Archive for the ‘Al Qaeda’ category

Al-Qaeda Terrorism and Shakespeare

November 4, 2017

Al-Qaeda Terrorism and Shakespeare, American ThinkerMichael Curtis, November 4, 2017

(Please see also, Can Bin Laden Heir Salvage Jihad in Syria? — DM)

Particularly important is Osama’s account of relations between al-Qaeda and Iran.

They were and are complex, fluctuating relations and loose ties between Sunni Osama and Shiite Iran.  What brought them together was the common hostility to the U.S. and to Saudi Arabia.  Iran supported al-Qaeda’s war against those countries.  Iran offered al-Qaeda “everything they needed,” funds and arms, and the opportunity to train in Hezb’allah camps in Lebanon in exchange for striking U.S. interests.  Iran sheltered al-Qaeda people.  Al-Qaeda opposed Saudi Arabia because it was hosting U.S. troops during the Gulf war.  Osama sent a group, the al-Qaeda management committee, to Iran while Iran enabled al-Qaeda to move funds and fighters to south Asia and Syria.

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Cole Porter would have been perplexed by the petition in October 2017 to the English Department at Cambridge University to “decolonize the curriculum,” but he had the foresight to call on people to brush up on your Shakespeare, start quoting him now.  Evidently Osama bin Laden, the epitome of decolonization, who had no use for Broadway anyway, had no quarter for Porter.  The terrorist leader who founded al-Qaeda in 1988, not one of those attired in wonder that know not what to say, implicitly told the world this in his personal diary of 228 pages with his private reflections that have just been made public.

This information is important at a time when the United States and the Western world have been preoccupied with the activities of ISIS, both the caliphate and its adherents, with attacks in New York City and around the world that have overshadowed the once more well known terrorist group al-Qaeda and its leader Osama.

On November 1, 2017, Mike Pompeo, director of the CIA, ordered the release of 470,000 documents captured in the Navy SEALs’ raid on May 2, 2011 on the compound of Osama in Abbottabad, Pakistan, close to the Pakistan Military Academy.  President Barack Obama had held that no more data taken from the compound should be released to the public .

However, Pompeo believes that it is important for reasons of national security to make most of the unclassified documents public, except those that might harm national security or are pornographic or copyrighted.  This is made more important because the U.S. forces in the raid were not able to take everything in the compound, and no doubt Pakistani officials have useful information not available to the U.S.  It is certain that American analysts can gain important insights into the plans and workings of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations from the revealed material.

No doubt the documents will prove a treasure trove with their astonishing array of material.  Some of them, if tantalizing, have little to do with Islamic terrorism or with U.S. security, especially those that are probably for the amusement of younger and other members of the Osama family that contained several of his wives and 23 children and his grandchildren.  In this part of the treasure trove are animated films; episodes of Tom and Jerry; film classics; a video of “Charlie Bit my Finger”; commercials from an Oregon car dealer; home videos with a barn and animals; videos such asThe Three Musketeers; National Geographic films on Peru, the Kremlin, and India; and material on conspiracy theories, the occult, the Illuminati, and even 9/11, for which adherents of al-Qaeda were responsible.

Among the 80,000 audio and image files and the 10,000 video files are statements by Osama, his 228-page personal journal, and jihadist propaganda.  Interestingly, Osama seemed to have liked watching three documentaries on himself and programs on how the West saw him.  One of them was an interview in 2005 of former CIA director James Woolsey of the Iraq war.  The collection includes videos of jihadist beheadings and a video of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Iraqi al-Qaeda leader, who was killed in a 2006 U.S. air strike.

It has long been assumed that Osama was radicalized after he joined the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in 1979 fighting the forces of the Soviet Union.  But the personal diary reveals a different picture.  Osama tells of his visit to the U.K. for unstated “treatment” for ten weeks while he was in the 6th grade, aged 13.  He reports that he went every Sunday to visit Shakespeare’s 16th-century house in Stratford-upon-Avon.  He was not impressed, and he realized that British society was very different from his own and was a “morally loose society.”  It was at Stratford, not Afghanistan, that he first concluded that the West is “decadent.”  It is unlikely that he actually saw any one of Shakespeare’s plays, but even if not influenced by Hamlet, he acted as “if from this time forth, my thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth.”

Though his exact schedule is unknown, Osama experienced further decadence in Britain.  He had the misfortune to take an English language course at Oxford – at least it saved him from the “colonialism” at Cambridge – and is believed to have attended a soccer game at the home of Arsenal, the brutal Great Gunners, at Highbury in north London.

The materials reveal that American administration perceptions of Osama’s supposed unimportance in his last decade were inaccurate.  Osama and his network remained active and conspiratorial, and he was still the central factor in al-Qaeda, remaining in operations communication with his followers around the world.  His cohesive network included al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Al Shabaab in Somalia, and even the Taliban.

Some of his revelations are relevant to current affairs and U.S. policy.  He discusses the differences between al-Qaeda and ISIS and the factions with strategic, doctrinal, and religious differences within al-Qaeda.  The documents include the videos of Hamza, Osama’s favorite son and potential successor, with footage of his wedding, which apparently took place in Iran.  This son is slated to be the head of al-Qaeda and is a bitter enemy of the U.S.  Indeed, early in 2017, Hamza in a message called on al-Qaeda to attack Jews, Americans, Westerners, and Russians, using whatever weapons they have.  The U.S. has now placed Hamza on its Global Terrorist List.

