Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cyber Shrines & Cyber Martyrs: HAMAS Commemorates the 'Martyrdom' of Senior Military Commander Salah Shehadah

The text reads, from the top: "The General-Commander & Martyr: Salah Shehadah, Great Leadership, Magnificent Martyrdom."

The military wing of the Palestinian Islamist (political Muslim) movement HAMAS
( حركة المقاومة الاسلامية ; "Islamic Resistance Movement"), the Brigades of the Martyr 'Izz al-Din al-Qassam (usually referred to in shorthand as the Qassam Brigades) and the political wing(s) of the movement are currently commemorating the July 22, 2002 Israeli assassination of Salah Shehadah, one of the movement's founders and, until his death, the commander of the Qassam Brigades. He is also credited in his official biography as the "founder" of the Qassam Brigades. The military wing, though a part of the movement, has its own leadership which does not always heed the wishes of the movement's political leaders, particularly since Shehadah's assassination. The Qassam Brigades are named after an Arab leader who led resistance against British colonial rule in Mandatory Palestine (roughly, modern day Jordan, the Palestinian Territories, and Israel). Shehadah was killed with a one-ton bomb that destroyed the apartment building in the al-Daraj neighborhood of Gaza City where he and his family lived, killing him, his wife, and most of his children. In total, fifteen people were killed in the Israeli airstrike, nine of them children (the youngest a two-month-old baby), and scores of civilians were wounded. Although many of the founding members of HAMAS were assassinated in similar Israeli airstrikes between 2001 and today, Shehadah's sticks out for me because it took place as I arrived to Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories for my first major trip abroad.


Martyrdom poster, "On the Anniversary of the Martyr-Mujahid [Warrior] Salah Shehadah's Martyrdom." Underneath Shehada's picture, which is surrounded by light signifying his greatness as a leader, are masked Qassam Brigades' fighters.

A special section of the Qassam Brigades' web site, linked to from the front page, is dedicated to the memory of Shehadah. A biography, articles, commemorations, photographs, and video of or dedicated to him are available in this special section. The introductory page includes a brief memorial, reading, in part: "On the anniversary of the martyrdom of the leader, the [a HAMAS] founder, the shaykh, Salah Shehadah, who was the one who planted the first seed [idea] for the Media Office of the Qassam Brigades, let us pause and pay homage and respect to this outstanding leader who, with his martyrdom, revived the spirit of jihad [struggle] and resistance in the hearts of the believing mujahid [warrior] youth..."

في ذكرى استشهاد القائد المؤسس الشيخ / صلاح شحادة، الذي غرس البذرة الأولى للمكتب الإعلامي لكتائب القسام نقف وقفة إجلال وإكبار واحترام أمام هذا القائد الفذ الذي أحيا باستشهاده روح الجهاد والمقاومة في قلوب الشباب المجاهد المؤمن

According to an official biography produced by the Qassam Brigades, he was born Salah al-Din Mustafa 'Ali Shehadah on February 24, 1952 in the Shati Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip. His first name was presumably chosen in honor of Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn al-Ayyub, known better in the West as "Saladin," the Kurdish Muslim sultan (ruler) from Tikrit, Iraq who recaptured Jerusalem from the European Christian Crusaders in 1187 and founded an empire that stretched from Iraq through Syria and Palestine to Egypt.


Shehadah is described as the founder of the first military system (or apparatus) of HAMAS, the body "which is known by the name 'the Palestinian Mujahideen [warriors of faith]', and which was tasked with forming and training clandestine military cells in the use of weapons and coordinating attacks on Israeli ("Zionist") military targets.

هو مؤسس الجهاز العسكري الأول لحركة المقاومة الإسلامية "حماس" والذي عرف باسم "المجاهدون الفلسطينيون"، ووجهت لهم تهم تشكيل خلايا عسكرية وتدريب أفرادها على استعمال السلاح، وإصدار أوامر بشن هجمات ضد أهداف عسكرية صهيونية

Receiving primary education in Bayt Hanun (Beit Hanoun), a city located in the northeastern corner of the Gaza Strip, he completed a bachelor's degree in social work at the Institute of Social Service in Alexandria, Egypt. Although he was admitted to post-graduate programs in medicine and engineering at universities in Turkey and Russia, the Israeli occupation of Gaza prevented him from accepting these offers. Shehadah began his work as a Muslim activist involved in da'wa (propagation, akin to missionary work and grassroots political activism) "upon his return to Gaza from Egypt."

