17 Years After 9/11, Al-Qaeda Boasts ‘Strongest Fighting Force in Its Existence

RAMI AL-SAYED/AFP/Getty Images

Breitbart, by John Hayward, September 11, 2018:

Seventeen years after it perpetrated the September 11 terrorist attack, al-Qaeda is arguably stronger and better-positioned than ever.

The consensus on al-Qaeda’s strength among terrorism experts is a sobering rebuke to the notion that al-Qaeda was dealt a mortal wound when its founder Osama bin Laden was killed in May 2011.

Al-Qaeda’s health is measured by three vital statistics: its military strength, its ideological strength, and the size of its sphere of influence. All three of those metrics were unfortunately boosted as an inevitable side effect of the Western war against al-Qaeda’s chief rival, the Islamic State. Al-Qaeda picked up recruits, forged new alliances, and won its ideological argument with its rabid ISIS offshoot as the Islamic State “caliphate” was destroyed.

Al-Qaeda made sure it was perfectly positioned to pick up the pieces after the ISIS caliphate exploded. It exploited the dramatic discrediting of the Islamic State, which advocated seizing and holding vast amounts of territory to forge an apocalyptic Islamist nation-state that could be targeted and destroyed by mighty Western military forces – not to mention various othermuch more well-established Islamist nation-states threatened by the Islamic State’s existence, such as Iran.

An assessment at the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday found al-Qaeda boasting the “largest fighting force in its existence.”

“Estimates say it may have more than 20,000 militants in Syria and Yemen alone. It boasts affiliates across North Africa, the Levant (including Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon) and parts of Asia, and it remains strong around the Afghanistan-Pakistan border,” the SMH reported.

Al-Qaeda has done fairly well for itself in Syria, amassing weapons and trained fighters through its network of allies, exploiting both the war against the Islamic State and the bloody chaos of the horrendous Syrian civil war.

At the peak of its power in 2015, al-Qaeda was able to instantly dismantle and disarm the absurdly small “moderate” rebel force President Barack Obama sent into Syria with American training and weapons. Times are harder for al-Qaeda franchisees in Syria these days, but the international organization got what it wanted from the conflict and continues ruthlessly exploiting the ugly truth that it was always one of the few enemies of dictator Bashar Assad’s regime with significant battlefield power. Assad and his allies routinely accuse the West of aiding and abetting terrorists by prolonging the insurrection and dismiss all enemies of the regime as “terrorists.”

Al-Qaeda is very strong in Yemen and Libya – strong enough in Yemen to convince the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-backed Houthi insurgency to pay off al-Qaeda fighters instead of engaging them in combat. Here again, al-Qaeda has cunningly positioned itself as the lesser of two evils, and perhaps even an ally of the United States and its coalition against a more pressing military threat.

“Elements of the U.S. military are clearly aware that much of what the U.S. is doing in Yemen is aiding AQAP and there is much angst about that. However, supporting the UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia against what the U.S. views as Iranian expansionism takes priority over battling AQAP and even stabilizing Yemen,” Jamestown Foundation fellow Michael Horton told the Associated Press in August.

The AP noted that al-Qaeda forces that struck deals with the advancing Saudi coalition have been allowed to fall back with “weapons, equipment, and wads of looted cash.” Some al-Qaeda fighters have been actively recruited by the anti-Houthi operation, according to the AP’s sources. Such arrangements risk providing al-Qaeda with even more valuable military training, and possibly hardware, not to mention mixing subversive elements into Arab military units.

In Libya, al-Qaeda swiftly exploited the chaos unleashed by President Barack Obama’s invasion and the fall of dictator Moammar Qaddafi – who was, despite his many, many flaws, a critic of Osama bin Laden and paranoid about the threat jihadi groups like al-Qaeda posed to his power.

The U.S. military has been working with the internationally-recognized government of Libya – which controls only a portion of the country – to conduct airstrikes against al-Qaeda targets.

The Islamist contagion from Libya has been spreading across Africa, prompting an American response described as a “shadow war” largely invisible to the public until U.S. troops were killed in a terrorist ambush in Niger.

Al-Qaeda’s splinter group Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (literally, “The Group to Support Islam and Muslims”) is one of the major regional threats. It was officially designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. government last week. The huge new American drone base under construction in Niger will be capable of launching strikes into Libya against al-Qaeda and other jihadi groups.

