AQ Central
Bernard Haykel

Messages to Arabia: Al-Qaida Attacks MBS and the Saudi Monarchy

Since the early 1990s, al-Qaida has routinely vilified the Saudi royal family and its government for being un-Islamic and illegitimate, describing the monarchy and the princes as apostates who should be attacked and toppled from power. The gist of al-Qaida’s condemnation of the Saudi rulers is that they are lackeys of the West who only pretend to be Muslim and therefore need to be fought and deposed. The Saudi royals have consistently undermined Islam from within and are delivering Islam’s wealth to the West—Arabia’s vast oil and gas reserves—at well below market value. Because of this, the Saudi dynasty’s real nature has to be revealed and the Saudi state destroyed. Every al-Qaida leader has vilified the Saudis in this way, from Usama bin Ladin to his son and putative heir, Hamza. The latter, in 2016, launched a six-part audio series seeking to expose the Saudi royal family’s history of “betrayal.” Anti-Saudi

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New Reports

My brilliant friend and countryman Jacob Høigilt has just written an absolutely fascinating report on Islamism and Education in the Palestinian Territories. It’s fieldwork-based, rich  and nuanced, and it undermines widespread assumptions about the link between Islamic education and militancy. While I am at it, I might as well mention my own completely unrelated CTC paper on the Failure of Jihad in Saudi Arabia.

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On the Bin Nayif Assassination Attempt

Yesterday there was an assassination attempt on the Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Muhammad Bin Nayif. An unidentified wanted militant, pretending to surrender to authorities, blew himself up as he was being searched. The blast occurred in Bin Nayif’s private office in Jidda, close enough to the Prince himself for the latter to be lightly wounded (although no wounds were visible his subsequent TV appearance). The attack is obviously noteworthy, not least because it is the first confirmed jihadi assassination attempt on a senior prince in Saudi history. There have been rumours of such attempts in the past, but none have ever been confirmed. This shows that al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula (QAP) is definitely after the royal family, and the incident underlines the QAP’s ideological turn to a more revolutionary direction. Their campaign started off in 2003 focusing exclusively on Western targets, but has gradually shifted to include more and

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Last Man Standing

I promised you more on Abd al-Aziz al-Julayyil, the Saudi author of the article on Obama being more dangerous than Bush. The reason I find al-Julayyil interesting is that he is among the last remaining Saudi sheikhs to play an active ideological role for the jihadi movement. Back in the good old days of the early 2000s, there was a whole community of Saudi jihad scholars: Hamud al-Shu’aybi, Nasir al-Fahd, Ali al-Khudayr, Abd al-Rahman al-Jarbu’, Sulayman al-Alwan and many others (who all feature prominently in my forthcoming book). Around 2002 these guys were churning out pro-al-Qaida fatwas faster than you could say “al-wala’ wa’l-bara’”. But then came the 2003 terrorism campaign in Saudi Arabia, and most of them were sent to the cooler. This is why you have not heard from many radical Saudi clerics in the past five years. This is also why I have been arguing in the

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Obama is more Dangerous than Bush

This is the title of the main story in the July issue of al-Sumud, the Arabic-language magazine of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The 56-page magazine has several articles devoted to Obama and the Cairo speech, and the front page features a particularly unflattering picture of the US president. But it is the lead article which I find the most interesting, because it confirms that jihadis feel threatened by Obama in their fight for Muslim hearts and minds. The two-page article (pp-18-19) is written by the Saudi sheikh Abd al-Aziz al-Julayyil and is actually taken from the latter’s website, which says the text was written on 17 May 2009. Al-Julayyil starts off by saying he was motivated to write this article after observing a lot of optimism among Muslims over the arrival of the new US administration. He says he realises  many will react to the headline, for how can

