He's The Son Of Osama Bin Laden's Bombmaker. Then ISIS Wanted Him AsOne Of Its Own.

He was still a teenager when he wandered into one of the buildings at the dusty hilltop complex, looking for the cages where rabbits were kept. Inside, he found a crudely equipped laboratory, with test tubes, protective masks and rows of black jars.

As Mohammed al-Masri surveyed the cluttered room, his father stepped in behind him.

"I asked my father, 'What are you doing here?' " Masri said, recalling an exchange that took place more than 20 years ago in eastern Afghanistan. His father's response was cryptic: "When you grow up, God willing, you will learn for yourself."

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Masri's father would be regarded as one of the most ominous figures in al-Qaida: an Egyptian with a degree in chemistry who was put in charge of the terrorist network's effort to develop mass-casualty weapons.

Abu Khabab al-Masri became the subject of a $5 million U.S. reward. Videos recovered from his training camp showed dogs collapsing after being sprayed with mysterious compounds. And he was linked to a series of plots - including al-Qaida's attempt to bring down an airliner with a shoe bomb - before he was killed in a CIA drone strike.

Mohammed Masri, now 35, left Afghanistan shortly after that mid-1990s exchange in the lab at al-Qaida's Darunta camp complex and never saw his father again. But that notorious lineage has clung to the younger Masri like a toxic residue, complicating his efforts to make his own mark as an Islamist militant, most recently in Syria.

Name recognition helped him build a following of several hundred fighters after he arrived in Syria in 2012, he said in one of a series of interviews with The Washington Post. But since then he has been caught in a violent struggle between those loyal to his father's organization and followers of a bolder, more brutal group determined to supplant it - the Islamic State.

Perhaps more than any other militant in Syria, Masri personifies this generational conflict. The Islamic State began as an offshoot of al-Qaida, but the two organizations are now locked in a fierce competition to determine which will prevail as the dominant brand in global jihad. At one level, their fight is over resources and recruits. But they also have competing visions for how to achieve a new era of Islamist rule, and their rivalry has the potential to fuel a terrorism arms race targeting the West.

Masri is among the few who can claim to have spent significant time at al-Qaida's camps in Afghanistan as well as in the dystopian Islamic State capital of Raqqa in northern Syria - and the only person so far to emerge from those experiences and speak about them in detail.

In some ways, he represents the shared DNA of those organizations, as well as the violent disagreements over tactics and objectives that have rendered them incompatible. The course of that competition has over the past two years seemed strongly in favor of the Islamic State. But al-Qaida, which has escaped extermination for 15 years since the 9/11 attacks, has repeatedly shown its ability to regroup.

Al-Qaida's main affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, recently declared its independence from the parent organization, a claim that has been greeted with deep skepticism by U.S. intelligence officials.

In a recording released in May, al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri urged al-Nusra in Syria to establish its own sovereign territory to compete with the Islamic State, a move that al-Qaida has long resisted. Zawahiri also called for a new "unity" among rebel factions arrayed against the Islamic State and the Syrian government, saying it is a matter of "life and death."

Masri, who knew Zawahiri in Afghanistan, is at the center of the al-Qaida leader's intended audience.

After failing to help avert the emergence of the Islamic State, Masri aligned himself with the ultra-violent group in 2013, bringing other followers and accepting many of the self-declared caliphate's perks, including an apartment in Raqqa, regular paychecks and a new Saudi bride.

But the group gradually became aware of the limits of Masri's allegiance, he said, including his reluctance to take part in attacks against al-Qaida's affiliate in Syria and his refusal to appear in propaganda videos denouncing his father's organization. By mid-2014, Masri was accused of being a traitor and was being moved in and out of guarded Raqqa dwellings in the Islamic State's version of house arrest.

Masri's lineage has led to long stretches of incarceration in his life - including eight years in Egypt. But it was someone loyal to his father's cause, a merchant in Raqqa secretly working against the Islamic State, who helped engineer Masri's escape from the caliphate.

"My father had a big name and meaning among the mujahideen," Masri said, referring to the thousands of fighters who migrated to Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s. The Islamic State "is trying to take on the [mantle] of al-Qaida," Masri said. "They wanted to use me as a trophy."  

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Source http://m.ndtv.com/world-news/hes-the-son-of-osama-bin-ladens-bombmaker-then-isis-wanted-him-as-one-of-its-own-1440749?pfrom=home-otherstories


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