Zawahiri says jihadists should prepare for guerrilla war in Iraq

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn,  August 26, 2016

ZawahiriAs Sahab, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, released the third episode of Ayman al Zawahiri’s “Brief Messages to a Victorious Ummah” series on Aug. 25. The latest installment is subtitled “Fear Allah in Iraq.” The al Qaeda leader clearly expects the Islamic State to continue to lose ground, arguing that the Sunnis of Iraq should “reorganize themselves” for a “protracted guerrilla war to defeat the neo-Safavid [Iranian]-Crusader occupation of their regions as they did before.”

Zawahiri critiques the Islamic State’s approach to waging jihad in Iraq in his brief message, which is just over four minutes long. His arguments further highlight how al Qaeda and the Islamic State have evolved very different strategies for waging jihad. Whereas al Qaeda wants to be viewed as a popular revolutionary force, serving the interests of Muslims, the Islamic State deliberately markets itself as a top-down authoritarian regime that seeks to overtly impose its will on the populace. Al Qaeda and the Islamic State share the same long-term goal, as they both want to resurrect an Islamic caliphate. But they diverge on the steps that should be taken to achieve this goal.

Al Qaeda’s senior leaders think that the Islamic State’s methodology for waging jihad alienates the Muslim population and therefore makes it easier for the Sunni jihadists’ enemies to defeat them.

Zawahiri lays out a way forward for the jihadists in Iraq should the Islamic State’s caliphate continue to crumble.

Zawahiri says the jihadists in Iraq “must review their prior experiences to save them from the mistakes that led to their separation” from the Muslim community. These mistakes caused the jihadists to fall into “the abyss of extremism” and “takfir” (the practice of declaring other Muslims to be nonbelievers). They are also guilty of the “spilling forbidden [Muslim] blood,” Zawahiri says, and this path only serves the “proxies of America.”

In a telling passage, Zawahiri calls on “our brethren, the heroes of Islam, the mujahideen of the Levant” to assist “their brethren in Iraq in reorganizing themselves.”

Zawahiri famously sought to keep Al Nusrah Front in Syria, which was recently rebranded as Jabhat Fath al Sham (JFS, or Conquest of the Levant Front), separate from Baghdadi’s Islamic State. Zawahiri ruled that Baghdadi’s organization should be confined to Iraq, but the Islamic State refused to comply with his order.

Zawahiri now says the “battle is one,” with the Levant being “an extension of Iraq” and Iraq serving as “the depth of the Levant.”

That is, Zawahiri wants the jihadists in Iraq to follow the same strategy employed by al Qaeda in Syria. Under Zawahiri’s guidance, the group formerly known as Al Nusrah deeply embedded itself within the anti-Assad opposition and cultivated roots within the Syrian society.

Al Qaeda’s senior leadership publicly approved of Al Nusrah Front’s recent rebranding as JFS. This rebranding was spun as a clear “break” between Al Nusrah and al Qaeda. But Zawahiri’s own deputy, Abu Khayr al Masri, blessed the move shortly beforehand.

There is no hint in Zawahiri’s message that he feels betrayed by the jihadists in Syria. On the contrary, he wants the jihadists in Iraq to follow their model. When Zawahiri asks the “mujahideen of the Levant” to help their “brethren” in Iraq, he is clearly referring to JFS and others who have been following al Qaeda’s strategy.

The al Qaeda master further connects the jihad in Iraq to Syria by pointing out that Iranian-backed “militias and mercenaries” fight in both countries. Zawahiri says this is because Iran and its allies seek to annihilate Sunnis across the Middle East. He claims that Sunnis are being tortured and slaughtered in Iraq under the “pretext” of fighting Baghdadi’s Islamic State, but the supposed real reason for this can be found in the Iran’s expansionist goals. Zawahiri claims that the Iranians and the Americans have reached an “accord” that will allow a Crusader-Iranian-Alawite coalition (meaning an alliance of Western, Iranian and Assad regime forces) to swallow the whole region.

Even as Zawahiri rails against Iran, however, some of al Qaeda’s most senior leaders are stationed inside the country today.

All three episodes of Zawahiri’s “Brief Messages to a Victorious Ummah” series have been released this month. As Sahab has suffered production delays over the past two years, but the current pace of releases indicates that the official media shop for al Qaeda’s senior leadership is able to regularly churn out content once again. In the first episode of the new series, Zawahiri blasted the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. In the second, he called on Muslims to support the Afghan Taliban and reject the Islamic State’s upstart presence in Afghanistan.

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

Syria’s Nusra Front Breaks from Al-Qaeda

AFP

AFP

Breitbart, by John Hayward, July 29, 2016:

The Nusra Front, formally known as Jabhat al-Nusra, has been al-Qaeda’s franchise in Syria since late 2011. The Syrian group’s leader has announced it will now cut its ties with al-Qaeda and become independent, with al-Qaeda’s blessing.

The announcement came from Nusra Front leader Abu Mohammed al-Julani in his first video statement. As the BBC reports, Julani announced that his group would be renamed Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, which translates to “Front for the Conquest of Syria/the Levant,” and will have “no affiliation to any external entity.”

The reason for the split, and the reason al-Qaeda endorsed it, was to “remove the pretext used by powers, including the U.S. and Russia, to bomb Syrians.” In other words, Julani thinks his group has been unfairly targeted because it was linked to al-Qaeda, and now that it has been formally rebranded as an independent entity, foreign powers will no longer have an excuse to bomb them.

Al-Qaeda second-in-command Ahmed Hassan Abu al-Khayr said Nusra’s leadership had been instructed to “go ahead with what protects the interests of Islam and Muslims and what protects jihad.”

“The brotherhood of Islam is stronger than any organisational links that change and go away,” declared al-Qaeda’s number one, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The Russians do not need much of a pretext to bomb enemies of the Assad regime, and the U.S. clearly is not buying this “rebranding” strategy.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest, not even troubling himself to use the Nusra Front’s new name, said:

The United States continues to assess that Nusra Front leaders maintain the intent to conduct eventual attacks in and against the West and there continues to be increasing concern about Nusra Front’s growing capacity for external operations that could threaten both the United States and Europe.

In fact, a report earlier this year from the Institute for the Study of War, and American Enterprise Institute, portrayed the Nusra Front as “much more dangerous to the U.S. than the ISIS model in the long run.”

“We judge any organization, including this one, much more by its actions, its ideology, its goals,” added State Department spokesman John Kirby. “Thus far, there’s no change to our views about this particular group. We certainly see no reasons to believe that their actions or their objectives are any different. And they are still considered a foreign terrorist organization.”

Perhaps it would have been more crafty for the al-Qaeda bosses to avoid admitting they ordered the “breakaway” as a propaganda ploy to “protect jihad.” Also, they are making the charade much less convincing by actively seeking closer ties with other Islamist groups in Syria.

CNN notes that just two weeks ago, the United States announced closer cooperation with Russia against the Nusra Front to “restore the cessation of hostilities, significantly reduce the violence and help create the space for a genuine and credible political transition” in Syria. Nusra is one of the groups excluded from the cessation of hostilities agreement, along with ISIS.

Of course, it is unlikely that anyone in the Nusra Front or al-Qaeda expected the Western world to accept this “rebranding” effort and let them go on their merry way. The goal is to create propaganda opportunities with other Islamist groups, who can be nudged into the al-Qaeda umbrella by Nusra leaders who are supposedly no longer al-Qaeda operatives, but share their “core ideology.” There will be much caterwauling about how the Americans and Russians are still unfairly bombing “Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.”

CNN quoted analysts who also made an interesting case that the Nusra “rebranding” and the involvement of al-Qaeda second-in-command Masri are an indication Masri – supposedly “under arrest” in Iran, with the details rather murky, until recently – is actually in Syria, and may be preparing to take charge of al-Qaeda from Zawahiri.

This would enable Masri to continue Zawahiri’s strategy of spreading jihadi ideology without explicit connections to al-Qaeda at present, with an eye toward reasserting al-Qaeda as the Wal-Mart of jihad once ISIS has been defeated.

