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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Terrorism Focus


Al-Qaeda MPs in Kuwait?

By Stephen Ulph

Speaking on the U.S.-funded Arab language TV station al-Hurra, the former head of the Kuwaiti security services, Mashaal Jarrah, discussed the infiltration of two al-Qaeda members into the Kuwait parliament, without specifying whether these were current or former legislators. The revelations detailed in the Kuwait daily al-Seyassah added extra embarrassment to a country that has been shaken from its complacency following the attacks of last January. [www.alseyassah.com] Evidence of local pro-Qaeda sympathies had already surfaced from the Kuwaiti origin of high-ranking members in the organization, such as its nominal spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (captured in Pakistan in March 2003) and Omar al-Faruq (arrested in June 2002 and believed to have been active in linking al-Qaeda with groups in Southeast Asia). But this year the emirate witnessed scandals of high-ranking military officers prosecuted for plotting anti-U.S. attacks, accusations of ‘sleeping cells' in the country's security agencies and armed confrontations on the streets (see Terrorism Focus, Volume II, Issue 02).

Investigations into the causes of the jihad-friendly environment in the aftermath of those attacks focused on the role played by the influence of salafist and Muslim Brotherhood members in the Ministry of Education—whose syllabus was once described by a Kuwaiti Shi'ite legislator as "enough to turn your hair white," for it's potential inculcation of takfir (excommunication) and militant jihadist values among the nation's youth. Conservative political currents are strong in Kuwait, with 21 of the 50-strong legislature described as Islamists.

Jarrah's own focus of blame for the phenomenon, according to the Arab Times, is on the number of unregulated mosques in the emirate outside the control of the Kuwaiti religious authorities, whose radical imams are being exploited by al-Qaeda to spread its ideology. [www.arabtimesonline.com] The former security chief's allegations may remain unproven, but the fact that they were made at all hints at continuing unease at the level of radical Islamist views in the emirate. This is the first time a senior officer in the security authorities has officially admitted that al-Qaeda has infiltrated Kuwait, the closest ally to the United States that is home to an expatriate population in excess of 35,000 Americans.

Coming Soon: The ‘Voice of the Caliphate' Radio

By Stephen Ulph

A banner from the soon-to-be-released Sawt al-Khlifah radio
A September 11 posting on the jihadi forums further demonstrates the mujahideen's vulnerability and sensitivity to negative media coverage. Issued by the Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF), the posting detailed the imminent appearance of its latest project, the "first of its kind in the media world"—the Sawt al-Khilafa (Voice of the Caliphate) radio broadcast. The initiative is billed as "a transparent vision with an Islamic view" and a "voice of Truth in a time of Evil." The GIMF announcement was accompanied by a fanfare of media flashes for forum readers to download and distribute among their colleagues. The stated aim of the new initiative is to confront the "media obfuscation carried out by the collaborationist [i.e. Iraqi government] media channels and the frantic media war directed against our mujahid brothers all over the world, which spares no effort to blacken the image of the mujahideen and conceal their victories." [http://soutgimf.s5.com]

The announcement of the new broadcast service comes at a time of increasing frustration for the mujahideen at their weakening profile in the international media. Symptomatic of this was a report by AFP of a new warning issued on September 8 to the Arabic satellite TV channel al-Arabiya—and intended for all Arabic language channels—from an unknown group calling itself Jama'at Jund al-Islam al-Jihadiyya (Group of the Jihadi Soldiers of Islam) to cease their "slander" and contribution "to the distortion of jihad and the mujahideen all over the world… and their description of it as terrorism." As an example of the media distortion, it cited the labeling by these channels of martyrdom operations as ‘suicide attacks.' It reminded the al-Arabiya channel of the earlier car bombing of its offices in Baghdad by the Jihadist Martyrs Brigades in Iraq in October of last year that resulted in seven fatalities. It added that "our arms are long and able to reach all the traitors and collaborators in this nation."

