‘Jihad Olympics’ Take Two: Al-Qaeda Shows Its Muscle in Mali

Security forces rescues hostage in Mali (Photo: Video screenshot)

Security forces rescues hostage in Mali (Photo: Video screenshot)

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, Nov. 26, 2015:

When al-Qaeda struck a hotel in Mali exactly one week after the Islamic State’s attacks in Paris, it was another competition in what we’ve dubbed the “Jihad Olympics.” Al-Qaeda’s latest assault also doubled as an attack ad against the Islamic State (ISIS), contrasting its relative mercy towards Muslims with the Islamic State’s complete disregard for Muslim casualties.

Watch Clarion Project’s National Security Analyst, Prof. Ryan Mauro, on FOX News Channel’s “America’s Newsroom” as news broke of the attacks in Mali and the anchor noted our correct prediction of Al-Qaeda’s responsibility:

Responsibility for the attacks was claimed by two al-Qaeda branches: al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Al-Mourabitoun. The Macina Liberation Front, a group that has links to Al-Qaeda but has not formally sworn allegiance, later also took credit.

Aside from the obvious fact that al-Qaeda believes it is required by Allah to carry out attacks like what we saw in Mali, the timing strongly suggests it wanted—and desperately needed—to show it still has a pulse. Success is seen as Allah’s endorsement, so al-Qaeda’s decline since 2001 and the rise of the Islamic State since 2014 have potentially existential consequences for the group.

Success wins arguments between Islamists. There are lengthy debates between Islamists referencing Islamic scripture and legal rulings and scholars’ interpretations, but at the end of the day, there’s no stronger argument than success (a.k.a. Allah’s blessing).

Temporary setbacks may be shrugged off as tests of faith, but undeniable defeat will cause even the most confident-sounding jihadist to privately question how he has offended Allah. This can be seen in letters between senior al-Qaeda leaders and public criticism from former al-Qaeda supporters, including a mentor to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri.

A second purpose of the Mali attacks was to serve as the jihadist equivalent of a political attack ad against the Islamic State. al-Qaeda made sure to release hostages who could recite verses from the Quran in order to minimize Muslim casualties, regardless of whether those Muslim hostages support the group or not.

Al-Qaeda supporters online immediately pointed this out. al-Qaeda derides the Islamic State as being equivalent to the Khawarij (or Kharijites), a puritanical Islamic sect that waged war against the ruling caliph and branded rival Muslims as apostates deserving of death. The comparison stings ISIS enough that its propaganda regularly addresses it.

Of course, the parallels can just as easily be seen with al-Qaeda and all the Muslim blood it has on its hands. The private communications of al-Qaeda leaders indicate they believe that its targeting of Muslims was frowned upon by Allah and so decided to calibrate their massacres. Al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban’s condemnation of the Pakistani Taliban’s massacre of Muslim children in Peshawar is an example of this course correction.

The “Jihad Olympics” can produce the desired headlines, such as news that al-Qaeda has delivered a “severe blow” to the Islamic State in the Golan Heights area by suicide bombing the leadership of one of its militias (the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigades). But the terrorist-on-terrorist violence comes with a price.

Attacks like those in Paris and Mali are benchmarks in the competition that each group must achieve, especially as its capabilities are doubted. The Islamic State attacked an Italian priest in Bangladesh not only because he is a legitimate target in their minds, but because Bangladesh is a focal point of a new al-Qaeda affiliate that attacked two publishers there only weeks earlier.

The competition and inter-jihadist bloodshed only raises the pressure on each group to attack Western targets. And the gold medal in this “Jihad Olympics” will unfortunately be won by whoever does the most damage inside Western countries, especially the United States.

Video: Stephen Coughlin unveils the dreadful lessons of ISIS’s Paris massacre

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We should expect to see large scale acts of terrorism culminating at the end of the year – Coughlin


This special edition of The Glazov Gang was joined by Stephen Coughlin, the co-founder of UnconstrainedAnalytics.org and the author of the new book, Catastrophic Failure.

He came on the show to discuss The Dreadful Lessons of ISIS’s Paris Massacre, shedding troubling light on Jihadists’ dire warning to America.

[See also Stephen on the Glazov Gang special: How “Rules of Engagement” Get U.S. Soldiers Killed.]

Also see:

Jihadists storm Radisson hotel in Malian capital

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Long War Journal, by Caleb Weiss, Nov. 20, 2015:

Jihadist stormed the Radisson Blu Hotel in downtown Bamako in the early morning today, killing at least three people and taking more than 170 hostage. Malian commandos have assaulted the hotel in an effort to end the siege. The counterattack is still underway.

The attack began when gunmen penetrated a security barrier outside the hotel. Quoting a witness, the BBC reports that “They [the jihadists] were in car with a diplomatic license plate. They were masked. At the gate of the hotel, the guard stopped them and they start firing.”

The jihadists then shot their way into the hotel. Once inside, the gunmen reportedly made their way through the hotel “floor by floor, room by room” according to Reuters. The attackers were heard yelling “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is greatest,” in Arabic while fanning out through the hotel.

An estimated 80 hostages were freed after they were able to correctly recite verses of the Koran. The tactic of separating Muslims from other hostages is one that is often used by al Qaeda to avoid killing Muslims.

Malian special forces are reported to have assaulted the building after cordoning off the area. Additionally, the French GIGN, the elite counterterrorism unit of the National Gendarmerie, are being deployed to Bamako to assist Mali in the hostage crisis. US Special Forces are reported to have rescued six US citizens.

The exact number of gunmen involved in the attack on the Radisson Blu is unclear, with reports varying between two and 13 fighters.

The Radisson Blu Hotel, which is US-owned, is popular with foreign nationals, including French tourists and businessmen. A number of French, Chinese, and Indian citizens were staying at the hotel when the attack began.

Al Murabitoon, an al Qaeda group led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, claimed credit for the attack and demanded the release of jihadist prisoners as well as an end to French intervention in northern Mali. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda group claims credit for attack on hotel in Mali’s capital.]

The hostage crisis is the second to occur in Mali this year. The previous hostage crisis was executed in August, when jihadists from Al Murabitoon, stormed a hotel in the central Malian town of Sevare. The siege left at least 12 people dead. Al Murabitoon also targeted a nightclub in Bamako earlier this year.

Today’s attack took place just weeks after , the leader of Ansar Dine, released an audio statement calling for attacks on the French and their interests in Mali. Ghaly called for the increased targeting of French interests to avenge French intervention in the country.

“May your explosive belts respond to them, and your directed devices, and your loud car bombs,” he said. He ends his statement by saying that the Muslims must expel the “Crusaders” to “take revenge for honor of our noble Prophet.”

Ansar Dine, a front for al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has also claimed several attacks in southern Mali this year, including two near the border with the Ivory Coast. One of the those attacks targeted a police station near the border, which left at least one Malian police officer dead. Additionally, the Macina Liberation Movement, which a front for Ansar Dine, has also been behind several attacks in southern and central Mali this year. [See map above for more information.]

Assaulting hotels is a common tactic of al Qaeda, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Islamic State, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and other jihadist groups. Many of the hotels targeted by jihadists are frequented by Western tourists, Western government officials, or are host to local government figures.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al Qaeda’s official branch in North Africa, has a history of kidnapping Westerners, many from Malian hotels. This includes the Swede Johan Gustofsson, South African Stephen McGowan, and the Dutchman Sjaak Rijke. The three, along with a German national, were kidnapped from a hotel in Timbuktu. Rijke has since been released, but Gustofsson and McGowan are still being held.