بدأ العمل في الدعوة إلى الإسلام فور عودته من مصر إلى قطاع غزة

He worked in the field of social work for a time, but in early 1982 joined and eventually served as the director of the Office of Student Affairs at the Islamic University of Gaza an independent university founded in 1978 and today popularly associated with HAMAS.


Members of HAMAS' Executive Force and the Qassam Brigades in Gaza

Shehadah was frequently arrested and allegedly tortured by Israeli security forces during his long career as a political activist and resistance leader. He was imprisoned for over a decade (1988-May 14, 2000) after another Palestinian prisoner identified him as leader of the Qassam Brigades. He served an additional 20 months in "administrative detention" without charges being brought. This technique is frequently used by Israeli military authorities in the occupied Palestinian Territories and has been condemned by Palestinian, international, and Israeli human rights organizations.

Under Shehadah's leadership, the Qassam Brigades' capabilities were greatly expanded and by the time the Second Intifada ("shaking off", uprising) against the continuing Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian Territories began in late September 2000, it was capable of launching scores of attacks and other military operations. The Second Intifada is also popularly known as the al-Aqsa Intifada after the Muslim holy site in the Old City of Jerusalem, since it was a purposefully provocative visit to the platform where the mosque complex is located, which is holy to both Muslims and Jews, by right-wing Israeli politician and former general Ariel Sharon, called by many the "Butcher of Beirut" for his conduct during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and siege of Beirut, which included the massacre of 800-2,000+ Palestinian women, children, and old men (all civilians) in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in the southern suburbs of Beirut. The massacres were committed by the Lebanese Christian Phalange, a party and militia allied with the Israelis during the 1980s, but they were sent into the camps, and their way at night lit by flares from, the Israeli army encircling the city and surrounding the camps. The Phalange, which was modeled after European fascist parties, under the leadership of the Gemayel family and its Maronite allies, had formed an alliance with the Israeli Likud government of prime minister Menachem Begen, who wanted to help his Lebanese allies install a pro-Israel Maronite regime in their country. An even more militant offshoot of the Phalange, the Lebanese Forces (LF), was responsible for massacres of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), including the months-long siege of the Tal-Za'atar refugee camp in northeastern Beirut. Thousands of Palestinian civilians were killed during the siege and in the massacre after the camp's fall to the LF on August 12, 1976. The LF, still under the leadership of the civil war-era warlord Samir Ja'Ja (sometimes transliterated into English as "Geagea"), is a member of the ruling Lebanese political coalition headed by Sa'd "Junior" al-Hariri.


Salah Shehadah and Qassam Brigades' members.

The Qassam Brigades have carried out hundreds of operations, both against military and civilian targets. Their numerous attacks on civilian targets can unquestionably be classified as terrorist attacks, since these operations either intentionally targeted civilians or wantonly disregarded their safety. This is the definition of "terrorism," an type of action that can and is perpetrated both by non-state actors such as HAMAS and state actors, unlike the ridiculous claims made by some. The Brigades have also carried out attacks on Israeli military targets, which successive Israeli governments also erroneously call "terrorism," a practice that has intentionally clouded and politicized the issue of terrorism vs. legitimate resistance to military occupation. Successive U.S. governments and governments around the world, such as Russia, China, and Arab autocracies, have done the same. HAMAS is a pragmatic Islamist party and national resistance movement, a movement which has engaged in campaigns of political terrorism as well as military operations targeting the Israeli military. Its focus is national, the issue of Palestine and the ongoing Israeli military occupation, which differentiates it significantly from the transnational jihadi ideology espoused by groups such as al-Qa'ida "Central."

