Zawahiri lectures on global jihad, warns of national boundaries

LONG WAR JOURNAL, BY THOMAS JOSCELYN | June 10, 2017

Sometime in the last few years, al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri got an editor. Known for his long-winded lectures, Zawahiri has increasingly recorded shorter messages with more focused arguments. The latest of these came yesterday, when As Sahab, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, released the seventh episode in Zawahiri’s “Brief Messages to a Victorious Nation” series. The message is titled, “One Ummah, One War on Multiple Fronts.”

Zawahiri emphasizes a core part of his organization’s ideology: jihad is an obligation for Muslims around the globe, especially when non-believers infringe of Muslim lands. Of course, many Muslim authorities are deemed illegitimate in this view of the world, as they do not adhere to the same version of Islam espoused by the jihadists.

The message opens with images of: Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood; Izz Ad-Deen Al-Qassam, a Syrian Islamic thinker who preached jihad; Abdullah Azzam, co-founder of the predecessor to al Qaeda and godfather of modern jihadism; al Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Suri, an ideologue whose teachings are influential; Abu Muhammad al-Turkistani, a co-founder of the al Qaeda-affiliated Turkistan Islamic party; and Taliban founder Mullah Mohammed Omar.

Zawahiri and As Sahab portray these men as part of the same jihadist tradition, stretching back into the early 20th Century.

“Our Ummah today is up against a global war in which Western and Eastern (Orthodox) Crusaders, Chinese, Hindus, Safavi Rawafidh [meaning the Iranians and allied Shiites] and secular nationalists are partners in crime,” Zawahiri says. “From the coasts of al-Maghreb (Western North Africa) to Eastern Turkistan, you will find a Muslim world confronted by aggression, occupation, repression, bombardment, and international alliances working hand[s] in gloves with client regimes, which are outside the pale of Islam and work for the interests of the leading international criminals.”

Al Qaeda has repeatedly argued that Muslims are confronted by this supposedly grand alliance. It is an enlargement of the alleged “Zionist-Crusader” conspiracy that Osama bin Laden first made the cornerstone of his thinking in the 1990s.

Zawahiri is forced to explain how so many parties, which are often at odds with one another, are really part of the same unified effort.

“In terms of peculiarities, one region may differ slightly from another, but there are obvious common denominators, namely fighting Islam in the name of the ‘Fight against Terrorism’ and subservience to an ‘International System,’ cleverly crafted by the victors of World War II for the mutual division and theft of the natural resources of the world – specifically the Muslim world,” Zawahiri says.

The al Qaeda leader argues that the US is still the main enemy. “You will find that the major role in this criminal alliance belongs to the Americans, and then the roles gradually differ as per the power wielded by each partner and its stakes in the system,” he claims.

Zawahiri preaches unity in the face of these overwhelming odds. He quotes an Islamic verse — “And hold on strongly to the rope of Allah and be not divided amongst yourselves” — that al Qaeda routinely peppers throughout its productions.

And he says the “jurists” long ago “ruled that the lands of the Muslims have the status of a single domain.”

Zawahiri continues: “There is a consensus amongst the jurists that if the disbelieving enemy occupies a Muslim land, it becomes obligatory on its residents to defend that land, and if they find themselves unable to do so, this obligation expands in a circular fashion to those nearest to them, and so on until it encompasses Muslims all over the globe.”

Muslims “have always risen up to defend their lands regardless of nationality or race,” he continues. And this was the “prevailing norm until the demise of the Ottoman state, which had defended the lands of Islam for five centuries.”

“After the fall of the Ottomans,” Zawahiri says, “the concept of nation-states with boundaries demarcated by the infidel occupiers started holding sway, and among Muslims arose some proponents of this notion. This is why the callers of the Islamic revival actively fought against this concept.” (Supporters of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s Islamic State were quick to point out online that Zawahiri wanted to keep the jihad in Iraq separate from the war in Syria, which they say contradicts his stance.)

The al Qaeda emir then lists the men he counts as key revivalists, pointing out that they waged jihad far outside of their native lands.

Hassan al-Banna, an Egyptian, organized “battalions for the liberation of Palestine.” Izz ad-Deen al-Qassam, a Syrian, waged “jihad in Palestine.” Abdullah Azzam, the Palestinian, awakened “the ummah to defend Afghanistan” and declared “most unequivocally that jihad has been a Fardh Ayn (a compulsory individual obligation) since the fall of al-Andalus (Muslim Spain).”

“Then emerged the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [the Taliban’s state], and we saw Afghans and emigrants alike pledging allegiance to it,” Zawahiri says. “Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al Suri – both Arabs – and Abu Muhammad al-Turkistani” pledged “allegiance to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Afghani (may Allah have mercy on each one of them).”

“So may Allah reward these pioneers, who revived the spirit of one united ummah confronting a disbelieving enemy,” Zawahiri says toward the end of his talk.

He then warns that some seek to divide the jihad according to national boundaries, which is unacceptable. It is an argument he has made in other recent productions. While it is a general point that al Qaeda has made often in the past, it is likely something that Zawahiri wants to emphasize, once again, as jihadi ideologues are currently debating the appropriate course in Syria.