The report by the Institute for the Study of War/AEI, mentioned above, made the case that Nusra was “quietly entwining itself with the Syrian population and Syrian opposition,” and was “waiting in the wings to pick up the mantle of global jihad once ISIS falls,” as ISW president Kim Kagan put it.

This would make Nusra much more difficult to target than ISIS, which is not exactly easy to target, once it sinks roots into urban conquests, lines up human shields, and positions them to keep Syria in a state of war for years to come, no matter what political deals might be struck with other insurgent factions. From that constant turmoil, they could supply al-Qaeda with weapons and trained fighters to strike targets across the world.

Speaking in January, Kagan observed that the Nusra Front chose not to overtly attack the West “because the al-Qaeda leadership’s priority is preserving success in Syria and avoiding being targeted by the U.S.” This “rebranding” maneuver fits neatly into the strategy she described.

Also see:

Once Again, Al-Qaeda Brands Itself as Social Justice Warriors

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PJ Media, by Raymond Ibrahim, July 14, 2016:

After the Orlando massacre, when an armed Muslim murdered 49 people in a gay nightclub, al-Qaeda published a guide urging more such “lone wolf” attacks – with the added caveat that jihadists should exclusively target mainstream white Americans.

According to the jihadi group’s online publication “Inspire guide: Orlando operation,” killing homosexuals is “the most binding duty.” However, would-be jihadis are advised to “avoid targeting places and crowds where minorities are generally found in America,” and instead to target “areas where the Anglo-Saxon community is generally concentrated.”

In response, several pundits warned that al-Qaeda is shifting gears, somehow trying to portray itself as a “social justice warrior.”

In fact, al-Qaeda has long presented itself to the West in this manner. These latest instructions are hardly new. Further, they help explain the real differences between al-Qaeda and ISIS, and which stage of jihad they see themselves in.

Although The Al Qaeda Reader documents al-Qaeda’s dual approach — preach unrelenting jihad to Muslims, whine about grievances to Westerners — a nearly decade-old communique from al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is sufficient to understand the strategy behind these latest instructions. In that letter, as-Zawahiri spoke to the many “under-privileged” of the world:

That’s why I want blacks in America, people of color, American Indians, Hispanics, and all the weak and oppressed in North and South America, in Africa and Asia, and all over the world, to know that when we wage jihad in Allah’s path, we aren’t waging jihad to lift oppression from Muslims only; we are waging jihad to lift oppression from all mankind, because Allah has ordered us never to accept oppression, whatever it may be …This is why I want every oppressed one on the face of the earth to know that our victory over America and the Crusading West — with Allah’s permission — is a victory for them, because they shall be freed from the most powerful tyrannical force in the history of mankind.

American blacks, however, were Zawahiri’s primary targets. Zawahiri praised and quoted from the convert to Islam, Malcolm X:

Anytime you beg another man to set you free, you will never be free. Freedom is something you have to do for yourself. The price of freedom is death.

The al-Qaeda leader also appealed to another potentially sympathetic population — environmentalists:

[The U.S.] went out and ruined for the entire world, the atmosphere and climate with the gases emitted by its factories.

Years earlier, Osama bin Laden himself complained about the U.S. not signing the Kyoto protocols:

You [the U.S.] have destroyed nature with your industrial waste and gases more than any other nation in history.

What does this ostensibly disparate group of people — “third-worlders,” environmentalists, and disaffected American blacks — have in common? They all harbor anti-Western sentiments that can be appealed to for purposes of exonerating al-Qaeda’s jihad.

Now, al-Qaeda is again reaffirming that killing homosexuals is “the most binding duty,” but it’s still best to continue targeting non-minorities in America — “Anglo-Saxons” — because they are so easy to demonize.

Al-Zawahiri used the same strategy in Egypt in 2014. During a particularly brutal period of Christian persecution — dozens of churches were burned — he counseled Egypt’s Muslims to stop attacking Coptic Christians. The al-Qaeda leader, who on numerous occasions had exhibited his antipathy for Christians, made clear that his directive was purely for PR purposes; he was concerned about jihad’s image in the West.

While agreeing to the most draconian of Sharia’s tenets, al-Qaeda also knows that many of these — for example, the destruction of churches and subjugation of “infidel” Christians — needs to be curtailed or hidden from the Western world.  Otherwise, al-Qaeda’s efforts of portraying jihadis as “freedom fighters” resisting an oppressive West risk being undermined.

On the other hand, ISIS represents the unapologetic jihad, indifferent to Western opinion.

By widely broadcasting its savage triumphalism in the name of Islam, ISIS forfeits the “social warrior” card and instead plays the “strength” card. In this manner ISIS has inspired hundreds of millions of Muslims, according to some disturbing polls.

Al-Qaeda was born at a time when deceiving the West about the aims of the jihad was deemed necessary; ISIS was been born at a time when deceiving an already passive West is no longer deemed important.

Time will tell which strategy works better.

Emails Show Clinton Was Told About MB-AQ Links

scafby John Rossomando
IPT News
May 2, 2016

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails suggest that she may have known about connections between the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and hardcore jihadist groups such as al-Qaida early in the 2011 Arab Spring.

Clinton confidante Sidney Blumenthal noted in an April 7, 2011 email that Egypt’s military leaders expressed concerns about contacts between the MB and al-Qaida. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) reportedly feared that the Brotherhood would work with various violent Islamist groups, including al-Qaida affiliates.

“The main concern of the SCAF leaders is that the MB will begin working with more violent Islamist groups, including the various al Qa’ida affiliates,” Blumenthal wrote.

A source “with access to the highest levels of the MB,” including its Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, privately told Blumenthal that the relationship between the MB, al-Qaida and other radical groups was “complicated.”

“Egyptian military intelligence is aware of the fact that these contacts exist, but believe that the MB, under the influence of … [the] moderates, is carefully controlling its contacts with these radical/terrorist groups, in an effort to avoid providing the military with an excuse to move against them,” Blumenthal wrote.

Blumenthal’s source claimed that Mohamed Morsi admitted that the Brotherhood’s looming Islamist government in Egypt would find it difficult to control the rise of al-Qaida and other radical/terrorist groups, according to a Dec. 16, 2011 email. No context is provided for this statement apart from Morsi also noting that the younger generation of Egypt’s military had become Islamized and anti-American despite training by the United States. The email also notes that younger officers would support Egypt becoming an Islamist state more than the current crop of generals.

Morsi became president about six months later.

However, former CIA Director James Woolsey questions Blumenthal’s sources, telling the Investigative Project on Terrorism that he doesn’t know where Blumenthal found his information.

“This is highly speculative but interesting,” Woolsey said. “The issue with the emails is classification. What matters is the sources and methods.”

These emails from Hillary Clinton’s private server, written while she was secretary of state, were made public as a result of a Judicial Watch lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Many are alleged to contain potentially classified information, and this remains under FBI investigation.

Egyptian security sources recorded calls between Morsi and al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri while he Morsi was in power, according to a Nov. 22, 2013 article in Egypt’s El-Watan newspaper. Morsi allegedly agreed to grant a presidential pardon to 20 terrorists, including one al-Zawahiri had known since childhood, and another who ran Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis – now known as ISIS’s Sinai province.

Communications between Morsi and al-Zawahiri began during the first month of his presidency. Zawahiri’s brother, Mohamed, mediated the initial contacts between them.

“Rule by God’s law for us to stand beside you, there is no so-called democracy, then get rid of your opponents,” al-Zawahiri told Morsi, according to the El-Watan transcript.

Al-Zawahiri and Morsi allegedly agreed to cooperate in establishing training camps in Sinai and near the Libyan border where they could create an army to defend the Brotherhood regime. Morsi allegedly met with an emissary of Zawahiri’s at a Pakistani hotel for two-and-a-half hours, and this reportedly resulted in the international organization of the MB giving al-Qaida $50 million.

Morsi called al-Zawahiri asking for his help soon before the military toppled him, according to the Al-Watan report.

“We will fight the military and the police, and we will set the Sinai aflame,” al-Zawahiri allegedly told Morsi.