The HAMAS leadership, which is to a great degree localized, is often divided with regard to strategy. Hardliners, led by the head of the political bureau in Damascus, Khalid Mesh'al, are often at odds with more pragmatic leaders in the Occupied Territories, such as the late Isma'il Abu Shanab (assassinated by Israel in 2003), the late HAMAS spiritual leader Shaykh Ahmad Yassin (assassinated by Israel in 2004), and Isma'il Haniyeh in the Gaza Strip. The Qassam Brigades, particularly after Shehadah's death, is largely run day-to-day by its own leadership which often disagrees with local political leaders in Gaza and the West Bank and which plans operations often independently of these leaders.

Martyrdom poster for Shaykh Ahmad Yassin

Nizar 'Abd al-Qadir Rayyan, a senior HAMAS leader and the liaison between its political and military wings in the Occupied Territories and particularly in the Gaza Strip, was assassinated in an Israeli airstrike on January 1, 2009 during the last Israeli military campaign in Gaza. Formally educated in Islamic religious sciences, he completed a doctorate in Islamic studies from the Islamic University of Omdurman in the Sudan. In addition to being both a HAMAS political and military leader, Rayyan was also a popular preacher in Gaza and a professor of Islamic law at the Islamic University of Gaza. He was intimately involved with the Qassam Brigades. The Israelis also killed Rayyan's four wives and 11 of his children.

Martyrdom poster for Nizar 'Abd al-Qadir Rayyan bearing the name of HAMAS and the social movement it emerged from in the 1980s, the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza.



Sa'id Siyyam, interior minister in the HAMAS-led government formed in March 2006 following the party's electoral win the previous month, also straddled both the political and military wings of the movement. Although primarily a politician, as interior minister Siyyam also commanded the Executive Force, HAMAS' elite paramilitary unit, and Palestinian security forces either connected or loyal to the party.

Sa'id Siyyam: "The Martyr-Leader of HAMAS." He was killed in an airstrike with his son, Muhammad. It has been alleged that Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan assisted the Israelis in locating both Rayyan and Siyyam, since he was still bitter about the route of Fatah's militia and security forces in 2007 at their hands.


Muhammad Sa'id Siyyam

Siyyam and Rayyan were the field commanders largely responsible for HAMAS' crushing defeat of the rival Fatah Party of Palestinian president (though his term expired months ago) Mahmoud 'Abbas in the Gaza Strip in 2007. In doing so, they pre-empted a planned Fatah coup supported by the U.S. administration of then president George W. Bush, the Israelis, and some of the U.S.' Arab client states, such as Egypt. After being defeated militarily in Gaza, Fatah took over much of the West Bank. HAMAS and Fatah have persecuted each other's members in territory under their control since the mini HAMAS-Fatah civil war in 2007.

The commemoration of Salah Shehadah on the Qassam Brigades' web site is an excellent example of the creation of "cyber shrines," shrines dedicated to the party's martyrs, both its leaders and rank-and-file. Online commemoration such as this helps to create an interactive identity for these individuals, creating, in a way, "cyber martyrs" or martyrs that exist not only in the physical world but also in cyberspace. I briefly touch on this concept, which I am still developing, HERE .

Monday, July 27, 2009

Unrest in East Turkestan: Uyghur Nationalism vs. Transnational Jihadism in the Midst of Chinese Crackdowns

Uyghur mother and child protesting Chinese government human rights abuses in East Turkestan in July 2009

In early July, civil unrest and protests broke out in East Turkestan, also known as the Chinese (annexed) province of Xinjiang, which is the homeland of the Uyghurs (also transliterated into English as "Uighurs"), a majority Muslim Turkic people. The territory came under the rule of the Chinese Communists, under the dictator Mao Zedong (also spelled "Tse-Tung"), in 1949. The Chinese Communists' (hereafter "Chinese") military, the so-called People's Liberation Army, invaded and occupied Tibet the following year. In both regions, the Chinese initiated programs of resettling Han Chinese, the dominant ethnic group in historical China, in them. They have also created a fictitious history "tying" the Han people to Tibet and East Turkestan in an attempt to legitimate their military takeover. As in Tibet, Chinese imperialism has not truly been accepted and there are active nationalist movements in both region's, as well as in the Tibetan and Uyghur diaspora communities abroad. Uyghurs have faced social, political, religious, and economic discrimination, as well as territorial dispossession, from the Chinese government.