“But today, there are some who want to push us back behind the lines of division drawn by disbelieving occupiers…Pakistan for Pakistanis, Syria for Syrians, Palestine for Palestinians…in the interest of whom, may we ask?” Zawahiri concludes: “May Allah help us gather our strength, bring our hearts closer, unite our ranks, and not deprive us of victory because of our sins.”

Zawahiri’s message was released with an English transcript. As Sahab and al Qaeda’s regional branches have increasingly released English-language content over the previous year. It is an indication that their media efforts have been substantially improved after facing multiple disruptions in 2014 and in the years thereafter.

[For context on the debate regarding the jihadist project in Syria, see FDD’s Long War Journal reports: Pro-Al Qaeda ideologue criticizes joint bombings by Russia and Turkey in Syria; Hay’at Tahrir al Sham leader calls for ‘unity’ in Syrian insurgency; and Ayman al Zawahiri warns against ‘nationalist’ agenda in

Screen shots from “One Ummah, One War on Multiple Fronts”:

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

***

Al Qaeda preaches world conquest of all religions and peoples. @billroggio @thomasjoscelyn @followfdd John Batchelor Show

Al-Qaeda to Muslims: An American ‘at Your Doorstep’ Is ‘a Test to Your Faith and Loyalty’

Qasim al-Raymi (Al-Malahem Media)

PJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, May 2, 2017:

As ISIS is losing territory in Iraq and Syria but al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula maintains its strength, AQAP’s chief stressed that all jihadists “pious and immoral” are considered their “brothers” in the face of the common enemy, America and its allies.

Qasim al-Raymi, the 38-year-old leader of the Yemeni terror group, began the interview, distributed in English online, with AQAP’s Al-Malahem Media talking about the January raid by U.S. forces on one of their compounds, which he said confirmed “we are confronting a spiteful, criminal and crusade enemy.”

“What America is doing in the era of Trump is a clear sign of their accumulated failure in the American administration,” al-Raymi said. “Consecutive administrations have failed and continue to fail in confronting mujahideen.”

SEAL Team 6 led the operation in a Yaklaa district compound soon after President Trump took office. U.S. officials said 14 enemy fighters were killed, including some women. One Navy SEAL was killed — Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, 36, of Peoria, Ill. — and three were wounded, and one MV-22 Osprey was destroyed by a U.S. strike after it crash-landed during evacuation.

Yemenis said there were multiple civilian casualties, including the 8-year-old daughter of late al-Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen born in New Mexico. A U.S. Central Command review team “concluded regrettably that civilian non-combatants were likely killed in the midst of a firefight” during the raid, and “casualties may include children.”

The administration said significant intelligence was retrieved during the raid; al-Raymi dismissed the claim as “just mere attempts to cover their failure.”

As is customary for al-Qaeda, al-Raymi said they reviewed the details and results of the raid to compile some new unclassified guidance for jihadists: “Not less than two people in a shift” for guard duty. Planning ahead for nighttime defensive scenarios. “No one should leave his stationed place during combat, as planes above him could detect him. One should fight in his stationed place,” he added.

The leader also advised “planting bombs and mines in a circular motion and away from the place of keeping guard, the station and away from shelter,” and “leaving the enemy to advance until he reaches the place of ambush and sphere of combat.”

“There is no Muslim who sees America violating sanctity, killing children and women and yet hesitates in fighting them,” al-Raymi added. “If an American comes at your doorstep, that is by all means a test to your faith and loyalty. Therefore, this is a golden chance to avenge your fellow Muslims by this American soldier who practices crime against the Muslim nation in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria and among other Islamic countries… the mujahideen do not let the crimes of America pass by without consequences.”

The United Arab Emirates, which conducted the raid alongside U.S. forces, was also on the AQAP chief’s hit list. “They cooperate and contribute with the Americans constantly,” he said. “They too are held responsible for these crimes.”

Al-Raymi claimed the UAE “wants to entirely implement the American project in Yemen” and control ports and islands with oil reserves there while “striving to be the ultimate soldier in the region to his master America.”

“We noticed that the first visit of the minister of American defense was to Emirates,” he said. “Whatever the western crusade wants is conducted by the Arabs who claim Islam.”

“There is no greater evidence to this than Dubai itself… hotels of indecency and the loss of Islamic identity.”

He praised al-Qaeda’s ally, the Taliban, as a good example for incorporating Islamic scholars into the ranks of mujhideen as “this is what keeps their jihad steady and keeps it away from any deviation and aberration.”

As for other terror groups: “We treat and deal with them according to Islam and attributes of sharia. And any Muslim whatsoever is our brother. We today face a crusade war that does not determine anyone on its way. Defensive jihad does not stipulate any condition. We are ready to aid and protect any Muslim and fight together with all Muslims as one… Jihad is with all, pious and immoral.”

Al-Qaeda, the terror chief said, is not “after leadership” in regions it strives to conquer but “our main goal is to be governed by the Islamic Sharia.”

“As for the mujahideen elsewhere, we sent to them our greetings and best regards,” al-Raymi added. “Our brothers in Khorasan in the Islamic state under the leadership of [Taliban leader] Sheikh Al-Mawlawi Hiibatu Allah Akhandzaada, and our brothers in Chechnya, Turkistan, Sham [Syria], Islamic Maghreb, beloved Somalia, Palestine and elsewhere.”

