EXCLUSIVE: Federal complaint against bombing suspect omits journal’s ISIS references

Fox News, by Catherine Herridge, Pamela K. Browne, September 21, 2016

Pages from the bloody journal of the New York and New Jersey bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami show he was a follower of Al Qaeda as well as the Islamic State terror group, yet federal investigators made no reference to ISIS in their complaint charging him on Tuesday.

At least two pages include references to Anwar al-Awlaki — the American-born Muslim cleric who was killed in a 2011 drone strike and whose preaching has inspired acts of terror linked to ISIS and Al Qaeda. Federal investigators mentioned Awlaki in the complaints.

However, the journal also appears to reference Abu Muhammad al Adnani — the ISIS spokesman killed by coalition forces in August after he called his followers to attack non-believers in their homelands.

“I looked for guidance came Sheikh Anwar, Brother Adnani, Dawla. Said it clearly – Attack the kuffar (non-believer) in the back yard,” one section read. Page 12 of the indictment references this section without naming Adnani.

Rahami’s screed also praised 9/11 mastermind Usama bin Laden and Nidal Hasan, the former Army officer who went on a deadly shooting rampage in 2009 at Fort Hood, Texas.  Hasan was also a follower of Awlaki. The Counter Extremism Project’s research counted 77 extremists — 43 U.S. extremists and 34 European extremists — with ties to Anwar al-Awlaki. They include the Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen in June, as well as Syed Farook, one of the shooters in the San Bernardino massacre in December 2015.

In addition, the journal included rantings plotting revenge against the U.S. government for slaughtering Muslim holy warriors. In one section, the Afghan-born Rahami suggested he was worried police or the feds would capture him before he could carry out a suicide attack, becoming a martyr. “The sounds of bombs will be heard in the streets,” the journal declared.

Another section included a reference to “pipe bombs” and a “pressure cooker bomb” and declared: “In the streets they plan to run a mile,” an apparent reference to one of the blast sites, a charity run in Seaside Park. The feds said the journal ended with the words: “Death to your oppression.”

The pages appeared to be pierced by a bullet from the shootout that ended with Rahami in handcuffs on Monday. He’s suspected of planting bombs in Seaside Park and Elizabeth, New Jersey, as well as New York City, where the feds said at least 31 people were wounded after an explosion Saturday night.

Fox News has asked the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Department of Justice to explain why Rahami wrote about ISIS in his journal, but unlike the other terrorists he cited, there was no reference to ISIS in the charging documents.

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

Also see:

Bomb suspect praised Osama bin Laden, Anwar al Awlaki in notebook

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn,  September 21, 2016

The Department of Justice has charged Ahmad Khan Rahami with the bombings in New York and New Jersey on Sept. 17, as well as other planned attacks. The charges include Rahami’s use of “weapons of mass destruction,” meaning the pipe bombs and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) he planted in Seaside Park, NJ, the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City, and in Elizabeth, NJ.

ahmad-khan-rahami-captured-768x981The most damaging bomb was detonated near 135 West 23rd Street (the “Chelsea bomb”). According to the Complaint filed in Rahami’s case, 31 people were wounded in the blast, which also caused millions of dollars in property damage. The bomb, which used a pressure cooker, was “comprised of a high-explosive main charge” and “packed with ball bearings and steel nuts, hundreds of which were recovered from the blast site.”

The Chelsea bomb was placed in a dumpster, which likely limited the efficacy of the shrapnel packed in it. But the impact on the dumpster and the surrounding area demonstrates that it could have been deadly. The dumpster, which was more than 100 pounds, was “propelled…more than 120 feet.” Windows 400 feet away from the detonation site and up to three stories high were shattered.

A second bomb recovered on 27th street was apparently constructed in a similar fashion.

Rahami allegedly acquired many of the bomb components via eBay in the months leading up to the attacks. And he apparently didn’t do much to cover his tracks. Not only were Rahami’s fingerprints found on some of the unexploded bombs, according to the Complaint, he also reused cell phones that were previously subscribed to members of his family. The cell phones served as triggering devices for the bombs. In addition, Rahami’s face was clearly visible on surveillance video near where the bombs were placed.

Still another cell phone belonging to one of Rahami’s family members was recovered by officials. It allegedly included a video, recorded on Sept. 15, of Rahami detonating a “small, black cylindrical object” in a backyard near his residence in Elizabeth.

Jihadi references found in notebook and on social media account

During the course of the arrest, authorities recovered a handwritten journal from Rahami. The notebook was damaged during Rahami’s shootout with the police. It included a number of jihadi-related thoughts and comments, including praise for Osama bin Laden and Anwar al Awlaki.

One passage reads: “You (USA Government) continue your [unintelligible] slaught[er] against the mujahidean [sic] be it Afghanistan, Iraq, Sham [Syria], Palestine…”

Another entry, according to the Complaint, expressed concern that the author (presumably Rahami) may be caught before he was able “to carry out a suicide attack.” The handwritten note references the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security “looking for me,” and then includes what appears to be a prayer to Allah “[t]o not take Jihad away from [me].” The comment continues: “I beg [unintelligible] shahadat [martyrdom] & Inshallah [God willing] this call will be” answered.

The Complaint cites a passage in the notebook that contains a “reference to the instructions of terrorist leaders that, if travel is infeasible, to attack nonbelievers where they live.” This has been a consistent theme in the Islamic State’s messaging over the past several months. Sheikh Abu Muhammad al Adnani, the deceased Islamic State spokesman who also oversaw the organization’s anti-Western plotting, told followers to attack in their home countries if they couldn’t travel to the lands of the so-called caliphate. The Complaint doesn’t cite Adnani, however, and instead focuses on Anwar al Awlaki, who helped pioneer the idea of individual jihadist attacks in the West. Awlaki, who was killed in a drone strike in 2011, was an al Qaeda ideologue and his teachings have been marketed by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). He is frequently referenced by both al Qaeda and the Islamic State to this day.

The passage is written in broken English but includes the phrase “back to sham [Syria].” The Complaint continues with additional lines from the notebook: “But [unintelligible] this incident show the risk are [unintelligible] of getting caught under [unintelligible] I looked for guidance and…Guidance came from Sheikh Anwar…Said it clearly attack the Kuffar [non-believers] in their backyard.”

A footnote says that “Sheikh Anwar” is a reference to Awlaki.

Indeed, according to the Complaint, the notebook includes praise for Awlaki, Nidal Hasan (an Awlaki follower who killed 13 people during a shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas in Nov. 2009) and “Brother Osama bin Laden.”

Awlaki has inspired multiple plots in the West. In December 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife killed 14 people in a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. Farook had studied Awlaki’s teachings years beforehand. Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla. in June, also listened Awlaki’s lectures. Both the San Bernardino shooters and Mateen pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. The Islamic State claimed that they acted on its behalf.

On the same day that Rahami allegedly detonated bombs in NY and NJ, a Somali man stabbed nine people at the Crossroads Mall in St. Cloud, Minn. The Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility for the attack via its Amaq News Agency, which is one of the group’s main propaganda arms.

But the Islamic State has not claimed the bombings Rahami is charged with carrying out. Thus far, no group has claimed Rahami as its own.

Regardless, the Complaint makes it clear that Rahami was drawn to the jihadist ideology. A social media account with the user name Yaafghankid78, which is connected to Rahami, favorited jihadi anthems.

And one part of the recovered notebook reads: “Inshallah [God willing] the sounds of the bombs will be heard in the streets. Gun shots to your police. Death To Your OPPRESSION.”

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

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NY Suspect’s Mosque Linked to Subversive Islamist Group

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Just to clarify: Rahami’s parents were asylum seekers from Afghanistan, not refugees. Ann Corcoran explains the difference here.

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Ignore what Maajid Nawaz says about Trump helping jihadist recruitment – hogwash. But he certainly knows a lot about the jihadist scene in Quetta:

Also see:

Islamic Movement in U.S. Preparing for Battle

Understanding the Threat, by John Guandolo, Sept. 13, 2016:

For UTT followers who are accustomed to brief articles, this is a longer article because it needs to be.  This is an important topic and needs a little more attention.  Please read this carefully because the implications are significant.  JG

As UTT has continually reported, there exists in the United States a significant jihadi movement led primarily by the Muslim Brotherhood whose organizations include the most prominent and influential Islamic groups in America.

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The Islamic Movement in the U.S. continues their daily work of preparing for the coming battle at all levels of the society.  From a military standpoint, the leaders of the American Muslim community are coalescing their forces and preparing strategically, operationally, and logistically for war.

Strategic Overlay

Going back to the early 1980’s, the jihadis set up an elaborate network of jihadi centers known in the U.S. as the Al Kifah Refugee Centers to recruit jihadis for the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan.  Some of these over three dozen offices were operated by only a couple jihadis with a phone or fax machine, and some had a more sizable presence in the community.  Nevertheless, they created nodes across the United States for jihadis in many American cities, and became centers for possible Al Qaeda recruitment in the future.

For the last few decades the Pakistani terrorist organization known as Jamaat al Fuqra has been establishing jihadi training camps in the United States primarily among black Muslims, many of whom were recruited in prison.  Known in the U.S. as “Muslims of America” or “MOA,” approximately two dozen of the three dozen known camps appear to be operational today.

In the early 1990’s the Chief Investigator for the state of Colorado, with support from the Governor and Attorney General, launched a multi-jurisdictional raid of an MOA compound near Buena Vista (CO) and discovered weapons, explosives, lists of people to be assassinated, evidence that military/national guard bases had been under surveillance, and the like.

In one of the gems discovered in the 2004 FBI raid of the Annandale, Virginia home of a senior Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas leader, a recording of a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader speaking to a group of Muslim Brothers in Missouri revealed the MB has numerous training camps inside America and conducted regular firearms training.

To be clear, they are not planning on conducting violent actions in the immediate future, but are planning for “Zero Hour” – their term for when the violent jihad will begin when the time is right.  They may wait until an outside influence from a foreign power or a major event initiates conflict, and then the Islamic Movement can begin the jihad and act independently or as an ally for a hostile foreign power such as Iran or China.

In the MB’s 5-Phase “World Underground Movement Plan” – discovered at the 2004 FBI raid in Annandale, Virginia – the Brotherhood states (Phase 2) they must “Establish a government (secret) within the government.”  The purpose of this is to have jihadis on the inside of our government who will serve as the leadership for the Islamic Movement when they seize power in the United States.  Until then, their role is to (1) gather intelligence and (2) conduct influence operations at all levels of the society, especially within the decision-making process.

As has previously been discussed, this is much more a counterintelligence and espionage issue than it is a “terrorism” matter.  The enemy is preparing the battlefield now for the eventual battle to come.

The U.S. Network

The evidence in the largest terrorism financing and Hamas trial ever successfully prosecuted in American history (US v Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, Dallas 2008) reveals the most prominent Islamic organizations in the U.S. are a part of a massive jihadi network whose stated objective is to wage “Civilization Jihad” to destroy our system of government and establish an Islamic State (caliphate) under sharia here.  The evidence also reveals the Muslim Brotherhood Islamic Centers/Mosques are the places at which jihadi train for battle and from which the jihad will be launched.

All of the mosques our military entered during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and mosques that European authorities have raided in the last two years have had weapons in them.  The mosque is what Mohammad used a mosque for, and the launch point for jihad is one of those purposes.

There are over 2400 Islamic Centers/Mosques in America, most of which are a part of the MB’s jihadi network.

In the United States the “nucleus” for the Islamic Movement is the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) whose subsidiary Islamic Societies number approximately 170.  The Muslim Students Associations (MSA) serve as a recruiting arm for jihadis, and there are over 700 chapters on nearly every major college campus in America.

Reports from around the country from civilian and law enforcement sources reveal:  Mosques and Islamic organizations are being built in strategic locations – near key infrastructure facilities, military bases, or some other key position in the community; taxi cab drivers at the largest airports in the U.S. are Muslim; and there is a noticeable increase in sharia-compliant Muslim TSA officers, baggage handlers and airline/airport employees at U.S. airports.

Additionally:  Muslims are purchasing hotels, quick marts, and 7-11 type stores with gas stations, and  a majority of major hotels in cities across the U.S. have a manager or assistant manager who is a Muslim, which is statistically impossible unless this activity is intentional.

Quick marts and gas stations provide their Movement with a logistics train that will be needed in a battle. Having people in leadership positions at major hotels in major cities, where law enforcement and intelligence groups and others hold conferences, serve as excellent intelligence gathering nodes.

Jihadis have penetrated U.S. federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies giving them access to sensitive intelligence systems, while simultaneously they have shut down real threat-based training inside these same agencies under the guise factual/truth-based training is “offensive to Muslims.”

Jihadis have themselves penetrated senior levels of the government (eg Suhail Khan working for two successive Secretaries of Transportation with access to classified critical infrastructure details), and have recruited senior U.S. government officials to promote and protect their interests which are hostile to the U.S. (most recent example – Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson promoting and defending leading MB organization ISNA and speaking at their annual convention expressly to open the door to more Cabinet officials to do the same).

Key jihadi organizations, like Hamas (doing business as the Council on American Islamic Relations/CAIR) work on Capitol Hill and inside government agencies to keep truthful discussions about the Islamic threat from ever happening, while plotting to work with Al Qaeda (as evidenced by UTT’s Chris Gaubatz discovery of a CAIR document dated 3/08/04 at their headquarters in Washington, D.C. stating, “Attempt to understand Islamic movements in the area, and start supporting Islamic groups including Mr. bin Laden and his associates”).

urban-war

Now, the U.S. government is bringing tens of thousands of sharia adherent Muslims into our nation.  From the Islamic perspective, these people are Muhajaroun – those who make the hijra into the non-Muslim lands in preparation for the “Final Stage,” which is armed conflict with the host country.  This is all a part of their strategy, and is consistent with core Islamic doctrine.