Map showing the People's Republic of China as it existed in the late 1940s, before the People's Liberation Army, so-called, invaded and essentially annexed several of its neighbors, most prominently Tibet and East Turkestan to the east of Beijing.

Generally speaking, the Uyghur nationalist movement, also popularly called the Free East Turkestan movement in Europe and the United States, is primarily composed of nationalists who seek to preserve their people's culture and history, and regain independence. However, there is also a small minority of Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples who support more radical responses to Chinese imperialism. Chief among these groups is the Hizb al-Islam Turkistani (Islamic Party) of Turkestan (Hizbul Islam Turkestani), which is also known as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). The current incarnation of the ETIM has its roots in the emergence of Uyghur religio-political activism in the 1940s and 1950s. Detailed background information on the movement can be found here. Analysts disagree as to whether the ETIM and the Hizb al-Islam are the same group. It is also debated whether the ETIM has ties to al-Qa'ida "Central" (AQC). The Chinese government, predictably, has made such claims, as has the U.S. Uyghur fighters have been captured in Afghanistan and are believed to have traveled to Chechnya and other locations in Central, Southwest, and South Asia to participate in ongoing conflicts there.


Unlike the vast majority of Uyghur nationalists, the ETIM seemingly adheres to an ideology closer to transnational jihadi groups such as AQC, though the ETIM's focus remains focused on East Turkestan and China. This is somewhat reminiscent of groups such as those operating in disputed Kashmir, many of whom adhere to ideologies of perpetual offensive militaristic jihad but remain focused, for the time being at least, on local or regional issues. The ETIM has bases of support not only in East Turkestan but also Afghanistan and Pakistan, where it has cultivated relations with local jihadi and Islamist groups.

The divisions in the Uyghur nationalists-separatist movement, and particularly between nationalists and transnational jihadis, can, in some ways, be seen as similar to those that exist in other national liberation struggles, such as those in Chechnya and Palestine. The Chechen nationalist struggle, for example, has steadily been taken over by more radical ideological elements, namely transnational jihadis of the AQC variety, mostly from abroad. Many of the most powerful resistance commanders in Chechnya during the late 1990s into the 2000s were foreigners, primarily Arabs and Turks. Nationalist resistance leaders such as Aslan Maskhadov were pushed aside by radical jihadis such as Khattab (killed 2002), Abu al-Walid al-Ghamdi (killed 2004), and Shamil Basayev (killed 2006). Basayev was originally a Chechen nationalist but eventually adopted the transnational jihadi ideology of his Arab allies Khattab and Abu al-Walid. For more on the Chechen conflict, see HERE.

Several hundred people have been killed in East Turkestan/Xinjiang since the outbreak of the civil unrest and protests in early July. Han Chinese settlers have attacked Uyghur neighborhoods and civilians, and some Uyghurs have retaliated in kind. The Chinese autocratic government has blacked out news coverage from the region so that only its own account, which is of dubious reliability, can be told. The Chinese government has predictably blamed Uyghur human rights activists in the diaspora for fomenting the unrest, a charge which the Uyghur activists deny. Thousands of Chinese security forces are currently in the region and reports indicate that hundreds of Uyghurs have been arbitrarily arrested by the Chinese autocracy. Chinese hackers attacked the official web site of Melbourne International Film Festival in Australia because it was featuring a film about Uyghur human rights activist and exiled leader Rebiya Kadeer, head of the World Uyghur Congress, an umbrella for several Uyghur nationalist and human rights groups in exile. It should be noted for the bigoted and/or the ignorant that contrary to the popular "wisdom" that women do not and cannot rise to positions of societal power in the Islamicate world, that Kadeer is a Muslim woman who has done so (as are past heads of state in the Muslim-majority nations of Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia....when has the U.S. elected a female head of state? Oh, that's right, never.)

