ji·had·ica

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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A Note on Usama Bin Ladin’s 1998 Declaration of War: al-Kisa’i vs. al-Kasani

[Editor’s note: I am very pleased to introduce a new guest contributor, Sayeed Rahman, a Yale PhD and a fellow with the Truman National Security Project.] A number of translations analyze and annotate Usama Bin Ladin’s 1998 statement declaring war against the United States and her allies (see here, here, here, here and here). The original Arabic source for this declaration is the February 23, 1998 edition of the London based newspaper al-Quds al-`Arabi.  After citing Qur’anic verses and hadith to support the legitimacy of his call to arms, Bin Ladin and the other signatories cite four well-known post-formative Sunni Muslim jurists to bolster their claim that jihad is an individual duty (fard al-`ayn) when Muslim countries are attacked.  Among the scholars cited is an individual named “al-Kisa’i” and his work al-Bada’i`.  The identification of this al-Kisa’i has eluded American translators.  For reasons I discuss below, I believe this individual to be the Hanafi

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Al-Qa’ida Revisions: The Five Letters of Sayf al-‘Adl

The jihadi forums have seen some rather heated and confused debate over the past several months after the publication online of a series of writings from senior leaders of the pre-9/11 al-Qa’ida organization whom we’ve not heard from in years, and which are bringing back into the open serious disagreements over strategy and ideology that had divided al-Qa’ida prior to the 9/11 attacks. The online imbroglio over this growing al-Qa’ida revisions literature – even the existence of the literature itself – has, to my knowledge, escaped the notice of Western audiences. My aim here is to draw attention to this new “crack in the foundation” of the movement, focusing on the most recent salvo: five letters written, under a pseudonym, by Sayf al-‘Adl (also spelled Saif al-Adel), the second-in-command of al-Qa’ida’s historical leadership. These letters are the latest addition to a significant recent body of work by al-Qa’ida figures that

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Jihadis Debate Egypt (2)

Al-Qaida’s senior leadership (AQSL) is full of Egyptians, but they have yet to produce an official communiqué about events in their home country. Yesterday, a short message was published by a leading Egyptian jihadi figure. It is not from AQSL, however, but from someone we haven’t heard from for many years. The London-based Al Maqreze Center run by Hani al-Sibai has relayed a message from Thirwat Salah Shahata, a veteran of the old Egyptian Islamic Jihad (Jama’at al-Jihad bi Misr). Now nearly fifty one years old, he has been absent from the spotlight for many years. In 2005, he was reported to be under some sort of house arrest in Iran, and Al-Sharq al-Awsat’s sources claim the message was sent from Tehran. Al Maqreze, however, suggests he is now hiding in “Khurasan” (i.e. the Northern Af-Pak region). In his communiqué, Shahata speaks on behalf of the Jihad Group (EIJ), not al-Qaida.

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Jihadis Debate Egypt (1)

With Tunisia’s President Bin Ali tucked away in Jedda and the world’s attention fixated on the popular uprising in Egypt, al-Qaida may be about to lose one of its main ideological selling points: that only armed struggle can bring down the regimes in the region. Not surprisingly, the jihadi online community is captivated by the uprising, but many are also bewildered about what this means for their cause, and their leaders have been slow to respond. Jarret Brachman has a point when he taunts Zawahiri: “Your Silence is Deafening.” As of Thursday afternoon, the leading jihadi forum Shamikh only featured a handful of authoritative responses to the events in Egypt, from pro-jihadi pundits, a legal scholar and other participants. However, not a word from the leadership. The closest thing to an official response is AQIM’s statement on the events in Tunisia (available also in translation). Over the past few days, the most popular sub-forum on Shamikh,

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A Portrait of the Terrorist as a Young Man