Al Qaeda group claims credit for attack on hotel in Mali’s capital by Bill Roggio

Al Murabitoon, an al Qaeda group that operates in West Africa, has claimed responsibility for this morning’s suicide assault on a luxury hotel in Bamako, Mali. Al Murabitoon claimed it executed the hotel siege in conjunction with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al Qaeda’s official branch in North Africa.

The al Qaeda group claimed the Bamako attack in a statement that was sent to Al Jazeera. According to Al Murabitoon, the operation was carried “in coordination with the Sahara Emirate of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.”

Al Murabitoon said its fighters would release hostages held at the hotel for “the liberation of the mujahideen in Bamako’s prisons.” Additionally, Al Murabitoon demanded that Malian and French forces stop “the oppression of the people of northern Mali.” The jihadists threatened to execute the hostages if its demands are not met and said it would release a complete statement on the attack at a later time.

Today’s attack began when jihadists, purportedly driving a vehicle with diplomatic plates, penetrated the Radisson Blu’s security perimeter and then shot their way into the hotel. Once inside, the gunmen are sad to have searched the hotel “floor by floor, room by room” according to Reuters. The attackers were heard yelling “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is greatest,” in Arabic while fanning out through the hotel.

The jihadists are said to have taken 170 hostages, including number of American, French, Chinese, and Indian citizens. An estimated 80 hostages were freed after they were able to correctly recite verses of the Koran. The tactic of separating Muslims from other hostages is one that is often used by al Qaeda to avoid killing Muslims.

Malian special forces as well as US Special forces are said to have assaulted the hotel in an effort to free the hostages. Six Americans are said to have been freed by US Special Forces.

Al Murabitoon is led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a veteran African jihadist who is openly loyal to Ayman al Zawahiri and has denounced the Islamic State. Belmokhtar and Al Murabitoon have been behind several spectacular attacks in West Africa over the past several years, including the January 2013 suicide assault on the In Amenas gas facility in southeastern Algeria, and the May 2013 suicide assaults in Niger that targeted a military barracks and a uranium mine. Scores of people were killed in these attacks.

Belmokhtar and his unit are listed by the US as a specially designated global terrorist and a Foreign Terrorist Organization, respectively.

The Sahara branch of AQIM is led by Yahya Abu Hammam, who is listed by the US as a specially designated global terrorist for playing a “key role in the group’s ongoing terrorist activities in North Africa and Mali.”

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal. Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

Al Qaeda’s Inspire Magazine May Answer Metrojet 9268 Questions

Hidden-bomb-article-display-bBy Brian Fairchild, Nov. 6, 2015:

There is currently much speculation as to whether Metrojet Flight 9268, downed over the Sinai Peninsula on October 31, 2015, was the victim of Islamic State terrorism, and if so, how the attack was conducted.  The Islamic State has claimed credit for the attack, and the US and UK governments report that there is reason to believe that the plane was destroyed by an on-board explosion.  The investigation appears to be focusing on the usual suspects, such as baggage handlers, catering company employees, or other back-room personnel.  Ironically, the Islamic State’s nemesis, al Qaeda, may well have provided the answer to these questions approximately 10 months ago when it published the thirteenth issue of Inspire magazine.

That issue, which went to press on Christmas day in 2014, provided step-by-step instructions on how to destroy passenger airliners by making a simple, yet powerful bomb in a private residence using readily available products from commercial stores.

All the products needed to build the bomb were painstakingly listed, and the authors provided detailed instructions, aided by photographs, text, and graphs, on how to extract the explosive chemicals from the commercial products, and then how to cobble them together to construct the main charge, the detonator, the quick burning fuse, and the explosive starter.

The section of the magazine dealing with the bomb was titled The Hidden Bomb, because the authors intended the device to be fashioned into a brassier, underwear, or hidden in male and/or female body cavities.  The device contains no metal parts and was specifically designed to defeat airport metal detectors, scent detectors (including dogs), and pat-downs by airport personnel.   The authors advised, however, that the bomb could be detected by body-imaging machines, and so warned jihadists to avoid airports that utilized this technology.

The al Qaeda bomb makers also advised jihadists to destroy the plane at the highest altitude, and to maximize the explosive properties of the bomb by detonating their devices over the wings where the gas tanks are located, or in the rear of the plane in order to destroy the tail section and the ability of the plane to be steered.

Thus far, the technical investigation of the incident indicates that the plane was destroyed at 31,000 feet in a sudden and catastrophic event.

Brian Fairchild was a career officer in CIA’s Clandestine Service.  He has served in Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Arabian Peninsula, and Afghanistan.  Mr. Fairchild writes periodic intelligence analyses on topics of strategic importance.

The US Didn’t Create ISIS — Assad and Saddam Did

basharalassadonline-newsit2_1Frontpage, by Daniel Greenfield, Nov. 4, 2015:

The Russia-Iran-Assad axis and its useful idiots in the West claim that the United States created ISIS. Some of the loonier conspiracy sites that gleefully repost Russian propaganda allege that the Caliph of ISIS is a Jewish Mossad agent named Elliot Shimon or a CIA agent named Simon Elliot.

Elliot doesn’t exist, but ISIS’ Deputy Caliph Abu Ali al-Anbari, who was Saddam’s major general and a Baathist member, does. The Caliph’s right hand man, Abu Muslim al Turkmani, was also a Baathist and a lieutenant colonel in Saddam’s military intelligence organization before being killed by a drone strike.

Considering the history between Saddam and the USSR, it is likely that one or both of the Caliph’s deputies received training from Russian intelligence advisers during their careers. Turkmani’s DGMI in particular was closely entangled with the KGB. One of the reasons ISIS is much better than its Sunni Islamist opponents is that its top people had been trained by Soviet experts.

The ISIS blowback doesn’t lead to America, but in a completely different direction.

Before the Islamic State’s current incarnation, it was Al Qaeda in Iraq and its pipeline of suicide bombers ran through Syria with the cooperation of Assad’s government.

Assad and Al Qaeda in Iraq had a common enemy; the United States. Assad had a plan to kill two birds with one stone. Syrian Islamists, who might cause trouble at home, were instead pointed at Iraq. Al Qaeda got manpower and Assad disposed of Sunni Jihadists who might cause him trouble.

Meanwhile Al Qaeda openly operated out of Syria in alliance with the Baathists. While Syria’s regime was Shiite and Iraq’s Sunni, both governments were headed by Baathists.

The Al Nusrah Front, the current incarnation of Al Qaeda in the area ever since the terror group began feuding with ISIS, named one of its training camps, the ‘Abu Ghadiya Camp”. Abu Ghadiya had been chosen by Zarqawi, the former leader of the organization today known as ISIS, to move terroriststhrough Syria. This highway of terror killed more American soldiers than Saddam Hussein had.

The Al Qaeda presence in Syria was backed by Assad’s brother-in-lawAssef Shawkat, who had served as Director of Military Intelligence and Deputy Defense Minister.  His real job though was coordinating Islamic terrorist organizations. During the Iraq War, he added Al Qaeda to his portfolio.

Handling terrorists without being burned is a tricky business though and the blowback kicked in.

In 2008, a US raid into Syria finally took out Abu Ghadiya and some of his top people. A year later, General Petraeus warned that, “In time, these fighters will turn on their Syrian hosts and begin conducting attacks against Bashar al-Asad’s regime itself.”

Shawkat was killed by a suicide bomber three years later. Assad’s support for terrorists had hit home. Those Sunni Islamists he had sent on to Iraq who survived returned with training and skills that made them a grave danger to his regime.

Exactly as Petraeus had predicted.

Anti-American Leftists who claim that the US created ISIS were cheering on its early terror attacks as the work of a Baathist “Resistance”. ISIS these days is accompanied by top Baathists including General al-Douri, a close Saddam ally. The same outlets claiming that we created ISIS celebrated the “Resistance” campaign against NATO “neo-colonialism” when what they were really celebrating was ISIS.

