Usama bin Laden Called Yunus Khalis “the Father Sheikh:” Weird But Possibly True

Many authors have tried to fill in the gaps in the historical account of how al-Qa’ida’s central leadership came to reside in Jalalabad for part of 1996, with mixed results. Yunus Khalis has become a fixture in these narratives largely because he was the best known person that Bin Laden interacted with in the summer after al-Qa’ida’s leadership fled Sudan for Nangarhar. For many authors, Khalis’s fame and prominence in the region combined with his known interactions with Bin Laden provide an adequate explanation: al-Qa’ida must have come to Nangarhar in 1996 because of the importance of the Khalis-Bin Laden relationship. This is, of course, a vast oversimplification, and I hope that the report I recently published for West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center will go some way towards exposing the most obviously untenable parts of this narrative. But as part of the research for this monograph, I have also found

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A Jihadi Homeopath

[Editor’s note: We are very pleased to welcome Kevin Bell to Jihadica. Kevin has lived in Afghanistan and Tajikistan for a number of years and recently wrote a master’s thesis on Yunis Khalis for Princeton’s Near Eastern Studies Department. He’s hunting for a job in Afghanistan–probably not for long given his proficiency in Pashto. You can follow him on Twitter @allegorycave] Yunis Khalis is best known for his role as the leader of the Hizb-e Islami (Khalis) mujahidin political party, and as a host to Osama bin Laden in 1996 in Jalalabad. However, even a cursory review of the various Khalis biographies written in Pashto reveals that there was far more to his life, interests, and influence on Afghan politics than might be indicated by a discussion limited to his role as a jihadi leader. I extensively discuss many of these new perspectives about Khalis in my forthcoming report from

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Fatwa calling for the death of the director, producer, and actors involved in making the film “Innocence of Muslims”

Yesterday, Ahmad ‘Ashush published a fatwa on the jihadist forums where he “decrees and calls on all Muslim youth in America and in Europa to fulfill this inescapable obligation. Namely, to kill the director, producer and the actors and anyone who helped to promote this film.” The fatwa was published by the relatively new al-Bayan media group that has established itself in the jihadist forums since the turmoil in Egypt. The media group acts in parallel to the al-Faruq media battalion, which has in the meantime published several videos showing Egyptian cleric Ahmad ‘Ashush with other renowned jihadist scholars in Tahrir, such as Muhammad al-Zawahiri or Marjan Salim (videos here and here). Ahmad ‘Ashush first surfaced in the al-Shumukh forum a while ago with a lengthy interview talking about the Hizb al-Nur (here) and established himself as an Islamic authority clearly adhering to the “jihadist torrent” while his – as

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The Limits of Gamification

Jarret and Alix have published an intriguing article in Foreign Policy on how jihadi ideologues and forum administrators are deliberately applying gaming principles to their discussion boards and propaganda.  The jihadis are doing so to encourage their readers to compete with one another to embody the community’s ethos and take direct action. That’s a new way to frame some old features of jihadi discussion boards and propaganda.  But given that the features were around well before gamification was theorized, it’s a stretch to say that Awlaki or anyone else is deliberately employing gaming techniques in a “systematic” way, as the authors assert.  There are some other claims in the article that are also difficult to verify, such as the notion that competition for things like virtual badges leads to violent action (there may be some other factor causing both intense competition and violence, cases that confirm the theory are few

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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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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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How to Spot a Jihadi

On 30 August 2009, Jordanian journalist Murad Batal al-Shishani published a new article in al-Hayat where he asserts that an Islamist’s clothes are often political statements and can indicate his precise type of Islamist orientation. Al-Shishani states that during the 1980s, the Salafi style of “short clothing” (a likely reference to the ankle-high pants Salafis commonly wear) became prominent along with “Afghan clothing,” which is the shalwar kameez and which represented solidarity with the Afghan-Arab Mujahidin. Today, he claims that someone with a beard is often described as one of the “brotherhood.” He writes that two prominent differences in clothing currently exist. The first is the contention between those who follow Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and the “neo-Zarqawis,” who consider themselves as the legacy of Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi. The second is between Hamas and the jihadi groups in Gaza. In the al-Maqdisi—neo-Zarqawi split, al-Shishani states that the neo-Zarqawis wear a black

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