The present posting dedicates its efforts to Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Emir Mulla Omar and Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, "and to the Islamic armies in Chechnya, Kashmir and the Land of the Two Shrines [Saudi Arabia], and in every place." It repeats earlier announcements as to the GIMF's purpose—"The Front does not belong to anyone. It is the property of all zealous Muslims and knows no geographical boundaries." On August 22 it signaled an acceleration of activity with an audio "call to zealous Muslims" to add their efforts to the jihad by joining in with the work of the group. The GIMF's recent productions include a so-called "Top Ten" video production of attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq, carried out by the Islamic Army in Iraq and al-Zarqawi's al-Qaeda Organization in the Land of Two Rivers, and a film entitled "Bloody Comedy" stitching together more footage of U.S. casualties to a soundtrack of laughter. [www.al-farouq.com]

These developments testify to the new emphasis placed by the mujahideen on the media war. Pointedly, the warning against al-Arabiyah noted that "our war with the American tyrant and his collaborators is now not confined to the military war, but extends to the information war which our mujahideen brothers are waging in Iraq with success."

Another Algerian Jihadists' Call to Arms

By Stephen Ulph

Despite the high-profile June 4 attack on a Mauritanian military outpost (see Terrorism Focus, Volume II, Issue 11), evidence exists of increasing exasperation among the Algerian jihadis. The reaction to the al-Qaeda murder of two Algerian diplomats in Iraq on July 27 demonstrated how out of touch the mujahideen are with the Algerian population, which reacted negatively to Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat (GSPC) leader Abu Mus'ab Abd al-Wadoud's support for the assassinations.

A recent series of announcements and publications has underlined, with growing shrillness, the threat posed by creeping ‘secularization' in Algeria, against which the group is powerless. At the beginning of August the GSPC issued a plea to Algerians in France to do what the mujahideen in Algeria cannot—get close enough to assassinate Algerian leaders. But the message also underlined the real problem facing the mujahideen, when it listed their true enemies: "Not just the military leadership, but [secularizing bodies such as] the media … cultural institutes and diplomatic missions. The danger of these civilian bodies is several times greater than the generals … since these direct campaigns against [Islamic principles in] the Family Law and the education system." [www.salafia.ne1.net]

The issue of secular education merited a particular declaration addressed to those of university age. The communiqué dated August 1, Shahdh al-Himma li-Shabab al-Umma, (Whetting the Will of the Nation's Youth) expressed its frustration at the lack of response by young Algerians to the news of the jihads in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and ascribed the torpor to conspiratorial measures to distract and corrupt these youths—which it lamented as successful. The tone of the posting is resentful: "where did you vanish to in these [last] years?" it complains. "Has your desire to gain a university diploma and a future and a better life distracted you from studying what Allah has to offer you?" Instead, is it not time, it continues, "to leave children's playgrounds and the coffee shops of the penniless unemployed and instead join the battlefields of the heroes?" [www.salafia.ne1.net]

The message was reinforced in the fourth edition of the GSPC magazine al-Jama'ah released September 2005. It quotes bin Ladin as saying "if I were a student among you I would leave my studies … to follow the squadrons of the mujahideen." The call to arms forms the cover theme of the edition. The essay "Youths of the Islamic Maghreb, This is your Day" outlines the latest developments in the growing U.S. presence in Northwest Africa. Deploring the numbers of "doomed individuals" who have responded to the amnesty, the essay addressed to all youth of the Islamic Maghreb (understood to mean all of North and Northwest Africa) and put forward the offer of joining "an elite group of young men driven by faith" to aid their eastern brothers and fight the "American cowboys" ("a vicious fool that crumbles after the first strike") nearer to home in the northern and western desert zones. In particular it highlights the strategic advantages of opening up a new front against the enemy and makes a call to jihad-minded members of the Algerian military, whose expertise now "is desperately sought by the training camps of jihad." [Al-Jama'ah IV, pp. 25-29]

The pressure on the mujahideen has increased this month with the latest amnesty proposal scheduled for September 29. Among its provisions are the controversial offers to drop charges against rebels who laid down their arms after the January 13 2000 civil concord deadline, and re-establish the rights of Islamists who lost their jobs in the crackdown carried out during the 1990s. But the jihad has some way to go. Algeria's Prime Minister Ahmad Ouyahia has said some 1,000 armed Muslim fundamentalists are still at large, and that while some hundreds are likely—based on past performance—to respond to the latest amnesty, "there will always be the hard core who will never take up the offer of peace."

A New Chemical Arsenal for the Mujahideen?