Al-Qaeda retains a dangerous presence in Iraq, thanks in part to a political strategy similar to the one it followed in Yemen and Libya, presenting itself to locals and government officials as an alternative to ISIS and Iran-backed Shiite militia. Constant ISIS threats to reorganize in Syria and Iraq help to drag the spotlight away from al-Qaeda’s stealthier activities. It is not easy to tell where ISIS ends and al-Qaeda begins in Iraq, which was the scene of the al-Qaeda schism that created the Islamic State.

The al-Qaeda network even has tentacles in Iran, where some of the group’s leaders fled after the Taliban lost control of Afghanistan. Questions about how much help the Iranian government gave al-Qaeda or whether Tehran actively cooperates with the terrorist network are hotly debated.

Al-Qaeda’s strategic alliances have proven more useful and durable than the Islamic State’s frenzied efforts to pressure jihadi groups into pledging allegiance. The most infamous of these allies, the Taliban of Afghanistan, have endured 17 years of U.S. and allied military operations and currently control at least a quarter of the country.

The Taliban is very close to achieving one of its major objectives: direct talks with the U.S. government. It is difficult to imagine a negotiated peace with the Taliban that would not infuse the Afghan constitution with their ideology and put Taliban members in top government and military positions, which are both highly desirable outcomes for al-Qaeda. A United Nations panel confirmed in June that al-Qaeda remains closely allied with the Taliban. The Afghan group’s stubborn refusal to abandon al-Qaeda under decades of immense Western military pressure greatly enhances the prestige of the international terrorist organization.

Al-Qaeda’s allies in Somalia, al-Shabaab, are such an active threat that American forces have been obliged to bomb them as well. Over twenty U.S. airstrikes have been conducted against al-Shabaab in Somalia this year, a significant increase in operational tempo since the end of the Obama administration. Somalia is one of the few African theaters where the Trump administration openly plans to maintain a U.S. military presence.

Al-Qaeda’s ideological threat is the most difficult aspect of the group’s persistence for Western analysts and policymakers to discuss. Simply put, the past 17 years have conclusively disproved the old bromide that al-Qaeda and its allies were a “tiny minority of extremists” that “hijacked” the religion of Islam. We may hope they remain a minority and they certainly are extreme, but they definitely are not “tiny.”

The Taliban’s persistence is an instructive example of the strength of al-Qaeda’s religious ideology. The Taliban have been fighting a brutal war of attrition against Afghan security forces and American troops for almost two decades. They usually suffer at least as many casualties as they inflict, but they have no difficulty recruiting fresh troops. It is likewise difficult to point to an area where al-Qaeda is having trouble replenishing its manpower.

In other theaters, al-Qaeda appears to be enjoying considerable success at recruiting former members of the Islamic State and its allied organizations, themselves persistent despite defeats in Syria and Iraq that would seem to demolish their claim to preside over a caliphate.

There is little evidence that jihadi groups activated by bin Laden’s network are growing discouraged and giving up the fight; instead, they look for better leadership when their old gang is beaten. Al-Qaeda’s growing influence in Asia is grim evidence that their appeal extends beyond Arabs. Conventional wisdom in the West now holds that “nation-building” is sheer folly in any theater where al-Qaeda or its offshoots have a strong presence – which is another way of conceding that its jihad ideology is too popular to extinguish by defeating its armed forces or killing its leaders, and it is too strong for moderate Muslim political leaders to overwhelm.

If there is any good news in this grim picture of al-Qaeda’s strength in 2018, it is that Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network has endured and prospered largely by abandoning flashy big-ticket terrorist attacks like 9/11. Analysts routinely credit al-Qaeda’s relative subtlety, its interest in developing political strength, and long-term alliances instead of drawing attention to itself as ISIS does for its survival.

The question is how long al-Qaeda will be content to fight its adversaries in the Middle East and Asia instead of slaughtering American and European civilians. The United Nations warned in August that al-Qaeda, under the leadership of Osama bin Laden’s vengeful son Hamza, could become a more active global threat as ISIS fades and its fighters migrate back to their parent organization. Al-Qaeda does hold territory in places like Libya and Yemen, giving it the kind of money, recruiting appeal, and striking power that made ISIS so dangerous.

An Arab News assessment on Monday of the strategic threat posed by al-Qaeda pointed out that al-Qaeda could be waiting for some of the Islamic State’s key allies in Africa, Egypt, and Pakistan to switch allegiance back to them before making big global moves:

It is obvious that Al-Qaeda has been largely left alone in recent years, as global and regional powers vented their anger against Daesh, which was undoubtedly a bigger and more immediate threat. But the situation could change if Al-Qaeda is able to undertake new attacks, particularly against the US and its Western allies. That it has failed to do so until now was primarily due to its declining power and failure to attract more recruits

Al-Qaeda’s strength and sophistication are undeniable. They are playing a much longer game than the Islamic State, and they have learned to play it carefully – but eventually, they will make more aggressive moves, because they still believe making war against the West is necessary.