Of all the jihadis we’ve seen in recent years, Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi must rank as one of the most violent. Nicknamed “the slaughtering sheikh” (al-shaykh al-dhabbah) by fellow militants, he is widely held responsible for killing hundreds of Shiites in Iraq and personally beheading the American hostage Nicolas Berg. It would therefore be interesting to know what went on in the mind of this man, who was killed in an American attack in 2006. While several publications have tried to show us the man behind the myth, it would be even better if we could get a glimpse of what al-Zarqawi thought in his pre-Iraq years. Well, the time has come. About a week ago, a jihadi website posted a notebook allegedly used by al-Zarqawi while imprisoned in Jordan in the 1990s. The link on the website (the eleventh title from the top) is called Safahat min Daftar al-Shaykh Abi

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The Taliban, the UN and al-Qaida

(Editor’s note: Anne tried to post a comment on Vahid Brown’s landmark post on Al-Qaida-Taliban relations. Given that she is one of the world’s foremost experts on this issue, there was no way I was going to let her remarks “disappear” into the comments section. So here they are. Her text begins with a response to an earlier comment about Taliban’s view of the UN). “Mullah Omar’s statement should not be interpreted to mean that he or other Taliban leaders are ready to recognize the United Nations. In fact, the Taliban’s leaders have criticized the UN on a number of occasions, in addition to the one you mention. In 2006 Mullah Omar accused the UN of being nothing but a “tool for America” and Mullah Baradir echoed this in 2008, saying that “we regard all the decisions of the United Nations towards Afghanistan, as American orders.” I do not think

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Al-Qa’ida and the Afghan Taliban: “Diametrically Opposed”?

Mullah Omar’s Afghan Taliban and al-Qa’ida’s senior leaders have been issuing some very mixed messages of late, and the online jihadi community is in an uproar, with some calling these developments “the beginning of the end of relations” between the two movements.  Beginning with a statement from Mullah Omar in September, the Afghan Taliban’s Quetta-based leadership has been emphasizing the “nationalist” character of their movement, and has sent several communications to Afghanistan’s neighbors expressing an intent to establish positive international relations.  In what are increasingly being viewed by the forums as direct rejoinders to these sentiments, recent messages from al-Qa’ida have pointedly rejected the “national” model of revolutionary Islamism and reiterated calls for jihad against Afghanistan’s neighbors, especially Pakistan and China.  However interpreted, these conflicting signals raise serious questions about the notion of an al-Qa’ida-Taliban merger. The trouble began with Mullah Omar’s message for ‘Eid al-Fitr, issued on September 19, in

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Al-Qa’ida Publicy Cements Ties to the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan

The official al-Qa’ida media outlet al-Sahab has released a flurry of videos in the past two weeks featuring leaders of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), both living and dead, in what amounts to a media campaign announcing their open alliance with Pakistan’s deadliest militant network.  On September 28, Zawahiri’s video eulogy for the slain TTP leader Baitullah Mehsud – the “role model of the youth” (ritha’ qudwat al-shabab) – was posted to the forums, followed two days later by a similar video message on the “martyrdom” of Baitullah starring Mustafa Abu’l-Yazid.  On October 2, al-Fajr Media distributed a third al-Sahab video eulogy for Baitullah, but this time featuring Wali ur-Rahman, the new TTP commander for the Mehsud tribal areas (an English transcript of which can be downloaded from here; links to all three videos can be found here).   This series of al-Sahab celebrations of Baitullah, released two days apart over

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Zawahiri, France and Napoleon

Allow me to briefly go back to the last Zawahiri interview, put on-line through Sahab media on 5 August 2009. To my knowledge, this is the first time Bin Laden’s deputy has expressed such articulate hatred for France: “France claims secularism, while her heart pours grudge towards Islam. Napoleon Bonaparte announced his famous statement to the Jews in 1799 in Akka, in which he promised to support the Jews in stealing Palestine. France is the one whose soldiers went with their horses into al-Azhar University and stood on its Qur’anic Books, and they took it as a stable to their horses. France is the one who fought Islam and Arabs in Algeria, and France is the one who supplied Israel with a nuclear reactor, and France fights Muslims in Afghanistan, and France fights hijab, and France will pay for all her crimes”. Zawahiri has long be known for his French-bashing.

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