Al-Sahab (The Clouds), al-Qa'ida "Central's" (AQC) media wing, released the fourth video installment in their major series Wind (Winds) of Paradise on June 26. The new video focuses on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and it specifically highlights the life stories and last wills and testaments of several of AQC's "martyrs."
As with the first three videos in the series, the new video begins with short clips of AQC chief Usama bin Laden and 'Abdullah 'Azzam. The main purpose of the fourth installment (which runs just over one hour and two minutes), as well as the series as a whole, I argue, is to link the defensive jihad (struggle) of the 1980s against the Soviet Union and its Afghan communist allies to the current jihad against the United States, NATO, and the Afghan and Pakistani governments. Just as the 1980s conflict, which was aided by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, was at its essence a struggle against neo-imperialism, the video suggests, so too is the current conflict a struggle against neo-imperialism, with the U.S. replacing the now-collapsed Soviet Union. As part of this linkage, the video emphasizes the "international" aspect of the current conflict by highlighting martyrs from outside Afghanistan (for a list, see the end of this post). Thus, the viewer sees that now, just like in the 1980s, Muslims from all over the world have traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan to participate in the jihad against U.S. and NATO imperialism, aided by their native allies, the Afghan and Pakistani governments. The struggle is an international one, the video suggests, which underlines the need for all Muslims to support it.
The use of a brief clip of the late 'Abdullah 'Azzam speaking about the 1980s jihad provides further credence to my argument that the video attempts to link that struggle and the current one. 'Azzam, a Palestinian religious scholar and perhaps the most important jihadi ideologue of the twentieth century, was a major fundraiser and recruiter during the 1980s. He was, however, not a Salafi jihadi like the bulk of Sunni jihadis today. 'Azzam, who earned a doctorate in Islamic law from Egypt's prestigious al-Azhar University, was close to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and, because of this, was reportedly viewed with suspicion by many of the Salafi or Salafi-leaning Egyptian jihadis, such as Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan. 'Azzam ran an organization, Maktabat al-Khidamat al-Mujahideen al-'Arab (Services Office for the Arab Mujahideen), which provided assistance to the thousands of Arab Muslims who traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan to participate, in various ways, in the battle against the Soviets and Afghan communists. 'Azzam penned numerous treatises on jihad in defense of Muslims and Muslim lands which were under attack or occupation, including Join the Caravan and In Defense of Muslim Lands. In his view, the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan and the jihad against Israeli occupation of Palestine were the two most important conflicts, and it was obligatory for all Muslims to support them. 'Azzam was assassinated in a car bombing with his two sons in November 1989. To this day, the identity of the assassins remains unknown.
After the short clip of 'Azzam, the video of him fades into a short animated clip with a blossoming tree as the camera moves across a green garden to a small pool of water, representing Paradise as described in the Qur'an and sayings and reports attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (ahadith). The names of the AQ martyrs scroll by in front of this animated pool (see the end of this post for a full list). They include three Saudis, a Uyghur, a Dagestani, two Kuwaits, two Sudanese, an Egyptian, a Yemeni, and a Moroccan. Some were featured in the PowerPoint slide show that I published previously.
A brief biography of each martyr is provided, accompanied with footage of them in training and battle. Still photographs of them after they have been killed are also shown for many. The requisite footage of military exercises and marching, and the use of firearms and artillery, are also included in Wind of Paradise 4. In between each martyr profile is footage of a lecture by Abu Yahya al-Libi, a senior AQ military commander and ideologue in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
He worked closely with the late Abu'l Layth al-Libi, another Libyan, who was assassinated in January 2008 by a U.S. Predator drone in Pakistan. Wind of Paradise 3 was dedicated to Abu Layth, as I wrote previously HERE.
At least one dozen videos have been released by Al-Sahab and other media outlets associated with AQ and its affiliates and allies, including the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban. I wrote about a lengthy major release by the Swat Valley Taliban in Pakistan, "The Hell of Apostates in Swat," which includes footage of the beheading of a captured Pakistani police officer (or soldier), HERE.
AQC has issued several major written and video releases during the past six months, including a major document from a commander in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 'Abdullah Sa'id al-Libi, entitled "The Looming Victory in Afghanistan," and a monograph (Spear to Fight the Government and Army of Pakistan) by Abu Yahya al-Libi explaining why the Pakistani government and military were legitimate targets, since they had become "apostates." The attention of AQC's chief ideologue, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, was also clearly more on Afghanistan and Pakistan than on Iraq in the April al-Sahab video release Six Years since the Invasion of Iraq, 30 Years since the Signing of the Israeli Peace Accords.
*Abu al-'Abbas al-Hijazi (Hijaz is a region in western Saudi Arabia)
*Abu Thabit al-Kuwaiti
*'Abdullah al-Mudir (Libyan)
*Abu Khalid al-Maghribi ("Maghribi"="Moroccan")
*'Abd al-Salaam al-Turkistani (Uyghur)
*Abu Khibab al-Najdi (Najd is a region in central Saudi Arabia)
*Abu Haythem al-Yemeni (from the city of Ta'iz)
*Abu Ayman al-Masri ("Egyptian")
*Al-Zubayr al-Sudani ("Sudanese")
*Khattab al-Daghestani (Dagestan is a region in the Caucasus)
*Abu Yusuf al-Kuwaiti
*Abu Hafs al-Makki ("Meccan")