Maqdisi Dispute Spills into the Open

The jihadi forum debates over Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi’s alleged turn to moderation have not ended since our last report. On the contrary, the forum Midad al-Suyuf (MS) has escalated its campaign against al-Maqdisi and his supporters. The latest of these defenders is the London-based Saudi Islamist Muhammad al-Mas’ari. At the current time of writing, as many as eight of the twelve headline stories on MS are devoted to al-Maqdisi. Interestingly, other forums carry very little of this material, presumably because administrators want to play down the debate. In fact, a message on the Faloja forum this week urged readers to not even mention Midad al-Suyuf at all. (By the way, Faloja has been down since yesterday afternoon). The controversy is now playing out on prime time television. Al-Arabiya is devoting this evening’s program Sana’at al-Mawt, its weekly documentary series on jihadism, to al-Maqdisi and his critics. News about the upcoming

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New AQIM abduction cases

In mid-December 2008, UN special envoy to Niger, Robert Fowler, and his aide, Louis Guay, mysteriously disappeared while on a field trip. The fate of the two Canadians long remained shrouded in uncertainty. A Nigerian Tuareg rebel group first claimed responsibility for their abduction, but this claim was quickly retracted. In early February Canadian authorities received a video tape from unknown sources which confirmed the two diplomats were still alive, and demanded a prisoner swap for their release. Last Wednesday, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb released an online statement in which it claimed responsibility not only for the abduction of Fowler and Guay, but also that of four European tourists who disappeared from the Mali-Niger border area in late January. The latest statement is brief and raises as many questions as it answers. It names and depicts the four tourists (one Briton, one German and two Swiss), but offers no

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Infighting over Distribution of New Uighur Magazine

The Uighur jihadist group “Islamic Party of Turkestan” (IPT) has published the second issue of its Arabic-language mouthpiece, Turkistan al-Islamiyya (Islamic Turkestan). The distribution of the magazine has become the subject of a bitter argument between the distribution company al-Fajr and the forum Madad al-Suyuf (MS), each accusing the other of having stolen the magazine. In reality the first to distribute the magazine was neither al-Fajr nor Madad al-Suyuf, but rather a Faloja forum member named Abdallah al-Mansur). This is not the first “copyright controversy” involving Madad al-Suyuf. You will recall that MS directed similar accusations against Minbar al-Tawhid wa’l-Jihad a few weeks ago. As Brynjar pointed out then, we didn’t use to see this type of bickering over copyright in the past. It is hard to say what these latest developments mean. It could simply be that MS is run by pedantic troublemakers. It could also be that the

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Al-Awfi Captured, New Yemen Blog

Muhammad al-Awfi, one of the two former Saudi Gitmo detainees who appeared in the video by al-Qaida in Yemen on 19 January, has now been captured. Press reports and forum rumours this morning were confirmed this afternoon by the Yemeni embassy in Washington. I owe the latter piece of information to a fantastic new blog that covers Islamism and security in Yemen. I strongly recommend it. Few people know more about jihadism in Yemen than Gregory Johnsen and Brian O’Neill. Welcome to the blogosphere, guys. It is a shame, then, that there is not a single al-Qaida operative left in Yemen. Or so says the Yemeni Interior Minister, echoing past statements by his Saudi counterpart, who claimed in October 2001 that al-Qaida had no links to Saudi Arabia. Back to al-Awfi. The official story is that he surrendered to Yemeni authorities. This is probably spin; if he did, it was

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Magazine Update

It has been a good week for jihadi magazine buffs. There are new issues of Qadaya Jihadiyya and Tala‘i Khurasan, as well as two brand new magazines, Sawt al-Qawqaliz (sic) and Markaz Ansar al-I‘lam. The newcomers are not particularly impressive and I do not expect them to last long in the fiercely competitive world of jihadi media. Sawt al-Qawqaliz seems intended as a mouthpiece for the Caucasus Emirate, and it is clearly the work of non-native Arabic speakers, for the language is full or errors and low on idiom. Incidentally, I cannot figure out what “Qawqaliz” is supposed to mean (suggestions anyone?). It could simply be a misspelling of Qawqaz, but how could they get the very name of the magazine wrong? In terms of content, the 24-page publication is almost entirely focused on Caucasian issues and does not even mention Gaza. The Shabab of Somalia are the only outsiders

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More Fitna in Cyberspace: Mihdar vs al-Maqdisi

Is another chapter in the history of cyber-jihadi infighting about to be written these days? The latest controversy is a series of attacks by the webforum Madad al-Suyuf on Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, perhaps the most influential salafi-jihadi clerics alive. That the cyber-Jihadis quarrel with one another should come as no surprise. Despite calls for unity and brotherly counseling, jihadi writers frequently fight it out in the open.  In fact, inter-jihadi quarrels seem to have become more common and less ‘brotherly’ in tone in recent years. As for al-Maqdisi himself, most of you will recall his open letter of advice to al-Zarqawi in mid-2005, which earned him a stern reply from his former disciple and many enemies among al-Zarqawi’s numerous buddies. More recently, people have suspected that al-Maqdisi is being pressured to follow in the footsteps Sayyid Imam Sharif and other revisionists. Will, Joas and others have already covered these accusations

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Pathetic Psy-ops

The British tabloid The Sun reported yesterday that al-Qaeda leaders rape male recruits to shame them into becoming suicide bombers. Let me start by congratulating the journalist on being able to fit the four words “al-Qaida”, “gay”, “rape” and “horror” in one and the same headline in the world’s largest English-language newspaper. I would not normally bother with this kind of nonsense were it not for the fact that it sheds light on the recent reports about AQIM’s alleged plague experiments, covered previously on Jihadica. Both stories were broken in the West by The Sun, and both stories relied on Algerian security sources. We are most likely dealing here with an anti-al-Qaida psy-op, and a very poor one at that. These latest stories echo an only marginally better operation targeting al-Qaida in Iraq last winter. It involved a steady stream of articles about al-Qaida exploiting all kinds of defenceless people

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A Unified Strategy towards Germany?

Over the past few months, several German-speaking jihadists have appeared in propaganda videos emanating from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bekkay Harrach (aka Abu Talha al-Almani), who was recently featured in a production by al-Qaida’s official media arm al-Sahab, is only the most recent example. As described in this article, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and its offshoot, the Islamic Jihadi Union (IJU), also boast Germans in their ranks, and have actively used them in their media productions. Meanwhile, a suicide bomber, believed to be from the Taliban, attacked the German embassy in Kabul on 17 January 2009. All of this has been interpreted  as a sign that Germany is being targeted by al-Qaida. The German focus is indeed intriguing. But what I find even more interesting are the differences between these productions and what they tell us about the landscape of jihadi groups in Afghanistan. Too often, groups like al-Qaida,

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