Osama bin Laden, Mohammed al Zawahiri, and Sheikh Tawfiq Al ‘Afani, as seen in the Al Faroq video on the protest at the US embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11, 2012. Courtesy of SITE Intelligence Group.
By Thomas Joscelyn:
Several al Qaeda-linked jihadists helped incite the protest outside the US embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11. The jihadists include senior members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), a group that merged with al Qaeda, and a senior Gamaa Islamiyya (IG) leader who has longstanding ties to al Qaeda’s senior leadership.
Spontaneous anger over an obscure anti-Islam video titled “Innocence of Muslims” has been widely cited as the cause of the embassy protest in Cairo. But clear evidence shows that these al Qaeda-linked jihadists used clips from that film that were televised on Egyptian television as a pretext to incite a mob.
The most conspicuous of these jihadists is Rifai Ahmed Taha Musa, an IG leader who was named as a signatory on al Qaeda’s infamous February 1998 fatwa announcing an Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders. The fatwa justified terrorist attacks against American civilians and others. Musa would later disavow his participation in the Islamic Front, but his al Qaeda ties are well established.
Al Faroq media video
The role of al Qaeda’s allies, including Musa, in the embassy protest was documented in a video released by Al Faroq media earlier this month. Al Faroq, which is based in Egypt, is not an official al Qaeda media outlet, but it clearly espouses al Qaeda’s ideology and frequently trumpets the terrorist organization’s message. Al Qaeda has also used clips from Al Faroq’s productions in its own official videos.
The Al Faroq video of the Sept. 11 US embassy protest in Cairo was first obtained and translated by SITE Intelligence Group.
The Al Faroq video attempts to brand the protest as an al Qaeda event. And indeed pro-al Qaeda sentiment was rampant. Flags commonly used by al Qaeda in Iraq are shown throughout the al Faroq video. The protesters chanted, “Obama, Obama! We are all Osama!” And the Al Faroq video splices together footage of al Qaeda’s senior leaders with clips of the senior al Qaeda-allied jihadists at the embassy protest.
Osama bin Laden is heavily featured. Specifically, Al Faroq shows a clip from the deceased terror master’s March 2008 message concerning cartoons that insulted the Prophet Mohammed. “In closing, I tell you: if there is no check on the freedom of your words, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our actions,” bin Laden threatened, according to SITE’s translation.
The video ties bin Laden to two men who took part in the embassy protest: Mohammed al Zawahiri, who is the brother of al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, and Sheikh Tawfiq al ‘Afani, an EIJ leader who does not hide his pro-bin Laden views.
|Mohammed al Zawahiri at the US embassy protest in Cairo on Sept. 11, 2012.
Mohammed al Zawahiri
Mohammed al Zawahiri is shown at the embassy rally during the Al Faroq video. In fact, Mohammed al Zawahiri admittedly helped stage the Cairo protest.
“We called for the peaceful protest joined by different Islamic factions including the [Egyptian] Islamic Jihad (and the) Hazem Abu Ismael movement,” Zawahiri has explained, according to CNN.
During his appearance in the video, according to SITE’s translation, Mohammed al Zawahiri calls for the makers of the film “Innocence of Muslims” to be prosecuted and “demand(s) the questioning of all of those and to stop that film that is calling for trouble.”
Mohammed al Zawahiri has been coy about his al Qaeda ties. For instance, during an interview on Egyptian television earlier this month he tried to distance himself from the al Qaeda organization, while admitting that he adheres to the group’s ideology.
“I do not belong to al Qaeda or any other organization, but ideologically speaking, I am in agreement with all these organizations,” Zawahiri said, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). “Our common denominator is the Islamic sharia,” Zawahiri continued, reiterating that he agrees with al Qaeda’s “ideology, but I’m not involved in its activity.”
On other occasions, Mohammed al Zawahiri has used the word “we” when speaking about al Qaeda and has attempted to justify the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The Wall Street Journal has reported that US intelligence officials think Mohammed al Zawahiri put one of the suspects responsible for the terrorist attack in Benghazi in touch with his brother.
The Journal’s sources identified “fighters” tied to Muhammad Jamal Abu Ahmad, an EIJ member who was released from prison last year, as participants in the Benghazi attack. Abu Ahmad “has long ties” to Ayman al Zawahiri, the Journal reported, and he “has petitioned” al Qaeda’s emir “for permission to launch an al Qaeda affiliate and has secured financing from al Qaeda’s Yemeni wing.”
Ahmad “is building his own terror group, say Western officials, who call it the Jamal Network,” according to the Journal. EIJ members are suspected of funneling Egyptian militants to training camps in Libya as well.
The Journal added: “US officials believe [Mohammed al Zawahiri] has helped Mr. Ahmad connect with the al Qaeda chief.”
Read more: Long War Journal