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