Pro-Islamic State (ISIS) Media Outlets Celebrate Release Of Al-Qaeda-Linked Jihadi Figure Who Spent 10 Years In Lebanese Prison On Terrorism Charges

March 30, 2023

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On March 30, 2023, jihadi outlets reported that Lebanese authorities released Omar Bakri, a prominent Syrian-Lebanese jihadi figure who was sentenced to six years in prison in October 2014 for establishing a Lebanese affiliate of the Al-Qaeda-linked Syrian terrorist group Al-Nusra Front.[1]

VDL, a Lebanese media outlet, reported that Bakri's release comes after ten years of incarceration. The report included photos showing him at home with his family.[2]

A group of people posing for the cameraDescription automatically generated with medium confidence

Bakri was instrumental in developing the UK group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which seeks to establish an Islamic Caliphate, before founding Al-Muhajiroun (The Immigrants), an organization which praised the 9/11 attacks and was disbanded in 2004.[3]

Over the past years, jihadi clerics such as British pro-ISIS preacher Anjem Choudary, Australian pro-ISIS preacher Wisam Haddad, a.k.a. Abu Ousayd, have launched social media campaigns demanding the release of Bakri.[4]

Bakri 'Mentored' British Suicide Bomber

The Saudi-news website Elaph reported in February 2014 that Bakri acknowledged that "Mohammad Abdel Majid Wahid, a British [man] suspected of carrying out the suicide attack on Aleppo Central Prison, was a member of [Bakri's] Al-Muhajireen organization between 1996 and 2004. It is believed that Waheed, the first British suicide bomber in Syria, worked as a driver for Bakri Mohammed, and was his apprentice."[5]

Bakri's Son Fought With ISIS In Iraq

It was also reported in 2015 that Bakri's son, Bilal, was killed in Iraq while fighting alongside the Islamic State (ISIS) and was officially eulogized by the organization.[6]

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Bakri's son Bilal, featured in the ISIS poster series "Caravan of Martyrs."

Pro-ISIS Outlets: His Son Fought With ISIS

A pro-ISIS Telegram channel that advocates for the release of clerics held in prison on terrorism-related charges shared a post celebrating Bakri's release. "Sheikh Omar Bakri has been released! Alhamdulillah [praise to Allah]," it wrote.

Similarly, a pro-ISIS outlet on the ISIS-operated Rocket.Chat server reporting on Bakri's release. It also posted photos of him at home with his family, pointing out a decorative pillow that is visible in one of the photos, embroidered with the name of his son, Bilal, who was killed fighting with ISIS in Iraq.[7]

Pro-Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) Outlet: Bakri Opposed Lebanese Hizbullah

Telegram channels which cover the activity of jihadi factions in Syria published posts highlighting Bakri's release and emphasizing that he was imprisoned for opposing Lebanese Hizbullah.

A pro-Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) channel wrote: "The preacher Sheikh Omar Bakri Fustuk was released from Roumieh Detention Center after serving 10 years since his arrest on terrorism-related charges. Some sources explained that the reason for the arrest was his advocacy in favor of the Syrian revolution and condemnation of Lebanese Hizbullah's intervention in Syria."[8]

Reactions On Twitter

A Salafi Twitter account that often calls for the release of jihadi clerics imprisoned for terrorism charges and the implementation of shari'a also celebrated Bakri's release, tweeting: "Sheikh Omar Bakri has been released from prison." The account changed its cover photo to show Bakri at home with his family following his release.[9]

Another Twitter account, which advocates for the release of Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani Al-Qaeda-linked neuroscientist incarcerated in the U.S. for attempting to kill a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan, posted the same photo of Bakri following his release, writing: "They are saying Sheikh Oman Bakri has been released. Alhamudillah."[10]

In a second tweet the channel confirmed the news, expressing joy.


[1] After severing its ties with Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra Front rebranded itself as Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) in 2016.

[2], March 30, 2023.

[5], Feb 14, 2014. Last accessed March 30, 2023.

[6], December 29, 2015. Last accessed March 30, 2023.

[7] Rocket Chat, March 30, 2023.

[8] Telegram, March 30, 2023.

[9] Twitter, March 29, 2023.

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