Also see:

Ayman al Zawahiri warns against ‘nationalist’ agenda in Syria

LONG WAR JOURNAL, BY THOMAS JOSCELYN,  April 23, 2017:

Al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, As Sahab, released an audio message from emir Ayman al Zawahiri earlier today. The audio file, which was spliced together with images from the Sunni jihad in Syria, is just over six minutes long. It was released via social media, including on As Sahab’s Telegram channel.

Zawahiri warns that the Syrian war shouldn’t be considered an exclusively “nationalist” effort, because this is what the Sunni jihadists’ enemies want. Instead, he says the Syrian conflict should be viewed as the “cause of the entire Ummah,” or worldwide community of Muslims.

Zawahiri’s comments are potentially interesting in light of Al Nusrah Front’s rebranding last year, and then the group’s merger with several others to form Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (“Assembly for the Liberation of the Levant”) in January. Various al Qaeda actors and other jihadists inside Syria have debated how to best portray themselves to the world. Al Nusrah’s relaunch in July 2016 was blessed beforehand by Zawahiri’s deputy, but some al Qaeda figures rejected it.

Zawahiri does not specifically mention Hay’at Tahrir al Sham or any other group in Syria, so we can only speculate if he is commenting on some specific debate within jihadist circles. But that appears likely.

Zawahiri does explicitly endorse the insurgency in Syria, saying that it is a “guerrilla” war and the jihadists should not focus on holding territory at this time. Instead, Zawahiri says, they must focus on weakening their enemies.

“To begin with, I would like to tell our beloved people in Sham [the Levant] that your wounds are the wounds of the entire Ummah, and your pain is the pain of the entire Ummah. You are in our prayers at every moment, and we wish to sacrifice our souls for you,” Zawahiri begins his message, which was released with an English transcript.

“If anything stands in our way,” Zawahiri continues, “it is the fact that we are engaged in fighting the same Crusader enemy which you are up against, though on a different front.”

The al Qaeda chieftain claims that the “only reason” Sunni Muslims in Syria “are being targeted” is that they “want Islam to rule over the land of Sham.” The “International Satanic Alliance will never accept this, and it will spare no effort to stop this Islamic tide,” Zawahiri says.

Consistent with al Qaeda’s messaging in the past, Zawahiri portrays the US and the West as being in league with Iran and Bashar al Assad’s regime. Indeed, he advises the people of Syria to “prepare” themselves “for a protracted war against the Crusaders and their Rafidhi [derogatory term for Shiites and Iran] and Nusayri [meaning the Assad regime] allies.”

Zawahiri praises the people for having “taken up the path of jihad in the way of Allah to raise the flag of Islam and jihad on the land of Sham, and to liberate it from oppression, tyranny and corruption.”

“So do not backtrack,” he says. “Know no wavering or compromise. Die honorably, but never accept a life of humiliation.”

The al Qaeda head reiterates his organization’s call for unity within the insurgency. Since the beginning of the war, with a few exceptions, al Qaeda’s men have attempted to remain as closely allied with other rebel groups as possible. This strategy was upset by the rise of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s Islamic State in 2013 and 2014, but al Qaeda’s arm continued to cooperate with other Islamist, jihadist and Free Syrian Army-branded outfits.

“Unite and close your ranks with your Muslim brothers and mujahideen not just in Sham, but the entire world, for it is a single Crusader campaign being waged against Muslims the world over,” Zawahiri says.

He then pivots to a critique of anyone who thinks the Syrian war can be separated from the jihad elsewhere around the globe.

Speaking to the jihadists in Syria, Zawahiri says that some “wish to deceive you into buying the myth that only if you were to change your jihad to an exclusively nationalist Syrian struggle, [then] the leading international criminals would be pleased with you.”

“My people and my brothers in Sham,” Zawahiri says, “I would like to offer here a few words of advice as a reminder to you and myself.” Then, somewhat cryptically, he adds: “We must constantly review our actions, and retract ourselves from everything which is capable of hindering victory. For we can never be better than the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him), who were denied victory when they disobeyed. Critical reassessment and correction of mistakes is the first step in the patch to victory.”

Zawahiri does not say which “mistakes” he has mind.

“In my humble opinion,” the al Qaeda head continues, “the strategy for jihad in Sham must focus on a guerrilla war aimed at wearing down the enemy and bleeding it to death.” This “has been the weapon of choice of the oppressed against arrogant transgressors in every age,” Zawahiri says. “Do not occupy yourselves with holding on to territory, instead focus on destroying the morale of your enemy. Take the enemy to the point of abysmal despair by inflicting unrelenting blows and unbearable losses on its forces.”

For the second time in his short message, Zawahiri again warns against treating the Syrian conflict as a “nationalist” struggle. The “cause of Sham is the cause of the entire Ummah,” he says. “We must not present it as merely a cause of the people of Sham, and then further narrow it down to a cause of Syrians alone, for this is precisely the enemy’s plan and his much sought after objective.”

“The enemy seeks to transform the jihad in Sham from a cause of the Muslim Ummah to an exclusively nationalist Syrian cause, then turn the nationalist cause to an issue of specific regions and localities, and finally reduce this to an issue of a few cities, villages and neighborhoods,” Zawahiri argues. Therefore, it “is incumbent upon us to confront this evil strategy by declaring that the jihad in Sham is the jihad of the Muslim Ummah aimed at establishing the rule of Allah in the land of Allah. This must coincide with encouraging the entire Ummah to participate in the jihad of Sham with its sons, wealth, efforts, and energies.”