Finally, we are currently observing the Marxist/Socialist Movement in the U.S. working directly with the Islamic Movement at the ground and strategic levels.  Both have publicly declared their support for one another, they are both receiving funding from hard-left Marxists/socialists (eg George Soros) and foreign powers, and both are openly pushing for confrontation with and the overthrow of the U.S. government.

The Islamic Movement in the United States is deeply embedded in the U.S. decision-making process, has thousands of organizations and allies, possesses a logistics train of fuel and supplies, conducts weapons training programs, has access to U.S. intelligence systems, is well funded (primarily by Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc), has strategic plans for North America (An Explanatory Memorandum) and has a plan to implement the strategy (Implementation Manual) which they are following.

The U.S. response is to say “Islam is a religion of peace” and work with the very Muslim leaders who are driving this hostile network.

Victory is not possible with this recipe.

Each year there are between 70 and 120 new Islamic non-profits being created in America, most of which appear to be working directly in line with the Muslim Brotherhood’s plan to wage civilization jihad until “Zero Hour” when the war goes hot.

Until then, they continue to prep the battlefield because they are really at war with us because they are following sharia – core Islamic doctrine – as their blueprint for what they are doing.

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Fifteen years after the 9/11 attacks, al Qaeda fights on

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn Sept. 11, 2016:

All appeared lost for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda in December 2001. In the years leading up to the 9/11 hijackings, bin Laden believed that the US was a “paper tiger” and would retreat from the Muslim majority world if al Qaeda struck hard enough. The al Qaeda founder had good reasons to think this. American forces withdrew from Lebanon after a series of attacks in the early 1980s and from Somalia after the “Black Hawk Down” episode in 1993. The US also did not respond forcefully to al Qaeda’s August 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, or the USS Cole bombing in October 2000.

But bin Laden’s strategy looked like a gross miscalculation in late 2001. An American-led invasion quickly overthrew the Taliban’s regime just weeks after 19 of bin Laden’s men hijacked four airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. Some of al Qaeda’s most senior figures were killed in American airstrikes. With al Qaeda’s foes closing in, bin Laden ordered his men to retreat to the remote Tora Bora Mountains. Here, bin Laden must have thought, al Qaeda would make its last stand. The end was nigh.

Except it wasn’t.

Bin Laden slithered away, eventually making his way to Abbottabad, Pakistan. When Navy SEALs came calling more than nine years later, in early May 2011, the world looked very different.

Documents recovered in bin Laden’s compound reveal that he and his lieutenants were managing a cohesive global network, with subordinates everywhere from West Africa to South Asia. Some US intelligence officials assumed that bin Laden was no longer really active. But Bin Laden’s files demonstrated that this view was wrong.

Writing in The Great War of Our Time: The CIA’s Fight Against Terrorism – From al Qa’ida to ISIS, former CIA official Mike Morell explains how the Abbottabad cache upended the US intelligence community’s assumptions regarding al Qaeda. “The one thing that surprised me was that the analysts made clear that our pre-raid understanding of Bin Laden’s role in the organization had been wrong,” Morell writes. “Before the raid we’d thought that Bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri, was running the organization on a day-to-day basis, essentially the CEO of al Qaeda, while Bin Laden was the group’s ideological leader, its chairman of the board. But the DOCEX showed something quite different. It showed that Bin Laden himself had not only been managing the organization from Abbottabad, he had been micromanaging it.”*

Consider some examples from the small set of documents released already.

During the last year and a half of his life, Osama bin Laden: oversaw al Qaeda’s “external work,” that is, its operations targeting the West; directed negotiations with the Pakistani state over a proposed ceasefire between the jihadists and parts of the government; ordered his men to evacuate northern Pakistan for safe havens in Afghanistan; instructed Shabaab to keep its role as an al Qaeda branch secret and offered advice concerning how its nascent emirate in East Africa should be run; received status reports on his fighters’ operations in at least eight different Afghan provinces; discussed al Qaeda’s war strategy in Yemen with the head of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and other subordinates; received updates from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, including details on a proposed truce with the government of Mauritania; authorized the relocation of veteran jihadists to Libya, where they could take advantage of the uprising against Muammar al Qaddafi’s regime; corresponded with the Taliban’s leadership; and generally made decisions that impacted al Qaeda’s operations everywhere around the globe.

Again, these are just a handful of examples culled from the publicly-available files recovered in bin Laden’s compound. The overwhelming majority of these documents remain classified and, therefore, unavailable to the American public.

Al Qaeda has grown under Zawahiri’s tenure

The story of how bin Laden’s role was missed should raise a large red flag. Al Qaeda is still not well-understood and has been consistently misjudged. Not long after bin Laden was killed, a meme spread about his successor: Ayman al Zawahiri. Many ran with the idea that Zawahiri is an ineffectual and unpopular leader who lacked bin Laden’s charisma and was, therefore, incapable of guiding al Qaeda’s global network. This, too, was wrong.

There is no question that the Islamic State, which disobeyed Zawahiri’s orders and was disowned by al Qaeda’s “general command” in 2014, has cut into al Qaeda’s share of the jihadist market and undermined the group’s leadership position. But close observers will notice something interesting about al Qaeda’s response to the Islamic State’s challenge. Under Zawahiri’s stewardship, al Qaeda grew its largest paramilitary force ever.

Brett McGurk, the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, warned about the rise of Al Nusrah Front during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 28. “With direct ties to Ayman al Zawahiri, Osama Bin Laden’s successor, Nusra[h] is now al [Qaeda’s] largest formal affiliate in history,” McGurk said. US officials previously contacted by The Long War Journal said Nusrah could easily have 10,000 or more fighters in its ranks.

It is worth repeating that Nusrah grew in size and stature, while being openly loyal to Zawahiri, after the Islamic State became its own jihadist menace. Far from being irrelevant, Zawahiri ensured al Qaeda’s survival in the Levant and oversaw its growth.

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On July 28, Al Nusrah Front emir Abu Muhammad al Julani announced that his organization would henceforth be known as Jabhat Fath al Sham (JFS, or the “Conquest of the Levant Front”) and would have no “no affiliation to any external [foreign] entity.” This was widely interpreted as Al Nusrah’s “break” from al Qaeda. But Julani never actually said that and al Qaeda itself isn’t an “external entity” with respect to Syria as the group moved much of its leadership to the country long ago. Al Nusrah’s rebranding was explicitly approved by Abu Khayr al Masri, one of Zawahiri’s top deputies, in an audio message released just hours prior to Julani’s announcement. Masri was likely inside Syria at the time.

Julani, who was dressed like Osama bin Laden during his appearance (as pictured above), heaped praise on bin Laden, Zawahiri and Masri. “Their blessed leadership has, and shall continue to be, an exemplar of putting the needs of the community and their higher interests before the interest of any individual group,” Julani said of Zawahiri and Masri.

Most importantly, Al Nusrah’s relaunch as JFS is entirely consistent with al Qaeda’s longstanding strategy in Syria and elsewhere. Al Qaeda never wanted to formally announce its role in the rebellion against Bashar al Assad’s regime, correctly calculating that clandestine influence is preferable to an overt presence for many reasons. This helps explain why Nusrah was never officially renamed as “Al Qaeda in the Levant” in the first place. However, fifteen years after the 9/11 attacks, there is such widespread ignorance of al Qaeda’s goals and strategy that Nusrah’s name change is enough to fool many.

Al Qaeda has grown in South Asia as well. In Sept. 2014, Zawahiri announced the formation of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), which brought together elements of several existing jihadist organizations. AQIS quickly got to work, attempting to execute an audacious plan that would have used Pakistani arms against American and Indian ships. The plot failed, but revealed that al Qaeda had infiltrated Pakistan’s military.

Pakistani officials recently told the Washington Post that they suspect AQIS has a few thousand members in the city of Karachi alone. And al Qaeda remains closely allied with the Taliban while maintaining a significant presence inside Afghanistan. In October 2015, for instance, Afghan and American forces conducted a massive operation against two large al Qaeda training camps in the southern part of the country. One of the camps was approximately 30 square miles in size. Gen. John F. Campbell, who oversaw the war effort in Afghanistan, explained that the camp was run by AQIS and is “probably the largest training camp-type facility that we have seen in 14 years of war.”

With Zawahiri as its emir, al Qaeda raised its “largest formal affiliate in history” in Syria and operated its “largest training” camp ever in Afghanistan. These two facts alone undermine the widely-held assumption that al Qaeda is on death’s door.

Elsewhere, al Qaeda’s other regional branches remain openly loyal to Zawahiri.

From April 2015 to April 2016, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) controlled a large swath of territory along Yemen’s southern coast, including the key port city of Mukalla. An Arab-led coalition helped reclaim some of this turf earlier this year, but AQAP’s forces simply melted away, living to fight another day. AQAP continues to wage a prolific insurgency in the country, as does Shabaab across the Gulf of Aden in Somalia. Shabaab’s leaders announced their fealty to Zawahiri in February 2012 and remain faithful to him. They have taken a number of steps to stymie the growth of the Islamic State in Somalia and neighboring countries. Shabaab also exports terrorism throughout East Africa, executing a number of high-profile terrorist attacks in recent years.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) continues to operate in West and North Africa, often working in conjunction with front groups. Like al Qaeda’s branches elsewhere, AQIM prefers to mask the extent of its influence, working through organizations such as Ansar al Sharia and Ansar Dine to achieve its goals. Late last year, Al Murabitoon rejoined AQIM’s ranks. Al Murabitoon is led by Mohktar Belmokhtar, who has been reportedly killed on several occasions. Al Qaeda claims that Belmokhtar is still alive and has praised him for rejoining AQIM after his contentious relations with AQIM’s hierarchy in the past. While Belmokhtar’s status cannot be confirmed, several statements have been released in his name in recent months. And Al Murabitoon’s merger with AQIM has led to an increase in high-profile attacks in West Africa.

In sum, AQAP, AQIM, AQIS and Shabaab are formal branches of al Qaeda and have made their allegiance to Zawahiri clear. Jabhat Fath al Sham, formerly known as Al Nusrah, is an obvious al Qaeda project in Syria. Other organizations continue to serve al Qaeda’s agenda as well.

Al Qaeda’s veterans and a “new generation” of jihadist leadership

As the brief summary above shows, Al Qaeda’s geographic footprint has expanded greatly since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Some US officials argue that al Qaeda has been “decimated” because of the drone campaign and counterterrorism raids. They narrowly focus on the leadership layer of al Qaeda, while ignoring the bigger picture. But even their analysis of al Qaeda’s managers is misleading.

Al Qaeda has lost dozens of key men, but there is no telling how many veterans remain active to this day. Experienced operatives continue to serve in key positions, often returning to the fight after being detained or only revealing their hidden hand when it becomes necessary. Moreover, al Qaeda knew it was going to lose personnel and took steps to groom a new generation of jihadists capable of filling in.

From left to right: Saif al Adel, Abu Mohammed al Masri and Abu Khayr al Masri. These photos, first published by the FBI and US intelligence officials, show the al Qaeda leaders when they were younger.

From left to right: Saif al Adel, Abu Mohammed al Masri and Abu Khayr al Masri. These photos, first published by the FBI and US intelligence officials, show the al Qaeda leaders when they were younger.

Last year, several veterans were reportedly released from Iran, where they were held under murky circumstances. One of them was Abu Khayr al Masri, who paved the way for Al Nusrah’s rebranding in July. Another is Saif al Adel, who has long been wanted for his role in the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. At least two others freed by Iran, Abu Mohammed al Masri and Khalid al Aruri, returned to al Qaeda as well.

Masri, Al Adel, and Aruri may all be based inside Syria, or move back and forth to the country from Turkey, where other senior members are based. Mohammed Islambouli is an important leader within al Qaeda. After leaving Iran several years ago, Islambouli returned to Egypt and eventually made his way to Turkey, where he lives today.

Sitting to Julani’s right during his much ballyhooed announcement was one of Islambouli’s longtime compatriots, Ahmed Salama Mabrouk. The diminutive Mabrouk is another Zawahiri subordinate. He was freed from an Egyptian prison in the wake of the 2011 uprisings.

Al Qaeda moved some of its senior leadership to Syria and several others from this cadre are easy to identify. But al Qaeda has also relied on personnel in Yemen to guide its global network. One of Zawahiri’s lieutenants, Hossam Abdul Raouf, confirmed this in an audio message last October. Raouf explained that the “weight” of al Qaeda has been shifted to Syria and Yemen, because that is where its efforts are most needed.

The American drone campaign took out several key AQAP leaders in 2015, but they were quickly replaced. Qasim al Raymi, who was trained by al Qaeda in Afghanistan in the 1990s, succeeded Nasir al Wuhayshi as AQAP’s emir last summer. Raymi quickly renewed his allegiance to Zawahiri, whom Raymi described as the “the eminent sheikh” and “the beloved father.” Another al Qaeda lifer, Ibrahim Abu Salih, emerged from the shadows last year. Salih was not public figure beforehand, but he has been working towards al Qaeda’s goals in Yemen since the early 1990s. Ibrahim al Qosi (an ex-Guantanamo detainee) and Khalid al Batarfi have stepped forward to lead AQAP and are probably also part of al Qaeda’s management team.

