[Scott Sanford] On 28 August 2008, the Army of Islam (AI), a Gaza-based and al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist entity that gained notoriety for the kidnapping of BBC reporter Alan Johnston, issued a statement in response to what the AI claimed were many calls to unify Palestinian jihadi organizations under one banner. In the statement, the AI asserted that it is willing to accept any group into its fold as long as the group adheres to the AI’s Islamic standards.
It stated that it is a Salafi organization and that anyone raising partisan, nationalist, patriotic, socialist, secular, or democratic flags are infidels. Additionally, it claimed that anyone wishing to unify with the AI must publicly disavow such ideologies and pledge its loyalty to the jihadi, Islamic banner. The AI claimed that its dogma and actions are based on several factors:
1. Global jihad, the AI does not differentiate between jihad in the Palestinian Territories or outside of them
2. Jihad on the apostates, hypocrites, crusaders, Jews, and Shi’a inside and outside the Palestinian Territories
3. Achieving Shari’a law
4. The AI is a fighting organization and any unification will be established upon this and not on guidance and advice
5. The AI is not represented by one person [This is likely a response to criticisms that the AI is really an extension of the Dughmush clan. These criticisms were likely brought on because its late leader, Mumtaz Dughmush, was a member of this clan.] Only Abu Muhammad al-Ansari is allowed to speak on behalf of the AI. Additionally, only internet statements released by the Global Islamic Media Front are official AI statements
6. Any unity agreement must be based on a clear strategy that agrees with the global jihad
7. This statement represents the rules of the AI’s program
8. The AI will accept anyone meeting these requirements
9. The AI previously consulted with other organizations and Shaykhs when there was not a Salafi jihadi program in Gaza. Some blessed the program, but most were against the AI. Regardless, the AI raised its banner with aggression on it from near and far
The AI’s global view of jihad and its desire to be part of a global Islamic state represents a departure from Hamas’ nationalistic view that includes the formation of a Palestinian Islamic state encompassing the Palestinian Territories and Israel. This represents a direct challenge to Hamas’ ideology and rule. As a result, Hamas has harassed and attacked the AI since it seized control of Gaza in June 2007. Recently, it appears that Israel has also been fairly successful in eliminating AI members. It would not surprise me if Hamas operatives informed the Israeli military of the locations of AI members in order to let Israel do its dirty work.
The AI’s relative weakness to Hamas is a likely reason why it is willing to accept other terrorist organizations into its fold. However, by integrating like-minded organizations now, the AI may be attempting to lay the foundation for the arrival of al-Qaeda to the Palestinian Territories in the future. In the past year, several al-Qaeda leaders have hinted at this, including Assad-al-Jihad2. Regardless of the AI’s intent in unifying terrorist entities in the Palestinian Territories or of its success in doing so, it is likely that it will remain weak in comparison to Hamas, which would make it difficult to carry out its intended strategy.
Document (Arabic): 8-28-2008-Ek-ls.org-28AUG08-Message-from-AI