Vatican visit to Al-Aqsa celebrates religious coexistence

A Vatican delegation led by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri visits Al-Aqsa Mosque on Thursday. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 03 October 2019

Vatican visit to Al-Aqsa celebrates religious coexistence

  • ‘There is no alternative to two-state solution with East Jerusalem as capital of the Palestinian state’

AMMAN: Palestinian and Jordanian officials praised the important visit on Thursday by the Vatican’s cardinal for eastern churches Leonardo Sandri and Francesco Patton to Al-Aqsa Mosque. 

The officials also praised the important position taken during the visit in support of coexistence and the Hashemite custodianship of Christian and Muslim holy places. 

The Vatican’s delegation was welcomed by the director-general of Jerusalem’s Waqf department, Sheikh Azzam Khatib, members of the Waqf council and an assortment of Palestinian leaders.

A seven-point message reaffirmed the participants’ attachment to the Omari pact, support for the Hashemite custodianship of King Abdullah over Muslim and Christian Holy Sites, rejection of attempts to change the status quo, regret for war periods which saw aggressions against holy places and innocent worshippers. 

It stated that there is no alternative to the two-state solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state in accordance with international law.

This high-level visit to Al-Aqsa is a true reflection on the 1,400 years of Muslim-Christian coexistence in the holy city of Jerusalem.

Wasfi Kailani director, Royal Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa

Wasfi Kailani, director of the Royal Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa, told Arab News that the Vatican visit was a historic meeting: “This high-level visit to Al-Aqsa and the words of solidarity and support is a true reflection of the 1,400 years of Muslim and Christian coexistence in the holy city of Jerusalem.” 

Kailani added that Muslims recognize the important role that the Franciscans have played in the Holy Land: “We are recognizing 800 years of the important role of the Franciscans, whose role in education and guarding holy places is appreciated.”

Ramzi Khoury, head of the Palestinian Presidential Commission on Church Affairs, said that the visit is important and meaningful. 

“We celebrate together with our fellow Palestinian Muslims the anniversary of the Custodians of the Holy who have played a crucial role in protecting holy places and in supporting the Christian presence in Palestine. The visit to Al-Aqsa has valuable meaning to the importance of Christian and Muslim coexistence in our homeland Palestine.”


New Daesh leader was informant for US, says counter terrorism report

Updated 18 September 2020

New Daesh leader was informant for US, says counter terrorism report

  • CTC said it is “highly confident” Al-Mawla became the new leader of Daesh after the previous leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was killed

NEW YORK: The man widely believed to be the new leader of Daesh was once an informant for the US, according to a new report from the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC), a research body at the US military academy of West Point in New York.

“Stepping Out from the Shadows: The Interrogation of the Islamic State’s Future Caliph” is based on Tactical Interrogation Reports (TIRs) — the paper trail the US military creates when enemy fighters are detained and interrogated — from Al-Mawla’s time in captivity in the late 2000s.

Before his release in 2009, Al-Mawla named 88 extremists involved in terrorist activities, and the information he divulged during his interrogations led US forces in the region to successfully capture or kill dozens of Al-Qaeda fighters, the report claims.

The CTC said it is “highly confident” Al-Mawla became the new leader of Daesh after the previous leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was killed in a US air raid in Syria in October 2019.

Although Daesh announced that a man called Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Qurashi was Baghdadi’s successor, US officials have also stated that Al-Qurashi’s true identity is actually Al-Mawla — also known as Hajj Abdullah.

Before joining Daesh, Al-Mawla is believed to have been the deputy leader of Al-Qaeda.

While details about the operation resulting in his capture are scarce, the TRIs reveal that he was captured on January 6, 2008.

The following day, US Central Command announced the capture of a wanted individual who “previously served as a judge of an illegal court system involved in ordering and approving abductions and executions.”

In his interrogations, Al-Mawla offered up details of terrorist plots to his interrogators, while minimizing his own involvement. He identified many jihadists by name and offered descriptions of their roles in the terrorist organization and details of their involvement in attacks on US-led coalition forces during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Al-Mawla — a former officer in Saddam Hussein’s army and once Baghdadi’s speechwriter — emerges from the TIRs as a mysterious personality with a vague past, whose ethnicity could not be determined with certainty. The statements in the reports are rife with contradictory elements and open to a wide range of interpretations. As the authors point out in their introduction: “It is incredibly difficult to ascertain whether what Al-Mawla divulges regarding himself or ISI (the forerunner of Daesh) as an organization is true.”

Details of the specific demographics of Al Mawla’s birthplace of Al-Muhalabiyyah in Iraq’s Tal Afar district are sketchy, but it is generally accepted to have a predominantly Turkmen population. The authors of the report point out that some sources have suggested “this could pose legitimacy problems for him because (Daesh) mostly has Arabs in its senior leadership echelons,” but add that at least two other senior members of the group were reported to have been Turkmen.

Al-Mawla also claimed to have avoided pledging allegiance to ISI because he was a Sufi. The report’s authors cast doubt on that claim, given his quick rise to prominence in the terrorist group and the fact that ISI and Daesh branded Sufism as heresy.

But the authors do believe the TRIs give some valuable insights into Al-Mawla’s personality.

“The fact that he detailed activities and gave testimony against (fellow jihadists) suggests a willingness to offer up fellow members of the group to suit his own ends,” they wrote. “The amount of detail and seeming willingness to share information about fellow organization members suggests either a degree of nonchalance, strategic calculation, or resignation on the part of Al-Mawla regarding operational security.

“He appears to have named individuals in some capacity across all levels of the organization, while describing some individuals in some detail,” they continued.

The US Department of Justice has offered a $10million reward for information about Al-Mawla’s identification or location.