For U.S. policymakers, it is useful to examine Osama’s thoughts on a variety of issues: the use of Libya after the death of Moammar Gaddafi; the path then and still for jihadists to enter Europe; the turmoil in the Middle East; Yemen, where Osama was plotting to kill the ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh; Bahrain; the protest by schoolchildren in Syria in 2011; the exploitation of the Arab Spring and other uprisings; and what al-Qaeda should do to make use of chaos.

Particularly important is Osama’s account of relations between al-Qaeda and Iran.

They were and are complex, fluctuating relations and loose ties between Sunni Osama and Shiite Iran.  What brought them together was the common hostility to the U.S. and to Saudi Arabia.  Iran supported al-Qaeda’s war against those countries.  Iran offered al-Qaeda “everything they needed,” funds and arms, and the opportunity to train in Hezb’allah camps in Lebanon in exchange for striking U.S. interests.  Iran sheltered al-Qaeda people.  Al-Qaeda opposed Saudi Arabia because it was hosting U.S. troops during the Gulf war.  Osama sent a group, the al-Qaeda management committee, to Iran while Iran enabled al-Qaeda to move funds and fighters to south Asia and Syria.

Lastly, Osama’s relations with Pakistan.  It is now clear that Pakistani authorities helped to hide him from the CIA for almost a decade.  This is clear from the fact that Osama used cell phones and computer hard drives, among other implements.

There is obviously a great deal of detail to analyze in the 470,000 documents.  What is important in all this for the U.S. and the Western world and Russia is reaffirmation of the need for cooperation to overcome Islamic terrorism.

Can Bin Laden Heir Salvage Jihad in Syria?

October 24, 2017

Can Bin Laden Heir Salvage Jihad in Syria? Investigative Project on Terrorism, Hany Ghoraba, October 24, 2017

Multiple British media outlets have confirmed the younger bin Laden’s presence in Syria. British Special Forces SAS dispatched 40 special forces fighters to hunt him down in Syria, the Daily Mail reported.

British authorities believe that bin Laden’s praise for “lone wolf” attacks in the speech poses a clear and present danger to national security. Britain has endured a series of such “lone wolf” attacks this year.

However, Syrian Democratic Army Brigadier General Ahmed Al Hamadi, the spokesman of northern front, indicated that bin Laden’s presence in Syria remains unconfirmed by his group.

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Out of the ashes left by ISIS’s battlefield defeats, a new al-Qaida branch is trying to stake a claim in Syria. Ansar Al Furqan Fi Bilad Al Sham announced its formation Oct. 9.

It is comprised of jihadists who had been affiliated with other terrorist movements, including ISIS, Jabhat Al Nusra and smaller, lesser-known groups.

Ansar Al Furqan’s charter describes a Sunni Muslim jihadist group that contains uniting “Muhajreen,” or immigrants, referring to foreign fighters and “Ansar,” who are local Syrian jihadists. These are battle hardened terrorists who have been fighting since the early years of the Syrian civil war. As with their jihadist counterparts, Ansar Al Furqan wants to establish an Islamic Caliphate.

The new group is rumored to be led by Hamza bin Laden, Osama bin Laden’s 28-year-old son. Al-Qaida released a tape by Hamza bin Laden Sept. 14 urging Syrian jihadists to stand their ground against the infidels.

“So do not waver, nor grieve,” he said. “… Weigh your affairs in the scales of the Hereafter, your difficulties will seem trivial to you.”

A week before Ansar Al Furqan’s declaration, al-Qaida leader Ayman Al Zawahiri lashed out against Jabhat Al Nusra leaders in Syria for breaking off from al-Qaida and operating independently. Jabhat Al Nusra leader Abu Mohammed Al Golani announced in July 2016 that his group wanted to merge or ally with only local jihadist groups. Being linked to al-Qaida made the group a target for all the regional and international powers, Al Golani said.

Al Zawahiri condemned Jabhat Al Nusra for breaking its baya, or pledge of allegiance to al-Qaida, and warned the group fighters in Syria of the consequences of breaking their pledge.

“As for us, we believe that the oath of allegiance is a Shari’i undertaking; binding in its nature, its violation forbidden. Our Lord says, ‘O’ you who believe, fulfill your pledges.’ As for us, we shall fulfill our oath; we shall neither wear down nor give in,” he said.

Al Zawahiri’s speech also aimed to restore al-Qaida’s reputation as the leading jihadist group.

Ansar Al Furqan’s nine-page charter was published online. It vows to target infidels and their countries including Russia, the United States, Turkey, and Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime. “Those who ally themselves with the non-believers and enemies of Allah from American and Russian or others then they will be judged similarly to them and they shall not be forgiven and only the sword will be their punishment,” it said.

The charter calls upon the pious to fight Shia Muslims and anyone supporting Americans or Russians, along with Arab leaders with nationalist or democratic agendas. “We denounce to Allah all the factions of heresy and blasphemy of the atheist, communist, democratic and modern political parties and those who ally themselves with the enemies of Allah from the Crusaders, Shia and other and we shall fight them on all fronts,” the charter said.

Fighting Arab leaders who are traditionally of Muslim faith (Lebanon’s president is a Christian) is a priority in the charter, which calls them infidels who are allied with the West. It also calls on Muslims to answer the call for jihad with money and arms. In an attempt to appear more rational than ISIS, however, the al-Qaida affiliated Ansar Al Furqan refrained from labeling all Muslims who don’t follow their path, or who oppose them, as infidels. Only the sinners among them should be punished according to sharia law’s dictates.