Rebiya Kadeer

Most member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the worldwide representative body for Muslim-majority states, have remained despicably silent on Chinese human rights abuses in East Turkestan. There are a few noteworthy exceptions, chief among them Turkey's condemnation of Chinese human rights abuses against Uyghurs. The government of Sudan, under the military strongman 'Umar Hassan al-Bashir, has even "reaffirmed" its support of the Chinese government, with which it has lucrative business dealings. The Indian government also despicably bowed to Chinese government pressure by recently denying Kadeer a visa to visit Uyghurs and supporters for Uyghur rights in that country.

Uyghur protestors in early July 2009

The Chinese government, as many governments have done and continue to do, is playing with fire. By attempting to sideline legitimate voices for Uyghur human rights such as Rebiya Kadeer's, they are encouraging a growing disenchanted minority of Uyghurs to turn toward more radical ideological groups, such as the ETIM and Hizb al-Islam Turkistani.

Han Chinese settler thugs shout insults at a Uyghur man after breaking through a police line to attack a Uyghur neighborhood in the city or Urumqi on July 8, 2009.


Thousands of Chinese soldiers and security forces have flooded into East Turkestan, imposing martial law. Here, Chinese security forces attempt to block a crowd of Han Chinese settler thugs from attacking Uyghur neighborhoods on July 8, 2009.

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An audio message in Uyghur from the latter was released on transnational jihadi web sites on July 17 condemning Chinese aggression in East Turkestan and pledging to seek revenge. Those readers familiar with Turkic languages will recognize many of the characteristically "Turkic" linguistic markers, such as the locative case. An English translation was released on at least one jihadi web site on July 26. The full text, with some edits for flow and clarity, appears below (I have provided some explanatory injections, but have not comprehensively edited the text other than to correct a some typos or misspellings):

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Statement of the military leader of the Islamic Turkestan group
Amir Seif-ul-llah- 15 Rajab 1430‎

The statement of the military leader of the Islamic Turkestan group‎ on the occasion of the slaughter of the communists of our Islamic ummah in China and ‎in Urumqi (East Turkestan)‎

In the name of God, the most Compassionate, the most Merciful....

Praise be to God, and peace and blessings unto the Prophet [Muhammad], his family, companions and ‎those who aid them....

To proceed:

The Chinese Communists since their occupation of East Turkestan have committed group ‎massacres of the people of East Turkestan day and night, secretly and openly. Their ‎barbarous crimes developed day after day. From amongst these are that they are sending ‎the young men and women to travel into China using several tricks and when they go ‎there, they are enslaved and treated the treatment of donkeys. The best witness of what ‎we mention is the last massacre that was performed by the Chinese against the Turkistani ‎workers in the electronic toy factory in Juwandong whereof the story of the fight began ‎with a simple argument between the Turkistanis and the Chinese and it was more rightful ‎that the matter be raised to the court from the part of the one who thought they were ‎wronged.‎

But the chinese as they are used to oppress the Turkistanis, did not raise the matter to the ‎court and gathered all the workers of the company who numbered 6000 and called the ‎police and called whoever they could of the common Chinese from outside the company ‎and all of them attacked the Turkistani workers in the company who numbered 800 and ‎‎200 were killed while 400 injured. The people of Turkistan asked the Chinese government ‎to judge the killers of their sons, but the government did not care about them and did not ‎value them. Therefore the people were forced to perform revenge attacks against the ‎government and they tried to take revenge from the Chinese and that resulted in a huge ‎clash that took place between them. The role of the police in this was to stand by the side ‎of the oppressors and slaughter the oppressed where of 1000 people were killed as a ‎result and more than 2000 were injured and those who were put to the prisons their ‎number exceeded 2000‎.