Zawahiri provides a short list of Muslims who have “defended Sham earlier in history,” including Salahuddin and the Ottoman Turks. He points out that “none” of the people on his list “were Syrians, but were Muslims and mujahids before anything else.” This is likely a reminder to jihadists to treat the many foreign fighters in Syria who have joined the anti-Assad insurgency as equals.

The al Qaeda leader closes by saying that the jihadists should not seek to placate the West, or any others. “We must not submit therefore to the dictations of the leading criminals, who seek to intimidate us with accusations of ‘terrorism’ and ‘extremism,’” Zawahiri says. He warns that this will lead to the same fate as that suffered by Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who briefly served as president of Egypt.

“These are the same forces that did not even spare Mohamed Morsi, inspite of the fact that he had given them all they had asked for,” Zawahiri says. He adds: “I ask Allah to give our people in Sham steadfastness. May Allah bless them with His victory and support, and guide them to take a common stance alongside their Mujahideen brethren the world over against a common united enemy.”

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

Also see:

“Moderate” Muslim Brotherhood Mourns Terrorist’s Death

blind-sby John Rossomando
IPT News
February 21, 2017

Calls for revenge and glowing eulogies for Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman by the Muslim Brotherhood and its followers dealt a blow to efforts to paint it as a moderate group.

Abdel Rahman, known as the “Blind Sheikh,” died Saturday in a U.S. prison where he was serving a life sentence for a seditious conspiracy to launch what prosecutors called a “war of urban terrorism” against targets around New York City. He also helped plot the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 that killed six people and injured 1,042.

“May Allah’s blessings be upon him, the deceased of the Islamic call, who was imprisoned by different repressive regimes, who was falsely and unfairly accused of terrorism by the Unites States of America, while being old and blind Sheikh, it also prevented him from receiving medical care until he met his Lord, Oh Allah please accept him and have mercy upon him,” the Muslim Brotherhood General Office said.

Andrew McCarthy, who prosecuted Abdel Rahman, noted in a National Review Online column that the “Blind Sheikh” was proud of being a terrorist. This fact ought to raise red flags about the character of the Muslim Brotherhood.

McCarthy cited this Abdel Rahman statement as an example: “Why do we fear the word terrorist? If the terrorist is the person who defends his right, so we are terrorists. And if the terrorist is the one who struggles for the sake of God, then we are terrorists. We . . . have been ordered with terrorism because we must prepare what power we can to terrorize the enemy of Allah and your enemy. The Koran says ‘to strike terror.’ Therefore, we don’t fear to be described with ‘terrorism.’ . . . They may say, ‘He is a terrorist, he uses violence, he uses force.’ Let them say that. We are ordered to prepare whatever we can of power to terrorize the enemies of Islam.”

1988The Muslim Brotherhood’s official Facebook page posted another statement Saturday that was quickly taken down. The message, asking “God Almighty to bestow His Mercy, and ensconce him in the highest paradise of Heaven with the prophets, the saints, the martyrs, the righteous and the best of them as companions” was cross-posted on Ikhwanonline, the Brotherhood’s Arabic website.

Although Abdel Rahman left the Muslim Brotherhood to form the radical jihadist group Gamaa Islamiya in 1970 after the Brotherhood’s leadership renounced violence against the Egyptian government, Brotherhood leaders still mourned him in terms echoed by ISIS and al-Qaida. Mohamed Al-Sagheer, a former deputy minister of endowment in Egypt during the Muslim Brotherhood rule, called Abdel Rahman a “Mujahid” or holy warrior, in a video posted on Facebook. Muslims, he said, lost one of their most prominent scholars.

“May Allah avenge from those who did him (the sheikh) injustice, the Arab despots, and the crusaders, who loath and hate the faith and its followers,” Al-Sagheer said.

Al-Sagheer has ties to violent elements of the Muslim Brotherhood that have worked against the Egyptian government since the military forced the Brotherhood out of power in 2013, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reports.

Mohamed el-Feky, chairman of the economic committee of Morsi-era Egyptian parliament who now resides in Istanbul, similarly lamented Abdel Rahman’s death.

“May God have mercy on Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and gather him into the troop of prophets, friends (of God) martyrs and the righteous, with the best of them as companions. Oh, God, compensate him for his imprisonment, and the wrong done him, and bless him with good and increase. Oh God, curse those who wronged him, Oh Lord of the worlds,” el-Feky wrote on Facebook.

Ordinary Muslim Brotherhood supporters like Abdel Rahman Muhammad Lotfy Abdel Rahman called for American blood.

“If they killed you O Omar, Allah has chosen you among the martyrs! Allah will fight you O America … Today, America has killed one of the Muslim scholars after unjustly detaining him for close to a quarter of a century, that is Dr. Omar Adel Rahman, the pious scholar, who always uttered the word of truth, which resonated out of his mouth, he did not fear anyone but Allah, and we present him to Allah. We ask Allah to accept him as a martyr, they killed him for America and its allies, who participated in killing him,” Rahman wrote.

Inspiration For al-Qaida

Abdel Rahman’s ideas inspired Osama Bin Laden, al-Qaida and ISIS. He acted as al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri’s “mentor.” Al-Zawahiri frequently attended Abdel Rahman’s lectures as a young man in Egypt.

