Ansar al Sharia Egypt founder ‘honored to be an extension of al Qaeda’

Ahmed Ashush, a high-profile jihadist who has longstanding ties to al Qaeda and who has founded Ansar al Sharia Egypt. Image from Al Arabiya News.

Ahmed Ashush, a high-profile jihadist who has longstanding ties to al Qaeda and who has founded Ansar al Sharia Egypt. Image from Al Arabiya News.

By Thomas Joscelyn

In an interview with the Cairo-based publication Al Shuruq al Jadid  in late October, Ahmed Ashush, the founder  of Ansar al Sharia Egypt, praised al Qaeda and defended the terrorist  organization against criticisms. Ashush also named Mohammed al Zawahiri, the  younger brother of al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, as one of the jihadist  leaders who remained true to his ideology during his time in prison.

The interviewer asked, “Does Egyptian Salafi-jihadism represent an extension  of the al Qaeda organization?”

Ashush first offered to “correct the view of the al Qaeda organization,”  according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal. Ashush  proceeded to call al Qaeda the “House of Honor,” the “Title of Glory,” and the  “Home of the Nation’s Dignity.”

“We must perpetuate [Osama] bin Laden whether alive or dead,” Ashush  continued. “If the revolutions of the Arab Spring were fair they would have  adopted bin Laden as the symbol of heroism and sacrifice.”

Ashush declared, “We are honored to be an extension of the al Qaeda  organization in its beliefs, principles, and concepts.”

The senior Egyptian jihadist went on to describe al Qaeda itself as an  “extension” of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), which has long been headed by  Ayman al Zawahiri and merged with Osama bin Laden’s terrorist group prior to the  Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Ashush named two EIJ leaders, Abu Ubaidah al  Banshiri and Abu Hafs al Masri, as co-founders of al Qaeda. Both served as al  Qaeda military chiefs prior to their demise.

Ashush’s embrace of al Qaeda is consistent with his past rhetoric and  behavior. Since his release from an Egyptian prison, Ashush has repeatedly  praised al Qaeda.

And Ayman al Zawahiri is so fond of Ashush that clips of the Ansar al Sharia  Egypt leader are frequently included in al Qaeda’s videos. A Sept. 10 video  starring Ayman al Zawahiri featured a clip of Ashush praising Osama bin Laden. A  two-part al Qaeda video released on Oct. 24 included nine video clips showing  Ashush and other Egyptian jihadists.

During his interview with Al Shuruq al Jadid, Ashush did not shy  away from al Qaeda’s terrorism.

Al Qaeda is “fighting a criminal enemy,” Ashush claimed, and only the  terrorist group has prevented Muslim countries from being divided “into  mini-States” ruled by “the Jews and the Christians.” The US has authored this  anti-Muslim conspiracy, according to Ashush. “Al Qaeda is the one that stopped  the American scheme aimed at splitting Egypt into four States and dividing all  Islamic countries.”

Ahush’s organization, Ansar al Sharia Egypt, is dedicated to implementing  sharia law and rebuilding the Islamic Caliphate. As he made clear during his  interview, Ashush is also deeply hostile to the West.

“We are at war with the United States and Israel and all the Worldly Rulers  whom they appointed in the countries of the Muslims to carry out their  imperialist blueprint in our countries,” Ashush said.

Ashush has used the name “Salafi Vanguard” to describe his efforts and those  of his compatriots. Ashush described the group as part of the jihadist  “current,” explaining that they chose this name to prevent any jihadist who has  renounced his ideology from speaking for them.

“Those who speak in the name of the current are those who remained firm and  did not change inside prison,” Ashush said. “Sheikh Mohammed al Zawahiri is  among them.”

Read more at the Long War Journal