Al-Qa'ida "Central's" (AQC) media outlet, al-Sahab (The Clouds), released a new video message several hours ago from Abu Yahya al-Libi, a senior commander in Afghanistan and Pakistan, entitled, "Swat: Victory or Martyrdom." Despite its title, he also addresses the "mujahideen" (warriors of faith) in Waziristan in northwestern Pakistan. The video was released in the original Arabic and with a voice-over translation into Urdu.
Abu Yahya, a skilled orator and poet, is a key AQC strategist and is renowned both for his oratory and formal education, however brief (how long is debated), in Islamic law and the religious sciences. Most AQC leaders have little to no formal training in such subjects. Abu Yahya, who recently received the allegiance of al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghrib (AQIM), the AQC affiliate in North Africa, via an AQIM audio release, has been prolific since his escape from U.S. military detention at Bagram Airbase in 2005. He has penned treatises condemning the Pakistani government and military as apostate institutions, the proper treatment of Muslim spies, and been featured in numerous AQC video and audio releases, including providing spoken tafsir (exegesis) of Qur'anic verses.
With this new video, AQC has now released video or audio messages from both of its senior commanders in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Abu Yahya and Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, its chief military commander in "AFPAK," since June. Audio messages from both Zawahiri, AQC's chief ideologue, and bin Laden have been released during the same time period. As I have argued previously HERE, HERE, and HERE, and am arguing in a forthcoming journal article, AQC's strategic attention, as witnessed by its media productions, has shifted with U.S. president Barack Obama's from Iraq to "AFPAK." The messages have been released in Arabic, Urdu (translated), English (aimed at the Pakistani middle and upper classes), and Turkish.
In early June, an audio message from Abu al-Yazid to Turkish Muslims was released, urging them to support AQC's military campaign in "AFPAK" financially and militarily. In late June, he was interviewed on Al-Jazeera Arabic's program لقاء اليوم , and the interview was translated into English by early July by the Global Islamic Media Front, a jihadi media outlet affiliated with AQC and its affiliates and allies.
An audio message from Usama bin Laden to the people of Pakistan was released to Al-Jazeera Arabic in June, followed by a release on the Internet to online jihadi discussion forums in mid-July. An audio message to the Muslims of Pakistan entitled, "My Muslim Brothers and Sisters in Pakistan," from al-Zawahiri was released on the forums in mid-July as well.
Abu Yahya's video is the latest in this series of AQC "AFPAK" messages. Pakistani jihadis calling themselves the "Swat Taliban" have released videos of their own recently as well.
Based on a quick viewing of the video, Abu Yahya, who is sitting near a grove of trees with an automatic rifle in his lap, the overall theme of this new video is similar to that of both bin Laden and al-Zawahiri's messages. Pakistani Muslims are urged to support the "mujahideen" (warriors of faith) in the "jihad al-'askeri" (military struggle) in their country's Swat Valley, which has been the site of a massive military campaign against militant groups operating there, the so-called "Pakistani Taliban." He reminds them of their religious duties, as he sees them, to support the righteous "mujahideen" against the Pakistani government and military, who he describes as apostate and criminal. Both have sold out their religion and are acting contrary to Islamic law (Shari'a), and thus the country's Muslims cannot morally or legally continue to support either institution.
Abu Yahya also makes a similar pitch to Pakistani religious scholars and jurists ('ulama), urging them to fulfill their religious duties by encouraging their congregations, students, and followers to support the struggle of AQC and its Pakistani allies and affiliates. At one point, he essentially asks them, "Who is your ruler," to which the answer, of course, is God, and, as such, their duty is to obey His divine Law, as interpreted by Abu Yahya and other Salafi jihadi ideologues and scholars. They are thus also expected to reject the claims to authority of those illegal "rejectionist" governments who do not follow or establish (the jihadis') Shari'a, the طاغوت, taghut, those who practice idolatry. In Abu Yahya's construction, the "idol" is a "un-Islamic" form of government, a parliamentary republic.
Landscapes of Jihad: AFPAK
View a presentation, "Landscapes of Jihad: AFPAK," of photographs from my personal research collection.
The Muslims of Swat, he says, are being persecuted simply because they wish to follow their religion and establish a religious system of government and law. All Muslims must support the مستضعفين , the mustad'afeen, those who are vulnerable and oppressed by apostates, the murtadeen (المرتدين).
View the video
Abu Yahya, Swat (July 25)
View the Arabic transcript here.