ji·had·ica

Abu Ghaith and al-Qa’ida’s Dissident Faction in Iran

With the recent arrest of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith (Abu Yusuf Sulayman Jasim Bu Ghayth), al-Qa’ida’s former spokesman and Bin Ladin’s son-in-law, there has been much speculation in the press about a group of senior al-Qa’ida figures who have spent much of the last decade in Iran. In this post I will revisit the writings of these men, all of whom appeared online in unusual circumstances at the end of 2010, and the light that their writings shed on the Iranian sojourn of this group of al-Qa’ida’s pre-9/11 senior leadership. Taken together, these sources suggest that these men constituted a dissident faction within al-Qa’ida, one which in recent years had become increasingly vocal in their criticism of Bin Ladin, Zawahiri, and the direction that the latter had taken al-Qa’ida since the September 11 attacks. It also emerges that Abu Ghaith, while not a member of this faction at the beginning of this

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“The Iran Crisis and Its Effects on the Global Jihad”

How will the Iran debacle affect al-Qaida? This was the question raised yesterday in a short strategic study titled “The Iran Crisis and Its Effects on the Global Jihad by Abu al-Fadl Madi (أبو الفضل ماضي), a Falluja forum member with so-called “great writer” status. He briefly outlined the situation in Iran claiming that the protests mark the end of the second period in Iran’s modern history, with the first ending in 1989. He called the new period the “Termination of the Rule of the Jurisprudent Theory.” He argued that the crisis could alter regional “balances, priorities, and strategies” and the “Global Jihadi Current” cannot ignore these events. He described four possible outcomes of the Iranian protests. The first was the possibility of the regime defeating the opposition by force. He argued that this would increase Ahmadinejad’s power, giving him more leeway to negotiate with the West, but due to

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Jihadi Explains Iranian Realpolitik

Abu `Abd al-Rahman `Atiyyat Allah (possibly this person) has written a new booklet titled Ru’ya kashifa in which he tries to convince his Jihadi brethren that Iran and Hezbollah are not working with the U.S. and Israel as part of a grand conspiracy to subjugate Sunnis. Rather, he argues, Iran and its cat’s paw Hezbollah are seeking hegemony in the region. Achieving it means supporting popular Muslim causes and making temporary alliances with ideological enemies or competitors. Below is a summary: It is hard to analyze Shia states and groups because of their doctrine of dissimulation (taqiyya), or concealing one’s true beliefs. p.4 Dissimulation is permitted in Sunni Islam if you are in danger. But the Shia make a habit of it. p.5 Outwardly Iran and Shia groups stress Sunni-Shia unity; embrace causes that are important to Muslims, particularly the Palestinian issue; and put Iran forward as the only authentic

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Saudi Terror Arrests Summary, Government Points Finger at Iran

I’ve been collecting news stories on the terror suspects arrested in Saudi Arabia. Much of the reporting relies on Saudi security personnel and the Interior Ministry’s statement last week, so it should be read with due skepticism. There’s a lot to discuss, but I’ll save my comments for later. For the moment it’s worth noting that, as of today, the Saudis are now injecting a new piece of information into the story: the network was taking orders and receiving money from someone in Iran: The funding for the AQ cells in Saudi came from one of the major countries in the region in the form of Euros. (al-Qabas, “Oil Cell”) Instructions for the cells came from the same major country in the region in which leaders of AQ sought refuge, like the Egyptian Sayf al-Adl who is currently living there. (al-Qabas, “Oil Cell”) Below is my summary of all the

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The Islamic State vs. the Jewish State: How the Caliphate Views Israel

The past few weeks have witnessed a new wave of Palestinian terrorism in Israeli cities. Surprisingly, this string of violence was touched off by two attacks linked to the Islamic State. In the first attack, on March 22, four Israelis were killed and two injured when an Arab Israeli, Muhammad Abu al-Qay‘an, carried out a stabbing and ramming in the southern Israeli town of Beersheeba. The attacker had previously served a prison sentence for promoting and planning to join the Islamic State in Syria. In the second attack, on March 27, two Israeli police officers were killed and five other people injured when two Arab-Israeli gunmen, cousins Ayman Ighbariyya and Khaled Ighbariyya, opened fire in the northern Israeli city of Hadera. Early the next day, on March 28, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Hadera attack. Its A‘maq news agency released a separate report that included an image of