The pro-military newspaper’s reporting has been called into question in the past. Its editor remains under investigation for falsifying a report about an Islamist terror cell.

Still, the alleged phone calls with al-Zawahiri contributed to Egyptian prosecutors seeking a death sentence against Morsi.

Attacks in the Sinai increased following Morsi’s fall. The suggestion by Brotherhood leader Mohamed el-Beltagy following Morsi’s deposition that “Attacks in Sinai would stop the second President Mohammed Morsi is reinstated,” adds to evidence of Brotherhood connections with al-Qaida, according to Michael Meunier, an Egyptian activist who previously worked closely with the Egyptian government.

“There is a clear indication of coordination between the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaida in Sinai,” Meunier said.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, the group responsible for most of the attacks, belonged to al-Qaida before joining the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014. Reports indicate that Ansar Beit al-Maqdis was “structurally” tied with the MB.

If true, the ties between the MB and al-Qaida challenge the academic contention that the two groups are mortal enemies. This contention was based upon mutual criticisms, such as al-Zawahiri’s 2006 condemnation of the MB’s participation in democratic elections.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper invoked the idea that the MB and al-Qaida were opposed to each other during February 2011 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.

“The term ‘Muslim Brotherhood’…is an umbrella term for a variety of movements, in the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried Al Qaeda as a perversion of Islam,” Clapper said.

A Feb. 16, 2011 email from an unnamed State Department official who helped draft Presidential Policy Directive-13  – a document that helped frame U.S. policy surrounding Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East – echoed Clapper’s remarks. U.S. policy should not “be driven by fear,” it said, and if it didn’t distinguish the Brotherhood and al-Qaida, it wouldn’t be able to adapt to changes in the region.

Not Just Egypt

Other government documents corroborate Blumenthal’s contention that the Brotherhood and al-Qaida are linked.

The Clinton emails describe a definitive personal link between the Brotherhood and al-Qaida in Libya dating from Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state in the person of Ali al-Sallabi, who founded the al-Qaida linked Libyan National Party (LNP).

A Feb. 27, 2011 email from Clinton aide Jake Sullivan describes al-Sallabi as “a key figure in the Libyan Muslim brotherhood and [Muslim Brotherhood leader Sheikh Yusuf] Qaradawi’s man in Libya.” Sullivan stands accused of sending Clinton top-secret emails at her private account.

Blumenthal noted in a July 3, 2011 email that the LNP was dominated by former members of the al-Qaida-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), “who, according to sensitive sources, maintained ties to al Qa’ida during their struggle with the forces of former dictator Muammar al Qaddafi.”

A March 24, 2011 Libyan intelligence document claims that al-Sallabi coordinated the effort by the international Muslim Brotherhood to assist the LIFG in its fight against Gaddafi.

Similarly, Rached al-Ghannouchi, head of Tunisia’s Brotherhood-linked Ennahda Party,attempted to work with al-Qaida linked Ansar Al-Sharia and its late leader, Abu Iyadh – a former Bin Laden ally sanctioned by the U.S. after 9/11 – during the Arab Spring. Abu Iyadh was responsible for al-Qaida’s assassination of Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Masood two days before the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

These examples also include connections between the Yemeni MB and al-Qaida through Sheikh Abdul Majid al-Zindani. Treasury Department officials described al-Zindani as a “Bin Laden loyalist” in a 2004 press release. He also helped al-Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki, while serving on the board of the Brotherhood-linked Union of Good, which raises funds for Hamas.

Al-Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood have also used many of the same funding mechanisms, such as the Lugano, Switzerland based Al-Taqwa Bank.

West Supported Brotherhood Making Egypt an Islamic State

In other correspondence, Blumenthal reported that “MB leaders are also pleased with the results of discussions with the United States Government, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), both of which, in the analysis of the MB leaders, appear to accept the idea of Egypt as an Islamic state.”

Western business and diplomatic leaders at the 2012 World Economic Forum in Davos“appeared to accept” an end to Egypt’s role as a partner with Israel, Blumenthal wrote, even if the Egyptians had no desire for a military confrontation with the Jewish state.

Brotherhood members, including Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, advocated an Islamic government based upon the Turkish model, in which civilians rather than clerics rule. All legislation passed by such a government must conform to the Islamic law. Egypt’s 2012 constitution included this principle, which subjected legislation for review by Al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s most important academic institution. Gamal al-Banna, brother of the Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna, warned prior to his death in January 2013, that religious law would always prevail in such a system.

“If nothing else, the civilian and religious outlooks will differ and will therefore surrender to the religious outlook,” al-Banna said in a 2011 interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm. “Egypt should thus become a civil state, without involving the detailed legislation of Islam.”

Despite this knowledge Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration chose to embrace the Muslim Brotherhood as just another political party.

Meunier, who helped organize the demonstrations that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak, doesn’t find any of these revelations surprising.

“To have that information and to ignore it is criminal. I kind of had an idea about this way back when [Clinton] came to Egypt, and I refused to meet with her when she requested a meeting with me,” Meunier said. “We knew that she was colluding with the Muslim Brotherhood.

“She was encouraging and working with a terrorist organization.”

Dutch Intelligence: Competition Could Fuel Jihadi Plots

by Abigail R. Esman
Special to IPT News
April 27, 2016

tweetA “large scale, spectacular attack in Europe or the US”: this is the prediction of the Netherlands’ Intelligence Service (AIVD).  And, they say, it could happen very soon.

The AIVD’s report on 2015, released last week, analyzes the threat of terrorism, cyber-terrorism, and other national security issues based on the past year’s events and global intelligence-gathering.  The agency found that ongoing competition between jihadist groups is proving even more dangerous than the threat of continued “lone wolf” attacks and localized bombings by jihadists who have either returned from the Islamic State or were inspired by them.  That competition, particularly between al-Qaida and ISIS, is likely to lead to major attacks on the West in order to “demonstrate to one another that each is the real leader of jihadism,” the AIVD report says. This is particularly crucial for al-Qaida, which may stage an attack soon in order to re-assert its prestige and power at a time when ISIS seems to be getting the most attention.

These predictions align with similar warnings from former CIA operative Brian Fairchild,  who last fall also warned of  “another 9/11,” driven by rivalry among the terrorist groups.

That rivalry is intensifying as various factions continue to battle for power in the Levant.  Al-Qaida, for instance, recently published a statement accusing ISIS of “lies and deceit,” and describing them as “one of the biggest dangers today in the jihadi fields.”  And in a video, al-Qaida leader Ayman al Zawahiri called ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi,  “illegitimate.” ISIS, according to al-Qaida, “invoked the curse of Allah” on its opponents, specifically on Jabhat al Nusra.  Al Nusra, which has pledged allegiance to al-Qaida, is considered another powerful rival of ISIS.

Like the AIVD’s 2005 report, “From Dawa To Jihad,” now something of a classic in the literature about the radicalization of Western Muslims, many insights presented in this year’s overview are likely to be taken seriously by intelligence agencies and counter-terrorism strategists globally.  Alongside concerns about a major attack in the near-term, for instance, the AIVD report offers an analysis of the complexities of Islamic terrorism at this moment – and the vastness of its reach.

Those complexities again put the lie to notions that Islamic extremism breeds in impoverished neighborhoods, among the unemployed and disenfranchised. They defy, too, ideas that immigration is to blame, or that simply “closing the borders” will solve the threat. As the report notes:

“The attacks in Europe present a disturbing illustration of the threat Europe currently faces: people from our own homelands, who grew up here and mostly were radicalized here, stand ready and willing to take up weapons against the West [….]  So, too are jihadists who return from the battlefields of jihad prepared to perpetrate similar atrocities [at home] – and jihadists who had planned to join the foreign battle, but never succeeded [in making the trip]. Young, inexperienced jihadists can perpetrate attacks, but those jihad-veterans known to intelligence officials and who have long been quiet may also suddenly come roaring back.”

Similarly, “attacks could be planned and attackers sent from outside Europe, or they can be planned and activated from within; they could be major attacks, arranged by professionals far in advance, or relatively simple and small-scale,” the AIVD report says. “The threat can come from organized groups and networks sent in to commit attacks but also by individuals or small groups who sympathize with a certain jihadist group.”

