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Former ISIS And Jabhat Al-Nusra Operative: We Tried To Get Chemical Weapons From North Korea

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An article published in the August issue of Al-Qadaa, the monthly newspaper of the Supreme Judicial Council of Iraq, included information from the interrogation of 'Isam Al-Hana, a senior Islamic State (ISIS) operative of Moroccan origin also known as Abu Mansour Al-Maghrabi. Al-Hana, a 35-year-old computer engineer from Rabat who speaks Arabic, English, French and Spanish, was arrested on the Syria-Iraq border following a lengthy pursuit. During the course of his interrogation Al-Hana revealed how he first learned about ISIS in 2012, via the Internet and social media; recounted the different positions he held within the ranks of the organization in Syria, when he assisted foreign fighters who wanted to reach Syria by way of Turkey; and also worked to acquire chemical weapons from North Korea. He said that due to differences of opinion between him and the senior members of the organization he left ISIS for Jabhat Al-Nusra, where he made contact with Qatari elements, among them a sheikh named Khaled Suleiman who assisted the organization with a $1 million monthly donation.

The following are translated excerpts from the article: 

How Al-Hana Joined ISIS: I Became Acquainted With the Organization via Social Media; I Helped Operatives Who Wanted To Reach Syria

As mentioned above, during his interrogation Al-Hana recounted how he came to join ISIS in 2012: "I first became acquainted with the terror organizations in 2012. I was 29 when I started to follow the organization's [ISIS'] reports on websites on the Internet, on social media, and on the Paltalk Messenger [video chat] application. I knew 'Amer Al-Masri and Rashid Al-Masri in their time, and it was they who convinced me of the need to join the organization and emigrate to Syria to participate in the jihad activities and apply shari'a law... and after Rashid Al-Masri made a few arrangements to bring me to Syria, in September 2013 I traveled to Turkey... I reached Syrian territory where I was received by Abu Al-Bara' Al-Shimali who put me up in a hotel in the town of Suluk in what the organization refers to as Al-Raqqa Province... Abu Al-Bara' Al-Shimali received those coming to join the organization from all countries who arrived via the Turkish-Syrian border, while a Saudi named Abu Basir Al-Sa’udi oversaw the hotel with his Syrian assistant named Abu Musa Al-Halabi... after coordinating with Rashid Al-Masri I was assigned work at the Central Bureau for Managing the Borders in Aleppo, that was later referred to as 'the Immigration Council..."

Al-Hana recounts that because of his fluency in several languages in addition to Arabic it was his job to respond to those arriving via Turkey and help them to enter Syria and join the ranks of Jabhat Al-Nusra or ISIS. He added, "Most of those I helped to reach Syria were Tunisians, followed by Saudis and those with foreign citizenship – Russians and French – who were the largest numbers of immigrants to join the fighting in the ranks of the terror organizations, whether Jabhat Al-Nusra or ISIS." He added, "I spent a month and a half in the Coordination Bureau, and then they transferred me to be responsible for the Atme Crossing Bureau in Idlib Province, on the border with Turkey. At this bureau I worked with Abu Basir Al-Sa’udi, 'Amer Al-Masri, Abu 'Ubaida Al-Turki, Abu Ahmad, and Abu 'Ummar Al-Suri. As in the previous office, the work in this office also included assisting fighters arriving from Turkey to reach Syria." According to Al-Hana, Abu Usama Al-Madani was the head of the Central Bureau for Managing the Borders, and he ordered that the Coordination Bureau be expanded because of the large numbers of those coming to join. At this point, Al-Hana moved among the different branches.

Regarding the fighters who reached Syria, Al Hana said, "After the new recruits to the organization reach Syrian territory they undergo several courses and then they are assigned tasks and divided among the provinces in accordance with their talents and abilities. However, the organization grants special attention to the immigrants among the fighters and not to its other fighters."

Al-Hana recounts, "In mid-2014, I married a Syrian woman. About a month after we were married the organization took control of cities inside Iraq, and brought a large group of Yazidi, Turkmen, Shi'ite, and Christian female prisoners. Abu Ahmad Al-Iraqi, who had Algerian citizenship and was the head of the ISIS Foreign Relations Bureau, gave me a female prisoner in addition to my Syrian wife, and since I was newly-married I sold her."

Al-Hana's Work at the ISIS Foreign Relations Bureau: We Worked to Acquire Chemical Weapons from North Korea and to Help Fighters from Turkey to Reach Syria

In the second half of 2016, Al-Hana was moved to the ISIS Foreign Relations Bureau, which he says was responsible for terror attacks outside Syria and Iraq, specifically in Europe and the U.S., as well as external relations related to the organization's interests. Al-Hana states that Abu Ahmad Al-Iraqi gave him responsibility for two files: the Turkish file and the North Korea file, and that he worked on them with the operatives Abu Al-Bara' Al-Kurdi, Rashid Al-Masri, and Abu 'Ubaida Al-Turki.

The Turkish File

"The work on the Turkish file involved two main issues: The first, coordination to bring in immigrants via the Turkish border to fight in the ranks of the organization, and [overseeing] treatment of the organization's wounded in specific hospitals in Turkey; and second, negotiations for exchanges of the organization's prisoners for Turkish prisoners they held, including a consul and a group of Turkish diplomats." He stated that in exchange for the diplomats Turkey released 450 ISIS operatives, among them Abu Hani Al-Lubnani, a Danish citizen of Lebanese origin who was responsible for the ISIS [military] Industry and Development Authority.[1] 

The North Korea File

Regarding North Korea, Al-Hana says: "We worked to acquire different kinds of weapons, among them chemical weapons. In practice, a delegation from the Foreign Relations Bureau, headed by Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani [the ISIS spokesman], who was responsible for the negotiations, traveled to The Philippines to go [from there] to North Korea to complete the deal, but they didn't manage to close the deal and they returned without achieving anything." With respect to how they acquired weapons he said: "Most of the main, modern, up-to-date weapons in our possession originated from purchase deals with senior officials from the Free [Syrian] Army where various elements supplied them with those weapons. Despite their dispute with us, these senior officials never stopped selling us these weapons, in exchange for money."

About His Activities With Jabhat Al-Nusra: A Qatari Sheikh Transferred $1 Million to Us Every Month

Al-Hana stated that due to a disagreement between him and senior members of ISIS and as the result of slander he was dismissed from his position and became a soldier in what is referred to as the 'Uthman Brigade in Hama Province that was then commanded by Abu Muhammad Al-Hashimi. He says that this is what caused him to leave the organization and join the ranks of Jabhat Al-Nusra.

He says that while with Jabhat Al-Nusra: "I received a lot of attention and I worked on foreign relations committees and was in contact with foreign elements such as Qataris, to acquire financing. [One of the contacts] was the Qatari sheikh Khaled Suleiman, who transferred $1 million to us every month…"[2]



[1] In June 2014, ISIS took over the Turkish Consulate in Mosul, taking 46 workers prisoner, the consul among them. In September 2014, the prisoners were released. According to the Turkish Anadolu news agency no bribery was involved and there were no conditions for their surrender,, September 20, 2014.

[2], Issue No. 34 of AL Qadda, the monthly newspaper published by the Communication Center of the Supreme Judicial Council of Iraq, August 8, 2018.