Putin’s regime has claimed that it is fighting ISIS, but it was supporting Assad back when Syria was a conduit for ISIS to attack Americans. The Baathists in Syria and Iraq had both been Soviet clients and it was the USSR which turned international terrorism into a high art.

The United States has gotten plenty of the blame for supporting Mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the USSR, but the USSR had started the practice much earlier and had signed on to the Red-Green alliance. As Primakov, a top Soviet leader and KGB figure closely involved with the Muslim world, had said, the “Islamic movement” has a “radical trend which is strongly charged with anti-imperialism.”

It’s no coincidence that ISIS has thrived best in countries that were former Soviet clients whose governments attempted to fit Primakov’s definition by walking a fine line between Socialism and Islam. Nor is it a coincidence that in addition to its beheadings and sex slavery, ISIS plays up its free medicalcare and price controls. ISIS is still offering Socialism and Islam with a bigger emphasis on Islam.

While Baathism is often described as secular, it actually sought to blend Islam with its politics. It was a leftist Islamism that emphasized Socialism in contrast to the rightist Islamism of the Muslim Brotherhood whose leaders were often businessmen and landowners with a more capitalistic bent.

These distinctions, which led the USSR to build ties with the Baathists while Western countries got involved with the Muslim Brotherhood, were more style than substance. The preference of the Muslim Brotherhood or the Turkish AKP for crony capitalism as the next best thing to a lost former feudalism did not make them friendly to the West. And the Baathists were tribal dictators who cloaked their clannish authoritarianism and familial feuds in a blend of hollow Socialist and Islamic platitudes.

Critics claim that there would be no ISIS if Saddam were still in power, but the Iraqi dictator helped create ISIS through his alliances with Islamists. ISIS did not suddenly rise out of the ruins of his regime. Instead it grew within Saddam’s regime as the dictator responded to his setbacks against Iran and Saudi Arabia, two Islamist states, by reinventing Iraq and Baathism as explicitly Islamist entities.

During the Iran-Iraq War, Saddam had begun building ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, hoping to bridge the old split between Baathists and Brotherhood and meet Shiite Islamism with Sunni Islamism.

After the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein went in a blatantly Islamist direction. The man in charge of his “Return to Faith” campaign was General Al-Douri, who would be the key ally that Al Qaeda used to move its people through Syria and who would live long enough to fight alongside ISIS as it retook Tikrit.

Allah Akbar was added to the Iraqi flag and Islamic education was embedded into the system from elementary schools to Islamic universities. It is likely that the Caliph of ISIS owes his own Islamic education to Saddam’s newfound interest in the Koran.

By the mid 90s, Saddam endorsed a Caliphate and implemented Sharia punishments such as chopping off the hands of thieves.  When ISIS amputates hands, it’s just restoring one of Saddam’s Sharia policies.

Everyone knows about Saddam’s palaces, but fewer know about his campaign to build the world’s biggest mosques. One of the biggest of these had a Koran written in Saddam’s own blood. This mosque would become a major center for ISIS allied operations run by a Muslim Brotherhood organization.

The Caliph of ISIS was recruited into the Muslim Brotherhood by his uncle. And like so many Jihadist leaders, he moved on to Al Qaeda. His own Baathist-Islamist background made him the perfect man to take Saddam’s vision of a Pan-Islamic state with Sharia and Socialism for all to the next level.

Saddam’s outreach to the Muslim Brotherhood helped create ISIS, just as Assad’s backing for Al Qaeda did and much as Gaddafi’s LIFG deal with the Brotherhood paved the way for his own overthrow.

Barzan, Saddam’s brother and the leader of his secret police, had warned him that his alliance with Islamists would lead to the overthrow of his regime. And that is what likely would have happened. American intervention changed the timetable, but not the outcome.

ISIS is a Baathist-Islamist hybrid that devours its creators, turning on Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, and at times even threatening its Baathist allies. Its hybrid of Socialism and an Islam so medieval and brutal that it even frightens Al Qaeda and the Brotherhood has its roots in Saddam’s Iraq. Televising new and more extreme tortures was a tactic that was more Saddam than Osama.

Even ISIS’ most revolutionary step, declaring its leader the Caliph, echoes Saddam’s effort to don the vestiges of the Abbasid Caliphate by linking himself to Caliph Al-Mansur. The difference between Saddam and ISIS is that it is willing to follow through on the symbolism.

For Saddam, Islam was a means. For ISIS it is an end. ISIS is Saddam’s Islamized Iraq without Saddam. It uses Saddam’s tactics and infrastructure for purely Islamic ends.

ISIS is blowback, but not against America. It’s the outcome of two Russian client states that climbed into bed with terrorists only to see the terrorists take over their countries. Saddam and Assad were both warned about the consequences of their alliance with Islamists.

Saddam aided the Muslim Brotherhood in trying to topple Assad’s father, yet learned no lessons from it. Assad aided the Al Qaeda attacks on Americans, but didn’t consider what would happen when Al Qaeda turned its attention to him. Both regimes sowed the Islamist seeds of their own destruction and made inevitable their transformation into Islamic terror states.

Al Qaeda chief calls for jihadist unity to ‘liberate Jerusalem’

Ayman al Zawahiri says the jihadists must strike the West and build states in the Levant and Egypt in order to “liberate” Jerusalem.

Ayman al Zawahiri says the jihadists must strike the West and build states in the Levant and Egypt in order to “liberate” Jerusalem.

The Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, November 2, 2015:

Al Qaeda has released a new audio message from Ayman al Zawahiri, who addresses recent events at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The audio speech is embedded in a video that is nearly 16 minutes long and features archival footage of Osama bin Laden, a still image of Zawahiri, and scrolling text throughout.

Zawahiri begins by alleging that “Muslims everywhere” are upset by the “Jews’ repeated attacks on the blessed Al Aqsa Mosque,” according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal. He then praises the knife attacks that have been carried out against Jews, saying they are “a new epic of jihad,” in which people “defend Palestine and Al Aqsa with knives, cars, stones, and everything they own.” Zawahiri asks Allah “to bless these martyrdom-seekers who dare to stab the Jews even as they are almost certain that they will be killed at the Jews’ hands.”

The al Qaeda leader argues that two things are required to “liberate” Jerusalem. First, the jihadists must strike “the West, and especially America, in its heartland” and also attack Western interests everywhere they are found. Zawahiri cites a number of previous attacks in the West as part of his call for more terror, including the September 11, 2001 hijackings and the Boston Marathon bombings carried out by the “two Tsarnaev brothers.”

Second, Zawahiri says that Muslims must establish a “state” in Egypt and the Levant in order to “mobilize the ummah to liberate Palestine.” The al Qaeda chieftain uses this point to emphasize one of his key themes. Establishing such states, based on al Qaeda’s radical version of sharia law, “requires unity,” avoiding “disputes and ending “hostilities” between “the mujahideen.” This is a reference to the infighting between the Islamic State, led by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, and its jihadist rivals in Syria and elsewhere.

Therefore, Zawahiri once again calls for jihadist unity against the “mujahideen’s” common enemies. He does not endorse Baghdadi’s self-declared “caliphate.” He has already set forth his extensive critique of Baghdadi’s state in previous messages. And he takes a swipe against Baghdadi’s state again in his latest message, saying that al Qaeda is fighting to resurrect the caliphate based on the “prophetic method,” which requires shura (consultation). Baghdadi did not consult recognized jihadist authorities before declaring that his organization now rules over a “caliphate” covering large portions of Iraq and Syria.

