The US State Department added Abdallah al Ashqar, a leader in the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC), to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists today.
State described Ashqar as “a Palestinian national reported to be a leader of the Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC),” which was listed by the US as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity in August 2014.
Ashqar holds multiple leadership positions with the MSC. According to State’s designation, he “serves on their military committee” and also “serves as a foreign relations official for the group.” In addition to those duties, he “has sought missiles and other materials with which to attack Israel.”
The MSC was described by State in its August 2014 designation as “an umbrella group composed of several jihadist terrorist sub-groups based in Gaza.” The Israeli military has targeted members and leaders of Tawhid and Jihad Group in Jerusalem, and Ansar al Sunnah, both of which have consolidated under the banner of the MSC. [See LWJ reports, Mujahideen Shura Council is consolidation of Salafi-Jihadist groups in Gaza: sources, and US government adds Gaza-based jihadist ‘umbrella’ group to terrorist designation lists.]
The MSC is responsible “for numerous attacks on Israel since the group’s founding in 2012,” State noted.
Among the more high-profile MSC operations are the June 18, 2012 cross-border attack on an Israeli construction site that killed one civilian (the group dedicated the attack as a “gift” to Ayman al Zawahiri and its “brothers” in al Qaeda to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden); and the March 21, 2013 rocket attack on Sderot, Israel on the eve of a visit by President Barack Obama. The group has also claimed responsibility for a multitude of rocket, mortar, and IED attacks.
The loyalties of the MSC within the ranks of the global jihad remain unclear. While the MSC expressed support for the Islamic State on the same day that al Qaeda disowned the group over a leadership dispute within the Syrian jihad, the MSC has also issued statements in support of al Qaeda leaders. A few weeks after the MSC expressed support for the Islamic State, the group described Abu Khalid al Suri, al Qaeda’s representative to Syria who was a fierce critic of the Islamic State, as a “martyr.”