Al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden handed out copies of Abdel Rahman’s will at a 1998 press conference.

The will demands vengeance after his death. “But, take revenge for me against them with the most extreme and violent revenge.”

Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri also passed out a fatwa from Abdel Rahman smuggled from prison authorizing attacks against the U.S. at the 1998 press conference.

“Cut all relations with [the Americans, Christians, and Jews], tear them to pieces, destroy their economies, burn their corporations, destroy their peace, sink their ships, shoot down their planes and kill them on air, sea, and land. And kill them wherever you may find them, ambush them, take them hostage, and destroy their observatories. Kill these infidels,” the fatwa said.

Al-Qaida responded to Abdel Rahman’s death by including the incendiary will in its latest newsletter Al-Nafir. Numerous jihadi social media sites followed suit, and the will accompanied a joint statement by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), both of which are openly loyal to al-Zawahiri.

The joint AQAP/AQIM statement calls on their followers to “viciously avenge the sheikh against his oppressors and wardens.”

Supporters Remember Abdel Rahman

1986Said Abbasy, a Muslim Brotherhood supporter living in New York, wrote on Facebook, “The passing of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman in the prisons of America after 24 years of incarceration. Oh God take vengeance on those who wronged him.”

Muhammad Shoubir, a self-described Muslim Brotherhood supporter who lives in New York, called Abdel Rahman “our martyr sheikh” in a since deleted Facebook post.

1987“A martyr to the interests between Egypt and America,, (sic) A martyr to the injustice done to him during his trial and the concocting of an accusation against him,, No Egyptian defended him,, but they thrust upon him a guard and a translators (Egyptian) who spied on him, and misled him,, so that he was sentenced in 93 to imprisonment for life,, the man died after 24 years in prison … May God have mercy on our noble Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman,, He was wronged in your country, and elsewhere,,” Shoubir wrote.

Jihadis aligned with various undefined factions used similar rhetoric in their social media eulogies.

“Not with tears but with red blood. We will lament Imam Omar Abdel Rahman,” said handle @ Yubayatajrasi09, who lives in the Tampa area.

In an inflammatory Twitter post on Saturday, an individual identifying himself as Obamajahid pushed a baseless conspiracy theory to blame the Trump administration for Abdel Rahman’s death.

“Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman is among the first victims of the rule of the tyrant Trump where pressure was exerted upon him in his prison, and he was deprived of his medicine and his radio as was mentioned someone who contacted them last week,” Obamajahid wrote.

Another follower of Abdel Rahman’s, Yubayatajastri09, called for vengeance.

“Oh God, forgive us for our shortcomings with regard to him. And raise his degree and accept him among the number of martyrs. And take vengeance on the head of the viper America,” he wrote.

It’s hard to claim the Muslim Brotherhood opposes terrorism when it laments the death of the man who inspired an attack on New York City, plotted even greater bloodshed and inspired bin Laden and al-Zawahiri.

***

 

 

Al Qaeda often agitated for Omar Abdel Rahman’s release from US prison

blind-sheikhLONG WAR JOURNAL, BY THOMAS JOSCELYN, | February 19, 2017:

News broke yesterday that Omar Abdel Rahman, an Egyptian jihadi ideologue, died in a US prison. Within hours of the reports, al Qaeda re-released a copy of Rahman’s last “will,” in which Rahman asked his “brothers” to exact “revenge” for his death.

The US District Court for the Southern District of New York convicted Rahman (seen on the right) on terror-related charges in 1995 and he was subsequently sentenced to life in prison. Rahman was convicted for his role in a conspiracy to launch terror attacks against several New York City landmarks, including the George Washington Bridge, the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, the FBI’s main office in Manhattan, and the United Nations building. Investigators also found that he was involved with the jihadists responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

The ninth issue of al Qaeda’s Al-Nafir newsletter, which was released online after news of Rahman’s death spread, carried a version of Rahman’s “Will to the Islamic Ummah.” In the text, Rahman complained of the treatment he was allegedly subjected to in an American prison, writing that the US is purposefully “eliminating the scholars who speak the truth.” (This is a common al Qaeda talking point, as the jihadis frequently accuse the Americans of targeting their “scholars.”)

Rahman claimed that the Americans will “eventually kill me,” either through poisoning, or by giving him spoiled medicine, or with an overdose of drugs. Rahman warned that the Americans will lie about the causes of his death, so the jihadis shouldn’t believe them.

Rahman, who was 78, died of natural causes, according to American officials.

His “will” has been a piece of jihadi propaganda since the 1990s.

“My brothers, if they [the Americans] kill me, and they eventually will do so, then perform my funeral and give my corpse to my family,” Rahman wrote, according to a translation of Al-Nafir obtained by FDD’s Long War Journal. “Do not forget my blood and do not squander it, but exact a severe and fierce revenge on them for me.” Rahman called on others to remember that he was their “brother” and that he “spoke the truth” in the cause of Allah.

Al-Nafir’s version is similar to the text that was distributed in 1998. In The Osama bin Laden I Know, Peter Bergen wrote that copies of Rahman’s “will” were distributed at a press conference hosted by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri on May 26, 1998.