But Zawahiri wants the fighters within Baghdadi’s ranks to stop fighting Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, and its allies, as well as jihadists elsewhere, so that they can focus on the supposed alliance between America, Europe, Russia, the “Rejectionists” [meaning Shiites and Iran], and the Nusayri [a derogatory reference to Bashar al Assad’s Alawite regime]. Zawahiri alleges that all these parties are “coordinating their war against us” in a joint alliance. He asks why the jihadists are not able to set aside their differences and “direct” all of their “efforts” against them.

Addressing jihadists “from every group” around the world, Zawahiri says that the Levant and Egypt are the “two historical gates of Jerusalem” and the battle in those two areas is a fight against the “Crusader-Rejectionist alliance.” The ummah [community of worldwide Muslims] must support this battle however it can, Zawahiri says, because it is a battle “to show” what it means for Muslims to wage an “acceptable jihad” that elevates Allah’s sharia and does “not empower the secularist and national regimes.”

Zawahiri wants to build popular support for the jihadists’ efforts, seeing this as key to their victory. “It is a political jihad battle so we could convince the ummah that our conduct is in line with what we call for and does not contradict it and does not drive away the Muslim people from the mujahideen,” Zawahiri says. Thus, the jihadists must “hone our conduct in order to convince our Muslim people that we are really keen to be ruled over by sharia if we are called to implement it” and do not label other Muslims as non-believers. The jihadists must convince Muslims that they “are the most merciful of people toward our people” and “do not seek to oppress Muslims.”

Al Qaeda’s bottom-up approach is, therefore, very different from the Islamic State’s. While they both want to build governments based on sharia law, al Qaeda is much more focused on building legitimacy for its ideological project in the hearts and minds of Muslims. Al Qaeda and its allies want to gradually implement sharia law and eventually resurrect a caliphate. Zawahiri’s organization has adopted this strategy, in part, because it knows that most Muslims are not pining for al Qaeda-style rule.

Through its top-down authoritarianism, the Islamic State seeks to convince Muslims that it is a caliphate today and that its version of sharia law, with its graphic executions and punishments, is divinely justified. (Al Qaeda generally avoids propaganda that focuses on its implementation of sharia’s penalties, whereas the Islamic State explicitly advertises its decapitations and amputations.) From the Islamic State’s perspective, Muslims who do not accept its legitimacy as a “caliphate” are to be terrorized into submission.

Zawahiri is not only critical of the Islamic State, with its hard stance, but also other Islamist groups that have adopted softer approaches to achieving their goals.

In this “political jihad battle,” Zawahiri says, the Muslim people should be shown that groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, salafists who support the Egyptian regime, and Rached Ghannouchi (a Tunisian Islamist who co-founded the Ennahda Movement in his home country) have erred by allying themselves with the secular governments and corrupt politicians who oppress Muslims. Zawahiri also accuses these Islamists of submitting themselves to agreements that recognize Israel’s legitimacy, “because they have realized that the price for reaching power is the acceptance of the secular constitutions and submission to Israel.”

The “mujahideen in Palestine” should fight to build an Islamic government, Zawahiri says, arguing that a “secular government that rejects sharia” in Jerusalem would be unacceptable.

Toward the end of his message, Zawahiri again ties Jerusalem to the jihadists’ efforts in the Levant and Egypt. “We must work to establish a Muslim government in the lands neighboring Israel,” he says, and the jihadists’ infighting distracts from this key mission.

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Archival footage of Osama bin Laden is included at the beginning and the end of the al Qaeda production. The clip at the end is used to emphasize that al Qaeda seeks to resurrect a caliphate. A common misconception in the West is that while the Islamic State seeks to conquer territory, al Qaeda only plots terrorist attacks.

“Today, praise be to Allah…we are redrawing the map of the Islamic world to make one state under the banner of the caliphate, Allah willing,” bin Laden says in the clip. From Zawahiri’s perspective, the jihadists’ battles in the Levant and Egypt are key to making this goal a reality.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

Also see:

Al Qaeda appears ‘moderate’ compared to Islamic State, veteran jihadist says

Screen-Shot-2015-10-25-at-10.45.16-AM-1024x724The second edition of Al Risalah magazine features an interview with Usama Hamza Australi, an al Qaeda veteran sent to Syria to train fighters for Al Nusrah Front.

(Jihadology: Click the following link for a safe PDF copy: al-Risālah Magazine #2)

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, October 25, 2015

Jihadists in Syria have released the second edition of Al Risalah, an English-language magazine. The publication, which was distributed via social media earlier today, is a thinly-veiled piece of al Qaeda propaganda. It isn’t officially published by the organization, but its al Qaeda messaging is obvious.

Al Risalah’s newest edition includes an interview with a jihadist known as Usama Hamza Australi, who is originally from Queensland, Australia. “I’ve been a member of Al Qaeda for approximately fourteen years – since mid-2001 until today,” Australi says. “I’m currently in Syria as a member of Al Qaeda Central (AQC), working on their behalf with [Al Nusrah Front].”

Al Qaeda’s decision to send veterans to Syria, where they help steer Al Nusrah Front, an official branch of the group, has been well-documented. Yet, not all of these experienced jihadists have been publicly identified. In the interview, Usama Hamza Australi reveals not only his own personal role, but also additional details about al Qaeda’s operations. And he confirms a point The Long War Journal hasrepeatedly made: Al Qaeda is using the Islamic State to reposition itself as a supposedly more “moderate” jihadist organization.

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“One of the greatest things about IS [Islamic State] its that before people saw al Qaeda and the Mujahideen (in general) as the extremists, and those that abstain from jihad as the normal ‘moderate’ Muslims (following the middle-way),” Australi explains. “But now the truth has come out — the Mujahideen are in fact upon the correct and ‘moderate’ path, with IS being the extremists.”

Australi concludes: “So I think that IS is a blessing in disguise for the Muslim Ummah [worldwide community of Muslims].”

Of course, al Qaeda’s end goals are similar to the Islamic State’s. Both want to build an Islamic caliphate based on their radical version of sharia law. Al Qaeda simply disagrees with the Islamic State’s methodology, believing that caliphate-building is a longer-term project that requires the approval of the broader jihadist community. (Al Qaeda ideologues criticize Abu Bakr al Baghdadi and the Islamic State for failing to win the approval of recognized jihadist authorities before declaring a caliphate over large parts of Iraq and Syria.) Al Qaeda also argues that sharia law should be implemented slowly in order to give Muslims, many of whom do not desire jihadist-style governance, the time to acclimate to laws they have not lived under.

Australi makes some of these arguments in his interview. It is “obligatory upon us to fight jihad and to establish an Islamic Caliphate, this being our ultimate goal,” he says. Al Qaeda will not “compromise” when it comes to the Quran and “will not stop until our goal is reached.” That goal is the “full” implementation of sharia law.

Australi continues: “But you have to understand there’s a way of implementing this – which is the way of the Prophet…and (then) you have the way of the Islamic State group.” The proper jihadist “ways can be corrupted, especially with the takfir methodology and ideology.”

By comparing themselves to the Islamic State, al Qaeda leaders have repeatedly portrayed themselves as representing a “correct” and “moderate” path, as Australi puts it. This helps al Qaeda attempt to build more popular support for its cause, while masking the true extent of its designs in Syria and elsewhere. Australi goes so far as to declare al Qaeda “merciful,” as compared to the Islamic State.

“I truly believe that al Qaeda’s methodology is the right way, the way of mercy, the way of forgiveness, the way of da’wah [proselytizing], the way of strength,” Australi says, “and strength is not just in killing.”

