Jihadis Continue To Celebrate Release Of American Reporter Bilal Abdul Kareem, Condemn Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS)

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February 18, 2021

The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here. 

In reaction to the release of American reporter Bilal Abdul Kareem after being held for seven months in a Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) jail, jihadis, including Al-Qaeda supporters,[1] are continuing to celebrate and to call for the release of other imprisoned individuals and condemn HTS for its misconduct.

Shorty after releasing Abdul Kareem, HTS issued a statement[2] saying that he was sentenced to serve jailtime on two separate charges, and that he was being released following a plea for mercy submitted by local elders from the Atme area in northern Syria. In the statement, HTS listed the charges brought against Abdul Kareem, which included speaking out against the group for its conduct and for "working with groups that harm the overall security" of the Idlib area.

Condemning HTS as "oppressive" and accusing it of leveling false charges at its opponents, Syria-based Al-Qaeda supporter Abu Al-'Ala' Al-Shami wrote that following his 2011 arrest in Hama he was imprisoned and tortured, and was finally released after his father submitted a plea for mercy. "I told the judge that they tortured me," he wrote, "and showed him my torture scars, but he ignored me." Al-Shami then described "the plea for mercy" as a "tyrannical concept that doesn't exist in the shari'a of Allah." He argued that "if reveling the truth is a crime, why isn't [HTS leader] Al-Joulani punished for committing a major crime and betraying five million people in the liberated areas by allowing and protecting Russian patrols? [...] If communicating with wanted jihadis is a crime, then Al-Joulani should be punished for communicating with the killers of five HTS fighters on the M4 highway ten months ago..."[3]

Commenting Abdul Kareem poor physical condition following his release, a former HTS official who is a frequent critic of HTS, Issam Al-Khateeb, wrote: "Glory be to Allah! When noble mujahideen and free men are released from Al-Joulani's prisons, they look like have been to hell and back, but when Shi'ite officers are released, they look like they are returning from heaven. May Allah degrade you, Oh Joulani."[4]

Syrian jihadi and HTS critic Muhammad Abu Khalid Al-Suri also condemned HTS for its treatment of Abdul Kareem during his imprisonment. He wrote: "I see your thin body and your worn face and I pray to Allah to accept your patience and plights. But I would like to apologize to you, because you are not a Shi'ite prisoner or a Hizbullah fighter, who are fed and given healthcare, so that they thank them when released. You are an honest brother who supported the plight of the oppressed, and who didn't accept submission or remain silent about oppression. This is the natural cost for speaking the truth to people who treat idolators with kindness and flattery, but treat the people of Islam harshly."[5]

Abu Al-Hassan Al-'Arjani, who describes himself as a "Kuwaiti migrant who has participated in the Syrian revolution since 2013," published a post asking whether Abdul Kareem is now truly free. He wrote: "the truth is that he was released from prison [but is still subject] to censorship. He is freed from handcuffs, [but is still subject] to the restriction of mouths and pens."[6]

Syria-based Saudi jihadi cleric Abdalla Al-Muhaisiny welcomed the release of Abdul Kareem, and said he was pleased by the release of a "dear migrant brother." Al-Muhaisiny noted that he mentioned Abdul Kareem's being a "migrant brother" because he is sympathetic to "the pain of migrants, who share similar experiences."[7]

Syrian jihadi cleric Abu Yahya Al-Shami also welcomed the release of Abdul Kareem, calling for the release of other prisoners. He then prayed to Allah to punish the oppressors., writing: "After your arrest and after your release, all I heard were prayers against those who committed injustice against you."[8]

Commenting on the release of Abdul Kareem, Syria-based Egyptian jihadi cleric Abu Al-Yaqzan Al-Masri wrote: "The days and nights [of imprisonment] are gone, and [Allah's] reward and acceptance have remained, as well as the love Allah placed in the hearts of the believers for his servant Bilal."[9]


[3] Telegram.me/alaaalshami33 February 17, 2021.

[4] Telegram.me/isaamkateeb February 17, 2021.

[5] Telegram.me/Muhammad Abu Khalid Al-Suri February 17, 2021.

[6] Telegram.me/abohasnalarjani6 February 18, 2021.

[7] Telegram.me/shemmary February 17, 2021.

[8] Telegram.me/ayshami February 17, 2021.

[9] Telegram.me/alrasmia February 17, 2021.

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