Rahman’s sons handed out a laminated card with their father’s will, as well as a fatwa authorizing attacks against the US, written on it. The text of Rahman’s last will described by Bergen appears to be the same as Al-Nafir’s, meaning Rahman first warned that the Americans were slowly killing him almost twenty years ago. He eventually died — and now al Qaeda is using his death to call for retribution.

According to the translation obtained by Bergen, Rahman’s fatwa read: “Cut all relations with [the Americans, Christians, and Jews], tear them to pieces, destroy their economies, burn their corporations, destroy their peace, sink their ships, shoot down their planes and kill them on air, sea, and land. And kill them wherever you may find them, ambush them, take them hostage, and destroy their observatories. Kill these infidels.”

Rahman’s fatwa has been credited with providing theological justifications for al Qaeda’s attacks, as not many sheikhs endorsed bin Laden’s early vision of global terror. At the May 1998 conference where Rahman’s fatwa and will were handed out by his sons, bin Laden announced that he had formed the “World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders.” It was this front, which Rahman’s sons supported, that brought the war to American targets in Aug. 1998, when the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed.

Al Qaeda frequently took up Rahman’s cause through the years. Bin Laden often cited Rahman’s case as an example of America’s supposed injustice towards Muslims.

In his 1996 declaration of war against America, Bin Laden portrayed Rahman’s imprisonment as part of an alleged campaign against Islamic scholars. In 1997, according to the Washington Post, bin Laden accused the US of fabricating “a baseless case against [Rahman] even though he is a blind old man.”

A Presidential Daily Brief delivered to President Bill Clinton on Dec. 4, 1998 warned that bin Laden and his men were working with Rahman’s group, Gama’at al-Islamiyya (IG), to orchestrate an “aircraft hijacking.” The intent behind the putative plot was to force the US to free Rahman and others. The plot didn’t progress, but it was later seen as an early harbinger of the 9/11 hijackings.

In Sept. 2000, Al Jazeera’s satellite channel aired footage of a meeting of several jihadi leaders in Afghanistan. All of them, including bin Laden and Zawahiri, pledged to free Rahman from jail. “We promise to work with all our power to free our brother [Rahman],” bin Laden said, with one of Rahman’s sons by his side.

Zawahiri also spoke, asking: “Which one of us today would not sacrifice himself for this man who has supported every righteous stand and has been an unshakable leader?” Zawahiri continued: “We have a duty towards Dr. Omar Abdel Rahman, who has never abandoned a righteous stand. Do we now abandon giving him support and rewarding him?”

Al Qaeda and other actors continued to seek Rahman’s release in the years since.

After the revolution in Egypt swept Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011, Rahman’s cause became even more popular. Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood figure who briefly served as Egypt’s president, promised his supporters that he would try to free the blind ideologue.

Members of Gama’at al-Islamiyya who were closely allied with al Qaeda also helped stage a protest outside the US Embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11, 2012. The protest was pro-al Qaeda, with the group’s black flag flying high and chants of “Obama! Obama! We are all Osama [bin Laden]!” ringing out. Some of the protesters cited Rahman in their rallying cries.

In Jan. 2013, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a notorious Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) commander, orchestrated a major raid on a natural gas field in Algeria. His men took dozens of foreign nationals hostage and demanded the release of Rahman in exchange for some of them. Authorities did not comply with the demand.

Al Qaeda still uses images and clips of Rahman in its propaganda.

On Feb. 18, the same day that Rahman’s death was announced, al Qaeda released Ayman al Zawahiri’s lengthy eulogy for one of Rahman’s longtime comrades, Rifai Ahmed Taha Musa, who was killed in an American airstrike in Apr. 2016. Taha and Rahman were both Gama’at al-Islamiyya leaders. Zawahiri praised Taha for taking part in the aforementioned Sept. 2000 conference in Kandahar, during which the jihadis called for Rahman’s release.

“Sheikh Rifai Taha, may God have mercy on him, took interest in the release of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman in deed, and not by merely begging America” to free him, Zawahiri said. Taha agreed with bin Laden that Rahman should be freed and said so during the conference, Zawahiri remarked.

Zawahiri’s video eulogy for Taha includes footage from the Sept. 2000 gathering, during which they praised Rahman. As Sahab, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, used images of Rahman alongside Zawahiri and Taha to promote the video. (One such image can be seen above.) It may be the case that al Qaeda waited to release Zawahiri’s commemoration of Taha until Rahman died, as the timing of the video’s online distribution is especially conspicuous.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), both of which are openly loyal to Zawahiri, released a joint eulogy for Rahman earlier today. The statement was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. The al Qaeda branches specifically mentioned Rahman’s will.

“We call upon the sons of Islam and its honorable knights, who were not successful in liberating the sheikh from his imprisonment, to earnestly and honestly work hard to execute his will, and to build from his blood a lighthouse that inspires the generations…to viciously avenge the sheikh against his oppressors and his wardens,” the statement from AQAP and AQIM reads, according to SITE’s translation. “This would be the least of what his brothers in Islam and pride should do,” the statement continues, as Muslims should “rescue…our scholars and our leaders who were faithful to Allah and never deviated from his path.”

Rahman’s teachings had a significant influence on the development of al Qaeda and modern jihadism. For more than 20 years, al Qaeda’s leaders made him a central part of their cause. The jihadis will almost certainly continue to use him in their productions in the years to come.