Al Qaeda’s guerilla warfare

Australi began his career in the Australian military before leaving for Afghanistan. Once there in mid-2001, he was taken in by the Taliban before joining al Qaeda’s ranks. He lavishes praise on the Taliban, arguing that the only real differences between the Taliban and al Qaeda were cultural and easily overcome. Australi fought in Afghanistan, including during the Battle of Tora Bora in late 2001, but says that he didn’t receive much military training at first. Instead, he was indoctrinated in al Qaeda’s ideology.

Over time, Australi did receive guerrilla warfare training and was taught Arabic. From 2003 to 2014, he worked for al Qaeda in Waziristan and Afghanistan. “We conducted operations from artillery (mortar) strikes, to ambushes, to assaults and raids on Afghani (apostate Northern Alliance and others of their like), American and NATO forces in Afghanistan,” he says. Australi became so trusted that he met with some of al Qaeda’s most senior leaders, including Abu Yahya al Libi, Sheikh Mahmood, Hafiz Sultan, and Mustafa Saeed. He eventually became a trainer himself.

Today, Australi works as a trainer for “Jaish Nusra,” which he says is a “purely military force (wing)” within the Al Nusrah Front “organization as a whole.”

“I was sent from AQC to assist with [Al Nusrah Front], I’m working with Jaish Nusra as a military trainer and advisor,” Australi says. He goes on to describe what this training entails. “Training tactically, working in small…I hate to use the word ‘Commandos’…high standard infantry tactics, long range patrols, reconnaissance patrols, ambushing, raids, sabotage, harassment behind enemy lines, reaction to combat, how to fight with the enemy in a guerrilla warfare scenario, targeting convoys, targeting installations behind enemy lines with no support, and so on.”

“These were some of the things I trained in for a number of years with the Australian military, and then experienced (in the battlefield) for almost fifteen years in Afghanistan (and here in Syria),” Australi explains. “I’m also involved in military operations…I’m a trainer who still lives to fight (smiles). Any chance I get to fight I’m certainly there, and any input, then I am certainly there.”

Although it is widely believed that al Qaeda is primarily a terrorist organization that is solely focused on attacking the West, the reality is that al Qaeda has devoted most of its resources to waging insurgencies. As the 9/11 Commission found, most of al Qaeda’s trainees from the mid-1990s on were trained in guerrilla warfare, just like Usama Hamza Australi. And the training Australi offers in Syria today, as his own description shows, is of the same variety.

“I insist that [Al Nusrah Front] trains the brothers in the highest standards of guerrilla warfare (tactics) because I believe that if they can handle the harshest, most difficult, and most intense military situations,” Australi says, “then they will be able to handle any other situation with more ease.”

As for the future, Australi believes Jaish Nusra “is going back to the old style of fighting that [Al Nusrah Front] first became renowned for in the beginning of the Syrian War.” This includes “very strong assaults, strong ‘shock and awe’ tactics” and hitting “the enemy with force.”

“We go into areas that the enemy doesn’t expect, and show the enemies of Allah that Jaish Nusra is here to stay,” Australi crows, “and if we enter into a battle we’re here to stay until it’s victory or Shahada [martyrdom].”

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

Also see:

Are we losing Afghanistan again?

Taliba-Paktia-e1445435515840Long War Journal, by Bill Roggio and Thomas Joscelyn, Oct. 21, 2015:

Editor’s note: The following article was originally published at The New York Times Opinion Page on Oct. 21, 2015.

“ALLAH has promised us victory and America has promised us defeat,” Mullah Muhammad Omar, the first head of the Taliban, once said, “so we shall see which of the two promises will be fulfilled.” When his colleagues admitted this summer that Mullah Omar had died, Al Qaeda and affiliated groups around the globe remembered those words — victory is a divine certainty — in their eulogies. And in Afghanistan today, though the majority of Afghans still do not identify with the Taliban or Al Qaeda, Mullah Omar’s bold defiance in the face of a superpower is beginning to look prescient

Since early September, the Taliban have swept through Afghanistan’s north, seizing numerous districts and even, briefly, the provincial capital Kunduz. The United Nations has determined that the Taliban threat to approximately half of the country’s 398 districts is either “high” or “extreme.” Indeed, by our count, more than 30 districts are already under Taliban control. And the insurgents are currently threatening provincial capitals in both northern and southern Afghanistan.

Confronted with this grim reality, President Obama has decided to keep 9,800 American troops in the country through much of 2016 and 5,500 thereafter. The president was right to change course, but it is difficult to see how much of a difference this small force can make. The United States troops currently in Afghanistan have not been able to thwart the Taliban’s advance. They were able to help push them out of Kunduz, but only after the Taliban’s two-week reign of terror. This suggests that additional troops are needed, not fewer.

When justifying his decision last week, the president explained that American troops would “remain engaged in two narrow but critical missions — training Afghan forces, and supporting counterterrorism operations against the remnants of Al Qaeda.” He added, “We’ve always known that we had to maintain a counterterrorism operation in that region in order to tamp down any re-emergence of active Al Qaeda networks.”

But the president has not explained the full scope of what is at stake. Al Qaeda has already re-emerged. Just two days before the president’s statement, the military announced that it led raids against two Qaeda training camps in the south, one of which was an astonishing 30 square miles in size. The operation lasted several days, and involved 63 airstrikes and more than 200 ground troops, including both Americans and Afghan commandos.

“We struck a major Al Qaeda sanctuary in the center of the Taliban’s historic heartland,” Brig. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner, a military spokesman, said. General Shoffner described it as “one of the largest joint ground-assault operations we have ever conducted in Afghanistan.” Other significant Qaeda facilities are already being identified in local press reporting.

Recently, Hossam Abdul Raouf, a chief lieutenant of the Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, confirmed in an audio message that Qaeda’s senior leadership has relocated out of northern Pakistan — no secret to the military and the C.I.A., which have been hunting senior Qaeda figures in Afghanistan and elsewhere throughout the year.

The Taliban are not hiding their continuing alliance with Al Qaeda. In August, Mr. Zawahri pledged his allegiance to Mullah Omar’s successor, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour. Within hours, Mullah Mansour publicly accepted the “esteemed” Mr. Zawahri’s oath of fealty. And Qaeda members are integrated into the Taliban’s chain of command. In fact, foreign fighters affiliated with Al Qaeda played a significant role in the Taliban-led assault on Kunduz.

The United States made many mistakes in the 9/11 wars. After routing the Taliban and Al Qaeda in late 2001, President George W. Bush did not dedicate the resources necessary to finish the fight. President Obama was right in December 2009 to announce a surge of forces in Afghanistan, but it was short-lived. Al Qaeda is not nearly as “decimated” in South Asia as Mr. Obama has claimed.

We don’t think 5,500 troops is enough. No one is calling for a full-scale occupation of the country. But a force of as many as 20,000 to 25,000 would far better support our local Afghan allies, helping them defend multiple provincial capitals at the same time and fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban in their strongholds.

While many believe that Al Qaeda is solely focused on attacking the West, it has devoted most of its efforts to waging insurgencies. This is the key to understanding how it has been able to regenerate repeatedly over the past 14 years. Al Qaeda draws would-be terrorists from the larger pool of paramilitary forces fighting to restore the Taliban to power in Afghanistan or to build radical nation-states elsewhere. Therefore, the mission of the United States is bigger than the one Mr. Obama envisions. Drones and select counterterrorism raids are not enough to end the threat.

Al Qaeda and like-minded groups were founded on the myth that the Soviet Union was defeated in Afghanistan because of the mujahedeen’s faith in Allah alone. This helped spawn a generation of new wars and terrorist attacks, most of which have targeted Muslims. Should the Afghans suffer additional territorial losses, Mullah Omar’s words will appear prophetic. And a new myth, one that will feed the Taliban’s and Al Qaeda’s violence for years to come, will be born.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

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US military confirms it killed senior al Qaeda strategist Sanafi al Nasr in airstrike in Syria

Sanafi al Nasr, sitting on the far left in the picture above, has been killed in a US airstrike.