And we declare to the wicked Chinese Communists that:

And we say- don’t claim that there is no protector or defender for the nation of Muslim ‎Turkistan, for God is their protector and defender and He is ever living and never dies, if ‎they call unto Him, He will answer them, and if they ask of Him , He will give them, and ‎He is capable of destroying the tyrant chinese in a single second if He wishes ;

And you should know that for this Muslim people there are men who will revenge and the ‎time has drawn close when the horses of God will clash against you by the will of Allah, ‎so wait, we are with you waiting‎;

And we say to the Chinese- no matter how much you increase your tyranny and ‎oppression and destruction of our Muslim brothers and develop your ways of torture and ‎randomize in the forms of torturing our brothers, then don’t think that you will be able to ‎enslave them, and know that the people of the defiant Turkistan are just about to rise, its ‎men and women, in all the parts of their country and they will make you taste hell, for the ‎safe time for the bomb that had been planted against you is over‎

So O' heroic mujahideen [warriors of faith] of the youth of Turkistan stand up in the name of God to ‎protect your Muslim people and kill the Chinese Communists wherever you find them ‎and trap them and plot for them in every way; [He is adapting a Qur'anic verse here]

For God the Almighty has said, ‘God will grant victory to the one who helps Him’‎;

And I appeal to all our Turkistani brothers to return to their religion and to hold on to the ‎book of God and the sunnah [traditions] of His messenger, and to repent from deviated beliefs and ‎wrong thoughts and every word and deed that opposes this religion. And return to the ‎mercy of Allah and do not take help except of it, and draw close to Him by performing ‎your duty as much as you can and leave the forbidden no matter how much it is adorned ‎before you by the Satan, and strive your best to bring victory to the religion of God the ‎Almighty;

And ponder over the saying of God, the Almighty:

‎“Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, "We believe", and that they will not ‎be tested?”(Surah al-Ankabut 2)‎

We pray to God the Almighty to torture our enemies as a whole and the Chinese ‎especially from His side or by our hands, and to grant us steadfastness on what pleases ‎and satisfies him from jihad in His way and to avenge His enemies. Ameen [Amen].

And in the end I say, the Prophet (peace be upon him), the truthful, told us that there is no ‎barrier between the call of the oppressed and Allah, so let all of us turn to God, the all ‎hearing, the all seeing and humble ourselves before Him, and pray to Him during the ‎night and in the day to ease our hardship and to honor us with establishment in our land ‎so that we establish His law on His land, and to release His slaves from the oppression of ‎disbelief and its transgression.

And in the end we ask God to forgive our brothers and sisters who died in the massacre ‎and to make them enter into the vastness of His paradise, He is capable of it.


And God is dominant over His decree but most people know not‎!


Peace be unto you, and the mercy and blessings of God be upon you.

Military leader- Sayf Allah (literally, "Sword of God")

‎15 Rajab 1430‎
‎8-7-2009‎


Translated by Dar Al Murabiteen Publications


Listen to the audio message.
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A major release from the amir (commander) of Hizb al-Islam Turkistani about the ongoing civil unrest is expected soon:

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What is needed are more human rights activists like the brave Rebiya Kadeer and fewer radicals, like those in Hizb al-Islam Turkistani, and autocrats like those who rule China and its occupied territories.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

New Video of Abu Yahya al-Libi, Al-Qa'ida Senior Commander in AFPAK, about Swat Valley

Abu Yahya al-Libi, in front of photographs of the late Afghan Taliban military commander Mullah Dadullah, killed in 2007.

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.

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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.

Abu Yahya al-Libi (center) flanked by Usama bin Laden (right) and Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri (left), over Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque, sacred to Muslims

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.

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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.

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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.

Screenshots from the new Abu Yahya video

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.