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Jihadi reactions to Obama

We have heard Bin Ladin and Zawahiri’s comments, and Marc Lynch and others will tell us how the Arab mainstream reacted. But what are the grassroot jihadis saying about Obama’s Mideast tour in general and his Cairo speech in particular? Let me begin by lowering your expectations. For a start, we should not expect to see any positive reactions to Obama’s initiative, for anybody thus inclined would not be on the forums in the first place. Second, there is no tradition among jihadi strategists or pundits for parsing presidential speeches. They might pick up on a phrase (like Bush’s reference to a “crusade”) and use it for their own purposes. But generally these guys don’t listen to what America says – they watch what she does. I should also add that Faloja, the main jihadi forum, has been down since this morning (as has Shuraa), so our ability to gage

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Prêt à porter terrorism

As most Jihadica readers probably know, the jihadi internet is used for many things, but not for operational planning. I have yet to come across online discussions or instructions for concrete operations by professional militants. However, once in a while you see amateurs proposing specific operations – “prêt a porter plots” – for others to carry out. One such bright idea was posted on Faloja yesterday by a member named Sabir, who proposes that al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula (QAP) fire Katyusha rockets from the Saudi shore of the Gulf of Aqaba toward Sharm al-Sheikh, where international leaders are meeting today to raise money for the reconstruction of Gaza. Sabir addresses his message “to Abu Basir [Nasir al-Wuhayshi], Emir of al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula” and humbly presents “a small and simple operation for three Islamic lions from the military corps under your command.” He notes that Ras al-Shaykh Hamid

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Al-Awfi Captured, New Yemen Blog

Muhammad al-Awfi, one of the two former Saudi Gitmo detainees who appeared in the video by al-Qaida in Yemen on 19 January, has now been captured. Press reports and forum rumours this morning were confirmed this afternoon by the Yemeni embassy in Washington. I owe the latter piece of information to a fantastic new blog that covers Islamism and security in Yemen. I strongly recommend it. Few people know more about jihadism in Yemen than Gregory Johnsen and Brian O’Neill. Welcome to the blogosphere, guys. It is a shame, then, that there is not a single al-Qaida operative left in Yemen. Or so says the Yemeni Interior Minister, echoing past statements by his Saudi counterpart, who claimed in October 2001 that al-Qaida had no links to Saudi Arabia. Back to al-Awfi. The official story is that he surrendered to Yemeni authorities. This is probably spin; if he did, it was

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Pathetic Psy-ops

The British tabloid The Sun reported yesterday that al-Qaeda leaders rape male recruits to shame them into becoming suicide bombers. Let me start by congratulating the journalist on being able to fit the four words “al-Qaida”, “gay”, “rape” and “horror” in one and the same headline in the world’s largest English-language newspaper. I would not normally bother with this kind of nonsense were it not for the fact that it sheds light on the recent reports about AQIM’s alleged plague experiments, covered previously on Jihadica. Both stories were broken in the West by The Sun, and both stories relied on Algerian security sources. We are most likely dealing here with an anti-al-Qaida psy-op, and a very poor one at that. These latest stories echo an only marginally better operation targeting al-Qaida in Iraq last winter. It involved a steady stream of articles about al-Qaida exploiting all kinds of defenceless people

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Gaza Galore in New Issue of Sada al-Jihad

The thirty-second issue of the ever so slick magazine Sada al-Jihad is out. Like the rest of jihadi media these days, it focuses on Gaza. Practically the entire 41-page journal is devoted to Palestine, and the front page features a close-up picture of the blood-stained face of a Palestinian child. However, the articles do not seem to contain many original viewpoints and analyses. They highlight the civilian suffering, the treason of the Arab leaders, and the futility of the moderate  Muslim Brotherhood approach. Much of this has been heard before. But this does not mean the Gaza rhetoric is inconsequential. For many I am stating the obvious, but the Israeli assault on Gaza has greatly benefited al-Qaida propagandists and recruiters. In 2007 and 2008, the global jihadist message was losing some of its resonance, partly as a result of Iraq’s sectarian turn, bickering within the jihadi movement, and the absence

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