Sanafi al Nasr, sitting on the far left in the picture above, has been killed in a US airstrike.

The Long War Journal, by  BILL ROGGIO AND THOMAS JOSCELYN | October 18, 2015:

The US military confirmed that it killed Sanafi al Nasr, a senior al Qaeda strategist who was dispatched by the jihadist group years ago to Syria, in an airstrike in the war torn country on Oct. 15. Nasr’s death, and that of two other jihadists, was first reported by al Qaeda members late last week.

The US Department of Defense confirmed that Nasr was killed in “an airstrike in northwest Syria.” The US military described Nasr as “a Saudi national and the highest ranking leader of the network of veteran al Qaeda operatives sometimes called the ‘Khorasan Group.’”

“Al Nasr was a long-time jihadist experienced in funneling money and fighters for al Qaeda. He moved funds from donors in the Gulf region into Iraq and then to alQaeda leaders from Pakistan to Syria,” the press release announcing his death stated. “He organized and maintained routes for new recruits to travel from Pakistan to Syria through Turkey in addition to helping al Qaeda’s external operations in the West. Al Nasr previously worked for al Qaeda’s Iran-based facilitation network. In 2012 he took charge of al-Qaeda’s core finances before relocating to Syria in 2013.”

The US military claimed that Nasr “is the fifth senior Khorasan Group leader killed in the last four months.” Among those senior al Qaeda leaders killed by the US in Syria killed is Muhsin al Fadhli, a Kuwaiti who served alongside Nasr in al Qaeda’s so-called “Khorasan Group.”

Jihadists on Twitter first reported Nasr’s death on Oct. 17 and claimed that two other al Qaeda members, Abdul Malik al Jazrawi (a Saudi) and Abu Yasir al Maghrebi (a Moroccan), were killed alongside the strategist. Additionally, the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, posted a picture purportedly showing a car struck by the “Crusader coalition” in Al Dana, a town in northern Syria west of Aleppo. [See Threat Matrix report, Jihadists claim senior al Qaeda strategist killed in Syria.]

Nasr’s death has deprived al Qaeda of an important leader. In addition to serving as a senior strategist, Nasr, a Saudi whose real name is Abdul Mohsin Abdullah Ibrahim Al Sharikh, was long known for his active role in promulgating propaganda and messages online.

The Long War Journal first reported in March 2014 that he had risen through al Qaeda’s ranks to become a senior leader and that he had relocated to Syria from the Khorasan, an area that encompasses Afghanistan and Pakistan. As The Long War Journal reported at the time, Nasr, a third cousin of Osama bin Laden, led the “Victory Committee,” which is responsible for developing and implementing al Qaeda’s strategy and policies. Declassified files recovered in bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound show that the al Qaeda master had ordered the creation of a committee to serve that function. [For more information on Nasr’s biography and al Qaeda role, see LWJ report: Head of al Qaeda ‘Victory Committee’ in Syria.]

The US Treasury Department later confirmed Nasr’s relocation to Syria and his role as an al Qaeda strategist in an official terrorist designation. [See LWJ report, Treasury designates 2 ‘key’ al Qaeda financiers.]

In September 2014, the US government said that it had bombed the so-called “Khorasan Group” in Syria. The government’s claims caused widespread confusion, but the “Khorasan Group” is really just an elite cadre of al Qaeda operatives from around the globe. The Long War Journal reported shortly after the airstrikes were launched that Nasr was a leading figure in the “Khorasan Group.” [See LWJ report,Senior al Qaeda strategist part of so-called ‘Khorasan group.’]

Nasr is or was a well-known critic of the Islamic State, al Qaeda’s jihadist rival. In July, for instance, he was one of more than a dozen signatories on a statement vowing to continue to oppose the Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s self-declared “caliphate.” The statement was authored by leading Al Nusrah Front and Ahrar al Sham leaders, as well as a handful of other allied jihadists. [See LWJ report, Officials from Al Nusrah Front, Ahrar al Sham vow to continue fight against Islamic State.]

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

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Zawahiri calls for jihadist unity, encourages attacks in West

Screen-Shot-2015-09-13-at-3Long War journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, Sep. 13, 2015:

Al Qaeda has released the second installment in its “Islamic Spring” series, which features Ayman al Zawahiri delivering lectures. Zawahiri’s audio message is accompanied by a still image (seen above).

Zawahiri calls on all of the “mujahideen” in Iraq and Syria to cooperate and “help each other,” because the jihadists’ enemies are supposedly waging a vicious “crusade” against them. And he wants Muslims living in the West to help by attacking the “crusader” countries.

“I call on all Muslims who can harm the countries of the crusader coalition not to hesitate. We must now focus on moving the war to the heart of the homes and cities of the crusader West and specifically America,” Zawahiri says, according to Reuters.

Zawahiri does not offer his approval for the Islamic State’s caliphate, saying it was established in “secret” without proper consultation. (Al Qaeda and its allies frequently make this argument, which hinges on the idea that the Islamic State, by refusing to consult other recognized jihadist authorities, has not followed the appropriate “prophetic method.”)

Still, the al Qaeda leader says he cannot ignore the Islamic State’s accomplishments. He claims to support the Islamic State’s efforts when its members assist their jihadist brethren, but not when they sow discord in the “mujahideen’s” ranks. As in the first episode of the Islamic Spring series, Zawahiri says he would fight alongside Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s “faction” against the “Crusaders,” “secularists,” and “Safavids” (a derogatory term used by Sunni jihadists for Shiites).

Al Qaeda’s call for unity against the jihadists’ common enemies isn’t new or surprising, despite the enmity between the two sides. Zawahiri has repeatedly attempted to broker a peace deal. Al Qaeda’sregional branches have as well. It is likely that while al Qaeda considers Baghdadi and most of his inner circle to be a lost cause, the group still hopes that part of the Islamic State can be reconciled. At a minimum, Zawahiri hopes to limit the fitna (discord, or strife) that plagues the jihadists’ efforts, and so he hopes to convince followers of the Islamic State to avoid targeting their ideological cousins in al Qaeda-affiliated groups.

In one segment of the message, which has been translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, Zawahiri calls for “Muslim youths” who want to carry “martyrdom-seeking” operations to strike inside the West instead of traveling abroad for jihad. Zawahiri repeats al Qaeda’s longstanding claim that the “Crusader West” is the ultimate power behind the jihadists’ opposition.

“Therefore, if we strike the head, then the wings and the body will fall, and if the war reaches the home of the great criminals, then they would stop the war and revise their policies, Allah permitting,” Zawahiri says, according to SITE’s translation.

Al Qaeda’s emir says that such operations do not always require explosives, and can be carried out using other weapons.

He also calls on Muslims in the West to emulate jihadists such as: Ramzi Yousef (who masterminded the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993), Mohammed Atta and “the eagles of martyrdom” (meaning Atta and his fellow 9/11 hijackers), Mohammed Siddique Khan and Shahzad Tanweer (two of the suicide bombers who struck in London on July 7, 2005), Major Nidal Malik Hasan (who carried out the Fort Hood shooting in 2009), Umar al Farouq (or Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to blow up a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day 2009), Tamerlan and Dzohar Tsarnaev (the brothers who bombed the Boston marathon in 2013), Mohammed Merah (who carried out three shootings in France in 2012), and “the brave knights of the Paris invasion” (a reference to the Kouachi brothers, who were responsible for the Charlie Hebdo massacre earlier this year).