Friday, July 24, 2009

New Salafi Jihadi Group in Lebanon Criticizes Hizbullah "Hypocrites" on Palestine Issue

Bayt al-Maqdis (Holy House), as the al-Aqsa Mosque complex in Jerusalem's disputed Old City is often referred to in Muslim religious texts and speech, is a subject of great important to Muslims worldwide. It is also a much-discussed subject in the discourse of both Islamist nationalists, such as those in the Muslim Brotherhoods across the Arab world and the Palestinian HAMAS movement, and transnational Salafi jihadis, such as those in al-Qa'ida "Central" (AQC) and its affiliates and allies. In this cyber mural, the late Jordanian jihadi leader Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi (left) and AQC chief Usama bin Laden (right) appear above the al-Aqsa Mosque as a mobile missile launcher bearing a black flag emblazoned with the shahadah, the Islamic statement of faith ("There is no god but [the] God and Muhammad is His Messenger"), points in its direction. This flag, and variations of it, are used by Salafi jihadi groups worldwide.

A video entitled "خرق الحصون ," "Breach of Forts/Strongholds" was released today by the Brigades of 'Abdullah 'Azzam (BAA), a Salafi jihadi group which claimed responsibility for a series of bombings at luxury resorts in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt in October 2004 and July 2005, as well as failed rocket attacks on U.S. Navy ships in the Jordanian Red Sea port city of Aqaba in August 2005 (more information HERE). The BAA, reputedly affiliated with the jihadi umbrella "al-Qa'ida in the Levant and Egypt," is named after the late Palestinian religious scholar and paramount jihadi ideologue, 'Abdullah 'Azzam, who played a major role in fundraising and recruiting for the 1980s war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. For more on 'Azzam, see HERE. Today's video is notable chiefly because it was not only issued in the name of the BAA, but also in the name of a seemingly new branch of it in Lebanon, the Detachments of Ziyad Jarrah. Due to the flexible transliteration of Arabic into English and depending on how one translates the Arabic word "سرايا ," it could also be rendered: Brigades of Ziad Jarrah; سرايا translates most closely to "detachments" or "squadrons," but is often translated into English as "Brigades" or "Battalions," e.g. the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement, سرايا القدس as the "Quds Brigades."

The Detachments are named after Ziyad Samir Jarrah, one of the nineteen September 11, 2001 hijacker-terrorists. Jarrah, Lebanese, crashed United Airlines flight 93 into a field in Pennsylvania. He was not always religious or radical and is believed to have been a hesitant recruit to AQC. In the linked video (see previous sentence), Jarrah has difficulty taking his own "martyr" will seriously, to the annoyance of the AQC film-makers.

Jarrah and fellow hijacker-terrorist Muhammad Atta


Jarrah (lower left), shown in a cyber mural with some of the other September 11, 2001 hijackers and two major "martyred" jihadi leaders, 'Abdullah 'Azzam (upper right-hand corner) and Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi (center).


Jarrah at a U.S. flight school.


Jarrah was known to frequent night clubs in Lebanon and drink alcohol when he was younger (though he died fairly young, born 1975). Many jihadis, particularly "Westernized" ones or those in Europe are not longtime radicals but are radicalized by recruiters for a variety of reasons.

A teaser advertisement GIF (see below) that appeared several days ago on the major Salafi jihadi discussion forums did not include the name of the new branch of the BAA, saying that a "surprise of another kind" was "close."

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The nearly 16-minute video opens with audio recordings of the late Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, head of al-Qa'ida in the Land of the Two Rivers, also known as al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI), al-Qa'ida "Central" (AQC) chief Usama bin Laden, and AQC chief ideologue Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri stating the importance of Bayt al-Maqdis (Jerusalem) to Muslims. An intro animation shows a mobile rocket launcher mounted on a truck breaking through two walls, the first with the emblem of the United Nations and Security Council resolution 1701, which called for a cessation in fighting between Israel and Hizbullah, Lebanon's largest Shi'i movement, and the second with the emblem of Hizbullah. The truck reaches the border fence with Israel, on the other side of which is an Israeli settlement and a huge Star of David, which is the prominent design of the Israeli flag. Rockets are fired and the Star is destroyed. United Nations peacekeepers are described as "crusaders," and Israelis as "apes" and "pigs." Palestine, and particularly Jerusalem, are described as the "holy land" or "holy country."