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

U.S. Ill Prepared for Convicted Jihadis Ending Their Prison Sentences

prisoner-releasesby Patrick Dunleavy
IPT News
February 8, 2017

“O Allah, Free the Muslim Prisoners.”

Inspire Magazine 2010

The old adage, “Out of sight, out of mind” does not apply to dealing effectively with the threat of Islamism especially in the case of terrorists who have been captured or incarcerated.

Radical Islamic organizations such as al-Qaida and ISIS never forget their members. To them, going to prison is part of the pathway to paradise. Both groups’ leaders, Ayman al-Zawahri and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, spent considerable periods of time locked up. It did nothing to diminish their zeal, but rather, fueled their fervor. Often, as in their cases, what comes out of prison is worse than what went in.

This is further illustrated by the increased number of terrorists released from Guantanamo who rejoin the fight against U.S. military personnel. Almost one in three released prisoners return to the jihadists’ fold. This recidivism can be attributed in part to the admonitions terrorists receive to assist those who are captured or imprisoned. That support may include financial help for their families and for legal fees.

These instructions were found in a training manual discovered in 2000 by law enforcement officers in Manchester, England.

“I take this opportunity to address our prisoners. We have not forgotten you,” al-Zawahiri said in an interview with Al Shabab commemorating the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. “We are still committed to the debt of your salvation . . . until we shatter your shackles.”

AQAP’s Inspire magazine went so far as to list the names of incarcerated members for all to remember.

They do this because jihadis firmly believe that sooner or later they’ll be reunited with those members.

If that isn’t ominous enough, consider the fact that as many as 100 people convicted of terror-related offenses in U.S. prisons will be set free in less than four years.

And yet, while Islamic terrorist organizations have rapidly changed in their recruitment and tactical methodologies overall, the U.S. has not adapted to countering the evolving threat.

In the United States, the number of terror-related incidents increased exponentially since 9-11. As they did, authorities adapted new ways to investigate. State of the art technologies help collect and analyze data. Fusion centers were created to get the information into the hands of investigators in real time. Counter terrorism, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies joined together to share.

Legislation has changed how the judicial system prosecutes terrorists. “Our criminal law was unprepared for international terrorism. We simply did not have statutes and penalties that fit what terrorists do,” said former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, who led the prosecution against the first World Trade Center bombers and blind sheik Omar Abdel Rahman.

A vigorous debate continues whether to treat terrorists as criminals or as enemy combatants. A reasonable consensus among the military and the judicial branches is building for the use of both designations.

Two significant changes, in policy and practice, toward radical Islamic terrorists remain to be addressed.

Terrorists go into prison much the same way as the burglar, the drug dealer, or the pedophile. They are housed and fed in existing correctional facilities with common criminals. No mandatory rehabilitation or de-radicalization programs exist for convicted Islamic terrorists. And when they are released, there is no specialized supervisory program applied to monitor their employment or whereabouts.

This situation has to change if we are to deal effectively with terrorism. We should establish a registration list for convicted terrorists. This would provide local authorities with the identity of those recently released to their communities. It has been successfully used with sex offenders. It can work if properly applied.

With as many as 500 terrorists now in custody and more to come, the custodial system must also evolve in how it handles jihadists. Security classification must not be downgraded simply because the terrorist has become “jail wise” (exhibited good behavior) like “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh, who will be released from prison in two years.

Special administrative measures – conditions of confinement – which restrict visits, correspondence and other prison privileges assigned to terrorists must continue.

Uniform security standards for imprisoned terrorists should be established in the federal, state, and local correctional facilities. Jose Padilla, the alleged “dirty bomber” who first learned of a radical form of Islam while in a Florida county jail and was originally sentenced to life in prison, is scheduled to be released in eight years. Who will be the parole officers assigned to supervise him and will those officers be afforded any specialized training before that happens?

In some cases, specialized facilities like Guantanamo are necessary in dealing with enemy combatants and other committed jihadists. They are effective. No anecdotal evidence has been presented showing them to be a recruitment tool for ISIS or al Qaida. That is like saying that Alcatraz was responsible for the increase in violent crime.

The number of people arrested in the U.S. for terrorism-related crimes nearly tripled in 2015. That year, FBI Director James Comey testified that more than 200 people traveled overseas from the United States in an attempt to fight alongside ISIS or al-Qaida related groups in the Middle East and North Africa.

In 2016, Comey said his agents still had 1,000 open cases related to ISIS. Within the next few years, he said, there may be a “terrorist diaspora” of ISIS fighters leaving the battlefield of Syria and returning to their home countries, committed to carrying out more terrorist attacks.

We can only hope that the vast majority will be apprehended before they can carry out attacks here in the United States. And when they are, we had better be prepared to effectively deal with them throughout their entire time in the system. Anything less is unacceptable to the citizens of this great country.

IPT Senior Fellow Patrick Dunleavy is the former Deputy Inspector General for New York State Department of Corrections and author of The Fertile Soil of Jihad. He currently teaches a class on terrorism for the United States Military Special Operations School.

‘Join the Revolution’: Al-Qaeda Makes Populist Pitch to Millennials

Osama bin Laden and Hamza bin Laden

Osama bin Laden and Hamza bin Laden

PJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, October 12, 2016:

Al-Qaeda is appealing to millennials with a cocktail of populism and Islam and directives to not admire grown “kids” in professional sports but “men… with their AK aimed at the enemy” — and to follow the latter into jihad.