This old school talent has helped buttress al Qaeda’s leadership cadre. They’ve been joined by men who signed up for al Qaeda’s cause after the 9/11 attacks as well. In July, the US Treasury Department designated three jihadists who are based in Iran. One of them, known as Abu Hamza al Khalidi, was listed in bin Laden’s files as part of a “new generation” of al Qaeda leaders. Today, he plays a crucial role as the head of al Qaeda’s military commission, meaning he is the equivalent of al Qaeda’s defense minister. Treasury has repeatedly identified other al Qaeda members based in Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Some members of the “new generation” are more famous than others. Such is the case with Osama’s son,Hamzah bin Laden, who is now regularly featured in propaganda.

This brief survey of al Qaeda is not intended to be exhaustive, yet it is still sufficient to demonstrate that the organization’s bench is far from empty. Moreover, many of the men who lead al Qaeda today are probably unknown to the public.

The threat to the West

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned that al Qaeda “nodes in Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkey” are “dedicating resources to planning attacks.” His statement underscored how the threats have become more geographically dispersed over time. With great success, the US worked for years to limit al Qaeda’s ability to strike the West from northern Pakistan. But today, al Qaeda’s “external operations” work is carried out across several countries.

During the past fifteen years, Al Qaeda has failed to execute another mass casualty attack in the US on the scale of the 9/11 hijackings. Its most recent attack in Europe came in January 2015, when a pair of brothers backed by AQAP conducted a military-style assault on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris. AQAP made it clear that the Charlie Hebdo massacre was carried out according to Zawahiri’s orders.

Thanks to vigilance and luck, al Qaeda hasn’t been able to replicate a 9/11-style assault inside the US. Part of the reason is that America’s defenses, as well as those of its partner nations, have improved. Operations such as the 9/11 hijackings are also difficult to carry out in the first place. Even the 9/11 plan experienced interruptions despite a relatively lax security environment. (Most famously, for example, the would-be 20th hijacker was denied entry into the US at an Orlando airport in the summer of 2001.)

But there is another aspect to evaluating the al Qaeda threat that is seldom appreciated. It is widely assumed that al Qaeda is only interested in attacking the West. This is flat false. Most of the organization’s resources are devoted to waging insurgencies in Muslim majority countries.

The story in Syria has been telling. Although al Qaeda may have more resources in Syria than anywhere else, Zawahiri did not order his men to carry out a strike in the West. Al Qaeda’s so-called “Khorasan Group” laid the groundwork for such operations, but Zawahiri did not give this cadre the green light to actually carry them out. Zawahiri’s stand down order is well known. In an interview that aired in May 2015, for instance, Julani explained that the “directives that come to us from Dr. Ayman [al Zawahiri], may Allah protect him, are that Al Nusrah Front’s mission in Syria is to topple [Bashar al Assad’s] regime” and defeat its allies. “We have received guidance to not use Syria as a base for attacks against the West or Europe so that the real battle is not confused,” Julani said. However, he conceded that “maybe” the mother al Qaeda organization is plotting against the West, just “not from Syria.” Julani emphasized that this “directive” came from Zawahiri himself.

To date, al Qaeda has not lashed out at the West from inside Syria, even though it is certainly capable of doing so. Al Qaeda’s calculation has been that such an attack would be too costly for its strategic interests. It might get in the way of al Qaeda’s top priority in Syria, which is toppling the Assad regime. This calculation could easily change overnight and al Qaeda could use Syria as a launching pad against the West soon. But they haven’t thus far. It helps explain why there hasn’t been another 9/11-style plot by al Qaeda against the US in recent years. It also partially explains why al Qaeda hasn’t launched another large-scale operation in Europe for some time. Al Qaeda has more resources at its disposal today than ever, so the group doesn’t lack the capability. If Zawahiri and his advisors decided to make anti-Western attack planning more of a priority, then the probability of another 9/11-style event would go up. Even in that scenario, al Qaeda would have to successfully evade the West’s defenses. But the point is that al Qaeda hasn’t been attempting to hit the West nearly as much as some in the West assume.

In the meantime, it is easy to see how the al Qaeda threat has become more diverse, just as Clapper testified. AQAP has launched several thwarted plots aimed at the US, including the failed Christmas Day 2009 bombing. In 2009, al Qaeda also plotted to strike trains in the New York City area. In 2010, a Mumbai-style assault in Europe was unraveled by security services. It is not hard to imagine al Qaeda trying something along those lines once again. Other organizations tied to al Qaeda, such as the Pakistani Taliban, have plotted against the US as well.

Fifteen years after the 9/11 attacks, al Qaeda lives. Fortunately, Zawahiri’s men have not replicated the hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 Americans. But the al Qaeda threat looms. It would be a mistake to assume that al Qaeda won’t try a large-scale operation again.

*The spellings of al Qaeda and bin Laden are changed in this quote from Morell to make them consistent with the rest of the text.

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

***

Listen to John Batchelor interview Thomas Joscelyn:

watching-bin-laden-raid

Fifteen Years Later, Al Qaeda Grows

Osama bin Laden’s son says al Qaeda has grown despite 15 years of war

Screen-Shot-2016-07-09-at-2.25.44-PMLong War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, July 10, 2016:

In a newly released audio message, Osama bin Laden’s son Hamza says that the number of “mujahideen” around the globe has grown despite a decade and a half of war. Hamza also threatens revenge for the death of his father, claiming that America has not yet witnessed al Qaeda’s retaliation.

Hamza’s speech was released yesterday by al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, As Sahab. It is the latest speech by Osama’s heir, who was given a starring role in al Qaeda’s productions last August.

The SITE Intelligence Group translated the 21 minute, 40 second audio, which is accompanied by images of various jihadists.

The message is titled, “We Are All Osama.” The same phrase was chanted during the al Qaeda-inspired protests at American diplomatic establishments in Cairo, Tunis, Sanaa, and elsewhere in September 2012. The cover of the tenth issue of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Inspire magazine focused on this theme, celebrating the US Embassy protests and assaults. Footage from these rallies was also included in Hamza’s first official al Qaeda message last year.

At the beginning of the 9/11 wars, Hamza says, the “mujahideen were besieged in Afghanistan.” But today the “mujahideen are in Afghanistan and they have reached Sham [Syria], Palestine, Yemen, Egypt, Iraq, Somalia, the Indian Subcontinent, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Mali, and Central Africa.” With the possible exception of Iraq, al Qaeda’s official branches and affiliated groups have a presence in each of the areas listed by Hamza.

“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 claims, according to SITE’s translation. Osama bin Laden’s “followers today number in the hundreds of thousands, and his loved ones and supporters number in the millions, and that is due to the grace of Allah the Almighty.”

Hamza says he discussed the US drone campaign in northern Pakistan with Abu Yahya al Libi, a senior al Qaeda official who was killed in an airstrike in June 2012. The increase in the “Crusader American drone strikes” in Waziristan resulted in “convoys of martyrs departing one by one, and the killing of the sheikhs of jihad became rampant,” Hamza laments. But Libi reassured Hamza that this was the path al Qaeda had chosen, with its leaders sacrificing themselves so that their “nation” (meaning the ummah, or worldwide community of Muslims) may live.

Hamza describes his father as the “Reviver Imam.” Al Qaeda regularly uses this honorific and its variants, including the “Reviving Sheikh,” to describe Osama bin Laden. The title is intended to mean that bin Laden helped reinvigorate the idea of jihad within Muslim-majority countries.

“It was possible for the Reviver Imam, may Allah have mercy on him, to live a comfortable life, enjoying his fortune and wealth that reached millions of dollars,” Hamza says of his father, according to SITE. “But he and his companions preferred to have what is available within Allah in the hereafter. They preferred to defend the religion and support the vulnerable, especially our people in Palestine.”

Al Qaeda often tries to tie its agenda to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but in realty the group has devoted only a small part of its resources to the Palestinian cause.

Hamza directly threatens retaliation against the US for the May 2011 raid on his father’s compound in Pakistan. “If you think that your sinful crime that you committed in Abbottabad has passed without punishment, then you thought wrong,” Hamza claims. “What is correct is coming to you, and its punishment is severe.” He then qualifies his threat, saying “it is not revenge for Osama the person,” but “revenge for those who defended Islam and its sanctities and honor” and “for whoever revived jihad in the cause of Allah.”

Osama’s son taunts President Obama and his administration, claiming that Obama’s “arrival was accompanied with a huge media campaign, but it was hollow, containing many lies.” Obama “declared that he will end the wars, and that his era is an era of peace, and that he will close the open files that his predecessor left for him,” meaning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other issues. But Obama “is now leaving the White House and also leaving open files for his successor,” Hamza says, because he was “incapable” of solving them and “because the force of the mujahideen stands before him.”

Images of various jihadists are shown throughout Hamza’s speech. Many of them are portrayed as “martyrs,” such as Abdullah Azzam (widely considered the godfather of modern jihadism), Abu Khalid al Suri (a veteran al Qaeda operative who doubled as a senior official in Ahrar al Sham until his death in 2014), Mullah Omar, and others. The photo of Abu Khalid al Suri can be seen in the upper right hand corner of the screen shot at the beginning of this article.

Screen-Shot-2016-07-09-at-2.18.27-PM-768x843But some of the images are of jihadists who are presumably alive. One of them is Fayez al Kandari, whose picture is sandwiched between two photos of Osama bin Laden. A screen shot of Kandari’s image, as included in al Qaeda’s video, can be seen on the right.

Kandari is an ex-Guantanamo detainee who was held at the American detention facility in Cuba until January 2016, when he was transferred to his home country of Kuwait. [See LWJreport, ‘High risk’ Guantanamo detainee transferred to Kuwait.]

Another jihadist who is alive and shown in the video is Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman (also known as the “Blind Sheikh”), who is imprisoned in the US for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a follow-on plot against New York City landmarks. As Sahab’s production begins with an old clip of Rahman reciting a verse from the Quran. Al Qaeda regularly agitates for Rahman’s release, as he was one of Osama bin Laden’s earliest and most influential ideological backers.

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

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Homeland Security Advisory Council: Covering for the Enemy Threat Doctrine

Terror Trends Bulletin, by Christopher W. Holton

America is at war and we continue to be prevented from identifying and understanding our enemies as a result of influence operations targeting our bureaucratized counterterrorism apparatus.

The latest evidence of this long-standing and, unfortunately, very effective influence campaign comes from the revelation that the “Countering Violent Extremism Subcommittee” of the Homeland Security Advisory Council to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has issued a recommendation that urges rejecting use of Islamic terms such as “jihad” and “shariah” in communications about the threats that we face….

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/homeland-security-report-calls-rejecting-terms-jihad-sharia/

This is nothing new. We have heard CIA director John Brennan reject the term “jihadist” and the State Department under Condoleezza Rice rejected the use of the term as well.

We have covered the damaging efforts by our enemies to prevent the actual correct use of the term “jihad” extensively here on Terror Trends Bulletin in the past…

https://terrortrendsbulletin.com/2013/01/13/cairs-new-disinformation-campaign-on-jihad/

But the effort to suppress even mere mention of the word “shariah” is actually much more damaging than the suppression of the word “jihad.” That’s because shariah is THE enemy threat doctrine.

To understand our enemies, their motivations, their intentions and their strategy, one must study shariah. Shariah is everything to the jihadists. It is the code that they follow and its full implementation is their goal.

Forbidding the use of the term shariah, much less suppressing study of shariah in the present conflict is the equivalent of forbidding intelligence agencies from studying Mein Kampf in World War II or the works and words of Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao during the Cold War.

Anyone who would recommend that we avoid studying and talking about shariah simply must have a nefarious purpose.

By way of review, shariah is Islamic law. The terms shariah and Islamic law are completely interchangeable; they refer to exactly the same thing. Shariah is an immutable theo-political-legal-military code derived from the Islamic doctrinal trilogy, made up of the Quran, the Sirah (the biography of the prophet Mohammed) and the Hadith (traditions, sayings and stories compiled about the life of Mohammed).

Every single Jihadist terrorist group in the world–without exception–has as its stated goal the imposition of shariah: the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, HAMAS, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Lashkar e Taiba, Abu Sayyef, Jemaah Islamiyah, Boko Haram, the Taliban, Al Shabaab–all of them.

So, while the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will be carefully avoiding the use of the term shariah, our enemies have been using it quite commonly, frequently and prominently, as if to illustrate the absurdity of the DHS recommendation.

What follows is a compilation of quotes from jihadi leaders and Al Qaeda and Islamic State documents that reveal the central importance of shariah to their movement. This is why Americans must familiarize themselves with shariah.

SHARIAH ACCORDING TO THE JIHADISTS THEMSELVES

• The sharia has forbidden us from taking infidels as confidants, inducting them into our secrets.
• The sharia forbids us from appointing infidels to important posts.
• The sharia forbids us from adopting or praising the beliefs and views of the infidels.
• The sharia forbids us from assisting infidels against Muslims; even the one who is coerced has o excuse to fight under the banner of infidels.
• The sharia commands us to battle infidels—both original infidels and apostates, as well as hypocrites. As for waging jihad against the infidels who have usurped the lands of Islam, this is a duty considered second only to faith, by ulemaic consensus.
• The sharia does not accept the excuses made by hypocrites—that they befriend the infidels because they fear the vicissitudes of time.
• We are duty-bound by the sharia to help Muslims overcome the infidels.

Ayman al-Zawahiri
Al Qaeda leader

Osama bin Laden sits with his adviser and purported successor Ayman al-Zawahiri during an interview in Afghanistan, Barack Obama

Democracy is based on the principle of the power of creatures over other creatures, and rejects the principle of God’s absolute power over all creatures; it is also based on the idea the men’s desires, whatever they may be, replace God absolutely, and on the refusal to obey God’s law. In Islam, when there is a disagreement or a difference of opinion, one refers to God, his Prophet, and the commands of sharia.

