As the Syrian Democratic Forces' fight to capture the Islamic State's last stronghold al-Baghuz al-Fawqani in eastern Syria continues, one question that arises is: who exactly are the Islamic State fighters inside that enclave? As has become apparent from many video clips and reports, many Islamic State members and their families who were inside that enclave were the most hardcore supporters of the organization who retreated into the pocket as the Islamic State lost its other strongholds in eastern Syria.
But what about supporters of the 'reformist' and 'extremist' trends inside the Islamic State? What has become of them? In a previous post, I translated a short essay by the 'extremist' channel al-Nadhir al-Uryan that asserted the remaining 'reformist' luminaries have now fled towards Turkey and Idlib.
It is the case that many of the 'extremists' fled the Islamic State too, well before this final campaign on al-Baghuz al-Fawqani. Nonetheless, it would seem that some of them also remained and decided to fight till the end. In this new post, al-Nadhir al-Uryan announces the 'martyrdom' of one Azzam al-Tunisi (Abu Asma' al-Tunisi), killed in the fighting in al-Baghuz al-Fawqani. The 'martyrdom' announcement is worth translating in full as it provides a biography of this individual.
Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
In the name of God,
Praise be to God and prayers and peace be upon the Messenger of God, his family, companions and whoso is loyal to him.
And I lay down heroes every day in my soil,
So my heart has grieved while the eyes languish.
Have we truly remained while the companions abide
In the abode of eternity and the commiseration remains?
We present to you the news of the martyrdom of one of the knights of jihad and Tawheed, the brother Azzam al-Tunisi (Abu Asma' al-Tunisi). May God accept him and place him in His highest Paradise. He- may God accept him- fell while defending his religion and creed at the hands of the Kurdish atheists [Syrian Democratic Forces] in al-Baghuz.
The brother Azzam al-Tunisi (as he was renowned at the beginning of his mobilization) is of the veterans of the muhajireen in Bilad al-Sham. He mobilized at the beginning of the so-called Syrian revolution. At the time of the defection of the Jabha [Jabhat al-Nusra], he operated as temporary wali [provincial governor] of Aleppo. After the allegiance of Abu al-Athir [al-Absi] to the Dawla [Islamic State] and his appointment as wali of Aleppo, Sheikh Abu Asma' moved to work as a general admin official and financial official of the wilaya [province].
A few days after the Sahwat [Syrian rebel fighting against Islamic State at turn of 2014], when Abu Luqman received the wilaya, he worked as a deputy to him and remained his deputy until Abu Luqman went out from the wilaya. After this he returned to work as a general admin official. And from there he became official of the administration and economy office. After this he became amir of the Diwan al-Ghana'im [war spoils department] and then he was appointed as a member of a delegated committee for al-Sham. And He was the official of the economic portfolio in the committee, and he had the idea of getting out the women and children from the Dawla and distributing them to guesthouses in Idlib and Turkey. He was most concerned for the state of the women especially after he saw the fate that befell the women in Sirte and Mosul, both muhajir [foreign] and ansari [local] women. So he thought that getting them out to safety was better, but he was removed and imprisoned because of the statement for distribution 'That the one who has perished should perish by a sign' [the controversial May 2017 statement issued by the Delegated Committee that was seen as leaning towards 'extremism' and officially disavowed in September 2017] and his attempt with members of the committee to bring about reform of manhaj [methodology]. And an interrogation was done with him on the accusation of betrayal because of his suggestion of getting out the women.
After he was got out from prison he was assigned as a soldier, and he was harassed a lot, and he remained adhering to his religion, disavowing the oppression and Jahmism [a term 'extremists' use to refer to post-September 2017 manhaj teachings of Islamic State] that had befallen the Dawla.
As for the Jahmism series [the series of lessons on manhaj put out by Islamic State after cancelling the controversial May 2017 statement], he considered it to be false and that they had deceived the people through it, and that the one who did not have knowledge would not be alert to the errors.
After the retreats and the fleeing of most of the leaders, he found himself compelled to take the reins of matters there, until he fell in the latest battle in the al-Baghuz tents, facing the enemy and not running away, defending his religion and creed after he was excused before God with advice in secret and public and imprisonment and harassment against him because of that. We ask God to accept him and make His highest Paradise as his residence. To God we belong and to Him do we return.