ji·had·ica

Abu al-Yazid Mending Fences with Hamas

It’s late, I know, but I couldn’t let Mustafa Abu al-Yazid’s interview with al-Jazeera go uncommented. I found it absolutely fascinating. My hat is off to Ahmad Zaydan for finding Mustafa and asking him excellent questions. International media focused on the A-bomb remark, but this was neither a very significant or surprising part of the interview (here I agree with Dan Drezner). It was just a quick unrehearsed side comment in an answer to a question about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. The most significant part of the interview was Abu al-Yazid’s endorsement of Hamas. “We support the sincere mujahidin in Palestine, even the mujahidin of Hamas. We support them and help them; they are our brothers; we and they have the same ideology and the same method,” Abu al-Yazid said. This is quite a different message from that of Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, who have been

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Abu al-Yazid Alive

That’s the claim of Zamjari, which Ekhlaas ranks as “a major author” on the forum.  He writes: We proclaim to the supporters of the mujahids everywhere that our beloved shaykh is alive, prosperous, fighting, moving about freely, and leading battalions of mujahids.  Martyrdom has not yet been decreed for him. That’s quite a claim for a major forum member to make given that al-Qaeda could release a statement that would prove him wrong.   Since there’s been no such statement, I’m inclined to give this unofficial proclamation some weight. Document (Arabic): 8-16-08-ekhlaas-major-forum-member-says-mustafa-abu-al-yazid-still-alive

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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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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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Mourning Morsi: The Death of an Islamist and Jihadi Divisions

Following the death of Mohamed Morsi, the former Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt, on June 17, 2019, a contentious debate broke out in the world of Sunni jihadism over the proper reaction to his demise. The Islamic State exhibited no grief whatsoever, its Arabic weekly noting the passing of “the Egyptian apostate idol-ruler … [who] rose to power by means of polytheistic democracy and spent one year in power, [ruling] by other than what God has revealed.” For the Islamic State, Morsi’s loss was no loss at all. He was no better or worse than any other apostate ruler in the Islamic world. But for those jihadis in the orbit of al-Qaida, the matter was not so black-and-white. Some rued his loss, others objected to their doing so, and passions ran high. The debate highlights the significance and endurance of a widening ideological divide in this segment of the jihadosphere. Al-Maqdisi

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Al-Qaeda’s Top Scholar

If the Bahraini jihadi ideologue Turki al-Bin`ali personifies “the caliphate’s scholar-in-arms” for the Islamic State, one would find difficult to name a similar leading figure in al-Qa`ida’s ranks. Indeed, although most of the senior jihadi scholars sided with Ayman al-Zawahiri in his conflict with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, none of them actually belong to the organization. While the senior scholars certainly have longstanding ties to both al-Qa`ida’s leaders and rank and file and have been instrumental in furthering its agenda and that of its affiliates, they all remain independent from al-Zawahiri’s command. With that said, al-Qa`ida has long strived to promote religious scholars in its ranks, such as Abu Yahya al-Libi and `Atiyyatullah al-Libi, who proved to be major influences in the militant landscape and in jihadi sympathizers’ circles. However, a sustained U.S. drone strikes campaign in Pakistan’s tribal areas removed these well-known heavyweights. Over the remaining ideologues, the Palestinian Abu

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Virtual safe havens and the war of ideas

Abu Muqawama has a great piece in the New Republic today. Given his very kind words for Will and myself, I am biased, but the article makes an extremely important point about the importance of virtual safe havens. Although I just posted and don’t really have the time to blog, I felt compelled to add a few thoughts. There are at least two more reasons why there ought to be a virtual dimension to the new AfPak strategy. First, the Pashto and Urdu-language part of the jihadi cyberspace is growing rapidly, and very few people are keeping track of it. Those who do rarely know the Arabic sites and vice-versa. No analyst I know has enough Arabic and Pashto to connect the dots (except Mustafa Abu al-Yazid). Second, the Internet infrastructure in Afghanistan and Pakistan is relatively poorly developed compared to the Arab world. This is very worrying, because it

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Back

I have been busy the past two weeks, but the jihadis have been busier. Bin Ladin has issued two audio statements, one proposing practical steps to liberate Palestine and the other about the treacherous government in Somalia. Al-Zawahiri warned against the forthcoming Crusader attack on Sudan, while Mustafa Abu al-Yazid has addressed the people of Pakistan. Abu Umar al-Baghdadi has spoken about the US plan to withdraw from Iraq, but he does not seem to get the same attention from the online community as his colleagues in Afghanistan. Abu Qatada has issued a statement from prison about the decision to extradite him to Jordan. Fatah al-Islam sharia officer Abu Abdallah al-Maqdisi has been taking questions since Monday, but nobody is allowed to ask about Shakir al-Absi or Asad al-Jihad2 (hmm). On the magazine front, Sumud 33  has been out for a little while. Fortunately Sada al-Malahim 8 came out on

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New Issues of Two Jihadi Journals

Issue 12 of the Tala’i` Khurasan (Vanguards of Khurasan) is out.  Several big names have written pieces, including Atiyyat Allah (we have to learn from our mistakes), Abu al-Walid al-Ansari (how past jihads failed), Abu Yahya al-Libi (fighting to restore the Sharia is the only way forward in Palestine), and Mustafa Abu al-Yazid (the meaning of piety and patience).  It also includes a 9/11 anniversary article on al-Qaeda’s strategic reasons for attacking the U.S., an article on Jihadis released from prison in Afghanistan, and a summary of the most important operations in Afghanistan over the last four months. This month we also have a new journal published by al-Shabaab, the AQ-linked group in Somalia.  Marisa thinks its publication means Shabab is growing stronger; that may be, but they can’t produce an attractive journal yet.   The name of the journal, Millat Ibrahim (The Religious Community of Abraham), is an allusion

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Map of Recent Strikes on al-Qaeda Leadership in Pakistan

Reuters reports, on the authority of a Pakistani security official, that an “Abu Saeed al-Masri” was killed.  The official said Masri is “among the top leadership of al Qaeda.”  The identity of Masri is unknown, but the news media is claiming that it’s Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, a close Egyptian friend of Zawahiri’s from the Sadat assassination days (Long War and CT Blog have good summaries of the news). If true, it is horrible news for al-Qaeda.  Abu al-Yazid is the head of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and one of the few public faces of the organization (he sometimes gets the job of announcing the death of AQ operatives killed in Afghanistan).  Moreover, it comes after a string of successful strikes on high-profile al-Qaeda leaders this year: Abu Layth al-Libi, Abu Sulayman al-Jaza’iri, and Abu Khabab.  Of course, there are other capable leaders waiting in the wings, but don’t underestimate the damage

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