Ayman al-Zawahiri
Al Qaeda leader

Read more

Why All The Jihadi Attacks? Why Now?

Terror Trends Bulletin, by Christopher W. Holton, June 13, 2016:

Way back in February of 1998, Osama Bin Laden declared a Jihad against Jews and Crusaders in a written document entitled the “World Islamic Front Statement.”

In that document he specifically stated:

The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies — civilians and military — is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it

Despite this, with just a few notable exceptions over the years, few Muslims answered Bin Laden’s call to kill Americans.

Bin Laden was of course killed by U.S. Special Operations forces in May 2011.

Since then, we have seen many more attacks here in the U.S.

Why? If Osama Bin Laden was not able to inspire Muslims to attack and kill Americans, why are we seeing so many such attacks in recent years? Such as:

• The Orlando night club massacre

• The San Bernardino massacre

• The Chattanooga massacre

• The failed Garland, Texas attack

• The Queens, New York hatchet attack on police officers standing on a street corner

• The Philadelphia attack on a police officer sitting in his squad car

• The Moore, Oklahoma beheading of a grandmother at the hands of a Muslim co-worker

These are just a few of the incidents in recent years that have, unfortunately, been categorized as “lone wolf” terrorist attacks by our recalcitrant news media.

In fact, the term “lone wolf” does not exist in Islamic doctrine. What DOES exist in Islamic doctrine is the fact that Jihad is an individual as well as a collective obligation.

What we are seeing are in fact individual acts of Jihad–acts of war, not criminal acts. We continue to deny this at our peril. There is a doctrinal basis for the enemy that is waging war against us. This form of warfare does not require formal ties between fighters or units (organizations) waging the war.

The concept of Jihad being an individual obligation is longstanding and has its basis in mainstream Islamic law (Shariah). We can see this from a widely-read and used text of Shariah sold annually at the convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the largest Muslim organization in the United States, which was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism financing prosecution in U.S. history: the U.S. v the Holy Land Foundation. In that trial, ISNA was identified as a Muslim Brotherhood front group. Interestingly, ISNA’s Canadian wing was shut down in 2013 for funneling money to a Jihadist terrorist group in Kashmir.

The name of the Shariah text is A Summary of Islamic Jurisprudence by Dr. Salih Al-Fawzan and published by Al-Maiman Publishing House in Saudi Arabia. Al-Fawzan is a member of the Board of Senior Ulema in Saudi Arabia and also a member of the Permanent Committee for Fatwa and Research in the kingdom.

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Volume One of this work has a chapter devoted to Jihad. On page 473, the basis in Shariah for individual Jihad is explained in detail and reveals for us why we are seeing this escalation of attacks:

For a Muslim, there are certain cases in which jihad is an individual duty:

1) When a Muslim is present at the battlefield, it is obligatory for him to fight and he is prohibited to leave the battlefield and flee.

2) When enemies attack a Muslim country…

3) When a Muslim is needed to help his fellow Muslims fight their enemies.

4) When a Muslim is called by the ruler (or the one in authority) to fight in the Cause of Allah, for the Prophet (PBUH) said:

Whenever you are called for fighting in the cause of Allah, you should go immediately.

As you can see, these four circumstances are quite broad and all could be interpreted as existing right now. But numbers 2, 3 and 4 are particularly relevant right now and serve as the doctrinal basis for why Muslims have suddenly begun rising up in violent Jihad in the West:

• The Islamic State has called on Muslims to wage Jihad because the Islamic State is under attack. This applies to 2 and 3 above.

• Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State has issued calls on Muslims in the West to rise up in Jihad. This applies to 4 above and is the key difference between the days of Bin Laden and today.

Bin Laden may have been admired by many Muslims, but he never declared himself as a Caliph and his calls for Jihad were mostly ignored. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s calls are being answered because he has declared himself as the Caliph and many Muslims recognize him as such. That is why were are seeing acts of individual Jihad that we mostly did not see before.

And that is why the U.S. and the West cannot tolerate the existence of the Islamic State over the long-term. It has become the flame attracting moths. It will only gain more legitimacy and strength if it is allowed to persist. In short, it must be destroyed.

In closing, the concept of Jihad as an individual obligation didn’t start with Bin Laden in 1998. It has been recognized by Jihadi ideologues for many years. Here are some relevant quotes from significant Jihadis through the years, including Bin Laden:

And ulema [Muslim legal scholars] have throughout history unanimously agreed that the jihad is an individual duty…On that basis, and in compliance with Allah’s order, we issue the following fatwa to all Muslims: The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it…We, with Allah’s help, call on every Muslim who believes in Allah and wishes to be rewarded to comply with Allah’s order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it.

Osama Bin Laden
Ayman al-Zawahiri, Amir of the Jihad Group, Egypt
Abu-Yasir Rifa’I Ahmad Taha, Egyptian Islamic Group
Mir Hamzah, Jamiat ul Ulema-e-Pakistan
Fazlur Rahman, Jihad Movement in Bangladesh
23 February 1998

Indeed, every person should according to Islam prepare himself/herself for jihad, and every person should eagerly and patiently wait for the day when Allah will call them to show their willingness to sacrifice their lives. We should ask ourselves, is there a quicker way to heaven? Only Islam can save mankind from itself. And jihad on the individual and international scale will be a necessary part of this process of change.

Dr. A.M.A. Fahmy
International Islamic Forum
1949

Jihad is an obligation from Allah on every Muslim and cannot be ignored or evaded.

Hasan al-Banna
Founder of the Muslim Brotherhood
1948

The establishment of an Islamic State is obligatory. If that state cannot be established without war, then that becomes an obligation also. So it is obligatory for every Muslim to seriously strive for the return of the caliphate.

Jihad becomes an individual duty in three situations:

1. First, when two armies meet.
2. Second, when the infidels descend upon a country.
3. Third, when the Imam calls upon people to fight.
Know that when jihad is an individual duty, there is no requirement to ask permission of parents to wage jihad.

The Neglected Obligation
Muhammad Al-Salam Faraj
Leader of Jamaat al-Jihad, Egypt
1981

The Book commands Muslims to wage their war with the spirit of a religious duty and obligation. This Quranic injunction adds new facets and depths to the concept of a total war. It makes a Muslim citizen answerable both to the state and to Allah in the fulfillment of this divine obligation.

The Quranic Concept of War
Brigadier General S. K. Malik, Army of Pakistan
1979

There is agreement among scholars that when the enemy enters an Islamic land or a land that was once part of the Islamic lands, it is obligatory on the inhabitants of that place to go forth to face the enemy. But if they sit back, or are incapable, lazy, or insufficient in number, the individual obligation spreads to those around them. Then if they also fall short, it goes to those around them, and so on and so on, until the individually obligatory nature of jihad encompasses the whole world. The individually obligatory nature of jihad remains in effect until the lands are purified from the pollution of the disbelievers.

The obligation of jihad today remains an individual obligation on all until the liberation of the last piece of land that was in the hands of Muslims but has been occupied by the disbelievers.

Join the Caravan
Abdullah Yusuf Azzam
“Father of Global Jihad”
Founding member of Al Qaeda
1987

Individual jihad has recurred throughout Islamic history. In the time of the Crusades…groups of mujahideen responded to the crisis. Many isolated expeditions and groups carried out the obligation of jihad.

Individual jihad using the method of urban or rural guerilla warfare is the foundation for sapping the enemy and bringing him to a state of collapse and withdrawal. It will pave the way for the desired strategic goal.

What mandates these methods as a strategic opinion is the imbalance of forces between the resistance and the large invading alliance of unbelievers, apostates and hypocrites.

We fight them for the sake of incidents to cause political pressure and psychological collapse, so that they leave our lands. Carrying out a small operation every month against the enemy will have more of an impact on him than a big operation every year or two.

Toward a New Strategy in Resisting the Occupier
Muhammad Khalil al-Hakaymah
Al Qaeda Chief of External Operations
Killed by US air strike in Pakistan in 2008

Successful jihad will only happen within an ummah [Islamic nation or community] in which the fighting creed is firmly established and clarified. This must happen in order to attain the “Revolutionary Jihadist Climate” that will spontaneously give rise to instruments of resistance.

Violent jihad is as an individual duty obligatory upon every Muslim. All the ulema have said this…”

The Call to Global Islamic Resistance
Abu Musab al-Suri
Al Qaeda propagandist
Captured in Pakistan 2005

Also see:

1979: Annus Horribilis—Modern Jihad Goes Global

Chanting "Long Live Khomeini" and "Death to the Shah," 100,000 people gather in front of the mosque inside the Bazaar on Monday, Jan. 15, 1979 in Tehran for a massive rally against the Shah. Troops stood by as demonstrators showered them with flowers, and kisses. (AP Photo)

Chanting “Long Live Khomeini” and “Death to the Shah,” 100,000 people gather in front of the mosque inside the Bazaar on Monday, Jan. 15, 1979 in Tehran for a massive rally against the Shah. Troops stood by as demonstrators showered them with flowers, and kisses. (AP Photo)

Washington Free Beacon, by Dr. Sebastian Gorka, April 9, 2016:

Three momentous events mark 1979 as the year in which modern jihad, having evolved over the course of the century, emerged as a global movement: the establishment of a theocratic regime in Iran, the siege of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. While the conditions for an Islamist explosion had existed for a long time, these events were the spark.

On April 1, 1979, following the overthrow of the shah and the return of the fundamentalist Ayatollah Khomeini from exile in France, the Shiite populace of Iran voted in a national referendum to become an Islamic republic. A new constitution outlined the central role of divine revelation in determining Iran’s laws, which would be based on the Koran and the Sunnah, the traditions of Islam. Then on November 4, a crowd of student protesters who were loyal to Khomeini and committed to taking their revolution to the “great Satan,” America, stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took sixty-six Americans hostage. Most of them would remain in captivity until the day Ronald Reagan took Jimmy Carter’s place in the White House. Focused on rescuing their imprisoned countrymen, Americans had a poor understanding of the broader picture in Iran. The elderly Khomeini was not seen as a serious alternative to the royal Pahlavi family, who were friendly to the United States. But the revolutionary cleric and his new guard of religious fanatics were able to exploit the ancient Persian reserves of pride and resilience, quickly imposing a Shia version of theocracy in which Islam and politics were totally reintegrated. The mullahs of Tehran became the center of political as well as religious power in Tehran.

Demonstrators hold up a poster of exiled Muslim leader Ayatollah Khomeini during an anti-shah demonstration in Tehran in 1978 / AP

Demonstrators hold up a poster of exiled Muslim leader Ayatollah Khomeini during an anti-shah demonstration in Tehran in 1978 / AP

The Shia of Iran thus demonstrated to the world—including the Sunnis, many of whom would be envious—that the theocratic caliph- ate was viable in the modern world. It also demonstrated that Muslims not only should but could reject the Western separation of politics and faith. Modernity’s separation of Allah’s writ and governance could be reversed.

Just as important, the success of the Iranian revolution and the embassy attack proved that the United States, and by inference all other great powers, was not invulnerable. The Muslim world did not have to be the powerless victim of Western machinations, such as interference in Iran’s domestic affairs and overarching control of the geopolitics of the Middle East.

Twelve days after the takeover of the American embassy in Tehran, about three hundred armed Islamists, inexperienced and ill- equipped, seized control of the Grand Mosque of Mecca, the holiest site in Islam and the equivalent of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. These men were interested in a holy war not against infidel Christians or Jews but against their fellow Muslims. Led by a man who would later declare himself the long-awaited mahdi—just as Mohammed Ahmad had done years before in Khartoum—these jihadists invoked the principle of takfirism to declare any Muslim who disagreed with them an apostate, a false Muslim, starting with the royal family, the house of Saud, whom they saw as puppets of the infidel West. Their war was first with their fellow Muslims who had fallen away from the path of purity. The militants managed to hold the Grand Mosque for almost two weeks, a stunning accomplishment. But it was only after the siege was finally broken and most of the jihadists killed—with the covert assistance of French commandos—that the implications of this jihadi attack and the breadth of the conspiracy became clear.

In his definitive account, The Siege of Mecca, Yaroslav Trofimov reports that the attackers were not simply a collection of embittered loners or isolated fundamentalists. They shared their hatred of the Saudi regime and their “apostate” countrymen with an influential group of Saudi clerics, key members of the ulema, the religious leaders of the country. These clerics lamented the loss of faith that had made the global community of Muslims, the ummah, weak, allowing it to be dominated by the infidel West. Recall that the Saudi state was founded on a compact between the house of Saud and the fundamentalist cleric Mohammed ibn Abd al Wahhab. In the eyes of these puritanical clerics, the behavior of the royal family and the spread of Western influence across the Arabian Peninsula were signs that it was time for that compact to be revoked. The clerics encouraged a turn to violence, offering a religious sanction for jihad against the house of Saud and the other “apostate” Muslims of Saudi Arabia.

After the siege of the Grand Mosque was put down, the jihadis’ connection to the influential Saudi clerics was unearthed and the individual imams were identified by Saudi intelligence. The king then invited them to the palace, where instead of having them incarcerated or beheaded, he made them an offer that was difficult to refuse. He proposed a new compact: The propagation of jihadist ideology within the country, on Islamic soil—dar al Islam—would be utterly haram, or forbidden. In exchange for a promise that the ideology would never again threaten the kingdom of Saudi Arabia or the house of Saud, the government would support its propagation in infidel lands (dar al harb) around the globe. This commitment, backed by a massive influx of petrodollars, made the kingdom the most important force behind the spread of fundamentalist and radicalized Islamic ideology around the world.

