Center for Strategic Communication

[ by Charles Cameron –on the whereabouts of the jihadist thinker, and the importance of careful reading ]

For those interested in the question of whether Abu Musab al-Suri has been released by the Syrians, where he is and how he’s doing, this tweet today from Mr. Orangetracker is probably the state of the art:


I sat up and took notice of this tweet today, both because I think al-Suri’s whereabouts is and should be a matter of considerable concern and interest — and also because it reminded me of a conversation a day or two back, which began (or at least, those parts that I can see from my own feed began) with a comment from Will McCants on the recently posted Institute for the Study of War report, Jihad in Syria, and led Jane’s analyst Charles Lister to comment that the report “Also concretely claims Al-Suri was released in Feb; that wasn’t confirmed, right?”

The exchange continues:

McCants: i haven’t seen anything credible. but Aaron tracks the story more closely
Aaron Zelin: Credible sources at the forums said al-Suri was released then, but no word on him since.
Raff Pantucci: I wonder if he was ever actually freed tho. maybe a scare story from Syrian intelligence?

I hadn’t particularly noticed the conversation up to this point, but here is where I noticed a tweet from Zelin to Pantucci:

Raff Pantucci is another student of these matters whom I follow. As the discussion continues, he agrees with Zelin’s assessment:

Pantucci: that would make sense. he certainly wouldn’t be on their side if they let him loose at home!
Yassin Musharbash: the thing is that we simply cannot know what kind of state – physically, psychologically and ideologically – he is in
Zelin: Agreed.


As a matter of fact, the report did indeed state [p. 15] that Abu Musab al-Suri has been released:

In early February 2012, the Syrian government released Mustafa bin Abdel Qadir Sitt Mariam Nassar, also known as Abu Musab al-Suri. Al-Suri is an important jihadist ideologue and a top al-Qaeda operative, with experience fighting against the Assad regime during the 1979—1982 Islamic Uprising. As the alleged mastermind of the July 2005 London Bombings, Al-Suri had been in Syrian custody since he was allegedly transported there by the CIA six years ago.

But here’s where it gets interesting. In connection with these sentences, the report carries this footnote [# 29]:

“Syria’s Assad releases alleged al-Qaida mastermind of 2005 London bombings,” Haaretz, February 5, 2012.

Significantly IMO, that footnote omits the first word of the Haaretz headline, which reads:


“Report claims Syrian President released” is simply not the same as “Syrian President released”.

On such tiny details are the webs and fogs of misunderstanding often based.