Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, fell to jihadists on 15 August 2021, and this has emboldened the jihadist movement across the world, providing it with a morale boost and a model, as well as renewing the terrorist safe haven that incubated 9/11. Continue reading →
Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah (Abu Muhammad al-Masri) and Ayman al-Zawahiri. // Image sources: FBI, AFP
Credible reports over the last few days indicate that Al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is dead, and there are even clearer reports that two of his most senior deputies have been killed. The terrorist network itself, however, will survive. Al-Qaeda has, in the last ten years, survived the killing of its charismatic founder Usama bin Laden, the upheaval of the “Arab spring”, and the rise of the Islamic State (IS)—all of them greater challenges than whatever short-term turbulence might attend the succession process. Continue reading →
The Islamic State (IS) produced the 248th edition of Al-Naba, its newsletter, on 20 August. The front page was devoted to recent events in Yemen, which had not gone well for IS—although one could easily miss that fact when reading a story that a focuses almost entirely on enemy casualties and the failures of others. IS is, of course, not pleased about the Israeli normalisation of relations with the United Arab Emirates, but Al-Naba makes clear that it is more perturbed that Muslims should believe Turkey or Qatar are any better than the U.A.E., despite their different approach to Islamists. Al-Naba 248 documents IS’s continuing advances in Afghanistan—and, indeed, Iraq, Syria, Africa (the Sahel), and Egypt. There is also a report of insurgent activity in the Philippines. Continue reading →
The Islamic State (IS) released the 239th edition of its newsletter, Al-Naba, on 18 June. Pages 9 and 10 of this twelve-page document were given over to a profile of Abu Khaled al-Hindi, the jihadist elsewhere named as Mohammad Sajid Kuthirummal who massacred twenty-five worshippers at a Sikh gurdwara or temple in Kabul three months ago, on 25 March 2020, during an hours-long siege. The details of Abu Khaled’s life—finding IS after being repelled by “nationalist” jihadist groups, fighting while injured, his obedience to IS’s leaders, and thirst for “martyrdom”—are relatively standard hagiography from IS. What is really worth noting is that such an extensive focus on him, and through him on Afghanistan, underlines the importance IS has placed on its Afghan branch, Wilayat Khorasan. Continue reading →
France announced last Friday that its forces in Mali had killed Abd al-Malek Drukdel (Abu Musab Abd al-Wadud), the emir of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which covers the North Africa and Sahel areas. Paris has sometimes been unreliable on these matters, but the United States independently confirmed Drukdel was gone, as have sources within AQIM. The French also announced that on 19 May they had arrested Mohamed Mrabat, a veteran jihadist and member of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS). Continue reading →
To mark the eighteenth anniversary of the 9/11 massacre, Al-Qaeda’s Al-Sahab media department released a video, “And They Shall Continue to Fight You”. The video, which ran over a half-hour, featured a speech by the group’s emir, Ayman al-Zawahiri, interspersed with other leadership figures.
Much attention has been given to Dr. Al-Zawahiri encouraging attacks on America, his contention that the U.S. has enabled the spread of Iranian power by providing its vicious sectarian militias in Iraq, Syria, and beyond with direct support as part of the war against the Islamic State (ISIS), and his use of the issue of Palestine. There are some indications Al-Qaeda is looking abroad again with its terrorism campaign, but the primary purpose of re-emphasising the justice of attacks on the West seems to be to meet the ideological challenge from ISIS. Behind the veneer of the “far enemy” rhetoric in this speech, Al-Zawahiri was in fact very defensive—particularly about 9/11, Al-Qaeda’s greatest “success”, where he seems stung by the accusation Al-Qaeda murdered innocents—and “near enemy” (regionally) focused. Even the call to attack America suggested attacks on military installations in the Middle East, rather than in America itself. Such attacks would also avoid the issue of civilian casualties, Al-Zawahiri noted.
An English translation was put out of the video of Al-Zawahiri’s speech and a transcript is reproduced below. Continue reading →
The main issue with that Nine Lives has to overcome is the one that has attended Aimen Dean (a pseudonym) since he went public in March 2015 with an interview he gave to the BBC, claiming he had been a British spy within Al-Qaeda between 1998 and 2006. That issue is overcoming the doubts about his story. Nine Lives goes a long way to solving this by bringing in Paul Cruickshank, the editor-in-chief of CTC Sentinel, one of the premier academic resources in the terrorism field, and Tim Lister, a terrorism-focused journalist with CNN, as co-authors. As well as helping structure the book from Dean’s memories, the two co-authors note they had been able to “corroborate key details” that convinced them: “In the years immediately leading up to and following 9/11, Aimen Dean was by far the most important spy the West had inside al-Qaeda”. Continue reading →
Several years ago, Al-Qaeda made a strategic decision to refrain from foreign terrorist operations, refocusing away from these global spectaculars towards integrating more closely into local conflicts. The 2014 rampage across Iraq and Syria by Al-Qaeda’s rebellious former Iraqi branch, the Islamic State (ISIS), provided both the opportunity and additional incentive for a long-mediated rebranding effort. However, there have recently been signs of a shift back towards external terror operations, just as ISIS undergoes a setback and Al-Qaeda has a chance to reassert its dominance over the jihadi scene. Continue reading →
The Islamic State (IS) released the 169th edition of its newsletter, Al-Naba, on 14 February 2019. Al-Naba 169 leads with the attack on the governor of Borno in Nigeria by IS’s branch in that country. In terms of volume, much of the focus remains on the guerrilla campaign in Iraq and Syria, though there is an item on the last stand of the caliphate in Baghuz, the final village in eastern Syria. IS highlights its clashes with al-Qaeda in Yemen. There is a profile of a Russian-speaking atheist-turned-jihadist who was killed in Egypt. And perhaps most notable is an essay on Saudi Arabia, where IS has a terrorist infrastructure that is instructed to be patient. It is a question that likely is unanswerable until it is too late how strong IS is in Saudi Arabia. Continue reading →
Hamza bin Ladin, son of Usama and one of al-Qaeda’s rising media stars, released an audio speech on 31 March, labelled as the sixth edition of his “Sovereignty of the Best of Nations Is In the Uprising of the People of the Haram” series. Oddly, the last speech in the series, released on 18 January, was labelled as the fourth instalment. This speech also focused on delegitimising the Saudi government, in this case by laying out the history of its close relations with the United States and the work the Saudis have done to suppress jihadism. An English-language transcript was released by al-Qaeda’s As-Sahab Media and is reproduced below with some editions in transliteration. Continue reading →