Whenever I hear the name Abu al-Qaqaa (Mahmoud al-Aghasi), I recall my meeting with the Syrian cleric about 12 years ago in one of the Arab capitals he would visit to give speeches to supporters. It was one of my relatives who first suggested I meet that “unique” sheikh.
The first thing that struck me about the sheikh was his height and the length of his beard. He spoke in excellent Arabic, formal and rich in religious and Sharia phrases. The meeting lasted for an hour, and when I finished I took some pictures.
After a year and a half, one of my colleagues saw the pictures. He was shocked and angrily questioned me about the way I met with a Syrian intelligence agent. He told me about Abu al-Qaqaa’s involvement recruiting youths in Syria and the Gulf to send them into Iraq to fight, then report them to intelligence agencies in different countries.
My colleague, an expert in jihadist activities, told me that Abu al-Qaqaa once sent a van full of 30 young enthusiastic jihadis to Iraq. When the van entered the country, Abu al-Qaqaa reported their location to the Americans in Iraq, who targeted the van with a rocket killing all inside.
In 2007, Abu al-Qaqaa was assassinated in public in front of a mosque where he gave a speech. Most news agencies tried to explain how such a preeminent jihadist was able to be killed, but the truth is that an intelligence agent’s lifespan is related to the job they do – it ends quickly when they have nothing more to offer.
Assad al-Halabi, head of the Pirates of the Syrian Revolution team, managed to extract an important piece of information about the killing, which one of the largest Arabic TV channels failed to do when it recently aired a special report on Abu al-Qaqaa.
Halabi explained to Zaman al-Wasl that he managed to track a Facebook account belonging to Ahmed Sadiq Haider, a close acquaintance of Abu al-Qaqaa, by cross-linking a phone number on the official website of Ghuraba al-Sham – the media wing responsible for promoting Abu al-Qaqaa's jihadist group.
As it turns out, Halabi uncovered that "Ahmed Sadiq Haider” is now operating as a military correspondent for the Syrian regime. He is also known to have close ties to high-ranking officers and war-criminals, like Colonel Suheil al-Hassan, Major General Munther Zamam, manager of Kweires Airport and Air Force Academy, Mufti Ahmad Hassoun, and al-Quds Brigade militia leader Mohammed Saeed, as well as other local commanders in Aleppo. All information is documented in pictures on Haider’s Facebook page.
I personally contacted Haider via Whatsapp, where he refused to speak via voice call (as he does not answer numbers from outside Syria), but he attempted to uncover my identity when I mentioned his work with Abu al-Qaqaa. Moments after my conversation with Haider ended, he removed his account profile picture, which showed him posing with Colonel Suheil al-Hassan.
Available evidence on Abu al-Qaqaa indicates he was either an “intruder” for Syrian intelligence, or he was compromised by the same intelligence agency. For a long time to come, more information about Abu al-Qaqaa will likely surface to reveal the truth of his activities and his supporters.
This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.