Although Zawahiri encourages young recruits to follow in these terrorists’ footsteps on their own, there is a noteworthy difference between “lone wolf” attacks and most of the operations he lists. Almost all of the jihadists mentioned by Zawahiri either received professional training, or were specifically directed to carry out the operations they executed. The one known exception is Nidal Malik Hasan, who sought approval for his attack from Anwar al Awlaki, an AQAP ideologue, but does not appear to have received any direct assistance from jihadist organizations. It is not clear if the elder Tsarnaev brother received some training in the Caucasus region during his travels abroad.

Zawahiri says that Muslim recruits who want to learn more about such operations should consult As Sahab’s productions (As Sahab is al Qaeda’s official media arm) or AQAP’s Inspire magazine. The latest edition of Inspire, which also advocates attacks by “lone mujahideen,” underscores al Qaeda’s direct role in preparing Said Kouachi for the assault on Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris.

The release of al Qaeda’s “Islamic Spring” series has long been delayed and, therefore, includes odd references. For example, in the first installment, Zawahiri notes that the Islamic State has caused problems by calling for jihadists to break their bayat (allegiance) to Mullah Omar. But the Taliban leader was likely dead at the time Zawahiri made the recording. The Taliban has since admitted that it covered up Omar’s death.


Also see:

Stephen Coughlin: Is Al-Qaeda Really the Moderate alternative to ISIS?

al_qaedaThe Glazov Gang, SEPTEMBER 12, 2015:

This special edition of The Glazov Gang was joined by Stephen Coughlin, the co-founder of UnconstrainedAnalytics.org.

He came on the show to discuss his new paper: Exploiting Ignorance in the Post Subversion Phase: Assessing “What ISIS Really Wants” in Light of the ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ Narrative.”

He focuses on the question “Is Al-Qaeda Really the Moderate Alternative to ISIS?”, unveiling our self-destruction via our government’s ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ narrative.

Al Qaeda Does Not Recognize IS as Legitimate

Zawahii and BaghdadiCenter for Security Policy, by Nicholas Hanlon, Sep. 11, 2015:

Seeing the IS group in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a clear and existential threat, al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has revealed his true feelings about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and they are not warm.

“We preferred to respond with as little as possible, out of our concern to extinguish the fire of sedition, but Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his brothers did not leave us a choice, for they have demanded that all the mujahideen reject their confirmed pledges of allegiance, and to pledge allegiance to them for what they claim of a caliphate.”

Zawahiri apparently recorded this message before Mullah Omar died since he restated al Qaeda’s loyalty to Omar.  Just for kicks, one might draw comparisons between the handling of IS by al Qaeda and the Obama administration.  Zawahiri claims that he had avoided taking issue with al Baghdadi for fear of giving him legitimacy.  As a strategy, that turned out to be irreverent because IS has succeeded in making themselves such a problem for the Taliban and al Qaeda, they are now forced to admit as much.

The U.S. administration also tried to act like IS was no big deal.  Thanks to great reporting by the Daily Beast we now know that it was a policy to suppress intelligence analysis from Centcom about IS.  Despite the continual global spread of IS with propaganda upgrades on social media that can sometimes make al Qaeda look like your grandmother’s global jihadists, the U.S. administration is not likely to say ‘uncle’ no matter how hot the world burns.   The administration sees itself as having already said the final word on the matter.  In their version of history, the air strikes are the answer to IS just like the ‘deal’ is the answer to the Iranian nuclear program.  Don’t expect much more than that.

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Ahead of 9/11, Al Qaeda Trains for ‘Lone Wolf’ Attacks

A suspected Yemeni al-Qaeda militant, center, holds a banner as he stands behind bars during a court hearing in state security court / AP

A suspected Yemeni al-Qaeda militant, center, holds a banner as he stands behind bars during a court hearing in state security court / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, Sep. 10, 2015:

Al Qaeda is disseminating training manuals urging “lone wolf” attacks on America ahead of the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to a copy of the terrorist group’s latest publication.

Al Qaeda on Wednesday published a list of targets and methods for individual terrorist attacks on the United States in the latest edition of its English language publication,Inspire, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which released a copy of the terrorist manual.

Just days before the annual commemoration of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the group’s media arm, published a manifesto entitled “Assassination Operations,” according to the materials.

The contents of the publication are dated Sept. 15, and an editor’s note in the magazine urges lone Islamic extremists, or those not formally affiliated with a specific terrorist group, to take up arms against America and carry out a so-called “lone wolf” attack.

“Editor Yahya Ibrahim, after praising the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack [in France], notes that ‘in the coming days we are waiting for the anniversary of … the blessed 9/11 operation,’ and states that ‘We at Inspire, and in the cause of the events of 9/11, encourage the Muslims in the West to join the Lone Jihad caravan,’” according to MEMRI’s report on Al Qaeda’s latest call for violence.

The manual lays out “for the Lone Mujahid ways and methods to enable him to give victory to the religion and the prophet.”

Included is a step-by-step guide to carry out a terrorist operation without being detected by U.S. authorities.

This section, titled “Open Source Jihad,” explains “assassination operations,” as well as how to make “a timed hand grenade” and various “field tactics” to successfully complete a terror attack.

Screen-Shot-2015-09-09-at-5.01.25-PMOther portions of the guide detail how to specify “a target,” how to collect information for reconnaissance purposes, how to generate a plan of attack, how to prepare for an upcoming terrorist operation, and how to successfully execute the operation.

The guide also points out weak spots in the U.S. security regime, particularly among the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which is responsible for guarding the nation’s airports.

“This issue includes graphics with text mocking Department of Homeland Security and TSA efforts and advising readers on how to circumvent them,” according to MEMRI. “One features a photo of a water bottle at airport security with the text: ‘Did you know that a TSA security officer is more likely to confiscate a water bottle than a bomb?’”

Screen-Shot-2015-09-09-at-4.49.21-PMAl Qaeda has begun to encourage lone wolf attacks as its global terror network is dismantled by international efforts. Extremists who are not affiliated with a formal terrorist network have become indoctrinated via social media networks and other online outlets.

The latest issue of Inspire was disseminated by al Qaeda-affiliated groups via Twitter, where it is easier to avoid detection by intelligence agencies.

Also see:

VIDEO: Former Al-Qaeda Leader Says Obama-Aligned Muslim Brotherhood ‘Is One of the Most Dangerous Organizations’

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, September 8, 2015:

I had the opportunity to escort a U.S. congressional delegation to Egypt last week — we were sponsored by the Cairo-based Center for North Africa and Near East Security Studies.

One of the common themes we heard from senior government officials and experts was the active role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the ongoing terror campaign targeting military, police, and government officials, as well as  in the sabotage of infrastructure. I reported here at PJ Media back in June on the Brotherhood’s escalating violence.

There have been a number of signs this past year indicating that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has effectively dropped its non-violent mask, including:

Despite media reports that the group is “divided” over the use of violence, the group has unmistakably made its position clear.

One expert very familiar with the workings and ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood is the founder and former head of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Sheikh Nabil Naeem. He lived with both Osama bin Laden and current al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri, and witnessed the formation of al-Qaeda. In Afghanistan, he served as bin Laden’s personal bodyguard, and was Zawahiri’s long-time “right arm.”

On my last trip to Cairo, my colleague Steve Coughlin and I had the opportunity to interview Sheikh Nabil at his office for more than nine hours over two days.

During that interview we discussed a number of topics, including the trajectory of the global jihadist movement, the development of terrorist organizations in the Sinai, and his experience with EIJ and al-Qaeda until his arrest and eventual rejection of jihadist ideology.


But at the end of our interview with Sheikh Nabil, he began explaining how the Muslim Brotherhood is “one of the most dangerous organizations.”

In response to that statement, I requested that we video record Sheikh Nabil’s response to our questions on this issue as well as his previous statements on the group, which we exclusively present in translation here.

