Al-Qaida in Yemen (AQY) has released the seventh issue of its magazine Sada al-Malahim (SM), adding to the mounting evidence that the group is thriving. The slick 44-page publication contains no less than 30 articles by 23 different pen names. Many of the latter are no doubt invented, but the issue must be the work of a well-run media cell of a certain size. An undated picture on p. 16 showing 20 people training in the desert, as well as note on p. 12 inviting readers to submit questions to the journal’s gmail address, suggest that AQY is not about to collapse any time soon.
The front page story, “Gaza under siege by Arab rulers”, is quite interesting. The article hardly mentions Israel and America, but instead lashes out at the Arab regimes and government clerics for facilitating the siege by repressing the mujahidin. “[The rulers] incriminated anyone who merely thinks about liberating the holy sites, which can only be liberated by toppling these governments” [my emphasis] (p. 4). Heard this before? This is basically the good old “near enemy first” argument of the kind found in Ayman al-Zawahiri’s classic article “The road to Jerusalem passes through Cairo”. The statement adds to a number of other indications that AQY is considerably more regime-critical (and thus less pan-Islamist) than its Saudi counterpart al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula.
At the same time, AQY also advocates direct confrontation with the far enemy. In the text accompanying the magazine release, the Emir of AQY, Abu Basir, is quoted as saying “we are preparing to open training camps to send you [Palestinians] a generation of reinforcements.” There is in other words a tension in AQY’s ideological production between two strategies: one advocating confrontation with the near enemy and the other with the far enemy. A similar ambiguity, or hedging of bets, is also found in their operations, which have targeted both Westerners and the government. This lack of ideological clarity makes the group less predictable in the short run. But it may also constitute a liability in the long run, as it leaves prospective recruits in the dark as to what AQY is actually fighting for.
Here’s the table of contents (excluding poetry and purely theological pieces):
- Gaza under siege by Arab rulers
- Seven years of Crusader wars
- The ruling on the soldiers and helpers of the Pharaoh of our time
- The ruling on escaping from the tyrant’s prison and its persecution
- The ruling on fighting the occupier
- A dialogue among the deaf (who is debating whom?!) [on interreligious dialogue]
- Stances on judges
- How to reach [us]
- The duty to confront or flee
- Three years since the escape
- The power is in firing [on firearms]
- A word from sheikh Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri
- The departure of Bush and the arrival of Obama
- North Africa and the coming hope
- The message of Shafiq Ahmad Zayd “Abdallah al-Yamani”
- The Lion of Jawf: Amir Huraydan
- Victory over the investigators
- The Mujahid sheikh Nassar al-Marsad
- Al-Tayammum [Dry ablution] [on life in prison]
- I would behave if let out of prison
- Letter from the daughter of a mujahid
- Preventing and treating colds
- Letters from the readers
Document (Arabic): 01-19-09-faloja-sada-al-salahim-7
Thomas – I look fwd to you and your co-bloggers posts for 2009. Any comment/insight on the new merger b/w AQY & AQ in KSA?
Just a quick note of welcome — and a chance to to say sometimes the “poetry and purely theological pieces” contain key pieces of the puzzle.
If you catch sight of any Mahdist references, eg in Hamas lit, that’s of particular interest to me, see the mention in a MEMRI report last year at:
Thanks. I will be covering the merger in more depth later this week. And I absolutely agree about the poetry and the theology.
I do not think that there is a lack of ideological clarity within AQY or AQ in gneral; targeting the far enemy is a completion to targeting the near enemy. The distinction between the two has become thinner as both of the two enemies; as they see them, do not apply the Sharia of God. Recruitment wise, this multi ideology could be more efficient than the one clear ideology as the first can attract mo
pardom my simple English.
OT, but any thoughts on the re-emergence of Said Ali al-Shihri as an al-Qaeda leader in Yemen would be appreciated.
To my mind, the unification of the Yemen and Saudi branches (the Saudi branch was nearly dead) has been in the works for quite some time. Reading through Sada al-Malahim over the past year it became clear that recently there was an influx of Saudi talent into the organization, and that the level of religious scholarship was increasing as well as the fact that the group was getting much better at tapping into local Yemeni grievances.
There promises to be a lot more information in the days ahead, as Nasir al-Wahayshi’s interview is about to be released.
One small point I found funny (well not ha ha funny, but you know what I mean) is that al-Fajr got the kunya of al-Shihri wrong in its official announcement. It had Abu Sayyaf, when it is actually Abu Sufayan.
This is a stupid question but I just discovered this blog and I think it’s brilliant. In order to read the issue of sada al-Malahim, I would just go one of the many links from the pdf of the forum that was posted and I would be able to download the issue that way? Just want to find out before I do something stupid and end up with a computer virus or something. Thanks!
Norman: sorry for the late response, but yes, just follow the links on the PDF. Many of them will no longer work but some of them should. Assuming you have a regular antivirus program there is no particular risk to your computer. Ideally I would post the issue directly, but this is complicated for a number of reasons.