The charter also strongly criticized the lack of coordination and counseling between the different jihadist factions in Syria, which has led to their current dire situation.

Bin Laden called upon warring jihadist groups to reunite under one banner to face Islam’s common enemy. “The new world order is fighting you because you are attempting to establish a righteous caliphate, so don’t obey them, you have to disobey the infidels and their allies,” he said. “You should be proud that the United States and Russia consider you as their enemies.”

Ansar Al Furqan’s charter was released a few weeks later, with its pledge of allegiance to al-Qaida. The link between the recording and the group’s declaration cannot be ignored as Syria remains a very important to al-Qaida’s plans. The bin Laden speech was called “The ordeal of al-Sham (Syria) is the ordeal of Islam,” signifying that the group will spare no effort in attempting to turn the tide of war against Assad regime by trying to unite Syrian jihadists under one banner and attract more fighters.

Multiple British media outlets have confirmed the younger bin Laden’s presence in Syria. British Special Forces SAS dispatched 40 special forces fighters to hunt him down in Syria, the Daily Mail reported.

British authorities believe that bin Laden’s praise for “lone wolf” attacks in the speech poses a clear and present danger to national security. Britain has endured a series of such “lone wolf” attacks this year.

However, Syrian Democratic Army Brigadier General Ahmed Al Hamadi, the spokesman of northern front, indicated that bin Laden’s presence in Syria remains unconfirmed by his group.

Al-Qaida’s successor in Syria could become the region’s next menace if it manages to reunite smaller terrorist groups and fleeing fighters from ISIS and Jabhat Al Nusra. That outcome requires the right leadership. Hamza bin Laden’s status as the son of history’s most notorious terrorist mastermind could help. The next few months may show whether the group is another failed terrorist startup, or one that can actually make an impact. Or, the Syrian army and an international coalition may put an end to those ambitions once and for all.

Hany Ghoraba is an Egyptian writer, political and counter-terrorism analyst at Al Ahram Weekly, author of Egypt’s Arab Spring: The Long and Winding Road to Democracy and a regular contributor to the BBC.

US military warns of Shabaab resurgence, strikes ‘command and logistics node’

June 11, 2017

US military warns of Shabaab resurgence, strikes ‘command and logistics node’, Long War Journal, , June 11, 2017

While announcing an airstrike that targeted a Shabaab “command and logistics node” in southern Somalia, the US military warned of al Qaeda’s resurgence in the country and said it has “taken advantage of safe haven.” The strike is the first announced by the US military since the Trump administration declared that it would expand operations against al Qaeda’s branch in Somalia.

US Africa Command, or AFRICOM, announced that it targeted a “command and logistics node at a camp located approximately 185 miles southwest of Mogadishu in a stronghold for the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab organization” in an airstrike. AFRCOM assessed that eight Shabaab operatives were killed.

AFRICOM’s worrying assessment of Shabaab’s revival in Somalia is an admission that efforts by the US, African Union, and Somali government to contain and defeat the group over the past several years have failed. The US Department of Defense admitted as much in late March, when it announced that the Trump administration approved “additional precision fires” to target Shabaab throughout Somalia.

The Pentagon’s desire to actively target Shabaab reflects the growing concern that al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa is gaining strength despite the presence of both African Union and US forces, and it is plotting to attack the West. Shabaab used a sophisticated laptop bomb in an attempt to down a Somali airliner in 2016. This attack was cited by the US government as one of the reasons that electronics have been banned in the cabins of airplanes departing from 10 airports in the Middle East. [See What’s really behind Trump’s laptop ban.]

Today’s strike is part of an overarching effort to “degrade the al-Qaeda affiliate’s ability to recruit, train and plot external terror attacks throughout the region and in America.”

The AFRICOM statement also acknowledged that African Union and Somali forces have suffered significant losses at the hands of Shabaab:

In the last eight months, al-Shabaab has overrun three African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) Forward Operating Bases by amassing large numbers of fighters and attacking in overwhelming numbers. Al-Shabaab has also increased its combat capability by seizing heavy weaponry, armored vehicles, explosives, small arms, ammunition, and other miscellaneous supplies during its operations overrunning Burundian National Defense Forces FOB Leego, Ugandan People’s Defense Force FOB Janaale, and Kenyan Defense Force FOB Ceel Ad.

The terror organization has taken advantage of safe haven. The group has cemented its control [sic] southern and central Somalia, they have used this area to plot and direct terror attacks, steal humanitarian aid, and to shelter other radical terrorists.

Shabaab has successfully overrun Somali and African Union bases in the past and inflicted a large number of casualties on troops based there. In Jan. 2016, Shabaab fighters assaulted a base in Al Ade in the south and killed at least 100 Kenyan soldiers. In June 2015, Shabaab killed an estimated 60 Ethiopian soldiers in the south. That same month, Shabaab fighters killed more than 50 Burundi soldiers in Leego.

Shabaab has been resurgent in Somalia since losing ground to a combined African Union and Somali offensive in 2011. The jihadist group has slowly but methodically retaken several towns and villages that it lost, including the coastal town of Marka.

However, Shabaab’s efforts have not been confined to southern and central Somalia. Late last week, Shabaab fighters overran a base manned by Puntland forces in northern Somalia. Upwards of 60 troops were killed and Shabaab seized a large number of weapons and vehicles as well as a quantity of ammunition.

Today’s strike is the first reported by the US military against Shabaab since the Department of Defense announced that it would expand military operations. AFRICOM released a statement on April 17 to refute press reports that US forces launched airstrikes in southwestern Somalia.