By Stephen Ulph

According to a report in the pan-Arab daily al-Sharq al-Awsat a group called the Jaysh al-Ta'ifa al-Mansura (Army of the Victorious Community), which claims affiliation to al-Qaeda, issued a statement that it had launched an attack on September 13 against some targets in Baghdad with "long range chemical weapons." The targets were the Ministry of the Interior, the Foreign Ministry, the Green Zone and a Security College. [www.aawsat.com]

The group had issued the threat of an "unconventional" attack two days earlier. The text of the threat, signed by one "Abu Usama of the Information Bureau" posted up on the al-Hesba and al-Farouq forums, struck a defiant tone against the "atheist servant of the Americans Ibrahim Ja'afari and his apostate minister of defense Sa'doun al-Dulaymi," and declared that the "military bureau of the Jaysh al-Ta'ifa al-Mansura" had decided to employ "unconventional chemical weapons which the mujahideen had developed" in the event that the Iraqi and occupation forces did not call off the attack on Tall Afar, "the city of jihad," within 24 hours. [www.al-farouq.com]

That same day, a speech from Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi was posted on the al-Hesbah Internet forum, containing accusations that the coalition forces had used "the most destructive and lethal weapons and the most deadly and hurtful poison gas" during the campaign at Tall Afar. The message also included some morale boosting comments that the coalition forces were desperate in seeking a way out of Iraq, now that they were "witnessing their worst days." [www.alhesbah.org]

Confirmation has yet to be made as to whether the threat by the Jaysh al-Ta'ifa al-Mansura was carried out. On September 15 a similar unauthenticated claim about a chemical attack was made by another group, The Islamic Army in Iraq, against the American military base of Mada'in, deploying four rockets with chemical warheads. The Iraqi authorities recorded 5 mortar attacks, including two in the Green Zone, two near the traffic police directorate and a fifth near one of the city's hospitals. The Jaysh al-Ta'ifa al-Mansura has in the past claimed several attacks against US and Iraqi forces and against Shiites, and most recently claimed the head of the Iraqi deputy Minister of the Interior. But their claimed affiliation to al-Qaeda was cast in doubt by a posting by al-Qaeda on September 13 denying any connection with the chemical bombing in Baghdad.

The claim to have responded in kind (although U.S. army sources deny any chemical weapons were used at Tall Afar) may simply be a propaganda morale boosting exercise, but the prospect of a jihadi group (as opposed to remnants of the Iraqi army) manufacturing and delivering a chemical weapon is not in itself improbable. The internet forums bristle with recipes for manufacturing explosives. On August 11 an entry in the Risalat al-Umma forum [www.alommh.net] contained 26 web pages of detailed instructions for chemical and plastic explosives. A fuller treatment is available in the anonymous work al-Mubtakar al-Farid (The Unique Innovation), which first appeared on the forums last December, and forms part of the exhaustive Encyclopedia of Jihad, that also contains treatises on poison gases and biological weapons. The al-Mubtakar al-Farid work provides detailed, illustrated, step-by-step instructions for obtaining, assembling and deploying a chemical weapon, including instructions for constructing a suitable detonator mechanism. The treatise styles itself as intended "to strike terror in the enemy and confront the armies of Unbelief" and "a major cause for the victory of the Believers."

Al-Qaeda's ‘Bowing-Out' Strategy

By Stephen Ulph

Has the al-Qaeda organization fulfilled its purpose?
The recent release of a tape featuring the address by an American al-Qaeda member ‘Azam' (thought to be Adam Gadahn, who earlier broadcast a message prior to the 2004 US elections threatening large scale terror attacks) has been evaluated by some analysts as demonstrating a sense of frustration in the movement. In particular the frustration is over the lack of debate in the West about the long-term political aims of al-Qaeda and the jihad.

The mujahideen are equally busy analyzing the latest statements from the al-Qaeda leadership. While the theme of Western incomprehension is present, predictably, the analyses are more positive and optimistic in tone, consistent with the perception of the immutable logic of the jihadi cause. The idea that the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington backfired on al-Qaeda, in that they subsequently lost their base in Afghanistan without exciting a mass pan-Islamic movement against the West, finds no resonance. But with an admixture of fantasy that compensates for a lack of facts, the image of a waning al-Qaeda is given a new twist.