Moreover, the terrorist group Jabhat al-Nusra (JaN), which often is misleadingly characterized as “moderate,” poses an additional threat. “JaN is a jihadist organization connected with al-Qaida and whose purpose, in part, is to commit attacks against the West,” the report says.

And while the death of many al-Qaida leaders may have caused some disruption, this does not mean that the organization is weakened, or that the threat of another al-Qaida attack against the West has vanished. Rather, battling for the mantle of dominant jihadi group could strengthen its determination to wage spectacular attacks.

And it isn’t just violent attacks. While the AIVD has found a rising interest among Dutch Muslims in obtaining weapons, the agency notes that in at least one case, the purpose was to perform a series of armed robberies in order to finance terrorist groups in Syria.

What is certain is that Salafism, the radical Islamic ideology that supports violent jihad, is very much on the rise in the Netherlands. Added to this development is the ISIS propaganda machine, which the report’s authors say, sends the message that terrorism is a form of heroism. Combined, the two forces stand to raise radicalization and the probable involvement in terrorism in the homeland.

For the Dutch, as for other Europeans,  the danger does not just come from jihadists at home and those in Syria. Belgium, with its many extremist and terrorist groups, is just across the Dutch border. Paris is a short, high-speed train ride away.  And as officials increasingly crack down in those two countries, the chances are great that terrorists there will travel elsewhere, looking for the nearest place to hide – and kill.  The result is a multi-pronged threat that hovers over the country, and increasingly, over Europe.

‘Islamists’ Slay US-Employed Bangladeshi Gay-Rights Activist (Update : Al Qaeda claims credit)

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Clarion Project, April 26, 2016:

So far no one has claimed responsibility for the April 25 stabbing to death of two men in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka.

Police officers identified the victims as USAID employee and editor of the country’s first gay-rights magazine Xulhaz Mannan and his friend and local police officer Tanay Majumder.

The incident, assumed by police to have been carried out by Islamists, follows the murder of university professor Rezaul Karim Siddique three days earlier in Rajshahi, in the country’s northwest. ISIS said it was behind that killing.

Mannan and other unnamed LGBT campaigners launched Roopbaan magazine in January 2014.

“The main reason for this publication is to promote love,” the editor said at the launch party for the magazine, “promoting love and promoting the right to love. The audience for love is huge and that’s who this is for.

“I feel that I have a relationship with every line and letter in this magazine. A relationship that has cast such an influence on me.”

Homosexuality is illegal in Muslim Bangladesh, with those arrested facing likely imprisonment.

On its website, Boys of Bangladesh urges homosexuals not to be afraid, saying it is in contact with “powerful people” to seek change in the country:

“…we envision a world free of discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation enabling every LGBT individual to enjoy the blessing of life, love and companionship. …We hope Bangladesh would soon start talking about real LGBT issues and eventually take a bold positive step towards building a better society free of any kind of stigma and discrimination.”

***

(Update : Al Qaeda claims credit)

Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent claims killing of LGBT activist, friend in Bangladesh by Thomas Joscelyn

A team of several jihadists posing as deliverymen killed a LGBT activist, Xulhaz Mannan, and his friend in Bangladesh’s capital of Dhaka yesterday. The men were reportedly hacked to death with machetes in Mannan’s flat.

Ansar al Islam, the Bangladeshi branch of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), quickly claimed responsibility for the slayings in a message released on Twitter and other social media sites.

Assuming AQIS’s claim is accurate, the murders are the latest in an orchestrated campaign against men accused of offending the Islamic faith and spreading supposedly immoral behaviors. More than one dozen victims have been killed or wounded in the assaults since 2013. AQIS previously said that the killings were authorized by al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri.

The assassinations demonstrate how al Qaeda is attempting to market its draconian version of the Islamic faith. AQIS even tries to claim the moral high ground after butchering innocent men.

Mannan was the founder of a LGBT magazine in Bangladesh and worked for the US Embassy there for eight years before joining USAID. He and his friend, Samir Mahbub Tonoy, were specifically targeted by AQIS for their LGBT activism.

16-04-26 AQIS claims killing activists

“By the grace of Almighty Allah, the mujahidin of Ansar al-Islam (AQIS, Bangladesh branch) were able to assassin [sic] Xulhaz Mannan and his associate Samir Mahbub Tonoy,” the group’s claim of responsibility reads. The English version of the message, which was released in multiple languages, can be seen on the right.

“They were pioneers of practicing and promoting homosexuality in Bangladesh,” the AQIS statement continues. “Xulhaz Mannan was the director of Roopbaan (A cult comprised of the gays and the lesbians) while Samir Mahbub Tonoy was one of its most important activists. They were working day and night to promote homosexuality among the people of this land since 1998 with the help of their masters, the US crusaders and its Indian allies.”

The assassinations of Mannan and Tonoy are part of an ongoing, targeted campaign by AQIS, which selects specific men for death. AQIS deliberately contrasts its actions with indiscriminate acts of violence.

16-04-09 Killing of Nazimuddin Samad

For example, the Ansar al Islam branch of AQIS released a statement earlier this month entitled, “Who’s Next?” In it, AQIS set forth the criteria for its slayings. The message can be seen on the right.

The group identified its “next targets” as belonging to eight categories of people, ranging from those who have allegedly insulted Allah or the prophet Mohammed to those “who oppose the Islamic Shariah [law] by their talks or writings or show insolence towards it or insult it.”

Mannan and Tonoy may have been marked for death because AQIS included them in the seventh category. It reads: “Those who are engaged in spreading nudity, obscenity and shamefulness in the Muslim society. Note that, there is a huge difference in the Islamic Shariah between doing something haram (prohibited) personally and trying to spread it in the society.”

Portraying its terror as a defense of Islam

Most of the victims targeted by AQIS thus far had allegedly insulted the religion of Islam. [See LWJreport, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent leader says attacks on ‘blasphemers’ ordered by Zawahiri.]

In May 2015, AQIS leader Asim Umar, claimed responsibility for the murders of six people who were supposedly “blasphemers.” Umar claimed that his jihadists were responsible for killing Rajib Haider (a blogger murdered in February 2013), Muhammad Shakil Auj (who was the dean of Islamic Studies at the University of Karachi when he was shot in September 2014), Shafiul Islam (a professor at Rajshahi University who was killed in September 2014), Aniqa Naz (a Pakistani blogger), Avijit Roy (a prominent atheist blogger hacked to death in February 2015) and Washiqur Rahman (a blogger who was killed in March 2015).

“Praise be to Allah, these assassinations are part of a series of operations initiated by the different branches of al Qaeda on the orders of our respected leader Sheikh Ayman al Zawahiri (may Allah protect him),” Umar said in the May 2015 video. “It is equally part of our commitment to fulfill the oath of Sheikh Osama [bin Laden] (may Allah have mercy on him).”

Umar connected the series of murders to other terrorist attacks, including the massacre at Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris in January 2015. The jihadists “have taught a lesson to blasphemers in France, Denmark, Pakistan and now in Bangladesh,” Umar claimed. He said al Qaeda’s assassination campaign is part of the “same war…whether it is fought with drones [in northern Pakistan] or with the cursed pens of Charlie Hebdo.”

16-01-08 Timeline of Assassinations

AQIS claimed responsibility for additional killings and attempted murders in the months that followed Umar’s message. In January, the Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF) posted an infographic online (seen on the right) in which several other attacks were claimed.

Earlier this month, AQIS said its men were responsible for the death of Nazimuddin Samad, whom the jihadists accused of mocking Allah on Facebook.

Supporters of the Islamic State have lashed out at individuals as well. Rezaul Karim Siddique, a university professor, was hacked to death earlier this week. Amaq News Agency, a propaganda arm of the Islamic State, said Siddique was killed because he was “calling to atheism in the city of Rajshahi in Bangladesh.” However, the professor’s family denied that he was an atheist.