The Muslim Brotherhood Connection: ISIS, “Lady al Qaeda,” and the Muslim Students Association

June 1, 2017

The Muslim Brotherhood Connection: ISIS, “Lady al Qaeda,” and the Muslim Students Association, Gatestone InstituteThomas Quiggin, June 1, 2017

“It should be the long-term goal of every MSA [Muslim Students Association] to Islamicize the politics of their respective university … the politicization of the MSA means to make the MSA more of a force on internal campus politics. The MSA needs to be a more ‘in-your-face’ association.” — Hussein Hamdani, a lawyer who served as an adviser on Muslim issues and security for the Canadian government.

Several alumni of the MSA have gone on to become leading figures in Islamist groups. These include infamous al Qaeda recruiter Anwar al Awlaki, Osama bin Laden funder Ahmed Sayed Khadr, ISIS propagandist John “Yahya” Maguire and Canada’s first suicide bomber, “Smiling Jihadi” Salma Ashrafi.

What they have in common (whether members of ISIS, al Qaeda, Jamaat e Isami, Boko Haram, Abu Sayyaf or others) is ideology often rooted in the Muslim Brotherhood — as findings of a 2015 U.K. government review on the organization revealed.

In August 2014, ISIS tried to secure the release from a U.S. federal prison of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui — a Pakistani neuroscientist educated in the United States — formerly known as the “most wanted woman alive,” but now referred to as “Lady al Qaeda”, by exchanging her for American war correspondent James Foley, who was abducted in 2012 in Syria. When the proposed swap failed, Foley was beheaded in a gruesome propaganda video produced and released by his captors, while Siddiqui remained in jail serving an 86-year sentence.

Part of an FBI “seeking information” handout on Aafia Siddiqui — formerly known as the “most wanted woman alive.” (Image source: FBI/Getty Images)

ISIS also offered to exchange Siddiqui for a 26-year-old American woman kidnapped in Syria while working with humanitarian aid groups. Two years earlier, the Taliban had tried to make a similar deal, offering to release U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for Siddiqui. These efforts speak volumes about Siddiqui’s profile and importance in Islamist circles.

Her affiliation with Islamist ideology began when she was a student, first at M.I.T. and then at Brandeis University, where she obtained her doctorate in 2001. Her second marriage happened to be to Ammar al-Baluchi (Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali), nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks.

During the 1995-6 academic year, Siddiqui wrote three sections of the Muslim Students Association “Starter’s Guide” — “Starting and Continuing a Regular Dawah [Islamic proselytizing] Table”, “10 Characteristics of an MSA Table” and “Planning A Lecture” — providing ideas on how successfully to infiltrate North American campuses.

The MSA of the United States and Canada was established in January 1963 by members of the Muslim Brotherhood at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign campus. Since its inception, the MSA has emerged as the leading and most influential Islamist student organization in North America — with nearly 600 MSA chapters in the United States and Canada today.

The first edition of the MSA Starter’s Guide: A Guide on How to Run a Successful MSA was released in 1996. A subsection on “Islamization of Campus Politics and the Politicization of The MSA,” written by Hussein Hamdani, a lawyer who served as an adviser on Muslim issues and security for the Canadian government, states:

“It should be the long-term goal of every MSA to Islamicize the politics of their respective university … the politicization of the MSA means to make the MSA more of a force on internal campus politics. The MSA needs to be a more ‘in-your-face’ association.”

In early 2015, Canadian Minister of Public Safety Steven Blaney suspended Hamdani from the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on National Security. No reason was given for the suspension, but Hamdani claimed it had been politically motivated — related to his support for Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party. The French-language Canadian network TVA suggested, however, that the suspension was actually due to activities in which Hamdani had engaged as a university student, and radical organizations with which he was associated. During the 1998-9 academic year, Hamdani was president of the Muslim Students Association at the University of Western Ontario; in 1995, he was treasurer of the McMaster University branch of the MSA.

Several alumni of the MSA have gone on to become leading figures in Islamist groups. These include infamous al Qaeda recruiter Anwar al Awlaki, Osama bin Laden funder Ahmed Sayed Khadr, ISIS propagandist John “Yahya” Maguire and Canada’s first suicide bomber, “Smiling Jihadi” Salma Ashrafi.

What they have in common (whether members of ISIS, al Qaeda, Jamaat e Isami, Boko Haram, Abu Sayyaf or others) is ideology often rooted in the Muslim Brotherhood — as findings of a 2015 U.K. government review on the organization revealed.

Siddiqui’s involvement in the MSA, her subsequent literal and figurative marriage to al Qaeda and her attempted release by ISIS, perfectly illustrate this ideological connection and path.

Thomas Quiggin, a court qualified expert on terrorism and practical intelligence, is based in Canada.

Al Qaeda criticizes Saudi relations with West during President Trump’s visit

May 22, 2017

Al Qaeda criticizes Saudi relations with West during President Trump’s visit, Long War Journal May 22, 2017

Al Qaeda seized on President Donald J. Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia to once again criticize the royal family and call for an uprising.

According to bin Laden, these early Saudi dealings with the West led to the British capture of Palestine and, later on, the establishment of the Israeli state.

Osama bin Laden liked to argue that there is a “Zionist-Crusader” conspiracy against Muslims. His son, Hamza, has continued with these themes, making it one of his central talking points and accusing the House of Saud of being part of it.