The outreach was detailed in Al-Balagh, a recent magazine issued by al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, a successful chapter announced by core leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2014 that has conducted a spree of machete assassinations against individuals deemed to have insulted Islam. One of the group’s earlier victims was an Atlanta couple who were secular writers visiting Bangladesh; Avijit Roy was hacked to death, while his wife Rafida Bonya Ahmed was seriously injured.

The 53-page inaugural issue of the magazine was printed in English and Bengali. The editor’s note at the beginning first details and slams the “criminal demon-crazy nexus which is known as democracy.”

“Thus, while the anti-Islamic bigots and hate-breeders are hailed as heroes by the rulers and the media, the Tawheed [monotheism]-loving Muslims who came out in the streets to protest the defamation of their beloved prophet are humiliated and massacred,” the column states in apparent reference to the bloggers, professors and journalists who have been hacked to death by AQIS.

The appeal to youth first uses the politics of Bangladesh as a backdrop, arguing that “the criminals siphon billions of dollars from the share market with ease and immersed in mirth, with no accountability whatsoever, while the devastated, burdened youth faced with unrelenting poverty and debt are forced to commit suicide.”

“Domestic maids succumb to death after enduring barbaric torture at the hands of distinguished citizens, while the killers are showered with flowers and garlands. Our mothers and sisters are abused in broad daylight, yet the criminals roam free,” the piece continues. “Every moment a new tragedy is born. It is impossible to keep track of the disasters plaguing this nation. So which one of these can one speak about? Such is the state of the country.”

“And what about the Muslim Ummah [community]? It seems no one even cares to inquire about the Muslims in Palestine anymore, although the criminal Zionist Israel is still surrounded by Muslim countries. I think it was Ali Tantawi who once said, ‘If Muslims can’t learn to resist Israel with weapons then they should learn how to die. You will see Israel be wiped off of the map with a flood of Muslim blood.'”

The article laments that in “Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, China, Myanmar, India, Pakistan — nowhere have the Muslims been able to be liberated.”

“I am not merely talking about the Western concept of ‘independence’ or ‘self-determination,’ but I am talking about true liberation, which can only come through the victory of the deen [religion]. I am talking about making Islam victorious,” the write continues.

“But the good news is a new wave, a reversal of the world order has started all over the world. A wave of Muslim youth is returning to Tawheed. A wave of the youth is returning to Islam. It is a return to the roots in order to bring back the glory and reclaim the honor, and to destroy the satanic civilization and establish the reign of the divine Shariah.”

“The Muslim youth,” argues the AQIS piece, “have started to realize that they have to rise up and join the caravan.”

“They have to join the resistance and the revolution. They have to conquer fear and walk on the same road on which the Salaf stepped upon. Only then true liberation and true victory will come. The Muslims have recognized the reality of the system of kufr [disbelief] imposed by the global kuffar. The magic of the magician has finally come undone,” continues the recruiting pitch.

Would-be jihadists are told that “with our backs to the wall, now is the time to fight back.”

“It is now or never. The Muslims all over the world are witnessing the help of Allah granted to the Mujahideen.” A few operations are mentioned, including “the beginning of the Third Intifada” in the Middle East.

“Oh youth! Tie your shroud around your head and join the golden caravan! The grown men who spend their times playing like kids in the fields of cricket are not your role models. Rather, your role models are men, firm in speech and in action. Men who lived with their head high and with their AK aimed at the enemy. Your role models are the lions of the Ummah, such as Umar and Usama – may Allah have mercy upon them,” states the piece.

“Yes, your role models are the likes of the reviving Imam, the hero of the afflicted Ummah, Shaykh Usama bin Ladin, who boldly stated, ‘I swear by Allah who has raised the heavens without any pillars, America and those living in America will not even dream of peace until we live it in Filisteen, and until all the kufr armies are expelled from the land of Muhammad.'”

There are also articles in the magazine geared toward a millennial audience, including age-oriented marriage guidelines. Al-Qaeda publications have often tried to include women writers to reach out to that demographic as well, and Al-Balagh includes a “Sisters’ Column: How I Came to Love the Niqab.”

The State Department designated AQIS as a foreign terrorist organization in June, 16 months after Roy’s murder.

The Treasury Department noted that younger leaders — “part of a new generation of al-Qaeda operatives” — have been quietly building up al-Qaeda in its July sanctions against three members of the terror group sheltering in Iran.

Osama bin Laden’s 11th son, Hamza, now in his mid-20s, has also been rallying millennials to jihad in audio messages over the past 14 months.

“The followers of the thought of Sheikh Osama, may Allah have mercy on him, which is represented by targeting the head of global disbelief that supports the Jews, have increased in number within a decade and a half, and became double in number,” Hamza bin Laden said in a July message.

“If you think that your sinful crime that you committed in Abbottabad has passed without punishment, then you thought wrong,” he added, referring to the U.S. raid in which his father was killed. “What is correct is coming to you, and its punishment is severe.”

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What makes someone become an Islamic extremist? Is it poverty? Lack of education? A search for meaning? Haroon Ullah, a senior State Department advisor and a foreign policy professor at Georgetown University, shares what he discovered while living in Pakistan.