Afghans protesting Soviet involvement in their country invading their embassy in Tehran, Jan. 6, 1980 / AP

Afghans protesting Soviet involvement in their country invading their embassy in Tehran, Jan. 6, 1980 / AP

The third pivotal event of 1979 was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on December 24. The Marxist government of Afghanistan, a Muslim nation, was battling an internal threat from indigenous fundamentalist groups. Afghans had become increasingly discontent with the regime’s socialist reforms, and by December 1979 ancient clans and tribes of skilled warriors were attacking government institutions and assets. Having signed a treaty of friendship with the Afghan regime the year before, the Soviet Union decided it was time to step in and assist its “ally.” Thirty thousand troops rolled in on Christmas Eve, a number that would grow to a hundred thousand.

While the upheavals in Iran and Saudi Arabia had an important psychological effect on future jihadists, the conflict in Afghanistan had the most direct influence on modern jihad. It was there that the ideas of a global jihad were forged and the original jihadist army coalesced, in no small part because of the massive resources that poured in from America and Saudi Arabia to support the indigenous mujahideen. In his essay “Martyrs: The Building Blocks of Nations,” Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden’s boss and the real founder of Al Qaeda, attested to the importance of the Afghan holy war:

Some thought that the Earth had become devastated and that this ummah had been drained of the thirst for martyrdom. Therefore, Allah exploded the Jihad on the land of Afghanistan and groups of youths from the Islamic World marched forth to Afghanistan in search of Jihad and martyrdom.

The Jihad initially began as a few drops, until Allah decided to ignite the sparks within this blessed people and explode the Jihad, blessing with it the land of Afghanistan and the rest of the Muslims until its good encompassed the whole World.

Azzam, bin Laden, and their small band of Arabs—no more than a few hundred—transformed a conflict between Moscow and the tribes of Afghanistan into a global movement for Islamic jihad in which Muslims of different languages, cultures, and countries coalesced into one brotherhood in pursuit of one objective—the victory of Islam and the word of Allah across the earth. Without Azzam’s new ideas about jihad, legitimized by his scholarly prestige, and bin Laden’s access to millions of dollars in funding, Afghanistan’s jihad might have stayed within its borders. Together, these two men were able to take their enterprise global and start a fire that still rages today, more incandescent than ever.

ABDULLAH AZZAM: THE SCHOLAR MARTYR

Abdullah Azzam / AP

Abdullah Azzam / AP

Abdullah Azzam was born into a Palestinian family who had to flee the West Bank after the Israeli victory in the Six-Day War of 1967. He became a disciple of the Muslim Brotherhood, studying during his formative years the incendiary works of its founder, Hassan al Banna (1906–1949) and those of Sayyid Qutb, finding in them the expression of his own rage and sense of victimhood. Studying in Syria and Egypt and teaching in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, he came into contact with the leading Islamist movements of the day, weaving their disparate intellectual threads together into a cohesive doctrine, which he eventually published in 1984 as a fatwa titled Defense of the Muslim Lands. The foundational work for the global jihad of the twentieth century, Azzam’s Defense contains the key assertions at the heart of every jihadist enterprise:

  • Muslims have been humiliated at the hands of impure regimes and colonial powers.
  • Islam will suffer ultimate defeat if Muslims do not take on jihad as a personal obligation.
  • The only way for Islam to be saved is for the caliphate to be reestablished for the glory of Allah.

Muslims are the people who have been entrusted with the final revelation of God, Azzam writes, and Islam is the only religion destined for the whole of humanity. Yet Muslims have been humiliated and subjugated. The unclean, the polytheists, those who do not believe in Allah, he says,

have duped the dull masses of Muslims by installing their wooden-headed puppets as false figureheads of states that remain under their control.

Colonialism has taken on a new face.

They have come from every horizon to share us amongst them like callers to a feast. There is no greater humiliation for the people expected to lead humanity to redemption.

The unbelievers have thus joined together to humiliate the Muslims, and the only way Muslims can fight back is to come together under a unified caliphate “in order to make victorious Allah’s religion of Islamic monotheism.”

Defense of the Muslim Lands begins with an epigraph justifying violent jihad in the words of Mohammed: “But those who are killed in the Way of Allah, He will never let their deeds be lost.” If there were any doubt about Azzam’s emphasis on martyrdom in service to Allah, he clarified it in his “Martyrs: The Building Blocks of Nations”:

History does not write its lines except with blood. Glory does not build its lofty edifice except with skulls. Honor and respect cannot be established except on a foundation of cripples and corpses.

For Azzam, nothing is more honorable than for a Muslim to die fighting in the collective effort to reestablish the caliphate. In the short term, however, he was concerned about drawing more fighters to Afghanistan, so in Defense of the Muslim Lands he emphasizes the personal obligation of every Muslim to jihad. Insisting that his call for universal holy war is supported by a wide array of Muslim scholars, he details the lengthy process he went through to get this approval. During the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, he recalls, he delivered a lecture before more than one hundred scholars from around the Muslim world, “from whom there was not a single objection.”

This broad scholarly support of Azzam’s teaching was important for two reasons. The approval of theulema, the learned men and scholars, established the validity of his fatwa before the Muslim world. At the same time, it showed that support for Azzam’s notion of jihad extended far beyond the “Arab mujahideen,” the foreign jihadis fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. The scholars Azzam consulted may not have joined him on the battlefield, but their approval allowed his call to jihad to resonate across the globe. As one scholar wrote in his endorsement of the fatwa, “Therefore it is incumbent upon every Muslim today, capable of carrying a weapon, to march forward to jihad to aid his or her Muslim brothers in Afghanistan and in every place in need, even though his or her parents do not permit it. …”

Azzam himself understood the crucial role of ideologues in the battle. He knew victory could not be achieved by the sword alone. Expounding on the Hadith, the stories and sayings of Mohammed, he stated that “the ink of the scholar is worth more than the blood of the martyr.” He continued:

Indeed nations are only brought to life by their beliefs and their concepts, and they die only with their desires and their lusts.

The life of the Muslim ummah is solely dependent on the ink of its scholars and the blood of its martyrs.

What is more beautiful than the writing of the ummah’s history with both the ink of a scholar and his blood, such that the map of Islamic history becomes colored with two lines: one of them black, and that is what the scholar wrote with the ink of his pen; and the other one red, and that is what the martyr wrote with his blood.

And something more beautiful than this is when the blood is one and the pen is one, so that the hand of the scholar which expends the ink and moves the pen, is the same as the hand which expends its blood and moves the ummah.

The extent to which the number of martyred scholars increases is the extent to which nations are delivered from their slumber, rescued from their decline, and awoken from their sleep.

In this file photo taken Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, Lebanese people gather at the scene of an attack claimed by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades / AP

In this file photo taken Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, Lebanese people gather at the scene of an attack claimed by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades / AP

Like other ideologues before him, Azzam appreciated the importance of ideas and beliefs on the battlefield. People, he knew, will not fight for territory or treasure alone; they have to believe in the righteousness of their cause. It was Azzam who would elaborate the ultimate justice of jihad and provide the rationale for thousands, indeed tens of thousands, to join the battle for Allah against the infidels.

Azzam’s influence stretched well beyond the Afghan war. Even after he was assassinated in Pakistan in 1989, his call to universal war strengthened and catalyzed Al Qaeda’s growth into a global brand, eventually spawning ISIS and, in 2014, the creation of the new Islamic State—the caliphate reborn.

Elaborating on the importance of Azzam in launching the global jihadist movement, the publishers of the English-language version of Defense of the Muslim Lands write in their introduction:

Abdullah Azzam was greatly influenced by the Jihad in Afghanistan and the Jihad was greatly influenced by him. To it he concentrated his full effort, that he ultimately became the most prominent figure in the Afghani Jihad aside from the Afghan leaders. He spared no effort to pro- mote the Afghan cause to the whole world, especially throughout the Muslim ummah…. He changed the minds of Muslims about Jihad in Afghanistan and presented the Jihad as an Islamic cause which concerns all Muslims around the world [emphasis added].

Due to his efforts, the Afghani Jihad became universal, in which Muslims from every part of the world came to fight.

Azzam had dedicated his own life to jihad, and his clerical credentials were impeccable. His doctorate in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), which gave him full authority to issue fatwas, was from the most important theological institution in the Sunni world, Al Azhar in Cairo. His prestige was one reason that Defense of the Muslim Lands, from the time it was issued until the summer of 2014, when ISIS reestablished the caliphate, was the modern jihadi movement’s most effective tool for mobilizing support.

Another reason was that the logic of Azzam’s fatwa was flawless. Azzam had translated the geopolitical crisis of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan into a religious mandate for action. The USSR was a kuffar, an infidel nation, and the worst kind—driven by an atheist dogma that denied not only Allah but all transcendental truth. This infidel superpower had invaded dar al Islam, sacred Muslim land. The government in Kabul may have been made up of socialists, but the nation was part of Khorasan, ancient Islamic territory. Its invasion by infidel forces demanded that the global community of Muslims wage a holy war to repel the kuffar invaders.

Azzam reasoned that because there was no caliph to declare jihad against the USSR or any other infidel group, Muslims could not wait for direction from the outside. No longer an action declared by an imperial leader, jihad was thus “democratized.” Azzam’s fatwa became the most important document sanctioning and requiring holy Islamic war for the next three decades.

OSAMA BIN LADEN: TARGETING THE WORLD

While Abdullah Azzam forms one pillar of modern jihad, Osama bin Laden forms the other. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan brought Azzam into the foreign fighter movement, and the first Gulf War, a dozen years later, propelled his onetime deputy, bin Laden, to the leadership of a global terror organization targeting America and American interests around the world.

The scion of a prominent Saudi family—his father was one of the wealthiest building contractors in the desert nation and a friend of the king—Osama bin Laden was working for the family firm when radicals stormed the Grand Mosque in Mecca. While he had likely come into contact with the ideas of Sayyid Qutb as well as with Azzam, he was not yet fully radicalized, and he saw the siege as a treasonous act against a legitimate Islamic government. But when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan one month later, something snapped. He later told an interviewer, “When the invasion of Afghanistan started, I was enraged and went there at once. I arrived within days, before the end of 1979.” Though it is improbable that he actually arrived in Afghanistan “within days” of the Soviet invasion, it is likely that he traveled there in great secrecy to deliver support for the mujahideen from wealthy Gulf donors, keeping his family in the dark about his mission.

AP

AP

Azzam was the older, revered scholar and teacher, while bin Laden was a twenty-three-year-old ascetic with access to many millions of dollars in funds from his own family and from donors throughout the Middle East. By the early 1980s, bin Laden was a conduit for external funding and a key figure in the recruitment of fighters, bringing thousands of men through Pakistan to Afghanistan in support of the holy war against the atheist Soviet Union.

The pairing of Azzam and bin Laden was critical to the success of the enterprise. Azzam was not the first to talk about jihad, but with bin Laden’s financial and operational assistance, he gave the ideology a longer reach than it had ever had before. The Saudis and many other Arab Muslims felt an obligation to support the jihad for religious purposes, and bin Laden could facilitate their support. At the same time, the United States was providing covert support to the indigenous mujahideen of Afghanistan to weaken the Soviet regime. For the time being, the interest of the capitalist West coincided with that of the Wahhabi fundamentalists. Both saw the Soviet Union as their enemy. By the end of the 1980s, having lost more than fourteen thousand soldiers in a vicious unconventional war in a region that had brought defeat to invaders as disparate as Alexander the Great and the British Empire, the Kremlin decided that the war in Afghanistan was no longer worth it. American Stinger missiles, Pakistani intelligence, and small arms from China had made the local Afghan fighters a force to be reckoned with. In the view of the new Soviet premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, they could not be defeated without inordinate cost to the USSR.

But the “Arab Muj,” who had come from outside Afghanistan to fight in this new holy war, especially Osama bin Laden, would draw another conclusion. Less than a year after the last Soviet troop convoy had left the territory of Afghanistan, Abdullah Azzam, the leader of the MAK, the organization that had recruited more than fifty-five thousand foreign fighters to come and wage war in Afghanistan, was dead, and bin Laden inherited the jihadi organization that would soon become Al Qaeda. But bin Laden had a different interpretation of what had just happened in Afghanistan—what it meant for the future of all Muslims and the fight against infidels everywhere.

For the wealthy Saudi, who had just spent a decade in a war zone fighting the overwhelmingly more numerous and better equipped Soviets, there was only one way to interpret the victory of the jihadists: they truly were warriors of Allah, true mujahideen, fighters in a holy war supported by God. There was no other way to explain the victory over the superior forces of a superpower. It would be inconceivable for bin Laden and his ilk to conclude that the war was in fact won because another infidel superpower, the United States, had facilitated the victory of the local Afghans through a covert program supported by his lazy countrymen safe and sound back in Saudi Arabia. His certainty that the Arab mujahideen were now vindicated as God’s own fighters eventually spurred bin Laden to broaden his jihadi horizons. But only after another war broke out.

Kuwaiti demonstrators holding placard which shows Saddam Hussein as bloodthirsty during a rally in Damascus, Syria / AP

Kuwaiti demonstrators holding placard which shows Saddam Hussein as bloodthirsty during a rally in Damascus, Syria / AP

The following year saw Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces invade Kuwait. His occupation of the neighboring nation also put the Saudi kingdom and its royal family at risk, as many believed that after the fall of Kuwait, Saddam would next invade Saudi Arabia. By this point Osama was losing faith in the elite of his homeland, but the king had been a close friend of his father’s, and far more important than that, Saudi Arabia was the home to the holiest and most precious sites in all Islam, the cities of Mecca and Medina, where Mohammed had established the first caliphate. The kingdom had to be protected from Saddam Hussein, a Baathist thug who modeled himself more on Stalin than Mohammed.