Seventeen years after 9/11, America endures. So does the enemy.

The FBI still hasn’t found these 9/11-era terrorists

Still at large are al Qaeda boss Ayman al-Zawahiri and fellow terrorist Saif al-Adel.

New York Post, by Paul Sperry, September 8, 2018:

After 9/11, the FBI warned the public about a number of potential terrorists they believed were being groomed for an encore attack. The feds described them as “the next Mohamed Atta” and put them on their Most Wanted Terrorists list. Today, these dangerous suspects remain on that same list and are still at large. Yet oddly, the FBI no longer talks about them.

The only thing that’s changed, besides the descriptions of their appearances, is that the FBI is now offering bigger rewards for them, along with several key al Qaeda leaders also still on the loose.

Families of 9/11 victims want to know why, after two wars costing trillions of dollars, do we appear no closer to capturing these top terrorists? Did the FBI stop hunting for them? Has it given up hope of finding them?

Terrorism experts are equally troubled by the delay in bringing them to justice.

“I’m concerned about these individuals still being at large,” said Philip Haney, former Department of Homeland Security counterterrorism analyst. “It should be the government’s top priority to locate and apprehend them.”

One would-be terrorist who was said to be planning to lead another attack on the US, following in the footsteps of 9/11 ringleader Atta, is the English-speaking Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, who spent time in Florida before fleeing the country in the wake of the attacks.

The Saudi-born suspect, also known as “Jaffar the Pilot,” is still featured prominently on the FBI’s website as a Most Wanted Terrorist. (The bureau has added a “digitally enhanced” photograph of Shukrijumah sporting a full Islamic beard.) In 2010, the feds indicted the 43-year-old for his alleged role in a 2009 plot to attack New York’s subway system.

The FBI believes Shukrijumah is helping run al Qaeda’s operations from Pakistan, while Islamabad claims its military killed him years ago. Considering that Pakistan has lied before about killing al Qaeda members — and about harboring Osama bin Laden — US officials are dubious of its claim.

FBI headquarters confirmed the Shukrijumah case remains open and that counterterrorism agents are still hunting for the indicted fugitive.

“The cases you mention remain open, active FBI investigations with large rewards continuing to be available to those who provide information about the cases mentioned,” said Michelle Goldschen of the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs in Washington.

Shukrijumah also has New York connections. His late father served as a translator for the “Blind Sheik,” Omar Abdel Rahman, at his mosque in Brooklyn before he was imprisoned for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and other terrorist plots.

After 9/11, the US government fingered the street-smart Shukrijumah as the ultimate al Qaeda “sleeper agent,” and potentially more dangerous than even Atta. In fact, he was said to have been handpicked by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, aka KSM, to carry out an encore plot to detonate nuclear devices in several US cities simultaneously.

Today, his mentor KSM is locked up at Gitmo, where he awaits punishment for his crimes — which frustrates 9/11 survivors to no end.

“When you consider the US government’s absolute ineptitude and abject failure to prosecute those they currently already have in custody in Gitmo — where they’re still in the pretrial phase 17 years after the attacks — you have to wonder whether, perhaps, the US government has just done a cost-benefit analysis and determined that it’s not quite worth their time to bring any al Qaeda terrorists to justice or provide a modicum of accountability and closure to the innocent victims of terrorism,” said Kristen Breitweiser, who lost her husband, Ronald, in the World Trade Center’s south tower.

Another potentially dangerous suspect still eluding authorities is Abderraouf Jdey. Also known as Faruq al-Tunisi, he is a trained pilot who has a Canadian passport and was said to be slated for a “second wave” of suicide attacks after 9/11. He was identified in martyrdom videos recovered in Afghanistan.

An FBI poster places a $5 million bounty on Jdey’s head and includes a photo “retouched” to show how the 53-year-old might look today. The New York field office is handling tips on Jdey, along with Shukrijumah. (Unlike Shukrijumah, Jdey has not been indicted in absentia.)

Then there are the still-at-large al Qaeda leaders Saif al-Adel, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah and Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The trio was listed among the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists after 9/11 and the three remain there today — in spite of $10 million rewards for information leading to the capture of both al-Adel and Abdullah and an additional $25 million bounty for Zawahiri. Just last month, the US doubled the reward offers for al-Adel and Abdullah.

