Bilal Abdul Kareem is an American Salafi Muslim who has developed a niche for himself as a journalist and film maker conducting interviews in the Middle East.
British viewers may have first come across his work when the footage he obtained of a British jihadi in the Katiba al Muhajireen group in Syria, Ibrahim al Mazwagi, was broadcast by Channel 4 news. Depending on which source you read, al Mazwagi was either the first or second Brit to be killed in the Syrian civil war. As well as running his own website, Kareem's work appears on like minded sites, such as that of Islam 21C in this country.
What makes Kareem important is less what he says or does, than his access. This extends to the highest levels within al-Qaeda. Uncomfortably for campaigners who supported him in the UK, since his departure to Jordan Abu Qatada has returned to his role as sage and theologian for al-Qaeda, an organisation somewhat rattled by the rise of ISIS and its 2014 declaration of a caliphate. Who did Qatada turn to, to publicise his views that the actions of ISIS were theologically and theoretically flawed? Bilal Abdul Kareem, in a three part interview published earlier this year.
Now, Kareem appears to have played a central role in the events involving Shukee Begum from Manchester, and her husband Jamal al-Harith. A former Guantanamo Bay inmate who received £1 million compensation from taxpayers, al-Harith subsequently left the north west of England for the Islamic State, where, Shukee Begum later joined him. There she made the shocking discovery that she was in a war zone, and (clearly well advised in terms of PR for her potential return to the UK) found that life in the caliphate was 'not her cup of tea'. Not only did Kareem obtain her interview, but he reportedly played a role in getting her out of the custody of a group of fighters opposed to ISIS, facilitating her release along with the Al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra.
She is now reportedly in what Kareem describes as "the liberated areas of northern Syria" - it is not clear where precisely he is referring to here. However, given his track record, Kareem is more likely to be referring to territory held by the al-Nusra Front. What an interesting address book he must have.....