissona stated in an interview with a reporter that the anti-balaka militias are: “a popular resistance movement consisting of the majority of Central African citizens, who are against the foreign Séléka mercenaries who have committed a lot of atrocities against our people” (Anadolu Agency [Ankara], February 18).
As a result of his connections to the militias, Ngaissona’s home in Bangui was raided by MISCA in February, leading to the arrest of five of his relatives but not Ngaissona himself (Le Parisien, February 15). A resident of the Boy-Rabe neighborhood stated that Ngaissona fled capture from MISCA during a heavy firefight that occurred between anti-balaka and MISCA around his home (Agence Africaine de Presse, February 15). It is reported that Ngaissona fled to Congo-Brazzaville following the unsuccessful MISCA raid against his home, where he was stated to have been arrested and released by Congolese authorities in Brazzaville (BBC French Service, February 27).
Ngaissona’s importance to the anti-balaka militia is not likely to diminish as a result of MISCA’s security operations against him. A very public champion of the militias’ objectives in the CAR, Ngaissona is likely to remain a key political figure within the movement, as a result of his patronage of anti-balaka groups and his status as a former minister in Bozize’s government. His return to Bangui, however, is likely to continue to make him a target of MISCA operations in order to attempt to disrupt the anti-balaka organization.