Zawahiri took command of al Qaeda in 2011 after US forces killed kingpin Osama bin Laden, who for years was sheltered in Pakistan. While we don’t hear much about al Qaeda anymore, it’s alive and well. In fact, terrorism experts warn it’s been growing in strength, not waning, since bin Laden’s death.

Zawahiri has declared plans to replace ISIS at the forefront of global jihad. He’s also given a central role in the organization to bin Laden’s son, Hamza. And he recently called on Muslims during a 17-minute videotaped address to attack American interests “everywhere” — echoing a fatwa issued by bin Laden before the 9/11 attacks.

DHS’s Haney said that Zawahiri is “consolidating power” under a new terror umbrella — AQIS, or al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent — adding that the center of gravity of the global jihadist movement is shifting to that region.

“An argument could be made that Zawahari is not only the world’s most experienced jihadist now, but also the most dangerous one,” Haney warned.

And yet the FBI still cannot seem to get much traction hunting down him or other 9/11-era terrorists.

The FBI declined to comment on why it’s taken so long to capture these bad guys.

“We would decline any further comment due to the ongoing nature of the current investigations,” Goldschen said.

Paul Sperry is a bestselling author and former Hoover Institution media fellow.

Islamic Movement in U.S. Preparing for Battle

Re-upping this important post from 2016. This  should make crystal clear why we  need to designate the Muslim Brotherhood in it’s entirety a foreign terrorist organization. The use of terrorist tactics by the Muslim Brotherhood is guided by the principle of gradualism laid out by Sayyid Qutb in his book, Milestones. When they feel that the time is right they have always resorted  to violence to gain power.

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.

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”).

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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UTT Throwback Thursday: President Should Drop Pakistan as Ally

Understanding the Threat, by John  Guandolo, Sept. 21, 2017:

It is being reported that President Trump is considering dropping Pakistan as a U.S. “ally” due to their obvious support for “terrorism.”

It’s about time.

Pakistanis showing support for Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden

The Quranic Concept of War – written in 1989 by a Brigadier General SK Malik of the Pakistani army with the forward by the Army Chief of Staff/former Pakistani President Zia ul Haq and the Preface by the Advocate General of Pakistan – is doctrine for the Pakistani military.  It makes clear that war against non-muslim forces is obligatory until Islam dominates the world.

After the 9/11 attacks, the Pakistani Intelligence Service (ISI) aided Al Qaeda in moving men and equipment to safer locations anticipating U.S. retaliatory attacks.

Al Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden lived in Abbottabad, Pakistan for several years up until the time he was killed in a U.S. raid.

Pakistan used “aid” money provided by the United States government during the Obama Administration to expand its nuclear program.

Pakistani ISI created Lashkar e Taiba, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the U.S. government, which has conducted numerous jihadi attacks including the four-day long Mumbai (India) attack of 2008 which killed over 160 people.

Pakistan has never been a friend to the United States, because it is a driving force in the global jihad.

Pakistan needs to be crushed along with Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Zawahiri lectures on global jihad, warns of national boundaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ex-Guantanamo detainee carried out suicide attack near Mosul, Iraq

17-02-21-ronald-fiddler-isis-suicide-bomber-near-mosulLong War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, Feb. 22, 2017:

The British press buzzed yesterday with news that a former Guantanamo detainee known as Jamal al Harith (formerly Ronald Fiddler) had blown himself up in a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) in Iraq. Al Harith reportedly took part in the Islamic State’s defensive suicide attacks around Mosul, which is one of the organization’s de facto capitals. The so-called caliphate claims to have launched scores of suicide VBIEDs in defense of the city.

On the same day al Harith executed his attack (Feb. 20), the Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency released a short video of three SUVs being deployed as bombs. All three vehicles had armor added to the front. One of the three was presumably driven by al Harith. The Islamic State released a photo al Harith (seen above), identifying him by the alias Abu Zakariya al Britani. The group also issued a claim of responsibility for his bombing.

Al Harith’s death brings to an end one of the strangest stories in the history of the detention facility at Guantanamo. Along with four others, Al Harith was transferred to American custody in early 2002 after being found in the Taliban-controlled Sarposa prison.

According to leaked Joint Task Force-Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) threat assessments, jihadis in Afghanistan accused all five men of being spies for foreign powers looking to infiltrate the Taliban’s and al Qaeda’s ranks. Sarposa (spelled “Sarpooza” and “Sarpuza” in JTF-GTMO’s files) was overrun by the Northern Alliance in late 2001 and the men (subsequently dubbed the Sarposa Five) were handed over to the Americans and then transferred to Guantanamo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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