AQIS claims that its victims are chosen with precision. “We are not targeting every atheist bloggers [sic],” the organization’s targeting criteria reads. “We don’t have problem [sic] with other religions or beliefs but we will not tolerate anyone insulting [the] prophet Muhammad. We are targeting those who are insulting our Prophet in the name of Atheism, Free Speech or Free Thinking.”

And the jihadists are now targeting LGBT activists as well.

Police officials in Dhaka say that previous AQIS claims were proven to be fake. But if they are right, then this would mean that roving bans of murderers have randomly and repeatedly targeted prominent commentators and activists in the same manner with machetes and knives. Although some of AQIS’ statements may be inaccurate, it is reasonable to assume that the jihadists are targeting victims just as they say.

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

US transfers 2 Guantanamo detainees to the Republic of Senegal

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, April 4, 2016:

The Department of Defense and State Department announced today that two Libyans have been transferred from Guantanamo to the Republic of Senegal in West Africa.

Omar Khalifa Mohammed Abu Bakr Mahjour Umar and Salem Abdul Salem Ghereby allegedly belonged to the al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), worked with senior al Qaeda leaders and had advanced explosives training in Afghanistan prior to their detention in Cuba.

President Obama’s Guantanamo Review Task Force, which reviewed the detainees’ cases between Jan. 2009 and Jan. 2010, deemed Umar “too dangerous” to free. But a Periodic Review Board subsequently approved Umar’s transfer last year.

Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), which oversees the detention facility, assessed both of the men to be “high” risks who are “likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests, and allies.”

Omar Khalifa Mohammed Abu Bakr Mahjour Umar (Internment Serial Number 695)

JTF-GTMO was especially concerned about Umar. In an Aug. 22, 2008 threat assessment, which was later leaked online, JTF-GTMO recommended that the Defense Department continue to hold him.

Screen-Shot-2016-04-04-at-8.38.16-PM-768x867JTF-GTMO’s analysts also issued a warning: “If released without rehabilitation, close supervision, and means to successfully reintegrate into his society as a law abiding citizen, it is assessed detainee [Umar] would immediately seek out prior associates and reengage in hostilities and extremist support activities.”

US officials found that Umar was a high-level member of the LIFG’s military committee and worked with a Who’s Who list of al Qaeda leaders and operatives.

Umar was allegedly a “long-time associate” of Osama bin Laden, worked for one of the al Qaeda founder’s companies, and flew on one of bin Laden’s planes from Sudan to Afghanistan.

Umar also reportedly had “affiliations” with: Ayman al Zawahiri (the current head of al Qaeda), Saif al Adl (a senior al Qaeda official wanted for his role in the August 1998 US Embassy bombings), Abd al Rahim al Nashiri (a current Guantanamo detainee and suspected ringleader of the USS Cole bombing in October 2000), Abu Musab al Zarqawi (who founded al Qaeda in Iraq before his demise in June 2006), Abu Laith al Libi (an al Qaeda leader who was killed in 2008), Hamza al Qaiti (who served as an al Qaeda commander in Afghanistan and Chechnya), as well as others.

Still other al Qaeda leaders, some of whom were held in the CIA’s controversial detention and interrogation program, are cited as sources of intelligence on Umar throughout the leaked JTF-GTMO threat assessment. One of them is Ahmed Ghailani, who was tried and convicted for his role in the 1998 US Embassy bombings. Ghailani identified Umar as a trainer at al Qaeda’s Al Farouq training camp and told authorities that Umar “taught anti-aircraft systems and basic explosives.”

According to the intelligence included in the leaked threat assessment, Umar moved seamlessly between LIFG and al Qaeda facilities in Sudan and Afghanistan during the 1990s. He allegedly worked as an “explosives and weapons trainer at LIFG and al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.” JTF-GTMO found that he also helped rebuild al Qaeda’s camps after airstrikes were launched in retaliation for the attacks on US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998.

On Mar. 28, 2002, Umar was captured during raids on two suspected al Qaeda safe houses in Faisalabad, Pakistan. The counterterrorism operations targeted Abu Zubaydah’s “Martyrs Brigade,” which planned to launch improvised explosive device (IED) attacks against US and Coalition forces in Afghanistan. JTF-GTMO’s analysts assessed that Umar was a “a participant in [Zubaydah’s] cell,” or “Martyrs Brigade.” Zubaydah, a senior al Qaeda facilitator, is still detained at Guantanamo.

President Obama’s Guantanamo Review Task Force, which filed its final report in January 2010, shared JTF-GTMO’s security concerns about Umar.

The task force determined that Umar should be held under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) because he was one of 48 detainees “determined to be too dangerous to transfer but not feasible for prosecution.”

However, a Periodic Review Board (PRB) determined in August 2015 that Umar’s detention was “no longer necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.”

The PRB acknowledged Umar’s “past terrorist-related activities and connections,” but found that the “risk” he “presents” could be mitigated by his “significantly compromised health condition,” his “record of compliance” within Guantanamo, and his “recent engagement with his family illustrating his intent to move forward in a positive manner.”

Even so, the PRB couldn’t rule out the possibility that Umar would return to the jihad.

The August 2015 decision reads: “The PRB also recommends appropriate security assurances as determined by the Guantanamo Detainee Transfer Working Group, with special attention to those that would mitigate the threat the detainee [Umar] may pose with respect to propaganda, recruitment, and training of others.”

According to data compiled by The Long War Journal, Umar is the fifth detainee since September of last year to be transferred after being deemed “too dangerous to transfer” by Obama’s task force. A sixth detainee was also transferred despite being recommended for prosecution by the task force. In all six cases, President Obama’s interagency body concluded that the detainees should be held. But they were granted transfers from Guantanamo by the PRB system, which is increasingly willing to transfer higher risk detainees.

Salem Abdul Salem Ghereby (ISN 189)

Unlike Umar, Salem Abdul Salem Ghereby was approved for transfer by President Obama’s task force more than six years ago. This doesn’t mean the task force believed he was an innocent who could be freed without any security precautions. The task force recommended Ghereby for transfer “to a country outside the United States that will implement appropriate security measures.”

Screen-Shot-2016-04-04-at-8.37.52-PM-768x1083JTF-GTMO concluded that Ghereby was a “former explosives trainer and a veteran jihad fighter” in the LIFG. He was also allegedly “associated” with senior al Qaeda members, including Abdul Hadi al Iraqi (Bin Laden’s primary paramilitary commander prior to 9/11) and Ibn Shaykh al Libi. Bin Laden named al Libi as the leader of al Qaeda’s forces during the Battle of Tora Bora in late 2001. (Al Iraqi is held at Guantanamo. Al Libi died in a Libyan prison in 2009.)

JTF-GTMO’s analysts found that Ghereby “attended multiple training camps” and “received explosives training” from a “senior al Qaeda explosives expert” known as Abu Khabab al Masri. According to the leaked JTF-GTMO threat assessment for Ghereby, Masri’s diary describes the explosives accident that cost Ghereby his fingers and vision in one eye.

JTF-GTMO’s analysts also assessed that Ghereby participated in the Battle of Tora Bora and fled the mountain range with Ibn Shaykh al Libi and other jihadists.

LIFG and al Qaeda in North Africa

The LIFG, which Umar and Ghereby served, found new life in North Africa during the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and afterwards. In fact, Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenant believed in early 2011 that “an active Jihadist Islamic renaissance” was “underway.” Al Qaeda was encouraged by the fact that many LIFG members, some of whom also served al Qaeda, had been freed from jail. One of them was another ex-Guantanamo detainee who was a member of both al Qaeda and the LIFG: Sufian Ben Qumu. Today, Ben Qumu is best known for his putative role in the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi.

According to the terms of their transfer, it is likely that the Republic of Senegal is responsible for ensuring, at least in the short-term, that Umar and Ghereby do not rejoin their LIFG brethren elsewhere in Africa. Of course, it is possible that one or both of them will choose a different path.

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 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.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 6.19.35 AM

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:

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.

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Also see:

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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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.

ShNabilNaeem2

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.

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I will be reporting more from Egypt later this week.