Bin Laden met with King Fahd and the Saudi defense minister, asking them not to depend on non-Muslim (infidel) assistance from the United States and offering to defend Saudi Arabia with his own legion of seasoned Arab mujahideen. But the king declined and instead invited America and its allies to deploy their troops to the Arabian Peninsula. This deployment, however, required a fatwa, issued by the royal court’s domesticated clerics, the first of its kind in Islamic his- tory. Although stationing infidel troops in the land of Mecca and Medina had been utterly haram, or forbidden, since the time of the first caliphate, now it was decreed permissible. For bin Laden, this meant the crusaders were back, but this time they had been invited by the king himself. Islam had been betrayed and sullied by its own royal leadership. This decision changed the world, moving bin Laden to turn his guerrilla band into an international terror organization that would bring jihad to the streets of America.

Bin Laden now began publicly to denounce the king, his father’s close friend, as a lackey of the infidels. Attempts to silence him failed, and eventually he was banished from the kingdom and stripped of his Saudi citizenship. After the Gulf War, he moved to Sudan and took his organization—renamed Al Qaeda, “The Base”—with him.

Al Qaeda now had a new target. Instead of killing infidels who had dared to invade Muslim lands, as with the Soviets in Afghanistan, the holy war would be taken directly to the infidel, either in his own land or in locations abroad that offered an easy target.

While the operations against the infidels were planned in secret, bin Laden decided to come out of the shadows and publicly issue a fatwa of his own, Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places, urging all Muslims, just as his mentor Abdullah Azzam had, to take up the fight and become jihadis themselves. Al Qaeda may have been born in the mountains and villages of Central Asia in a war with an occupying military, but now the enemy was everywhere, its ranks including office workers in New York, embassy employees in Africa, and American sailors in Yemen. The following decade would witness the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, and the suicide attack against the USS Cole in the Port of Aden in 1999.

Modern jihad had finally gone global. And then came September 11, 2001.

This essay was excerpted from Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War by Sebastian Gorka, available from Regnery Publishing on April 11.

Dr. Sebastian Gorka, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized authority on national security, strategy, and counterterrorism. He is one of the world’s leading experts in asymmetric warfare. Gorka serves as the Major General Matthew C. Horner Distinguished Chair of Military Theory at Marine Corps University where he teaches on irregular warfare.

***

Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War, by Sebastian Gorka, PhD

Excellent talk given in 2013: 

Bin Laden Willed His Fortune to Jihad, Worried His Wife’s Teeth Were Bugged

AP

AP

Breitbart, by John Hayward, March, 1, 2016:

Over a hundred documents seized in the 2011 special-forces raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan were released to the public on Tuesday, including a handwritten will. The al-Qaeda mastermind made some provisions for his family but wanted most of his $29 million fortune devoted to “jihad, for the sake of Allah.”

Canada’s Globe and Mail reports this document appears to have been composed in the late 1990s and covered money bin Laden had stashed in Sudan.

Two of bin Laden’s top al-Qaeda associates were to be rewarded with one percent of the $29 million apiece. He also “set down specific amounts in Saudi riyals and gold that should be apportioned between his mother, a son, a daughter, an uncle, and his uncle’s children and maternal aunts.”

He encouraged his family to spend his money on holy war.

“I hope for my brothers, sisters and maternal aunts to obey my will and to spend all the money that I have left in Sudan on jihad, for the sake of Allah,” bin Laden wrote.

The Globe and Mail notes another, much more recent, letter in which Osama bin Laden asked his “precious father” to care for his wife and children if he died.

“I entrust you well for my wife and children, and that you will always ask about them and follow up on their whereabouts and help them in their marriages and needs,” he wrote to his father in 2008, adding a plea for forgiveness “if I have done what you did not like.”

“If I am to be killed, pray for me a lot and give continuous charities in my name, as I will be in great need for support to reach the permanent home,” he wrote to his father in the same letter, according to the Associated Press.

The AP quotes another letter from bin Laden, addressed to “the Islamic community in general,” in which he praised jihad as a success following the 9/11 attack.

“Here we are in the tenth year of the war, and America and its allies are still chasing a mirage, lost at sea without a beach,” he wrote, evidently about a year before U.S. special forces raided his compound, shot him, and dumped his body at sea, far away from any beaches.

“They thought that the war would be easy and that they would accomplish their objectives in a few days or a few weeks, and they did not prepare for it financially, and there is no popular support that would enable it to carry on a war for a decade or more. The sons of Islam have opposed them and stood between them and their plans and objectives,” bin Laden continued.

In other letters, bin Laden said the U.S. was stuck in a quagmire in Afghanistan, much like the Soviet Union before it, and viewed the overthrow of dictator Moammar Qaddafi as a great opportunity for jihad in Libya.

In fact, he credited al-Qaeda with defeating Qaddafi, who bin Laden described as a “truly vile hallucinating individual who troubles us in front of the world.” As it turned out, bin Laden was right about post-Qaddafi Libya presenting great opportunities for jihad, thanks to Obama foreign policy, but it would be ISIS that exploited those opportunities, not their progenitors in al-Qaeda.

Despite the sunny outlook for jihad offered by bin Laden in many of these letters, Reutersnotes that other correspondence painted al-Qaeda’s fugitive leader as paranoid and under intense pressure.

He warned his lieutenants to look for tracking devices in everything from ransom payments to his wife’s teeth. He advised al-Qaeda operatives to remain indoors “except on a cloudy, overcast day” to evade U.S. surveillance satellites.

He also exhorted his subordinates to carry out massive terror attacks on American soil to follow up on 9/11, ignoring their protests that al-Qaeda lacked the capability to execute such missions. As one U.S. official put it, bin Laden was “somewhat out of touch with the actual capabilities of his organization.”

Long War Journal has more:

Ex-Guantanamo detainee prominently featured in al Qaeda propaganda

Ibrahim al Qosi, a senior AQAP leader and spokesman, delivered a two-part critique of the Saudi government earlier this month.

Ibrahim al Qosi, a senior AQAP leader and spokesman, delivered a two-part critique of the Saudi government earlier this month.

The Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, Feb. 15, 2016:

Ex-Guantanamo detainee Ibrahim al Qosi has become a prominent fixture in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) propaganda since early December, when he first revealed that he is a senior leader in the group. Qosi most recently delivered a two-part critique of the Saudi monarchy, entitled “A Message to Our People in the Land of the Two Holy Mosques.”

Qosi begins his nearly 50-minute lecture, which was posted online on Feb. 6, by denouncing the Saudi government’s execution of more than 40 “mujahideen” in January. The men were killed, he says, because they declared jihad against the “Crusaders” and opposed American interests around the globe.

Qosi then discusses al Qaeda’s jihad against the Saudi regime, saying Osama bin Laden was motivated by America’s supposed “occupation” of Arabia’s two holiest sanctuaries. Bin Laden repeatedly warned the Saudis about the American presence, but the monarchy resisted calls to end the alliance. According to Qosi, more than 400 scholars signed a letter decrying the situation.

After bin Laden spent “years” living outside of Saudi Arabia, he decided to call for jihad against the “American occupiers,” but not the Saudi government or military. Qosi says bin Laden limited his call for holy war to the Americans because he wanted to avoid “internal strife and confusion” among Muslims, who may not have understood his motivations.

Bin Laden never recognized the Saudi monarchy’s legitimacy, Qosi claims, he simply didn’t want Muslims to fight amongst themselves. (In his conspiratorial telling, Qosi says the real reason for the Americans’ initial presence in Saudi Arabia – that is, to stop Saddam Hussein’s expansionist campaign in the early 1990s – was merely an “excuse.”)

Qosi’s testimony echoes that offered by another bin Laden loyalist, Nasir al Wuhayshi, who explained al Qaeda’s rationale for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In an interview recorded prior to his death in June 2015, and published just recently, Wuhayshi said al Qaeda’s leaders decided not to target the “tyrants” ruling in Muslim-majority countries because they wanted to avoid any potential internal discord. [See LWJ report, AQAP publishes insider’s account of 9/11 plot.]

Qosi, who served Osama bin Laden in a variety of roles prior to 9/11, offers an anecdote that he says demonstrates the Saudis’ duplicity. Saudi intelligence attempted to convince Yunus Khalis, a veteran jihadist who reportedly hosted bin Laden in Afghanistan after al Qaeda’s leadership left Sudan in 1996, to betray the al Qaeda master and turn him over. The Saudis left “disappointed” when Khalis refused the offer, Qosi claims.

Despite supporting the jihad against the Russians in Afghanistan, Qosi explains, the Saudi government resisted the jihadists’ campaign against the Americans. He argues that the truth of the American campaign against the ummah (worldwide community of Muslims) was revealed when US warplanes took off from Saudi soil to strike in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In the aftermath of the “blessed” 9/11 attacks, Qosi claims, the mujahideen “youth” tried to keep the Saudi government in check without striking the security forces. But the Saudi regime supposedly sided with the “Crusaders,” betraying their historical duty to protect Muslim land.

Qosi clearly wants young Muslims to pay attention to his testimony, as he praises the youth for waging jihad in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina (during the mid-1990s), and Somalia. He contrasts their dedication to the jihadists’ cause with the Saudi monarchy’s alleged betrayal, arguing that the government is allied with forces opposed to the mujahideen in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen.

Although the Saudi government claims to be leading the charge against the “Safavid” (Shiites and Iranians) project throughout the Middle East, Qosi argues, it maintains diplomatic relations with the Iraqi government at a time when Shiite forces throughout Iraq are committing “massacres.” He criticizes the Saudis for hosting a conference for Syrian rebels in December, arguing this only served Bashar al Assad’s interests by giving the Syrian dictator an opportunity to stay in power. Qosi complains that the Saudis even support the Lebanese Army despite its close affiliation with Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed terrorist group that is fighting the Sunni jihadists in Syria. And the House of Saud has also supposedly sold out the Palestinian cause by supporting a “two-state solution.”

AQAP’s spokesman chastises the Saudi scholars who refuse to speak out in public against the royals. Al Qaeda knows there are “sincere” men in their ranks, Qosi says, but they keep their criticisms private because they are afraid of the government’s powerful interior ministry. Qosi calls on clerics who are not in the government’s pocket to emulate the example of Sheikh Faris al Zahrani, one of the al Qaeda ideologues executed in early January, and speak out against the royals. Sheikh Faris “took a stand” against the government’s alleged perfidy, Qosi claims, and others should follow suit.

Although al Qaeda initially limited its attacks to the Americans on Saudi soil, the jihadists’ campaign expanded after the 9/11 attacks to include the Saudi security forces and the royals. But Qosi claims that the Saudi government has wrongly blamed al Qaeda for targeting mosques, which is against the organization’s “well-known policies.” (Al Qaeda has repeatedly contrasted its own guidelines for waging jihad with the Islamic State’s tactics. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s men deliberately target mosques, especially Shiite houses of worship, but Ayman al Zawahiri has prohibited his fighters from doing the same.)

Qosi ends his lecture by calling for the youth to join the jihad in Yemen, saying AQAP will “welcome any noble muhajir” (immigrant or foreign fighter) who abandons “the world behind him.”

“We wage jihad” and stand together against the “Crusader-rejectionist [Shiite] campaign,” Qosi says.

Several appearances in AQAP propaganda

Qosi was transferred from Guantanamo to his home country of Sudan in July 2012. His first public appearance as an al Qaeda leader came in a video, “Guardians of Sharia,” which was released online by AQAP in early December. [See LWJ report, Ex-Guantanamo detainee now an al Qaeda leader in Yemen.]

AQAP has released other messages from Qosi since then.

In a message released in mid-December, he congratulated al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Al Murabitoon on their merger. Both groups operate in North and West Africa and were loyal to Zawahiri prior to their unification. They operated under different command structures, however, because AQIM emir Abdulmalek Droukdel and Al Murabitoon leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar had frequent disagreements. Interestingly, Qosi referred to Belmokhtar as being still alive by saying “may Allah preserve him.” Belmokhtar has been reportedly killed on numerous occasions, including in Libya last June. The jihadists, including AQIM, claim he has not perished. And Qosi credited Belmokhtar for Al Murabitoon’s decision to join AQIM, saying he put the interests of the ummah ahead of his own private concerns so that the “Crusader-Shiite” campaign could be confronted with “one sword.”

In addition to praising the AQIM-Al Murabitoon joint venture, Qosi reaffirmed AQAP’s pledge of allegiance (bayat) to Taliban emir Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour and swore to Zawahiri (whom he referred to as “our sheikh”) that AQAP would continue to wage jihad on all fronts.

Qosi also eulogized Abu al Hasan al Bulaydi, a senior AQIM sharia official, in a video released in late December. He lamented Bulaydi’s death as a “great tragedy” and threatened the West.

As The Long War Journal has previously reported, al Qaeda has relocated part of its global management team from South Asia to Yemen. Therefore, some jihadists have been both AQAP leaders and managers in al Qaeda’s global network. It is possible that Qosi, who served directly under Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, is serving in that capacity today.

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

Also see:

AQAP publishes insider’s account of 9/11 plot

Screen-Shot-2016-02-10-at-7.35.56-AM-768x523Long War Journal, BY THOMAS JOSCELYN, February 10, 2016:

Sometime before his death in a US drone strike in June 2015, Nasir al Wuhayshi recorded an insider’s account of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. As the aide-de-camp to Osama bin Laden prior to the hijackings, Wuhayshi was well-placed to know such details. And al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which Wuhayshi led until his demise, has now published a version of his “untold story.”