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On May 20, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, As Sahab, released an audio message from Hamza bin Laden. The junior bin Laden follows in his father’s footsteps by blasting the Saudi royal family. His speech is the second part in a series aimed at the House of Saud. Part 1, in which Hamza called for regime change, was released last August.

It’s not clear when Hamza recorded his latest anti-Saudi message. He does not mention President Trump or the American delegation. Instead, he focuses on the early decades of the Saudi dynasty, portraying it as a corrupt regime that serves the interests of the West. Still, al Qaeda undoubtedly wanted to maximize the audience for Hamza’s audio by releasing it during President Trump’s visit.

Then, on May 21, al Qaeda published the 15th issue of its Al Nafir Bulletin (seen below). The one-page newsletter is devoted to Trump’s visit. “The Al Saud rulers and all apostate rulers appear before us today in wasteful ceremonies to offer loyalty and renew their allegiance to the hateful Crusader master of the White House, Trump,” the newsletter reads.

Just hours before Al Nafir was released online, President Trump attended a ceremony with King Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi to commemorate the opening of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology in Riyadh. Unsurprisingly, Al Nafir’s editors criticize the move, arguing that the “rulers” had really committed to building “an apostate army to fight jihad and the Mujahideen in the name of fighting terror and terrorism.” The center will be used “to fight faith, purity, and commitment, under the call to fight extremism, backwardness, and intolerance,” al Qaeda contends.

In Al-Nafir, al Qaeda also argues that the Saudi government should give its money to the people instead of investing it in defense deals and other arrangements with the US. Al Qaeda uses these two issues — the Saudis’ supposed misuse of funds and the creation of the new center — to renew its call for jihad.

“So here are the Crusaders and the apostates, and they have stolen your money, fought your religion, shed your blood, and transgressed against your honor,” Al Nafir reads. “When will you return to your religion and do jihad in the cause of Allah?”

Hamza bin Laden’s critique of Ibn Saud

Al Qaeda has been raising Hamza’s media profile since the summer of 2015, when he was first introduced as a prominent jihadist figure. On May 13, just one week before Hamza’s new anti-Saudi message, As Sahab released another speech from Osama’s heir. In that talk, Hamza provided advice to “martyrdom seekers” living in the West. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report: Hamza bin Laden offers ‘advice for martyrdom seekers in the West’]

In his latest message, Hamza accuses the Saudi government of promulgating a false version of its own history, arguing that “generations have been raised” ignorant of what truly transpired during the first years of the 20th Century, when the House of Saud rose. Bin Laden is keen to undermine King Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud’s (Ibn Saud) legacy, portraying him as a witting agent of the British. Only when the proper history is told, Hamza says, will Muslims “understand the magnitude of the injustice brought upon” their country and then work to “restore” their “stolen rights.”

Bin Laden accuses Ibn Saud of working with the British from the beginning, seeking their “approval” before leaving Kuwait (where the Saud family lived) and conquering the city of Riyadh in 1902. Riyadh and large parts of the Arabian peninsula were controlled by Ibn Rashid’s men, who were allied with the Ottoman Empire at the time. Bin Laden says Ibn Saud could only expand his power at the expense of the Ottoman Empire’s allies and he sought assistance from the British to do it. This, from al Qaeda’s perspective, violates Islamic law, as Ibn Saud attacked fellow Muslims while working with the British.

According to bin Laden, the Saudi telling of Ibn Saud’s early conquests omits these “sharia violations,” including the assault on the Ottoman’s ally “to serve the English” and the “unlawful killing of Muslims.”

In the period leading up to World War I, the Ottoman government sought to reconcile the opposing forces inside the Arabian Peninsula. And so a deal was struck between the Ottomans and Ibn Saud, which granted the Saudi patriarch territorial rights in exchange for military cooperation and an agreement to prevent “foreign powers” from expanding their influence in the region. But Ibn Saud broke this agreement as well, bin Laden says, after he again sided with the British. (Ibn Saud’s territory was declared a British protectorate as part of a treaty in 1915.) Ibn Saud moved on the Turks’ main client, Ibn Rashid, despite their previous understanding. In so doing, bin Laden charges, the founder of the Saudi dynasty paved the way for “the English and their allies to occupy the homelands of the Muslims.”

Bin Laden reminds his audience that Captain William Henry Irvine Shakespear, a British emissary, served as Ibn Saud’s military adviser and had “command” of the Muslim forces while organizing “their ranks.” This was part of Britain’s broader “financial and military” support for Ibn Saud. This is all “clear evidence” of English support, bin Laden says, and led to “Crusader hegemony” over the region.

According to bin Laden, these early Saudi dealings with the West led to the British capture of Palestine and, later on, the establishment of the Israeli state.

Osama bin Laden liked to argue that there is a “Zionist-Crusader” conspiracy against Muslims. His son, Hamza, has continued with these theme, making it one of his central talking points and accusing the House of Saud of being part of it.

Hamza bin Laden offers ‘advice for martyrdom seekers in the West’

May 13, 2017

Hamza bin Laden offers ‘advice for martyrdom seekers in the West’, Long War Journal, May 13, 2017

(Islamist terror has nothing to do with Islam; it’s workplace violence. Didn’t Hamza bin Laden listen to Imam Obama? — DM)

“If you are unable to go for American Crusaders, target the interests of the Crusader member states of NATO,” Hamza continues. “And since Russia has forgotten what it tasted in Chechnya and Afghanistan, and has returned once again to interfere in matters concerning Islam, do not exclude it from your targets of priority. Give Russia a pertinent reminder of the days of your predecessors.”