Analysis: Osama bin Laden’s son praises al Qaeda’s branches in new message

Screen-Shot-2015-08-14-at-7

This image appears throughout much of Hamzah bin Laden’s newly-released audio message. Hamzah’s face is not shown in the production.

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, August 18, 2015:

In the months leading up to his death in early May 2011, Osama bin Laden was worried about the fate of his son Hamzah. Files recovered in the terror master’s Abbottabad compound show that he repeatedly discussed ways to prevent Hamzah from falling into the hands of al Qaeda’s enemies. Osama wanted his son to avoid Waziristan, where the drones buzzed overhead, at all costs. And he suggested that Hamzah flee to Qatar, where he could lie low for a time.

Last week, more than four years after Osama’s death, al Qaeda released a lengthy audio message by Hamzah.

Osama’s son does not show his face in the al Qaeda production. This is most likely for security purposes. Most of the videos and pictures circulated online show Hamzah as a young boy, before he could possibly understand the true extent of his father’s mission. But it is clear from his new statement to the world that Hamzah has taken up his father’s business. Hamzah’s lengthy speech has been translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

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Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s emir, offers a brief introduction for Hamzah, describing him as “a lion from the den of [al Qaeda].” A screen shot of the still image used during Zawahiri’s speech can be seen on the right.

Before turning over the mic to Hamzah, Zawahiri apparently alludes to the massacre at Charlie Hebdo’soffices in Paris in January. Zawahiri asks Allah to “reward our brothers in” al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) “for they have fulfilled his promise and healed the chests of the believers.” This language is a reference to al Qaeda’s current campaign against alleged blasphemers, who have supposedly wounded “believers” with their words and images. AQAP claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo assault, saying it was carried out according to Zawahiri’s orders.

Hamzah then begins to speak about current affairs. However, an Arabic transcript posted with the message indicates his audio was recorded in May or June of this year, meaning it is somewhat dated. Indeed, Hamzah praises Taliban emir Mullah Omar, saying he is the “hidden, pious sheikh” and “the firm mountain of jihad.” Hamzah asks Allah to “preserve” Omar, indicating that he thought the Taliban chieftain was alive when his audio was recorded.

Hamzah also renews his bayat (oath of allegiance) to Omar.

“From here, in following my father, may Allah have mercy on him, I renew my pledge of allegiance to Emir of the Believers Mullah Muhammad Omar, and I say to him: I pledge to you to listen and obey, in promoting virtue and waging jihad in the cause of Allah the Great and Almighty,” Hamzah says, according to SITE’s translation.

According to some sources, including Afghan intelligence, Omar passed away in April 2013, or more than two years before the Taliban officially announced his death. If true, then this means that Hamzah and al Qaeda’s senior leadership reaffirmed their loyalty to a corpse.

It is possible that Omar did die in 2013 and al Qaeda somehow did not know this. Given al Qaeda’s close relationship with the Taliban’s new leadership, including Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, who served as Omar’s deputy and is now his successor, this would more than a little surprising. It is also possible that al Qaeda’s leaders knew Omar was dead and decided to pretend that he was alive for their own sake, as part of an attempt to unite the ranks in the jihadist community. Or, it could be the case that Omar finally perished more recently than the Afghan government and other sources have said.

In any event, Hamzah clearly refers to Omar as if he was alive just a few months ago.

While praising Zawahiri as a jihadist leader, Hamzah does not swear allegiance directly to him. This is different from the leaders of each regional branch of al Qaeda, all whom have sworn their fealty to Zawahiri.

While al Qaeda’s branches respected Mullah Omar as the “Emir of the Faithful,” their loyalty has always been to al Qaeda’s overall emir, who, in turn, has pledged his allegiance to Omar. Zawahiri first pledged himself to Omar and, earlier this month, to Mansour. Therefore, al Qaeda’s regional operations are loyal to Mansour through Zawahiri.

Hamzah honors the leader of each al Qaeda branch. He begins with Nasir al Wuhayshi, who led AQAP until he was killed in a US drone strike in June, just weeks after Hamzah’s recording session. Wuhayshi was succeeded by Qasim al Raymi, who quickly reaffirmed his own allegiance to Zawahiri. Interestingly, Hamzah refers to Wuhayshi as al Qaeda’s “deputy emir,” indicating that he held the same position that Zawahiri himself once did under Osama bin Laden.

In addition to being the head of AQAP, Wuhayshi’s role as al Qaeda’s global general manager from 2013 onward has been widely reported. But under bin Laden that job was separate from the deputy emir’s slot. Al Qaeda’s general manager at the time of bin Laden’s death was Atiyah Abd al Rahman, who was subsequently killed in a US drone strike. Wuhayshi’s status as deputy emir of al Qaeda was never publicly announced by the group.

Osama’s heir continues with a roll call of other al Qaeda regional emirs, including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) Abdulmalek Droukdel, al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent’s (AQIS) Asim Umar,Shabaab’s Abu Obaidah Ahmed Omar, and Al Nusrah Front’s Abu Muhammad al Julani. Hamzah does not mention Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s al Qaeda offshoot, the Islamic State, but he clearly had Baghdadi’s men in mind when addressing Julani, whom he describes as the “bold commander.”

“We thank your jihad, your firmness, and your great, unique sacrifices through which you have revived the feats of the ancestors of Islam,” Hamzah says to Julani, according to SITE. “But we were pained and saddened…due to the sedition that pervaded your field, and there is no power or strength but with Allah. We advise you to stay away as far as possible from this sedition.” Here, Hamzah is clearly referring to the infighting between the jihadists in Syria. The conflict has repeatedly pitted Julani’s Nusrah against Baghdadi’s Islamic State.

A standard motif in al Qaeda’s productions is to call for influential and well-known jihadists to be freed from their imprisonment. Thus, Hamzah tips his hat to  Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman (a.k.a. the “Blind Sheikh,” who is imprisoned in the US on terrorism charges), Sheikh Suleiman al Alwan (a famous al Qaeda-affiliated cleric detained in Saudi Arabia), and 9/11 planner Khalid Sheikh Muhammad (held by the US at Guantanamo).

Hamzah spent a number of years in detention in Iran. And he calls for some of the al Qaeda leaders he was detained with there to be freed.

“And from among my sheikhs through whose hands I was educated: Sheikh Ahmed Hassan Abu al Kheir, Sheikh Abu Muhammad al Masri, Sheikh Saif al Adl, and Sheikh Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, may Allah release them all,” Hamzah says. His mention of Saif al Adl, one of al Qaeda’s most senior military commanders, is especially intriguing. Hamzah indicates that al Adl is imprisoned. Various reports have claimed that al Adl was freed from Iranian custody, but his status at any given time has always been murky. Abu Ghaith, a former al Qaeda spokesman, is imprisoned in the US, but was also detained inside Iran for a time.

Much of the rest of Hamzah’s talk is devoted to the supposed Zionist-Crusader alliance that al Qaeda has made the centerpiece of its mythology. Hamzah’s words contain echoes of his father’s speeches from nearly two decades ago, when al Qaeda’s founder first declared war on America and the West. Like his father, Hamzah calls for continued attacks in the West. And he encourages so-called “lone wolf” attackers to strike.

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“One operation from a loyal knight from your knights who chose his target and did well in his selection, and did his job and did well in his job, it would shake the policy of a great nation in a dire fashion,” Hamzah says. “So then, what would tens of operations do?”

Towards the end of the video, al Qaeda includes footage of various protests from throughout the Middle East. The protesters, many of whom are young men, can be heard chanting, “Obama, Obama, We are all Osama!” (A screen shot of this video footage can be seen on the right.)

Al Qaeda clearly hopes that Hamzah will help represent this new generation of al Qaeda followers.

***

New Taliban emir accepts al Qaeda’s oath of allegiance

Left: Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, from a handout released by a Taliban spokesman. Right: Ayman al Zawahiri, from his latest tape declaring allegiance to Mansour.

Left: Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, from a handout released by a Taliban spokesman. Right: Ayman al Zawahiri, from his latest tape declaring allegiance to Mansour.