Along the way, he explodes commonly held myths among the Washington, D.C., foreign policy community, including the claim that the Muslim Brotherhood has renounced violence and that there are no connections between the Brotherhood and terror groups in Sinai.

Q: Why do you believe the Muslim Brotherhood is one of the most dangerous organizations?

Nabil: First we accuse the Obama administration of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood to rule Egypt and supporting Morsi’s presidential campaign. Senator McCain also admitted his support to the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi.

Accordingly, it is not expected from the Obama administration to neither acknowledge Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization nor acknowledge their ties to other terrorist organizations. That would mean the Obama admin and the Democrats acknowledge and support a terrorist group.

But we know that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization and all their confessions are available at the prosecution office. And I can tell you how the prosecution process work because I have been through questioning for 35 years.

If any torture takes place it might happen in the police station, but never the prosecution and they are very careful in regards to the legal procedure. That is why any confessions at the prosecution are called the matter of all evidence.

I personally know ABM are improvised, as well as AQ too. What they use is Muslim Brotherhood money and they admitted this repeatedly.

Q: The Muslim Brotherhood present themselves in the United States as moderate Islam and the only alternative to al-Qaeda. Since you have witnessed the formation of al-Qaeda, do you believe this is true?

Nabil: First the Muslim Brotherhood presented themselves to Mubarak as the alternative to all the takfiri/terrorist groups in Egypt, but the truth is Muslim Brotherhood are the main sponsors of them alland that is the Muslim Brotherhood’s way in promoting themselves as the alternative.

Like they did with Luxor massacre, they sponsored and supported terrorist groups to attack tourism in Egypt. Back in the 1990s Abu Walid, a Muslim Brotherhood leader who used to live in Germany, traveled to Afghanistan and met with Refaie Taha and Ayman Al-Zawahiri to arrange with them what was later known as the Luxor massacre.

At the same time the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt condemned the attack to convince the audience of their moderation.

This is a simple tactic: in order for the Muslim Brotherhood to appear as moderate group, they need the terrorists to commit acts of terrorism so the people would see the difference.

However, knowing the Muslim Brotherhood means knowing they are devil’s allies.

Q: Back in the 1970s the Muslim Brotherhood renounced violence, but we still see other groups ideologically bound to them like Hamas still using violence. What do you believe?

Nabil: The Muslim Brotherhood are double-faced liars, they claim they renounced violence but I will cite a conversation between Ghassan bin Jiddo and Abdul Monem Abul Fotouh that will sum them up.

Ghassan said you (the Muslim Brotherhood) claim that you renounced violence and you said that you don’t topple regimes, although you used violence with Abdul Nasser in Egypt and when Hamas and Fatah had a disagreement, Hamas committed the Gabalya massacre and their mufti, Youssef Al-Astal, endorsed killing Fatah members and Hamas killed 700 of them in a single day.

It is their deeds versus their words, which would you believe?

The Muslim Brotherhood are terrorists and they killed too many people, even after June 30 and I myself witnessed the Al-Itehadia massacre when they killed 13 innocent citizens — one of them a child because he was carrying Sisi’s poster. They shot him in the back of his head.

Even Ibn Khaldoun Center that is sponsored by the U.S. released a report about the Rabia sit-in and documented about 44 cases of Muslim Brotherhood torturing innocent citizens, 33 of which died of torture.

Q: We are trying to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. What do you believe the Americans should know?

Nabil: I would advise the Americans to read books written by the Muslim Brotherhood about themselves. Dots on Letters by Ahmed Adel Kamal where he proudly documented the Muslim Brotherhood terror attacks calling them jihad. The other book is by Mahmoud Al-Sabbagh called The Truth About the Secret Organization where he listed all the facts about the Muslim Brotherhood militias and how they were used to attack the opposition.

For the present times, Americans should monitor the Muslim Brotherhood and what they do in Syria, Egypt, Libya and everywhere they are.


I will be reporting more from Egypt later this week.

Petraeus Is Wrong: You Can’t “Peel” Jihadists Away From Jihad


Town Hall, by Kyle Shideler, Sep 03, 2015:

The report earlier this week was that Former CIA Director and CENTCOM Commander General  was proposing to peel off “reconcilables” among Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra, seeking to appeal to Al Nusra fighters who joined Al Qaeda, in the same way that Sunni tribes were convinced to join the “awakening” and oppose Al Qaeda. There’s no evidence to support the idea that Syrian rebels have flocked to Al-Nusra only because it represents the “strong horse” and not because they support Nusra and Al-Qaeda’s jihadist brand.

Al Nusra has been the lead element in numerous Syrian rebel alliances, including the Jaish-Al-Fateh (Army of Conquest), which seized control of the provincial capital of Idlib in March, and Ansar Al Sharia, a coalition of Syrian Islamist forces in Aleppo. Their allies have had little if anything to say about Jabhat Al Nusra’s repeated attacks against any U.S.-supported Syrian rebel force. Not just recently against Division 30, the unit of the sixty or so vetted Syrian rebels on which the U.S. has spent almost $500 million, but against other U.S-backed groups including the Hazm Movement and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front.

Indeed, among the Syrian rebel opposition groups as a whole, the vast majority have repeatedly shown that they prefer jihad in the name of establishing an Islamic state in Syria over any alliance with the United States. In 2012, large swathes of the Syrian opposition vowed “we are all Jabhat Al Nusra,” following the U.S. decision to designate the terror group for its ties to Al Qaeda.

Bloomberg’s Josh Rogin also reaches the conclusion that the U.S. cannot peel off Al Nusra fighters, but for the wrong reasons. He blames a lack of U.S. credibility, derived from a failure to assist “moderate” rebels in fighting the Assad regime. In his column, Rogin cites Mouaz Mustafa, from the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), who blames the U.S. lack of support for Syrian rebels leading to a credibility gap that causes them to prefer Al Qaeda to the U.S.

The reality is that SETF’s preferred rebels are the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda-linked militias who made up the Islamic Front. In 2013, the Islamic Front, led by Al Qaeda-linked Ahrar Al Sham, was approached by the Obama administration about working together to overthrow Assad, the group refused. The deal breaker? The Islamic Front would not stop working with Al Nusra. Most will not recall that it was the Islamic Front’s seizure of warehouses stocked with aid intended for U.S.-backed Syrian rebels, and not American stinginess, that led to the cut in U.S. and other Western allies aid to Northern Syria.

If the U.S. can’t convince the so-called “moderate” Islamists to break from Al Qaeda, how is it supposed to convince Al Nusra’s members to do so?

Al Nusra and the Islamist militias that make up the majority of the Syrian opposition are allies, not merely of convenience but of ideological conviction. And while they have faced setbacks in their repeated efforts to establish joint Sharia courts in rebel-occupied territory, that goal unifies them in a manner that no amount of U.S. money or influence can reverse.

The history of intervention efforts in Syria suggests instead of there being “reconcilables” inside Jabhat Al Nusra for the U.S. to co-opt, the reality is that there are not enough “reconcilables” outside of Al Nusra to co-opt either. The “Petraeus proposal” for Syria is yet another rehashing of the same tired proposal offered by elements of the U.S. foreign policy establishment who have sought to align U.S. interests with the so-called “moderate” Islamist factions in Syria, even if it means buddying up to Al Qaeda.


Secure Freedom Radio with KYLE SHIDELER, Director of the Threat Information Office at the Center for Security Policy:

  • Saudi Arabia’s role in supporting the global jihad
  • Iran’s assistance to the 9/11 hijackers
  • Petraeus’ proposal to use al Qaeda to fight ISIS
  • Existence of “No-Go Zones” in France