The Posts That Never Were

Apologies for the slow publication pace here at Jihadica, but deadlines and an upcoming house move mean I can only dream about serious blogging these days. This does not mean forums are quiet. Every morning this past week I found things on the forums that deserved commentary. In a dream world, here’s what I would have written about had I had the time: –    France is taking heat. Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb published a statement declaring “France the mother of all evils”, and other posts fumed over the recent French plans to ban the niqab or the burka. I suspect the Americans and the Brits (who of course have long argued that France is the mother of all evils)  are happy to share the burden of jihadi attention. Unfortunately for the Anglo-Saxons, however, I don’t think the veil weighs nearly as heavy in the jihadi basket of grievances as

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Are the Uzbeks Going Global?

[Editor’s note: I am thrilled to introduce Einar Wigen, author of the recent FFI report on the IJU, as a guest contributor. Einar interned at FFI last summer and is currently a a student fellow at the Norwegian Institute for International Affairs (NUPI). A fluent Turkish speaker, Einar specialises in jihadism among the Turkics. Not many people produce world-class research as summer interns, so this guy is really someone to look out for in the future.] The Turkic peoples have until now played a fairly peripheral role in global jihadism. They have not attracted much academic attention, and apart from the 2003 Istanbul bombings and the 2008 American Consulate attacks, operations carried out by Turkics have gained little attention. The Waziristan-based group Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) seems to be trying to change this (as Jihadica has suggested before). The IJU broke off from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in 2001,

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Oslo Workshop Summary (part 2)

Continued from here. The fourth panel on “networks, strategy and ideology” started off with a paper by CTC’s Scott Helfstein on the dynamics of terrorist networks. Helfstein has examined six key al-Qaida plots using network analysis tools to find out why certain individuals come to play central roles in attack networks, and how attack networks change over time. He showed that people’s centrality was a function of personal attributes (skills, education) and their function in the network (weapons acquisition etc). Helfstein is one of a small but growing number of American political scientists who are applying formal methods to the theoretically starved field of terrorism studies with very interesting results (other scholars include CTC-affiliated Princeton professor Jake Shapiro). Bill Braniff, also from CTC, presented a very interesting model for thinking about al-Qaida’s future strategic evolution. He identified five scenarios: 1) persistence (no-change), 2) horizontal escalation (concerted geographic spread), 3) vertical

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New AQIM abduction cases

In mid-December 2008, UN special envoy to Niger, Robert Fowler, and his aide, Louis Guay, mysteriously disappeared while on a field trip. The fate of the two Canadians long remained shrouded in uncertainty. A Nigerian Tuareg rebel group first claimed responsibility for their abduction, but this claim was quickly retracted. In early February Canadian authorities received a video tape from unknown sources which confirmed the two diplomats were still alive, and demanded a prisoner swap for their release. Last Wednesday, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb released an online statement in which it claimed responsibility not only for the abduction of Fowler and Guay, but also that of four European tourists who disappeared from the Mali-Niger border area in late January. The latest statement is brief and raises as many questions as it answers. It names and depicts the four tourists (one Briton, one German and two Swiss), but offers no

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The Denudation Of The Exoneration: Part 12

  Sayyid Imam has some surprising things to say about Sayyid Qutb and some interesting speculation on Zawahiri’s tenuous position in al-Qaeda.  He also observes that Libyan and Mauritanian students serve as Zawahiri’s primary research assistants.  I don’t know about their nationalities, but there’s no doubt Zawahiri has research assistants (as do many productive academics).  Moreover, Zawahiri talks about Mauritanian seminarians coming to visit him and Bin Laden in his Exoneration, so it makes sense that some stayed on to help him write. Continuing… Zawahiri says in Knights that he joined al-Qaeda to unite the efforts of the Muslims.  That’s not true.  Zawahiri knew Bin Laden for 14 years, from 1987 to 2001, and never joined with him.  Rather, he criticized Bin Ladin harshly as a Saudi intelligence agent for merely reducing donations to his (Zawahiri’s) group in 1995.  To this end, Zawahiri wrote an article critical of Bin Laden called

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