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Hamza bin Laden, the son of al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, has released a new message offering “advice” for “martyrdom seekers in the West.” Hamza encourages followers to lash out on their own, but only after carefully preparing their attack so they “may inflict damage far beyond anything the enemy has ever imagined.”

As Sahab, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, released the junior bin Laden’s message less one week after a similar appeal was issued by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Qasim al Raymi. The “lone mujahid” effort was first launched by AQAP, but the group’s rivals in the Islamic State have had far more success in inspiring and guiding individual attacks since 2014. The messages from Raymi and now Hamza bin Laden are likely part of al Qaeda’s effort to regain the initiative with respect to this tactic.

Hamza calls on individual jihadists to “avenge” the “children of Syria,” the “widows of Palestine,” the “free honorable women of Iraq,” and “the orphans of Afghanistan.”

“Exercise patience and deliberation, for it is among the qualities loved by Allah and His Messenger, peace be upon him,” Hamza says. “Accomplish your goals with secrecy. Attain the highest level of perfection in your actions, exercise utmost care and caution, and prepare diligently to inflict crippling losses on those who have disbelieved.”

Hamza specifically references AQAP’s Inspire Magazine, saying followers can “benefit” from it. (Interestingly, his father was reportedly less impressed by Inspire and even complained about some of the tactics advocated therein.)

“Be perfect in your choice of targets, so that you may damage your enemies more,” Hamza advises. “Be professional in your choice of weapons. It is not necessary that it should be a military tool. If you are able to pick a firearm, well and good; if not, the options are many.”

Osama’s heir encourages individual jihadists to “follow in the footsteps of martyrdom-seekers before” them, arguing they shouldn’t “underestimate” themselves. There is no reason to emigrate to the jihadists battlefields abroad, according to Hamza, because “professionally executed individual operations in the West” have “outweighed numerous operations in the East.” (Al Qaeda’s rivals in the Islamic State have made the same argument.)

“Know that inflicting punishment on Jews and Crusaders where you are present is more vexing and severe for the enemy,” Hamza continues. “It is sharper than a hundred warheads directed against their agents.”

Hamza wants followers to “prioritize” their “targets.”

First, “everyone who transgresses against our pure Religion, or against our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him)” should be struck. Hamza specifically mentions the Jan. 2015 Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, which was claimed by AQAP and carried out according to Ayman al Zawahiri’s general orders.

“Next, look out for Jewish interests everywhere.” But if the jihadist is not able to locate these, then “target American Crusaders.”

“If you are unable to go for American Crusaders, target the interests of the Crusader member states of NATO,” Hamza continues. “And since Russia has forgotten what it tasted in Chechnya and Afghanistan, and has returned once again to interfere in matters concerning Islam, do not exclude it from your targets of priority. Give Russia a pertinent reminder of the days of your predecessors.”

Hamza and other al Qaeda leaders want jihadist attacks to send a clear message to their enemies. “I strongly advise that the message you intend to convey through your blessed operation must be explained unequivocally in the media,” he advises. “It is absolutely imperative that people should know the objective of your operation.”

“We in al Qaeda emphasize the importance of conveying the following messages to Western states, and we advise you to do the same,” Hamza says. He provides a list of al Qaeda’s priorities for individual jihadists:

1. Our Religion and our Prophet (peace be upon him) are RED LINES. Let those who cross these lines take heed from Charlie Hebdo.

2. Palestine is a cause of our Islamic Ummah [worldwide community of Muslims]. And anyone who supports Jewish occupiers shall never dream of peace, with the permission of Allah.

3. Sham is a cause of our Islamic Ummah. Our people in Sham are faced with genocide. And everyone who participates in tormenting them with bombings or by aiding Bashar [al Assad] and his allies shall not escape punishment.

4. Our lands are occupied. The Land of the Two Sanctuaries [Saudi Arabia] is occupied. We shall continue to target you until you withdraw your forces from the Arabian Peninsula and from every single land of Islam.

5. Our airspace is violated by your aircrafts which unleash their deadly payload on our children. Our wealth and resources are expropriated every single day.

Hamza’s audio message is embedded in a video that is just over ten minutes long. Various operations, including the Dec. 2016 assassination of a Russian ambassador in Turkey, are lauded throughout the video.

As Hamza’s audio begins to play, an image of the Fort Hood shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, is shown on screen. The photo of Hasan is followed by footage from the Nov. 5, 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood, video from a service for the victims, and a brief clip of AQAP ideologue Anwar al Awlaki, who inspired Hasan.

An image of Ramzi Yousef, who orchestrated the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and other plots, is also included at the outset, as is footage from the 1993 bombing in lower Manhattan.

As Sahab released Hamza’s message with Arabic and English-language transcripts. Al Qaeda has been releasing messages with an English translation on an increasingly frequent basis. Recent messages from Ayman al Zawahiri and Raymi were also released with English transcripts.

Screen shots from the video accompanying Hamza bin Laden’s audio message:

 

 

 

Afghanistan’s terrorist resurgence: Al Qaeda, ISIS, and beyond

April 27, 2017

Afghanistan’s terrorist resurgence: Al Qaeda, ISIS, and beyond, Long War Journal, April 27, 2017

More than 15 years after the U.S. military invaded Afghanistan to destroy al-Qaeda, the group maintains a persistent and significant presence in the country. Despite the Obama administration’s surge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2012, the Taliban, which has maintained its close alliance with al-Qaeda, is resurgent and today holds more ground in the country since the U.S. ousted the jihadists in early 2002.

