A June 10, 2015 article on the Al-Jazeera website reveals hitherto unknown details about Janhat Al-Nusra (JN) leader Abu Muhammad Al-Joulani. The revelations come one week after Al-Jazeera aired the second installation of a two-part interview with Al-Joulani.
According to the article, Al-Joulani's real name is Osama Al-'Absi Al-Wahedi, and he was born in 1981 in the town of Al-Shuhail, in the Deir Al-Zour province of Syria. He began studying medicine in the University of Damascus, but quit after two years. The article notes that, as a student, he used to travel to Aleppo on Fridays to hear the sermons of Salafi-jihadi preacher Abu Al-Qa'qa', and in 2003 he heeded the preacher's call to go to Iraq and wage jihad against the "American invaders" there. Upon arriving in Iraq Al-Joulani joined Al-Qaeda in Iraq under the leadership of Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi. He rose in the group's ranks and became part of Al-Zarqawi's inner circle.
After Al-Zarqawi's death in 2006, Al-Joulani left Iraq for Lebanon, where he took part in establishing the Al-Qaeda-linked jihad group Jund Al-Sham. Later he returned to Iraq and was arrested by the U.S. forces and imprisoned in the Bucca prison camp. Upon his release in 2008 he rejoined the Islamic State of Iraq and became its head of operations in the Mosul area. Several months after the breakout of the popular protests against Assad in 2011, Al-Joulani returned to Syria and founded Jabhat Al-Nusra, using Al-Shuhail as his base.
Source: Aljazeera.net, June 10, 2015