A transcript of Wuhayshi’s discussion of the 9/11 plot was included in two editions of AQAP’s Al Masra newsletter. The first part was posted online on Jan. 31 and the second on Feb. 9. The summary below is based on the first half of Wuhayshi’s account.

Wuhayshi began by explaining al Qaeda’s rationale for attacking America. Prior to 9/11, the jihadists’ cause was not supported by the Muslim people, because the mujahideen’s “goals” were not widely understood. The jihadists were divided into many groups and fought “tit-for-tat” conflicts “with the tyrants.” (The “tyrants” were the dictators who ruled over many Muslim-majority countries.)

While the mujahideen had some successes, according to Wuhayshi, they were “besieged” by the tyrants until they found some breathing room in Afghanistan. The “sheikhs” studied this situation in meetings held in Kabul and Kandahar, because they wanted to understand why the jihadists were not victorious. And bin Laden concluded they should fight “the more manifest infidel enemy rather than the crueler infidel enemy,” according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal. Wuhayshi explained that the former was the “Crusader-Zionist movement” and the latter were the “apostates” ruling over Muslims.

While waging war against the “apostate” rulers was not likely to engender widespread support, no “two people” would “disagree” with the necessity of fighting “the Jews and Christians.” If you fight the “apostate governments in your land,” Wuhayshi elaborated, then everyone – the Muslim people, Islamic movements, and even jihadists – would be against you because they all have their own “priorities.” Divisions within the jihadists’ ranks only exacerbated the crisis, as even the mujahideen in their home countries could refuse to fight.

Wuhayshi then cited Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi, a prominent pro-al Qaeda ideologue, who warned that the “capability” to wage “combat” in Muslim-majority countries did “not yet exist.” So, for instance, if al Qaeda launched a “jihad against the House of Saud,” then “many jihadist movements” would oppose this decision. Al Qaeda’s fellow travelers would protest that they were “incapable” of defeating the Saudi government. And these jihadists would complain they did not want to “wage the battle prematurely,” or become entangled “in a difficult situation.”

For these reasons and more, according to Wuhayshi, bin Laden decided to “battle the more manifest enemy,” because “the people” would agree that the US “is an enemy” and this approach would not sow “discord and suspicion among the people.” Bin Laden believed that the “Islamic movement” would stand with al Qaeda “against the infidels.”

Wuhayshi’s explanation of bin Laden’s reasoning confirms that attacking the US was not al Qaeda’s end goal. It was a tactic, or a step, that bin Laden believed could unite the jihadists behind a common purpose and garner more popular support from “the people.”

Not all jihadists agreed with bin Laden’s strategy. In February 1998, bin Laden launched a “Global Islamic Front for Waging Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders.” Wuhayshi claimed that a “majority of the groups agreed to” the initiative, but some, like the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), opposed it. (However, some senior LIFG members were folded into al Qaeda.)

Gamaa Islamiya (IG), an Egyptian group, initially agreed to join the venture, but ultimately rejected it. As did other groups in the Arab Magreb, according to Wuhayshi. (Some senior IG leaders remained close to al Qaeda and eventually joined the organization.)

Although Wuhayshi claimed that a “majority” of jihadist organizations agreed with bin Laden’s proposal, only three ideologues joined bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri in signing the front’s infamous first fatwa.

In August 1998, just months after the “Global Islamic Front” was established, al Qaeda struck the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. According to Wuhayshi, bin Laden held a series of meetings around this time, as he sought to convince as many people as possible that attacking America was the right course. Some jihadists objected, believing it would ensnare them in a trap. But bin Laden pressed forward, telling those who didn’t agree that they wanted to fight “lackeys” without confronting “the father of the lackeys.” Al Qaeda’s path “will lead to a welcome conclusion,” Wuhayshi quoted bin Laden as saying.

The “initiative against the Crusaders continued” after the US Embassy bombings, Wuhayshi said, and the number of people who supported it increased “dramatically.” During this period, the “Global Islamic Front” launched operations against the “Crusaders” on the ground and at sea, but the idea to strike “from the air with planes” had not yet been conceived.

The origins of the 9/11 plot

Wuhayshi traced the genesis of the 9/11 plot to both Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), who would come to be known as the “mastermind” of the operation.

But he also credited Abdullah Azzam for popularizing the concept of martyrdom in the first place. Azzam was killed in 1989, but is still revered as the godfather of modern jihadism. After the mujahideen had defeated the Soviets in Afghanistan, they considered “hitting the Americans,” Wuhayshi claimed. Azzam “spoke harshly about the Western military camp.” Azzam also “introduced” the jihadists to a “new tactic.” Wuhayshi recommended that people listen to Azzam’s “final speech,” in which he reportedly said: “God gave me life in order to transform you into bombs.”

Years later, on Oct. 31, 1999, bin Laden watched as the co-pilot of EgyptAir Flight 990 crashed the jet into the Atlantic Ocean, killing more than 200 people on board. Bin Laden, according to Wuhayshi, wondered why the co-pilot didn’t fly the plane into buildings. After this, Wuhayshi claimed, the basic idea for 9/11 had been planted in bin Laden’s mind.

In reality, the EgyptAir crash came after the outline of the 9/11 plot had been already sketched. For instance, the 9/11 Commission found that KSM “presented a proposal for an operation that would involve training pilots who would crash planes into buildings in the United States” as early as 1996. “This proposal eventually would become the 9/11 operation.” In March or April 1999, according to the Commission’s final report, bin Laden “summoned KSM to Kandahar…to tell him that al Qaeda would support his proposal,” which was referred to as the “planes operation.”

Indeed, Wuhayshi recounted how KSM and his nephew, Ramzi Yousef, plotted to attack multiple airliners in the mid-1990s. In the so-called Bojinka plot, KSM and Yousef even conceived a plan to blow up as many as one dozen airliners. Wuhayshi recalled how Yousef placed a bomb on board one jet as part of a test run. Their plot failed and Yousef was later captured in Pakistan. Yousef has been incarcerated for two decades after being convicted by an American court for his role in Bojinka and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Wuhayshi prayed for his release.

Wuhayshi told a story that, if true, means KSM had dreamed of attacking the US since his youth. When he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait, KSM wrote a play in which a character “ponders how to down an American aircraft.” Wuhayshi claimed to have searched for this play online, but he and another “brother” failed to find it.

Still, Wuhayshi insisted that KSM wrote the play, showing he was already thinking of ways to strike America as a young man.

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

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.

***

Uncovered: Bin Laden Concerned About Reformist Muslims

Osama Bin Laden

Osama Bin Laden

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro. June 2, 2015:

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a list of declassified letters and open-source reading material found inside Osama Bin Laden’s Pakistan compound. Among the items were documents that likely include the name of Clarion Project counter-terrorism analyst Ryan Mauro and other files indicating that the Al-Qaeda chief was concerned about modernist Muslim reformers.

Three of the 10 miscellaneous documents that were retrieved are from the 2007 Intelligence Summit held in St. Petersburg, Florida, specifically the conference advertising, exhibitor prospectus and participants map. As one of the featured speakers, Mauro’s name and biography would be in the material. The event was billed as the most prestigious intelligence conference in the country.

It is unclear why the event caught Bin Laden’s attention but it was likely the section of the event called the Secular Islam Summit, which featured anti-Islamist Muslims and former Muslims calling for a reformation in Islam in accordance with secular-democracy and modern human rights. The Summit unveiled the St. Petersburg Declaration rejecting Sharia governance and Islamism.

Muslim speakers at the event included Iranian activist Manda Zand Ervin who is featured in our film, Honor Diaries; Dr. Tawfik Hamid, a former associate of current Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri;  Tashbih Sayyed, editor-in-chief of Pakistan Today and The Muslim World Today; Hasan Mahmud of the Free Muslims Coalition, Jordanian writer Shaker al-Nabulsi and Iraqi politician Mithal al-Alusi.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity and designated terrorist group by the United Arab Emirates, attacked the Secular Islam Summit.

CAIR board chairman Parvez Ahmed claimed it had no legitimacy and inaccurately characterized its speakers as entirely former Muslims and foes of Islam. CAIR criticized the event for drawing a connection between Islamic teachings and terrorism and accused it of promoting Islamophobia.

Genieve Abdo, a keynote speaker at a CAIR fundraiser, took CAIR’s stance in the Washington Post. She applauded CAIR for having “denounced any notion of a Reformation as another attempt by the West to impose its history and philosophy on the Islamic world.”

Abdo argued that CAIR is more representative of Muslims and so the Secular Islam Summit should be dismissed. She also cited another curious figure as a preferable source over the Summit’s: The radical imam of New York-based Masjid at-Taqwa, Siraj Wahhaj.

Abdo portrayed Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood as the future of Islam. She advised the West to accept that its “hopes for full integration by Muslims in the West are unlikely to be realized and that the future of the Islamic world will be much more Islamic than Western.”

“The political future of the Arab world is likely to consist of Islamic parties that are far less tolerant of what has historically been the U.S. foreign policy agenda in the region and that domestically are far more committed to implementing sharia law in varying degrees,” Abdo wrote.

Bin Laden’s bookshelf also included a RAND Corporation study titled Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources and Strategies by Cheryl Benard. It concluded that U.S. should support Muslim modernists first; support Muslim traditionalists against the fundamentalists; confront and oppose fundamentalists and selectively support secularists.

Bin Laden either requested these materials about Muslim movements against Islamism or his closest aides felt they would peak his interest. At the very least, he was not dismissive of their significance otherwise they would not have invested time to retrieve and presumably review them.

If the highest echelons of Al-Qaeda viewed anti-Islamist Muslim activists as worth paying attention to, then so should we.

****

Here are the videos of the conference: (Playlist)

Secular Islam Summit – Press Conference PT1

Secular Islam Summit – Press Conference PT2

Secular Islam Summit Panel 1 Pt1

Secular Islam Summit Panel 1 Pt2

Secular Islam Summit Panel 2 Pt1

Secular Islam Summit Panel 2 Pt2

Secular Islam Summit Panel 2 Pt3

Secular Islam Summit Panel 3 Pt1

Secular Islam Summit Panel 3 Pt2

Secular Islam Summit Panel 4 pt 1

Secular Islam Summit Panel 4 pt 2

Secular Islam Summit Panel 4 pt 3

Secular Islam Summit – Panel 5 PT1

Secular Islam Summit – Panel 5 PT2

Secular Islam Summit – Panel 5 PT3

Yemen isn’t on Verge of Civil War, It Already is – And Saudi Arabia Will Get Involved

March 21, 2015: Members of a militia group loyal to Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, known as the Popular Committees, chew qat as they sit next to their tank, guarding a major intersection in Aden, Yemen. (AP)

March 21, 2015: Members of a militia group loyal to Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, known as the Popular Committees, chew qat as they sit next to their tank, guarding a major intersection in Aden, Yemen. (AP)

March 25, 2015 / /

Once again the American media is a day late and a dollar short in covering foreign policy matters. Now every major media outlet in the country is openly asking the question of whether or not Yemen is “on the edge of a civil war.” The problem with that is they’re still behind the power curve. Why? Because Yemen already is in a civil war and it has been going on for the last several months, only you wouldn’t guess from American media outlets since they were focused on more important things like Bruce Jenner’s transition into “womanhood” – but we digress. Follow-on forces continue to be flown into Taiz for the main Houthi push to take Aden, which we assess can begin within days. This will be a multi-pronged offensive, as we’re already seeing with forces elsewhere moving to isolate pro-Hadi forces in other areas. Hadi’s forces were able to temporarily halt the Houthi advance – although this will change as Hadi’s forces continue to get worn down. Those areas weren’t even one of the major objectives. If anything the forces currently advancing have the port of al-Mukha as one of their primary objectives prior to the main push for Aden being initiated.

What Yemen’s Coming Apart at the Seams Means to Arabian Peninsula

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=5737

Forces Loyal to President Hadi Halt Houthi Push Towards Yemen’s Aden

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/mideast/hadi-forces-check-houthi-push-towards-yemens-aden-n329681

hadi faction

Pro-Hadi forces manning a checkpoint in Aden
Source: al-Jazeera

The Gulf nations led by Saudi Arabia are reported to have agreed to a possible deployment of ground troops to support Hadi’s faction and confront the growing Iranian influence on the Arabian Peninsula. The Gulf nations had previously sent a multi-nation ground force to support the Bahraini government against Iranian proxies a few years ago, so there’s a precedence for this sort of thing. Also, Saudi Arabia has waged limited air campaigns along the Yemeni border off and on in the past for lesser reasons. The current buildup of Saudi ground forces suggests that they may be planning a proactive defense of the border region to keep the Houthis on their side of the border, but will likely initiate a ground campaign if Aden is perceived to be on the verge of falling – which might happen in the coming days. We assess that the violence will exceed anything the Saudis dealt with in previous operations that they conducted against the Houthis in 2009 and 2010. If it comes to that (and let’s be honest, does anybody truly think “negotiations” with Iran and its proxies will succeed?), we expect the initial ground deployments to consist of SOF personnel to perform an advise and assist role. That ground presence will likely grow in both role and numbers as the violence continues to escalate. Currently, the Saudis are providing financial support to Hadi’s faction and may be looking to provide lethal aid to keep the loyal military units in Aden propped up.