Long War Journal, by Bill Roggio and Thomas Joscelyn, August 14, 2015:

The Taliban’s new leader, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, has accepted the oath of allegiance (bayat) from al Qaeda emir Ayman Zawahiri, as well as the pledges to him from “Jihadi organizations spread throughout the globe.” Mansour’s statement was released just one day after al Qaeda released an audio message from Zawahiri in which he gave bayat to Mansour.

Mansour’s statement accepting Zawahiri’s pledge was released today on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official website. In the statement, the Taliban emir thanked “all those respected brothers who have sympathized with us in this critical juncture of the Islamic Ummah, have sent messages of condolence about the passing away of Amir ul Mumineen [Mullah Omar] or have pledged allegiance with us as the new Amir (leader) of the Islamic Emirate and servant of the Muslims.”

Mansour places Zawahiri’s oath of fealty above all others.

“Among these respected brothers, I first and foremost accept the pledge of allegiance of the esteemed Dr. Ayman ad-Dhawahiri [al Zawahiri], the leader of international Jihadi organization (Qaedatul Jihad) and thank him for sending a message of condolence along with his pledge and pledge of all Mujahideen under him,” Mansour said.

“Similarly those Mujahideen protecting the Jihadi frontlines, Madaris (religious seminaries), teachers of universities and centers for learning, national figures and all Islamic and Jihadi personalities as well as Jihadi organizations spread throughout the globe who have sent messages of condolence or pledge allegiance with us as leader of Jihad, I reciprocally thank them and implore Allah Almighty to grant me and all our brothers success to properly serve Islam and Muslims,” he continued.

Mansour’s acceptance of Zawahiri’s oath should come as no surprise. The new Taliban emir issued a pro-al Qaeda statement in June, before Mullah Omar’s death was announced. In the statement, he described al Qaeda’s leaders as the “heroes of the current jihadist era” and bin Laden as the “leader of mujahideen.” Mansour’s statement contained parallels to al Qaeda’s messaging and he took al Qaeda’s side in its dispute with the rival Islamic State.

Mansour’s leadership team also indicates his close ties to al Qaeda. As The Long War Journal reported on July 31, Mansour appointed Siraj Haqqani, the operational leader of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, as one of his top two deputies. Files recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound and other evidence show that Siraj has worked closely with al Qaeda for years. [See LWJ report, The Taliban’s new leadership is allied with al Qaeda.]

The public acceptance of Zawahiri’s pledge demonstrates that Mansour has no intention of breaking with al Qaeda.

Indeed, the statement from the new Taliban emir is a dramatic gesture. Since last year, al Qaeda has repeatedly broadcast its enduring allegiance to Mansour’s predecessor, Mullah Omar. In July 2014, al Qaeda released a video from mid-2001 of Osama bin Laden explaining his loyalty to Omar. But the Taliban’s public-facing propaganda has been far less explicit about the relationship. For instance, after al Qaeda reaffirmed its allegiance to Omar on July 20, 2014, the Taliban did not publish a statement attributed to Omar acknowledging the pledge.

Therefore, while the Taliban and al Qaeda have long been closely allied, Mansour’s official statement is a bold proclamation of the relationship between the groups.

***

Also see:

The Jihadist Blowback Against the Islamic State

cbc5c365-6298-4aa0-b2be-a6264acb6d49_16x9_600x338Stratfor, by Scott Stewart, July 9, 2015:

Last Ramadan saw the proclamation of the caliphate as a triumphant Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appeared in Mosul’s Great Mosque to declare himself the leader of all Muslims worldwide. This Ramadan, things have changed dramatically for the organization. Al-Baghdadi is keeping an extremely low profile because of the coalition bombing campaign over Iraq and Syria, while the Islamic State is on the strategic defensive, struggling financially and to hold the territories it conquered.

Although many often refer to the Islamic State as the wealthiest terrorist group ever, they fail to understand that the organization is really an insurgency rather than a terrorist group — and that fighting a war on several fronts and governing territory, especially large cities such as Mosul, Raqqa and Ramadi, requires an incredible amount of money, resources and manpower. The Islamic State’s resource burn rate is magnitudes larger than that of a true terrorist group or even a small insurgency. Coalition airstrikes against oil collection points, oil tankers and mobile refineries have put a serious dent in the Islamic State’s economy. Though the group does earn considerable revenue from taxation, extortion and smuggling, these revenue sources — which are obtained mostly from the people the group rules — are limited and will breed increased resentment against the group as they are ramped up.

This Ramadan also brought a new challenge to the Islamic State when the al Qaeda pole of the transnational jihadist movement launched a widespread ideological campaign to undercut the Islamic State’s support base. These ideological efforts have been impressive, at least to this middle-aged American analyst. It remains to be seen, however, if they will have the desired impact on wealthy jihadist donors and young recruits.

Resurgence

The first ideological salvo fired this Ramadan was the second issue of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent’s Resurgence Magazine. The 92-page publication was a “special issue” containing a lengthy interview that the publisher, Hassaan Yusuf, had conducted with Adam Gadahn, aka “Azzam the American,” an English-language spokesman for the al Qaeda core group who was killed by a U.S. airstrike in Pakistan in January.

While the interview was ostensibly a biography of Gadahn, Yusuf was able to cleverly shape it into a hit piece on the Islamic State. For example, Yusuf quoted Gadahn talking about al Qaeda’s interactions with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. While Gadahn discussed al Qaeda’s conflicts with al-Zarqawi, it emphasized that he was a strong proponent of jihadist unity and that he should not be held responsible for the “deviation” of those who claim to follow him today. The interview contained many scathing indictments of the Islamic State, such as:

  • Declaring Muslims to be outside the fold of Islam is not a trivial matter or something to be taken lightly.
  • Spilling the blood, taking the wealth and violating the rights of Muslims is not a trivial matter or something to be taken lightly.
  • When you declare yourselves to be “the” Islamic State, you are responsible if your actions and behavior distort the image of the Islamic system of government in the eyes of the Ummah and the world.
  • Ignorance of Sharia and misinterpretation of Islamic texts.

Interestingly, many of the arguments directed against the Islamic State used language that was not typical for Gadahn: specifically, terms that were beyond his educational level and normal lexicon. This likely indicates that these sections were later inserted by Yusuf, who is quite erudite, eloquent and apparently very well educated. Yusuf’s writing uses advanced American idiomatic English, and it would be unsurprising to learn that he had earned an advanced degree from an American university, perhaps even an Ivy League school. Gadahn, by contrast, never attended university, and while he often sought to sound sophisticated in public statements, his efforts were transparent and his usage came across as unnatural.

Resurgence shows that in Yusuf, al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent has an articulate propagandist who likely retains contacts in the United States. He is certainly a much deeper thinker than figures like Gadahn or Inspire magazine editor Samir Khan ever were. Yusuf accordingly will be an important figure to note and track.

Al Risalah Magazine

The second major ideological assault against the Islamic State was launched with the introduction of Al Risalah, a new English-language magazine by Jabhat al-Nusra. Risalah, which means “letter” in Arabic, has the stated purpose of dispelling “from the minds of
 the Muslims some of
 the mistaken notions
 and doubts promoted by the kuffar, hypocrites and deviant groups present amongst our midst, who aim to distort and destroy the clear and pure message of Islam and Jihad in the way of Allah.”

The “hypocrites and deviants” the magazine focuses most intently upon hail from the Islamic State, which the magazine refers to as the Dawlat al-Baghdadi, or state of al-Baghdadi. The publication repeatedly criticizes the Islamic State for spreading dissension and attacking Jabhat al-Nusra/al Qaeda in Syria, when the latter are genuine jihadists. It also castigates the Islamic State for dividing and attacking fellow jihadists in Yemen, the Caucasus, Afghanistan and Libya. “They have made their khilafa a sword, which splits the Ummah, and not a khilafa, which gathers the Ummah together.”