An interesting example is a recent posting on the jihadi forum Risalat al-Umma by the user Sayf Allah. Under the provocative title: "Al-Qaeda organization is now finished," the jihadi analyst speaks of a new phase "which the infidels are unaware of, or do not wish to believe." He claims that al-Qaeda has, and has always had, a specific aim: to galvanize the sleeping corpse of the Islamic Nation and remove the corrosive body of Western influence. To that end, the 9/11 attacks were designed "to force the Western snake to bite the sleeping body, and wake it up;" a strategy which he evaluates as having turned out highly successful. The "end of al-Qaeda" is, therefore, the end of this galvanizing role. Infidels, the analyst explains, "are still fixated on fighting individuals, oblivious to the fact that they are actually fighting an idea, one that has spread across the globe like fire and which is embraced even by those whose faith is a mustard seed." His conclusion is that Western strategies to fight al-Qaeda are therefore illusory (or are a deliberate self-deception) in that al-Qaeda is no longer operative as a strategic body, but rather "the Islamic Nation's men, women and children are all now ‘al-Qaeda.'" [www.alommh.net]

This theme of the ‘end' was also developed by Sayf Allah Usama and published by the Global Islamic Media Front. Taking as his cue the statement made to the Arabic satellite channel al-Jazeera on the July 7 attacks on London by al-Qaeda's number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the author defends al-Zawahiri and al-Qaeda from criticism of ideological bankruptcy resulting from the loss of their base. Instead, he suggests that al-Zawahiri was explaining al-Qaeda's strategic program and purpose. The reason for this, he explains, is that he became particularly intrigued by al-Zawahiri's focus on historical matters and his account of al-Qaeda's struggle—"an unusual thing for one who speaks constantly of the present and of the future." There can be, he states, only one reason for this: "the [al-Qaeda] organization is about to exit the portal of history, to re-enter in another form, but with different forces, in a grander struggle with the infidel."

Under this interpretation, al-Zawahiri has "signed the exit visa of al-Qaeda, so that it now is to become a page in the history of Muslims—the beginning of a new era." This ‘signing off' is part of the original plan; to "revive the [Islamic] Nation and prepare it for a comprehensive confrontation with the Kuffar" on a scale larger than what has been waged up to now against apostate elements in individual countries. The confrontation is the final scene, "to be played by al-Qaeda against world Unbelief—the smashing of the great idol [the United States of America]." The author then lists some of the aims and achievements of al-Qaeda:

· The joining of efforts against the head of Unbelief, America;
· Instilling freedom from defeatism among the Muslim youth, through the attacks on New York and Washington;
· Drawing the American enemy outside its borders and casting it into the Islamic swamp, so as to expose the truth about the artificial ‘truce' between Muslims and the Unbelievers;
· Whetting the appetite of the youth to go to Iraq to form a new front, in order to make the U.S. military taste what the Soviets tasted in Afghanistan;
· Detaching America from its Crusader roots in Europe and Australia, by punishing rebel states who participated alongside America in its attack on Iraq; thus inducing terror of al-Qaeda and the gradual disassociation from her great enemy [the USA] and withdrawal of their support for it;
· Getting Muslim masses used to the idea that al-Qaeda can reach anyone who harms them; ending the assumption that Western victory is assured; and bringing the battle to its climax.

The grand conflict with the great idol, according to the jihadi analyst, is in two stages, each bearing symbolic similarities to the other as a struggle of a weaker party against a stronger. If the first stage of the struggle was one fought in mountains and caves and hideouts, the second and final stage of the struggle is one conducted "with the full economic, military and political force of the Islamic nations."

According to this analysis, al-Zawahiri's speech comes at a pivotal moment in the great conflict of the Islamic Nation against "the primary forces in the world defending the Cross." It is the "final, legal, call to the arrogant Americans to avoid the dreadful destruction which will befall them, after which al-Qaeda cannot be blamed for its actions against those who do not leave the Islamic Nation alone." For the nations allied to the United States, they too should know that their time is coming, and that they will be picked off one by one, after the stoutest fortress of the Cross is destroyed.

But al-Zawahiri's address also marks the end of the ‘al-Qaeda' phase of this great conflict. After it has passed, the analyst concludes, having served its galvanizing purpose, it will metaphorically re-enter the portal of history, but ‘in a more resplendent, stronger form, in the guise of the liberated Muslim masses taking vengeance on their servitude to the West and on America, the scourge of their countries.'

Far from frustration at the failure of the al-Qaeda program to galvanize the Nation, Sayf Allah Usama is confident that this has already been achieved. For the jihadist contemplating al-Qaeda's ebb, it should be regarded as "the exit of heroes, and the re-entry of their souls into a new phase of the struggle waged by revived Muslims, rising proud after their humiliation, assured of their victory against the great enemy and the fool of the era, America." [www.alommh.net]

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