And the threat posed by jihadist groups in Afghanistan has expanded. The Islamic State has established a small, but significant, foothold in the country. Pakistani jihadist groups that are hostile to the U.S. – such as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Harakat-ul-Muhajideen – operate bases inside Afghanistan as well.

For nearly seven years, the Obama administration wrote off al-Qaeda as a spent force. The group has been described as “decimated.” After Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, President Obama said the “core of al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan is on a path to defeat.” The Obama administration pushed this narrative hard, with many counterterrorism analysts adopting the line that al-Qaeda was either defeated or close to it.

Between 2010 and 2016, Obama administration officials, including CIA Director Leon Panetta, as well as other U.S. military and intelligence officials, characterized al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan as minimal and consistently told the American public that the group has a presence of just 50 to 100 fighters. “I think at most, we’re looking at maybe 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity. There’s no question that the main location of al-Qaeda is in tribal areas of Pakistan,” Panetta said on ABC News This Week.

 

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Editor’s note: Below is Bill Roggio’s testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation. A PDF of the testimony, with footnotes, can be downloaded here.

Chairman Poe, Ranking Member Keating, and other members of this subcommittee, thank you for inviting me here today to speak about the terrorist groups based in Afghanistan and their continuing threat to U.S. national security.

More than 15 years after the U.S. military invaded Afghanistan to destroy al-Qaeda, the group maintains a persistent and significant presence in the country. Despite the Obama administration’s surge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2012, the Taliban, which has maintained its close alliance with al-Qaeda, is resurgent and today holds more ground in the country since the U.S. ousted the jihadists in early 2002.

And the threat posed by jihadist groups in Afghanistan has expanded. The Islamic State has established a small, but significant, foothold in the country. Pakistani jihadist groups that are hostile to the U.S. – such as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Harakat-ul-Muhajideen – operate bases inside Afghanistan as well.

U.S. Estimates on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan Were Incorrect

For nearly seven years, the Obama administration wrote off al-Qaeda as a spent force. The group has been described as “decimated.” After Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, President Obama said the “core of al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan is on a path to defeat.” The Obama administration pushed this narrative hard, with many counterterrorism analysts adopting the line that al-Qaeda was either defeated or close to it.

Between 2010 and 2016, Obama administration officials, including CIA Director Leon Panetta, as well as other U.S. military and intelligence officials, characterized al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan as minimal and consistently told the American public that the group has a presence of just 50 to 100 fighters. “I think at most, we’re looking at maybe 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity. There’s no question that the main location of al-Qaeda is in tribal areas of Pakistan,” Panetta said on ABC News This Week.

This assessment, which contradicted the U.S. military’s own press releases announcing raids against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, was consistently repeated by U.S. intelligence and military officials. In June 2015, the U.S. military claimed in its biannual Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan report that al-Qaeda “has a sustained presence in Afghanistan of probably fewer than 100 operatives concentrated largely in Kunar and Nuristan Provinces, where they remain year-round.” The December 2015 report claimed that al-Qaeda is “primarily concentrated in the east and northeast.

This estimate of al-Qaeda’s strength, which consistently downplayed al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan, came crashing down in mid-October 2015, when the U.S. military and Afghan forces orchestrated a large-scale operation against two al-Qaeda camps in the Shorabak district in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar.

The scale of al-Qaeda’s presence at the two camps in Shorabak quickly disproved the longstanding 50 to 100 estimate. A U.S. military statement, quoting spokesman Brigadier General Wilson Shoffner, described the raid as “one of the largest joint ground-assault operations we have ever conducted in Afghanistan.” It took U.S. and Afghan forces more than four days to clear the two camps, with the aid of 63 airstrikes.

Shoffner’s description of the al-Qaeda facilities indicated that they had been built long ago. “The first site, a well-established training camp, spanned approximately one square mile. The second site covered nearly 30 square miles,” Shoffner said. “We struck a major al-Qaeda sanctuary in the center of the Taliban’s historic heartland,” he added.

Weeks later, General John F. Campbell, then the commander of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan and NATO’s Resolute Support mission, described one of the camps, which was run by al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), al-Qaeda’s branch in South Asia, as “probably the largest training camp-type facility that we have seen in 14 years of war.”

It has been estimated that at least 150 al-Qaeda fighters were killed during the raids on the two camps in Shorabak. This is 50 more al-Qaeda fighters than the upper end of the Obama administration’s estimate of al-Qaeda’s strength throughout all of Afghanistan. And the al-Qaeda members were killed in southern Afghanistan, not in the northeastern provinces of Kunar and Nuristan, where we have been told they were concentrated.

The U.S. military was ultimately forced to concede its estimate of al-Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan was wrong. In mid-December 2016, General Nicholson admitted that the U.S. military killed or captured 50 al-Qaeda leaders and an additional 200 operatives during calendar year 2016 in Afghanistan.

In April 2016, Major General Jeff Buchanan, Resolute Support’s deputy chief of staff, told CNN that the 50 to 100 estimate was incorrect based on the results of the Shorabak raid. “If you go back to last year, there were a lot of intel estimates that said within Afghanistan al-Qaeda probably has 50 to 100 members, but in this one camp we found more than 150,” he said. The estimate of al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan was revised upwards to about 300.

However, well before the Shorabak raids, it was evident to those of us closely watching the war in Afghanistan that al-Qaeda was stronger in Afghanistan than the official estimates, and was not confined to small areas in the northeast. Al-Qaeda consistently reported on its operations throughout Afghanistan, and the U.S. military, up until the summer of 2013, reported on raids against al-Qaeda cells in multiple provinces.

