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Friday, March 21, 2014

Al Qaeda Fractures Update

The Al Qaeda fractures chart has been updated with the latest developments. The chart is crowdsourced with myself as the final arbiter, and frequently updated. If you see an error or ambiguity, contact me on Twitter @intelwire to suggest changes. The chart is not intended to present a comprehensive view of the global jihadist movement, but rather to track significant players strictly within the context of the fragmentation of al Qaeda. 

Click on the image below for a larger version, or click here for a version that is printable at any size. The previous version may be found here. Some notes below. 

  • I've removed most of the edge labels and added them to the legend, which I hope is a little bit clearer than before. Labeling every edge is best for comprehension, unless you have so many edge crossings that you can't read the labels, which is what was happening more. 
  • Update: Yesterday, prominent and credible ISIS accounts posted an announcement that the central region subgroup of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) had pledged to ISIS and Baghdadi. Later in the day, prominent jihadist forum members with documented links to al Qaeda operations around the world also posted the announcement. While it's still possible that wires got crossed somewhere, it looks legitimate and I have added the splinter to the chart. If contradictory information emerges, I'll reconsider. The announcement is still playing mostly in ISIS circles for some reason.  It's worth noting that AQIM does not have a strong Twitter presence, which would enable me to be more sure about the entry. 
  • Update:  The Caucasus Emirate website had some information clarifying its position in Syria (see tweets by @Mr0rangetracker), although a video from its new emir was more even-handed in discussing the fitna. The chart has been updated, basically shifting the CE into the AQ-aligned column, although it hasn't unequivocally burned bridges with ISIS. 
  • Update: ISIS has promised an announcement soon of a name change and two new pledges of loyalty from prominent groups, of which the AQIM splinter mentioned above is presumably one. The former, especially, suggests ISIS is going to compete with Al Qaeda for a global audience. A new piece by Clint Watts analyzes this prospect in depth. 
  • Since last time, Al Shabab has reiterated its bayat to Zawahiri, so its line has been firmed up, even though there is some support for ISIS in its ranks and some support for Al Nusrah among the surviving dissenters. Update: Normally I don't pay much mind to the babblings of MYC Press, Shabab's little sister in Kenya (or recently moved to Uganda, as she would have us believe), but the fact she swiftly deleted these tweets may mean she was spanked by her superiors for pointing out that something is happening on these fronts. Thank for the intel, @MYC_Press! We here in America appreciate how much you give us! End update. 
  • A number of developments may be putting AQAP into play. Reports from the front lines indicate significant figures in AQAP have pledged to ISIS, and analysis of AQAP social media also highlights key rifts over the ISIS/AQC standoff. 
  • A large amount of content posted on social media by members of the Al Fidaa forum -- al Qaeda's last bastion of control in the online world -- was analyzed and it raises serious questions for Al Qaeda Central. I'll address this in more detail in a piece next week, hopefully. 
  • It was proposed last time that "AQ Sinai" be broken into its component groups. For now, in the interests of keeping the chart as readable as possible, they are conglomerated. Similarly, Pakistani and Indonesian jihadists will largely stay off the chart until such time as they appear to be breaking in a specific direction in response to the fitna. This isn't meant to be all-inclusive, but rather to highlight existing fractures and likely sources for new breaks. 
  • Update: Added Caucasus Emirate. 
  • Update: Tweaks to the Gaza and Sinai links. Thanks to @asreese and @ZLGold for input.  

Thanks to Clint Watts and Aaron Zelin for feedback, as well as the many comments on Twitter. 

Buy J.M. Berger's book, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam


Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



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INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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