Saudis Vow “Necessary Measures” in Yemen if Peace Talks Fail

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/8b9fa25a-d17f-11e4-86c8-00144feab7de.html#axzz3VMsKd8Ml

Exclusive: Saudi Arabia building up military near Yemen border – U.S. officials

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/24/us-yemen-security-usa-saudi-idUSKBN0MK2S120150324

Gulf states send forces to Bahrain following protests

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-12729786

Analysis: What is behind Saudi offensive in Yemen

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/saudi-arabia/091114/saudi-arabia-offensive-yemen-houthis

Saudi Forces Bomb Yemeni Rebels on Southern Border

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB125746088928732009

KSA capable of deterring attackers: Saudi King

http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2009/11/08/90588.html

Saudi jets bomb Yemeni Houthis

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2009/11/20091151323886933.html

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The Saudi Army: Ready to rock and roll
Source: thefewgoodmen.com

Saudi Arabia’s actions are hardly surprising given the clear and present threat the Iranian regime and its proxies pose to the region. Houthi fighters are reportedly serving in the ranks of the Iranian regime’s “Foreign Legion” known as the Liwa Abu Fadl al-Abbas (LAFA) in Syria against anti-Assad forces. Those Houthi fighters reportedly received pre-deployment training at Hezbollah camps in Lebanon much like Iraqi proxies such as Kitab Hezbollah (KH) and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS). Should the Saudis get involved militarily, and we think its only a matter of time before they do, we could very well see the Houthis applying what they learned from that Hezbollah training. We’ll also likely see more from the IRGC-Qods Force and its proxies like what we saw in 2009 with Hezbollah operatives shot down a Yemeni fighter jet in 2009. Its been a few years since that incident and the Iranian regime now has firm control of Sanaa’s international airport with regular flights coming and going between there and Tehran – meaning more weapons (and Qods Force personnel) are being brought into the fight.

Iranian Regime Consolidates Houthi Gains, Begins Work Forming Houthi Intel Proxy

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=5580

Yemen’s Houthi Rebels: The Hand of Iran?

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1992

Shia Proxy Threat to US ISIS Strategy in Saudi Arabia

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1837

Yemeni Fighter Planes Shot down by Hezbollah’s Elements

http://www.yemenpost.net/Detail123456789.aspx?ID=3&SubID=1391

Syrian Army Takes Advantage of US Airstrikes in Counter-Offensive

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=2788

hezbollah_24 mar

Hezbollah has been operating in Yemen for several years now – and their OP-Tempo is steadily increasing
Source: al-akhbar.com

As of this writing Hadi has the support of roughly 5,000 Yemeni Army personnel against a Houthi force numbering from 13,000-15,000 men. Those pro-Hadi Army personnel suffer from a lack of ammo, equipment and poor morale, so its debatable just how long they can hold out with no external support – which is a big reason why we assess the Saudis will become more involved. Here, air support will be key for both sides and the Saudis and UAE will be the most likely participants of any Gulf-led air campaign. However, the Saudis are not as capable as their UAE counterparts in terms of conducting sustained external operations.

Forming the bulk of Hadi’s supporters are the “Popular Committees” led by Abdul-Latif al-Sayid al-Bafqeeh. His faction had been working closely with the military in combatting AQAP in the Abyan-area when the Houthis launched their offensive to take Sanaa. Hadi didn’t order his security forces to combat the Houthis when they stormed Sanaa because he couldn’t trust his own men and didn’t know how strong his support was in the capital – which ultimately led to his and several Arab nations’ diplomatic missions being relocated to Aden. Bafqeeh is considered a local hero in the South for his opposition to AQAP and the Houthis. Although his estimated 6,700-man force adds much-needed bodies to Hadi’s beleaguered loyalist Army force, they’re not as well-trained as former President Saleh’s forces or even the Houthis. These Popular Committees were able to keep the Houthis from seizing Aden’s airport and are currently engaged in several battles north of the city – but they’re plagued by the same ammo and equipment shortage as the pro-Hadi Army units. There’s also some questions regarding Bafqeeh’s true allegiances, as he’s previously worked with AQAP when Saleh was in power. He claims to have left the group due to the leadership refusing to provide sufficient financial support. He also had this rather interesting comment when describing his reasons for his previous AQAP associations:

“when the regime was oppressive and brutal … People then joined al-Qaida to avenge themselves against the government. I and my men pulled out before we got involved with them.”

This pretty much cuts to the heart of what we’ve been saying about AQAP and the Islamic State (IS) being viewed more favorably by a local populace who feel threatened by the Iranian regime – which is every bit as bad as the two Sunni jihadist organizations. The problem with Bafqeeh is that he’s already shown that his allegiances are subject to change – so what will happen should IS offer him cash incentives to pledge allegiance to Baghdadi like they have with others? Something to think about as the Saudis ramp up their lethal aid to the Pro-Hadi crew. This will become a bigger factor later on as IS continues to gain more momentum in follow-on attacks to last week’s Sanaa Mosque bombings, especially if Hadi’s faction becomes even more weakened than it is. They have everybody’s attention now, and are fashioning themselves as the “protectors of the Sunni populace” against the Iranian regime. In the end people are people and like everybody else, the Yemeni Sunnis want to be part of a “winner.” Unfortunately, the factions they view as being the “strongest” just might be AQAP and IS.

abdul

Abdul-Latif al-Sayid al-Bafqeeh
Source: Associated Press

This great news for Iran’s strategic campaign to dominate the Middle East as it allows the Qods Force’s objective of forcing Saudi Arabia and the terror financiers residing there to divert resources from the anti-Assad war effort in Syria back closer to home. Control of key Yemeni real estate also allows the Iranian regime to have more options in disrupting international shipping if they so desire. Using Sanaa as a major support hub, the Qods Force and Hezbollah will be able to provide greater levels of material support to cells operating inside Saudi Arabia to destabilize the new King’s government while targeting IS support nodes throughout the country. With all the fighting taking place in the country, if this isn’t a civil war already, then what is it? Now think about this – President Obama’s “Yemen Success Story” being touted as the “model for future operations in the War Against Terror” has seen millions of dollars in equipment “disappearing,” Hadi being run out of the capital, parliament dissolved, US embassy evacuated and the last of our troops pulled out of the country. The cherry on top is that IS now has a foothold in the country and Iran emerged as the big winner by supporting terrorism and fomenting regional unrest. What we’re seeing in Yemen is Iran exporting their “Islamic Revolution” to the Arabian Peninsula by implementing the “Lebanon Model.” We were also told during the 2008 US Presidential election that he was going to “fundamentally transform America – and the world.” Is this the “fundamental transformation” he was talking about?

A veteran militia leader in southern Yemen emerges as key ally of president against rebels

http://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2015/03/24/in-south-yemen-a-militia-leader-is-presidents-top-ally?page=2

BRIEF CLASHES IN ADEN AS POPULAR COMMITTEES SET UP CHECKPOINTS

http://www.yementimes.com/en/1861/news/4902/Brief-clashes-in-Aden-as-popular-committees-set-up-checkpoints.htm

YEMEN’S USE OF MILITIAS TO MAINTAIN STABILITY IN ABYAN PROVINCE

https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/yemens-use-of-militias-to-maintain-stability-in-abyan-province

Millions in U.S. military equipment lost as Yemen heads down Syria’s path

http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2015/03/24/millions-in-u-s-military-equipment-lost-as-yemen-heads-down-syrias-path/

UPDATE – Reporting that just broke a little while ago suggests that Hadi fled his Aden-based residence. No word yet on his current whereabouts, but if he leaves the country, he could be making a mad dash for either Saudi Arabia or UAE. Should that happen, it would signal the Saudis to initiate the first phase of their military intervention. Oh, and the airfield our troops were stationed at has fallen to the Houthis now. More to follow…

Officials tell AP: Yemen president flees Aden home

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/c55bb2a7eabe4311b2eb40ba1c3f2abd/report-rebels-seize-yemen-air-base-used-al-qaida-fight

Other Related Articles:

Poised to Fill Yemen’s Power Vacuum – Iran Tightens Grip on the Peninsula

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4517

The Islamic State’s Arabian Peninsula Campaign

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4558

President Obama’s Yemen “Success” Story

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4751

IRGC-Qods Force: The Arabian Peninsula Campaign and the Failure of Obama’s Foreign Policy

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4478

Obama Peddles Osama’s Propaganda

The Blaze, by Benjamin Weingarten, March 20, 2015:

Without America there would be no Islamic State.

Indeed, without America there would have been no Cold War. Without the Cold War there would have been no need to arm and train the Mujahideen against the Soviets. Without the Mujahideen there would have been no Al Qaeda. Without Al Qaeda there would have been no Iraq War. And without the Iraq War there would have been no Islamic State. Or as President Barack Obama put it:

ISIL is a direct outgrowth of Al Qaeda in Iraq which grew out of our invasion which is an example of unintended consequences which is why we should generally aim before we shoot.

Such is the pretzel logic to which one must subscribe if one is to believe the president.

Which is to say that Barack Obama’s argument during a recent interview with VICE News is patently absurd.

(Image Source: VICE News/YouTube screengrab)

(Image Source: VICE News/YouTube screengrab)

But there is something worse than the absurdity of the president’s remarks, his implicit banal Bush-bashing and unwillingness or inability to ever take responsibility for anything – the least of which includes his failure to negotiate a status of forces agreement with Iraq.

President Obama’s argument in the main is that America’s actions in the Middle East create terrorists. But by invoking “blowback,” he is parroting precisely the propaganda that Al Qaeda, Islamic State and other jihadist groups want us to repeat, while ignoring the self-evident truth that their actions come not from without but from within. In so doing, as when he raised the scepter of The Crusades, the president provides a veneer of legitimacy and even moral standing to genocidal Islamic supremacists who seek to destroy Western civilization and create a global caliphate.

The words of Osama bin Laden himself are germane to this argument. Witness what Al Qaeda’s godfather said during a May 1998 interview with ABC’s John Miller:

The call to wage war against America was made because America has spear-headed the crusade against the Islamic nation, sending tens of thousands of its troops to the land of the two Holy Mosques over and above its meddling in its affairs and its politics, and its support of the oppressive, corrupt and tyrannical regime that is in control. These are the reasons behind the singling out of America as a target.

…The wrongs and the crimes committed against the Muslim nation are far greater than can be covered by this interview. America heads the list of aggressors against Muslims.

…They rip us of our wealth and of our resources and of our oil. Our religion is under attack. They kill and murder our brothers. They compromise our honor and our dignity and dare we utter a single word of protest against the injustice, we are called terrorists. This is compounded injustice.

In a particularly nauseating portion of the interview in which Miller implores bin Laden to “give us the true picture that clarifies your viewpoint” – as opposed to the “distorted picture of Islam, Muslims and of Islamic fighters” presented by “American politicians,” bin Laden continues [emphasis added]:

The leaders in America and in other countries as well have fallen victim to Jewish Zionist blackmail. They have mobilized their people against Islam and against Muslims. These are portrayed in such a manner as to drive people to rally against them. The truth is that the whole Muslim world is the victim of international terrorism, engineered by America at the United Nations. We are a nation whose sacred symbols have been looted and whose wealth and resources have been plundered. It is normal for us to react against the forces that invade our land and occupy it.

Ignored however is the rest of bin Laden’s message [emphasis added]:

…[O]ur call is the call of Islam that was revealed to Mohammed. It is a call to all mankind. We have been entrusted with good cause to follow in the footsteps of the Messenger and to communicate his message to all nations.

…In our religion, we believe that Allah has created us for the purpose of worshipping him. He is the one who has created us and who has favored us with this religion. Allah has ordered us to make holy wars and to fight to see to it that His word is the highest and the uppermost and that of the unbelievers the lowermost. We believe that this is the call we have to answer regardless of our financial capabilities.

This too answers the claims of the West and of the secular people in the Arab world. They claim that this blessed awakening and the people reverting to Islam are due to economic factors. This is not so. It is rather a grace from Allah, a desire to embrace the religion of Allah.

…I am one of the servants of Allah. We do our duty of fighting for the sake of the religion of Allah. It is also our duty to send a call to all the people of the world to enjoy this great light and to embrace Islam and experience the happiness in Islam. Our primary mission is nothing but the furthering of this religion.

This bin Laden interview is crucial because it illustrates the two-sided nature of Al Qaeda’s rhetoric and the rhetoric of jihadists more broadly — appealing on the one hand to the West’s materialism, and on the other to the Middle East’s idealism.

Indeed one of the primary but underappreciated elements of the global jihad is the subtle psychological warfare in which bin Laden engages above by way of the materialist argument.

Understanding the West’s unhealthy sense of guilt and shame, bin Laden portrays jihadists as the oppressed to our oppressor, the victim to our aggressor. Bin Laden knew that repeating such arguments — regardless of their veracity — would have a profound effect on the Western consciousness over time.

Conversely, playing on our moral relativism, multiculturalism and religious tolerance, bin Laden knew that we would fail to internalize his idealist worldview: A worldview formed by the Islamic doctrine that animates jihadists and lays bare their goals, strategies and tactics.

We have accepted the former (materialism) but ignored the latter (idealism), which explains in part why we are losing to the global jihad.

If you disagree with this assertion, consider that we in the West ask “Why do they hate us?” We search in vain for “root causes” of radicalization, and tell ourselves that a group that calls itself Islamic State and follows Muhammad literally perverts Islam or has nothing to do with it at all.

Meanwhile, our enemies self-identify as Islamic jihadists — a jihad compelled by the corpus of Islamic texts – whose end goal is to make the entire world submit to Allah’s rule.

President Obama either out of political correctness, ignorance or a more nefarious impulse damages America’s cause by parroting the victomology that Osama bin Laden knew Western progressives would buy hook, line and sinker.

He gives credence to our enemies’ arguments while implementing an agenda ostensibly to combat them wholly consonant with such a worldview, and thereby wholly ineffectual.

This is the far more consequential and far more dangerous takeaway from the president’s interview than the tired invocation of “Bush’s fault” that Obama’s critics have harped on.