Surely, there was something seriously wrong with the CIA and the U.S. military’s ability to properly report on al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda’s footprint inside Afghanistan remains a direct threat to U.S. national security and, with the resurgence of the Taliban, it is a threat that is only growing stronger.

The Enduring Taliban-al-Qaeda Relationship

Al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan has not occurred in a vacuum. It has maintained its strength in the country since the U.S. invasion, launched a new branch, AQIS, and established training camps with the help and support of the Taliban.

When Generals Campbell and Buchanan discussed al-Qaeda in the wake of the Shorabak raid, they described the group as resurgent. Campbell described the Taliban-al-Qaeda relationship as a “renewed partnership,” while Buchanan said it “has since ‘grown stronger.’”

But like the estimate that al-Qaeda maintained a small cadre of 50 to 100 operatives in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2016, the idea that the Taliban and al-Qaeda have only recently reinvigorated their relationship is incorrect. Al-Qaeda would not have been able to maintain a large cadre of fighters and leaders inside Afghanistan, conduct operations in 25 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, establish training camps, and relocate high-level leaders from Pakistan’s tribal areas to Afghanistan without the Taliban’s long-term support.
Al-Qaeda has remained loyal to the Taliban’s leader, which it describes as the Amir al- Mumineen, or the “Commander of the Faithful,” since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001. Osama bin Laden maintained his oath of allegiance to Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s founder and first emir. When bin Laden died, Ayman al-Zawahiri renewed that oath. And when Mullah Omar’s death was announced in 2015, Zawahiri swore bayat (an oath of allegiance) to Mullah Mansour, the Taliban’s new leader. Mansour publicly accepted Zawahiri’s oath.

The close relationship between the two jihadist groups is also evident with the assent of the Taliban’s new deputy emir, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who leads the powerful Taliban subgroup known as the Haqqani Network. Sirajuddin and the Haqqani Network have maintained close ties to al-Qaeda for years. The relationship is evident in the U.S. government’s designations of multiple Haqqani Network leaders. Two documents seized from Osama bin Laden’s compound show that Siraj has closely coordinated his operations with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Taliban-al-Qaeda relationship remains strong to this day. And with the Taliban gaining control of a significant percentage of Afghanistan’s territory, al-Qaeda has more areas to plant its flag.

Rise of the Islamic State

Shortly after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of the caliphate in 2014, announcing the formation of the Islamic State, a small number of disgruntled jihadists from the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, as well as al-Qaeda, discarded their oaths to the Taliban, pledged their fealty to Baghdadi, and established the so-called Khorasan province.

While the Islamic State dominates the jihad in Iraq and is a major player in Syria, the group has posed a smaller threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan when compared to the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and their jihadist allies. The U.S. military estimated the group had upwards of 2,000 fighters at the beginning of 2016, but had lost between 25 and 30 percent of its men in the months that followed. While U.S. military estimates of the strength of jihadist groups in Afghanistan must be taken with a grain of salt, this number is likely in the right ballpark.
The Islamic State has a much smaller presence in Afghanistan when compared to the Taliban. While the Taliban controls or contests more than 200 of Afghanistan’s 400 districts, the Islamic State only controls terrain in several districts in the eastern province of Nangarhar. The group also reportedly has a presence in the Afghan north.

The Islamic State’s Khorasan province has remained entrenched in Nangarhar and has withstood multiple U.S.-backed offensives over the past two years. The U.S. military has had success in killing key leaders, but the group has proven resilient.

Still, the so-called caliphate’s Khorasan province has remained on the margins of the Afghan war. It has conducted a limited number of suicide attacks and other operations in the Afghan capital of Kabul and elsewhere, but has not come close to matching the Taliban’s operational tempo.

Khorasan province has had a difficult time gaining traction throughout much of Afghanistan and Pakistan, as it is unwilling to cooperate with other, long-entrenched jihadist groups. In fact, the Taliban crushed the Khorasan province’s forces in Helmand, Farah, and Zabul after they demanded that the Taliban’s fighters swear allegiance to Baghdadi.

Pakistani Jihadist Groups Operating in Afghanistan

In addition to the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State, numerous Pakistan-based jihadist groups are known to operate in Afghanistan. For the most part, these organizations remain in the Taliban and al-Qaeda sphere, and leaders of the groups often backfill leadership positions when al-Qaeda commanders are killed in U.S. airstrikes.

The three largest Pakistani groups operating in Afghanistan are the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Harakat-ul-Muhajideen.

The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (TTP) is largely made up of Taliban groups from Pakistan’s tribal areas. It is closely allied with the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda. In 2010, the TTP organized the Times Square bombing plot.

The TTP has taken advantage of the turbulent and ungoverned Afghan-Pakistani border to shift its base of operations when the Pakistani military targets it in offensives. The U.S. has killed several TTP leaders in airstrikes in Afghanistan.

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is a dangerous jihadist group that is backed by Pakistan’s military and Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. The LeT is known to operate training camps in Afghanistan and attacked the Indian Consulate in Herat in 2014.26 The U.S. has killed several senior LeT operatives in airstrikes in northeastern Afghanistan over the years. The U.S. has also listed several senior LeT operatives, including Hafiz Saeed, the group’s emir, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

Harakat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) is another Pakistani jihadist group that is known, as of August 2014, to operate training camps in Afghanistan.27 HuM has been involved in numerous acts of terror in the region, including hijacking an Indian airplane, attacking the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, and murdering Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.