Sayf al-‘Adl and al-Qa’ida’s Historical Leadership

In light of the widely reported news that Sayf al-‘Adl (also spelled Saif al-Adel) has taken the reins of operational leadership within al-Qa’ida in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden, I thought it would be useful to Jihadica’s readers to provide a bit of context about this man and about the significance, if any, of these reports (see, e.g., Musharbash and Bergen), all of which rely on the testimony of Noman Benotman, a former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. First of all, it would be more correct to say that Sayf al-‘Adl remains the operational leader of al-Qa’ida rather than that he has lately assumed this rank. (Nor is this the first time that Benotman has called attention in the press to Sayf’s operational re-emergence in al-Qa’ida. He discussed Sayf’s release from Iran and return to headquarters, as it were, with Der Speigel last October)

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Crowdsourcing the Revolution

Several weeks ago, Leah noted the appearance of five new letters sent by Sayf al-`Adl, one of the most senior al-Qaeda members, to Abu al-Walid al-Masri.  This is in addition to the five letters Sayf sent at the end of 2010 that Vahid ably summarized here.  Given Sayf’s historical importance to the organization, his reported leadership role in the tribal areas, and the uncertainties surrounding the succession to Bin Laden, I thought readers might be interested in what he’s thinking.  I’ll summarize some of their contents over the next few days. As of Jan-March, when the letters were written, Sayf was preoccupied with the Arab Spring and its implications for al-Qaeda.  Al-Qaeda has been justly accused of being on the sidelines of the revolutions but somewhat unfairly dinged for not grasping the technological advances that have enabled them.  Sayf, for one, sees the power of social media and what it

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No New Bin Ladens

The title is both a prediction and a plea.  The prediction is that Bin Laden is sui generis and none of his successors will combine in one person the man’s organizational skills, media savvy, and personal charisma. The plea is that experts on al-Qaeda resist the temptation to answer the media’s question, “Who Will Be the Next Bin Laden?”  Putting forward a name risks misunderstanding Bin Laden’s unique role and capabilities, which are not likely to be replicated in a single person.  It also risks elevating the global stature of others who might otherwise fail to win the international following that Bin Laden won. Note that answering this question is different from answering the perfectly innocuous question, “Who Will Run al-Qaeda?”  That’s a question about an organizational role, not a person.  Leah has provided the best answer so far. Readers may wonder why I am harping on experts and not

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The End of an Era

Like most others, I knew this day would come but I still can’t believe it’s here.  And to come at such a momentous time in Middle Eastern history, with the Arab Spring and the end of our combat presence in Iraq. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that the stock thinking about the implications of Bin Laden’s demise has given way to careful analysis when finally faced with the fact.  Al-Qaeda will certainly go on and may catch its breath with the likes of Zawahiri and Awlaki, but it is Bin Laden who was the driving force of the organization and much has died with him.  Like al-Qaeda in Iraq, al-Qaeda Central will continue zombie-like to wreak havoc but it will never be the same.  This truly is the end of an era and more politically savvy Islamists will now take center stage. There are a legion of big questions about the

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Entering a new dimension – Jihad via Bluetooth (Part 2)

In the first part we examined the structure of the data provided by the “Mobile Detachment” (Fariq jawwal al-ansar, FJA) media department of the Ansar al-Mujahideen Forum. As stated, in the second part we will take a closer look at the ‘mission statement‘ to understand the ambition of (re-) publishing indoctrinating jihadist materials with the intention of users being able to consume and disseminate this content by the means of one’s personal smart phone. One intention perhaps is the fact that your smart/mobile phone certainly is a highly personal gadget, which is rarely shared – unlike family household computers. The content on your mobile phone has a more private nature and allows you to quickly navigate and read through the jihadist materials without anyone noticing. The downside for jihadis, however, is an upside for the police, as the sympathizers are inspired to store incriminating content on their personal phones. That

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NYU Report on AQ and Taliban

NYU’s Center on International Cooperation has just published a new report by Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn on Taliban-al-Qaida relations and implications for US policy. Few people are better informed than Alex and Felix about this topic. How many Western civilians do you know who has spent the past few years living in Qandahar?

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Entering a new dimension – Jihad via Bluetooth (Part 1)

In October 2009 the Arabic “al-Ansar al-Mujahideen Forum” offered a special data-package designed for mobile phones. Published by a newly created “Mobile Detachment“ the contents are aimed at sympathizers and adherents of jihadist principles. Provided with a special software the mobile users can access the documents or watch videos on their portable device while being able to send out these highly indoctrinating and radicalizing sources via Bluetooth to other, unwary, Bluetooth enabled devices. The data offered in these conveniently administrated packages provides nearly everything of the grand-genre of jihadist materials. For the first part, a overview of these data-packages is provided, while for the future parts a closer look will be taken at specific documents and the “mission statement”. A total of five packages has been published up to date, with each remaining loyal to the same layout, logo and coherent file structure consisting of the following: Programs: In this

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From the Pen to the Sword

One of the things that struck me about the Stockholm bomber, Taimour Abdalwahhab, was that he was apparently active on the internet as a radical before he decided to engage in actual terrorism (see Thomas’ posts below for more details). This transition reminded me of a similar but much more serious process by someone who also moved from “jihad by the pen” to “jihad by the sword”: Abu Dujana al-Khurasani, the Jordanian former internet-jihadi turned suicide bomber who killed several CIA-agents in his attack on an American base in Khost, Afghanistan, on 30 December 2009. The attack in Khost, which took place exactly a year ago, led many to praise al-Khurasani for his supposed heroism, his willingness to move from cyber-jihadism to an actual suicide bombing and his loyalty to the cause. A few months ago, an e-book was released by the Jihadi Media Elite (Nukhbat al-I’lam al-Jihadi) that not only

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Did the Quetta Shura Break With al-Qaida?

Mustafa Hamid, aka Abu’l-Walid al-Masri, published a blog piece a little while ago which discussed the arrest of Mullah Baradir. It’s fascinating reading, especially the first part which deals with the historical role of Mullah Baradir in the Taliban insurgency. It’s already been covered in part by Leah Farrall. I thought I’d add some comment about the opening lines of the article, in which Mustafa Hamid says that the Taliban’s high council made three important decisions after 2001, one of which was to “break the ties between the Taliban and al-Qaida.” Mustafa Hamid has previously said that al-Qaida and the Taliban have moved further apart after 2001, although I don’t think he’s ever been this specific. We have heard similar things in the media, but the reports are hard to confirm. Was there actually a decision in the Quetta shura, led by Mullah Baradir at the time, to break ties

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