IS’ leader assassinated from within

Article Summary
IS members have been drifting apart in Qalamoun, Syria, as disputes among top commanders have been escalating, leading to the dismissal of one emir and the probable assassination of another.

It was expected that the disputes among the ranks of the Islamic State (IS) in Qalamoun would lead to the dismissal of its emir Abu Aisha al-Banyasi, as he was at odds with Abu al-Walid al-Maqdisi. However, the dismissal was not expected to come in the form of a killing.

As-Safir revealed in an article published days ago the brittleness of the internal structure of IS in Qalamoun. Disputes among commanders were escalating, leading to the dismissal of the previous emir Abu al-Huda al-Talli and the assignment of Banyasi instead.

As-Safir was able to secure information from a member of IS in Qalamoun’s media team who affirmed that the assignment of Banyasi did not solve the problem, and his dismissal was expected at any moment. However, and despite the gloomy situation the member depicted — describing it as a "crisis of hypocrisy" and saying that "disputes are not among individuals but are much deeper" — the dramatic escalation leading to the killing of Banyasi was not foreseen.

Disputes revolved around the stand vis-à-vis Jabhat al-Nusra, especially after the arrival of Maqdisi and the issuance of a statement accusing Jabhat al-Nusra of treason and betrayal. A number of IS commanders refused to follow the lead of Maqdisi. As a result, two camps emerged, and entered in fierce conflicts. After apologizing to the commander of Jabhat al-Nusra in Qalamoun, Abu Malik al-Talli, for Maqdisi's statement, Abu al-Huda al-Talli was the first to pay the price. Subsequently, Abu Malik al-Talli was dismissed and replaced by Banyasi.

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Information indicates that Maqdisi was the one to name Banyasi as a replacement, based on his composure and neutrality toward the dispute that erupted over Jabhat al-Nusra. Easily convinced and influenced, Maqdisi believed Banyasi to be the best candidate. Maqdisi ended up surprised, however. Upon assuming the position, Banyasi proved no different than his predecessor, refusing to act against Jabhat al-Nusra and its commander. He also refused to take escalatory measures against the organization. This raised the ire of Maqdisi, who started to think about ousting Banyasi.

At the same time, an incident took place that may have pushed the personal sensitivity between the two men to its zenith, rendering any reconciliation impossible. Maqdisi had a quarrel with Jabhat al-Nusra checkpoint guards, which ended up with his arrest and that of his guards. Banyasi mediated with Abu Malik al-Talli to release them, and indeed, he responded and Maqdisi was released a few hours later. However, following the incident, the dispute between Maqdisi and Banyasi became further entrenched and a few days later, the killing of Banyasi came as a shock to everyone.

IS remained silent about the death of Banyasi and tried to keep it low profile. It was leaked that Banyasi was killed by a regime-led airstrike. However, it was not long until it was revealed that the killing resulted from internal disputes. Although some IS media figures are still trying to deny it, saying that the rumored news is yet another media propaganda barrage the organization has been facing since its inception, they were not able to give a clear answer about the true details of the killing. They hid behind the pretext that they were not able to communicate with their leadership to fact check the information.

According to information leaked a couple of days ago by Jabhat al-Nusra media spokespeople, who publicly celebrated the death of Banyasi, the dispute between Maqdisi and Banyasi reached a deadlock. This happened after Maqdisi issued a fatwa against Banyasi due to his amicable ties with Jabhat al-Nusra, which was clearly shown through the mediation he made with its commander to release Maqdisi. Some Jabhat al-Nusra spokespeople noted that Banyasi had a "calm temper and was loved by everyone." Such a personality did not match the aspirations of Maqdisi, who wanted a spiteful person who can be influenced by his takfiri penchants. This is why it was imperative to get rid of him.

Regardless of the details of the killing and who the perpetrators are, whether Maqdisi or Abu Balqiss (the military emir of IS), the incident will inevitably constitute a new twist of events not in the restructuring of IS but on the level of the developments in Qalamoun. This is particularly true concerning relations between IS and Jabhat al-Nusra and its repercussions on the battles fought against the Syrian army and Hezbollah. Will this incident constitute the first step toward the collapse of IS in Qalamoun or a catalyst for commanders to give up on Syrian nationals and hand the emirate over to "foreigners" with all the ensuing extremism toward other parties?

On another note, Turkish forces entered Syrian territory and went as deep as 30 kilometers (19 miles) under the pretext of moving the remains of Suleiman Shah, the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire.

Relying on an agreement concluded with the French mandate as a pretext, Turkish authorities occupied Syrian land near the border to bury the remains before returning them to their initial location [at some future point in time]. However, it seems that the goal of Turkey is far from just restoring the remains and occupying the land. Such a move seems to be aimed at ending the aspirations of Kurds for an autonomous government in the areas under Turkish control. Moreover, Turkish authorities are preparing for the likelihood of IS launching an attack after Turkey signed an agreement with the United States to train "moderate" Syrian armed individuals in order to attack IS and other terrorist groups in Syria.

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Found in: tomb of suleiman shah, syria, qalamoun, jabhat al-nusra, islamic state, isis, is, assassination
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