Being produced by Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, Al Risalah naturally contains several articles authored by senior al-Nusra leaders, such as a eulogy for former al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Nasir al-Wahayshi written by al-Nusra leader Abu Mohammed al-Golani. The magazine also features articles from a number of other interesting figures, including a female jihadist who immigrated to Syria from the United Kingdom and an American jihadist named Abu Hudaifa al-Amreeki. Another article was written by Qaari Ikram, a senior Taliban religious authority.

The magazine devotes a great deal of space to refuting the ideology and actions of the Islamic State and argues that the Islamic State cannot be the legitimate caliphate since al-Baghdadi did not consult with the leaders of the global jihadist movement before proclaiming himself caliph. An article entitled “Khilafa One Year On” specifically noted that the caliphate had not been restored and quoted a Hadith from Sahih Bukhari that says “if any person gives the pledge of allegiance to somebody (to become a caliph) without consulting the other Muslims, then the one he has selected should not be granted allegiance, lest both of them should be killed.” The article also criticizes young Islamic State supporters for believing things posted on social media over the opinions of respected jihadist clerics, such as Abu Qatada and Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, and even of treating such scholars with contempt and disrespect.

This theme of disrespecting elder jihadists and even cursing at them was made in other articles, including an interview with Chechen jihadist Muslim Shishani and an article by Qaari Ikram titled “This is al Qaeda or Have They Forgotten.”

Ikram was particularly pointed in countering the argument repeatedly made by Islamic State figures that Ayman al-Zawahiri and the present al Qaeda leadership have strayed from the path charted by Osama bin Laden. Ikram notes that unlike the Islamic State leaders, he knew bin Laden — as well as other al Qaeda leaders — and observed his methods and beliefs in favorable conditions and under pressure. Based upon this firsthand knowledge, Ikram asserts that bin Laden and the other al Qaeda leaders would have condemned the Islamic State for attacking other jihadists, for the indiscriminate killing of non-Muslim women and children, and for the killing of Muslim women and children. He also berated them for being bloodthirsty, deceitful and divisive and for being excessive in declaring takfir (declaring a Muslim to be an unbeliever).

An article called “Halab Under Fire” by Abu Hudaifa al Amreeki specifically charged the Islamic State with helping the administration of Syrian President Bashar al Assad by attacking Jabhat al-Nusra and other jihadist groups north of Aleppo (Halab is an ancient name for Aleppo). This forced other jihadists to divert forces away from their attack on loyalists in Aleppo to counter the Islamic State attack.

Turning the Tables on the Islamic State

Members and sympathizers of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula have begun to use social media more aggressively. They launched a campaign on Twitter this week to criticize Abu Belal al-Harbi, the leader of the Islamic State in Yemen, accusing him of treason. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb also issued a statement this week criticizing the Islamic State’s actions in Libya. Whether such efforts will make much headway against the Islamic State’s powerful social media juggernaut, however, is not clear.

I found some compelling arguments against the Islamic State’s ideology and practices while reading these materials. But whether potential jihadist recruits and wealthy jihadist donors will take the time to read them and be swayed — or whether they will continue to feed off the Islamic State’s dramatic videos and short social media posts — remains to be seen.

Perhaps some of the more mature jihadists and foreign financiers will in fact take time to read these magazines and the reasoned arguments put forth in them. But for many of the younger recruits, the lure of bloody mayhem and Yazidi sex slaves may prove too strong for al Qaeda’s arguments to overcome.

Here Are al-Qaeda’s Guidelines for Which ‘Blasphemers’ to Assassinate

aqiswarningPJ Media, By Bridget Johnson On May 28, 2015:

Two weeks after the latest murder of a blogger for professing disbelief in the Islamic prophet or simply promoting a secular society, al-Qaeda’s new chapter in southeast Asia has issued an update about who will be targeted next.

The bloggers hacked to death in brazen, public attacks thus far have all been in Bangladesh — one of the three victims in less than three months was an American citizen — but the English-language posting of the terrorists’ target list suggests that forthcoming attacks may not be limited in scope.

Ansar al-Islam Bangladesh considers itself a “brother” of al-Qaeda, as Ayman al-Zawahiri has united South Asia jihadist groups under al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent. The chapter was announced last September after what al-Zawahiri said was two years of set-up work with regional Islamist leaders, with a consultative council already operating for a year before the official announcement.

Their newest warning posted online vows to target:

  • “Those who are insulting our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Allah (S) and our religion Islam. We have no problem with the atheists bloggers, atheism or with other religions or belief but we will not tolerate insulting out Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). We are targeting those who are insulting our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the name of atheism.”
  • “People who are not allowing to follow the rulings of shariah. He/She might be a teacher of a University, College or School. He/She might be a leader of a certain area or locality or a political party. He/She might be a Judge, Advocate, Engineer or Doctor etc.”
  • “Those who are presenting Islam wrongly in His/Her writings or talks and trying to keep Muslims far from the real teaching of Islam which is one of the main agendas of crusaders in the Muslim nations all over the world. He/She might be a well known writer. He/She might be a poet or free thinker or so called intellectuals. He/She might be an editor of a newspaper of magazine. He/She might be a actor, journalist, producer, director or actor etc.”
  • “Those who are opposing, lowing and presenting wrongly the rulings of shariah by his/her talks or writings using media or any other means of publications.”
  • “Those who are trying to destroy Muslim social values by introducing and spreading the nudity and zina [sex outside of marriage] among the Muslim youths.”
  • “Those who are tying to remove the shariah rulings from the existing Islamic systems, values, cultures and economics.”
  • “Those who are trying to stop the establishment of Islamic rulings (Shariah).”

The al-Qaeda chapter claims it won’t target any people just for not being Muslim, but declared open season on “those who are trying to insult our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Allah (S) and our religion by any means such as writings, talks or physical works.”

Ananta Bijoy Das, a science writer whose numerous books included one on evolution, was hacked to death by four men wielding machetes and cleavers May 12 as he went to work in the city of Sylhet.

AQIS issued a statement afterward announcing they were “delighted” to be responsible for “one Islamophobic atheist blogger sent to hell.” They accused Das of “taunts” to Islam.

Das knew his life was in danger, and tried to get a visa to go to Sweden for a press-freedom event. Swedish officials denied the request last month, afraid that the writer wouldn’t return to Bangladesh.

In February, Bangladeshi-American secularist blogger Avijit Roy was hacked to death on a Dhaka street. “The target was an American citizen.. 2 in 1. #America recently martyred 2 of our brothers in #Khurasan & #Shaam. #Revenge+#Punishment,” Ansar al-Islam Bangladesh tweeted afterward.

Roy was a dual U.S.-Bangladesh citizen who lived in Georgia and was in Bangladesh for a month. His wife, Rafida Ahmed Bonna, was with him at the time of the attack and was severely wounded, with one of her fingers severed by the pair of machete-wielding attackers.

His blog in the 90 percent Muslim country, mukto-mona.com, translates to “free thinking” and featured atheist, humanist and nationalist writers. He was also an author whose books included The Philosophy of Disbelief and The Virus of Faith — further stoking outrage of Islamists.

Das contributed to mukto-mona.com.

After Roy’s murder, secular blogger Washiqur Rahman wasn’t going to take it from the Islamists. He posted a Charlie Hebdo Muhammad cartoon and used the hashtag #IamAvijit. Rahman was hacked to death at the end of March.

Two suspects out of three attackers were seized at the scene of the crime: students at an Islamic school who said they were acting on orders to kill Rahman.

Al-Qaeda issued a video at the beginning of this month saying AQIS was behind those assassinations and more, including the February 2013 murder of secularist Bangladeshi blogger Rajib Haider.

“Praise be to Allah, these assassinations are part of a series of operations initiated by the different branches of al-Qaeda on the orders of our respected leader Sheikh Ayman al Zawahiri (may Allah protect him),” AQIS leader Asim Umar said. “It is equally part of our commitment to fulfill the oath of Sheikh Osama [bin Laden] (may Allah have mercy on him).”

The assassination campaign, Umar stressed, is teaching “a lesson to blasphemers in France, Denmark, Pakistan and now in Bangladesh.”

Though not specifically mentioned by the al-Qaeda directive, the message was released two days before Friday’s “Draw Muhammad” event outside of a Phoenix mosque.