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Abbottabad Insights: How al-Qa‘ida in Iraq Was Formed (Part 1)

*Editor’s note: The “Abbottabad Insights” series aims at analyzing the files recovered from Usama bin Ladin’s compound in 2011 which have remained largely understudied to date, aside from the first batches released between May 2012 and January 2017. The first two articles of this series will deal with the inside story of the founding of al-Qa‘ida in Iraq, providing unique insights into the negotiation process between al-Qa‘ida Central and Abu Mus‘ab al-Zarqawi in 2004. A third piece will tackle the relationship between Bin Ladin’s group and al-Zarqawi’s during the last months of the Jordanian’s career. Other articles covering a wide range of issues, from al-Qa‘ida’s external operations to its ties with other militant groups, will follow. On October 17, 2004, al-Tawhid wa-l-Jihad, the precursor organization to the Islamic State, issued a statement announcing with much fanfare that its leader Abu Mus‘ab al-Zarqawi had pledged “allegiance” (bay‘a) on behalf of his group “to the mujahid

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The Syrian Jihad, al-Qaida, and Salafi-Jihadism: An Interview with Muzamjir al-Sham

In early June, the much-awaited interview with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) leader Abu Muhammad al-Jolani was released by Frontline.[1] American journalist Martin Smith asked al-Jolani a number of questions ranging from the jihadi leader’s personal trajectory and relationship with al-Qaida and the Islamic State to the subsequent transformation of HTS from a group invested in global jihadism to one focused on local struggle in Syria and Idlib in particular. The interview revealed what HTS is seemingly becoming more and more every day: a third model of jihadism that is departing from Salafi-Jihadi ideology and in opposition to both al-Qaida and the Islamic State. In light of the Frontline interview, the authors decided to interview a prominent jihadi source who actively monitors the ongoing conflict between HTS and Hurras al-Din (HaD), the new Syrian al-Qaida affiliate in Syria, and the state of al-Qaida and the Salafi-Jihadi movement globally. The source, who

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Hamas and the Jihadis

The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas has long been a source of controversy in the world of Sunni jihadism. Especially since it participated in and won the elections of the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006, going on to form a unity government with Fatah, the dominant faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the following year, the group has generally been shunned by jihadis. Hamas’s roots in the Muslim Brotherhood, its embrace of the “polytheistic” religion of democracy, its perceived failure to rule by Islamic law in Gaza, its unholy alliance with Shiite Iran—all of this has made it unpalatable, if not anathema, to the adherents of Jihadi Salafism (al-salafiyya al-jihadiyya). The question that divides jihadis is exactly what level of condemnation is called for. Is the right approach to pronounce takfir (excommunication) on Hamas, or on certain elements of it? Is Hamas to be supported when it faces off against the

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Is Ayman al-Zawahiri Dead?

In November 2020, reports emerged on social media and in the Pakistani press that al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri had recently died of natural causes, possibly in Afghanistan. Born in 1951, the Egyptian jihadi veteran has been at the helm of al-Qaida since Osama bin Ladin’s death in the raid on Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011. During this time he has been highly visible as the face of the organization, delivering numerous audio and video addresses and offering written guidance to its members and branches. While there have been periods when he was incommunicado and his fate uncertain, never before have rumors of his demise swirled with such intensity. The release last week of a new video featuring al-Zawahiri has only reinforced those rumors, raising questions about the future of al-Qaida’s leadership and its future as an organization. The Wound of the Rohingya The new video, released on March 12, 2021

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Al-Qaeda’s Leaders Are Dying, But a Greater Challenge Looms

A string of top-level al-Qaeda leaders have been killed this year in U.S. counterterrorism operations extending from Afghanistan to Iran and Syria. The frequency of the strikes, together with the seniority of those lost, has dealt a crippling blow to the old guard responsible for founding al-Qaeda back in the 1980s. After nearly 20 years of relentless counterterrorism pressure following the 9/11 attacks, al-Qaeda’s central leadership has grown older, more distant and disconnected, and, it seems, increasingly vulnerable. Most prominently, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah (better known as Abu Mohammed al-Masri), was reportedly killed in August by a team of elite Israeli assassins acting on U.S. intelligence in the Iranian capital of Tehran. The targeting of al-Masri, the most likely successor to overall leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, was one of the most significant operational successes against al-Qaeda since Osama Bin Laden’s death in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011. That it took place in

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