The "theme" of the video centers on criticism of "the hypocrites" in Lebanon: Hizbullah. The Shi'i party is criticized for failing to live up to the fierce and lofty rhetoric of its leader, al-Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, particularly during the Israeli assault on the beseiged Gaza Strip in December 2008-January 2009, and for preventing the "real mujahideen" (warriors of faith), represented by the Salafi jihadis in Lebanon, from attacking the Israeli occupiers. As I wrote previously HERE, the Salafi trend within Sunni Islam, including a militant jihadi sub-trend, is spreading in Lebanon. Salafi jihadi ideology has particularly taken root in some of the destitute Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, home to over 400,000 Palestinians, including the largest camp, 'Ain al-Hilwe, outside of the southern port city of Sidon.

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A section of the video release "From Here We Start and at al-Aqsa We Meet," produced by al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and released to the jihadi forums in early May, featuring AQAP's military commander, Abu Hurayrah al-San'ani (also known as Abu Hurayra Qasim al-Rimi), "the San'ani " (Yemen's capital city) is included.

"Abu Hurayra al-San'ani, May God Protect Him"

The part quoted is when al-Sana'ni bluntly criticizes Nasrallah for his empty rhetoric during the recent Gaza conflict:

"I also have a message for Hassan Nasrallah: Why all this false crying for Gaza and its people? Did you not announce that you have approximately 20,000 missiles, each capable of reaching [the Israeli port city of] Tel Aviv? Do your brothers in Gaza not deserve that you launch a thousand or two or three thousand in their aid, instead of this false crying and blaming of others? Or is Lebanese soil worth more to you than the blood of the Palestinian Muslims? Tell me, by your Lord, what is the difference between you and [Egyptian autocratic president] Hosni Mubarak? He is the protective barrier of the Jews in Egypt, while you are their protective barrier in Lebanon."

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Al-San'ani is referencing Nasrallah's fiery speech criticizing Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak for aiding the Israeli siege of Gaza and for refusing to open his borders to Palestinians in need during the Israeli military campaign. Despite his rhetoric, al-San'ani points out correctly, Hizbullah did not attempt to aid the Palestinians during the campaign. A few rockets were fired into northern Israel, but not by Hizbullah. It is believed that one of the small Salafi jihadi groups operating in southern Lebanon was responsible for firing these rockets.

I found the Saraya Ziyad Jarrah video, but have left up the original video of al-San'ani, which can be seen here:


It begins around the 3:22 mark. The first individual is Abu Basir Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the amir (commander) of AQAP and a former secretary for Usama bin Laden.

Footage of relatively simple short-range rockets, presumably fielded by the Detachments of Ziyad Jarrah, is then shown, followed by a short animation of a rocket destroying an Israeli Star over al-Aqsa Mosque with the text "مرحلة تجهيز ", "Preparation Stage." Masked jihadis are then shown studying a map with printed text suggesting that it was stolen from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which is tasked with separating Hizbullah and Israeli forces, as audio of al-Zawahiri addressing jihadis in the Levant runs. The masked jihadis are then shown preparing a rocket, perhaps four or so feet in length, as a jihadi nasheed (religious song) plays.

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The animation showing a rocket destroying an Israeli Star is shown again, this time with the text, "مرحلة تنفيذ ," "Implementation Stage." The video ends with footage of rockets being prepared for firing at visible Israeli military positions in "occupied northern Palestine" using simple launchers that are (visibly) easily hidden in groves of trees and fields of tall grass and vegetation in southern Lebanon. Another jihadi nasheed plays during this footage.

Cyber mural for another Salafi jihadi group operating in Lebanon, Fatah al-Islam, which held off the Lebanese Army for three months in the Nahr al-Bared Refugee Camp outside of the northern port city of Tripoli. Other Salafi jihadi groups in the country include 'Usbat al-Ansar and Jund al-Sham. The mural's top text reads, "Fatah al-Islam, Men of al-Qa'ida in the Land of Sham," the historical name of Greater Syria, which includes Lebanon.

The video ends with the question:

أين أحفاد صلاح الدين لتحرير فلسطين
"Where Are the Descendants of Salah al-Din (Saladin) for
the Liberation of Palestine?"


Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn al-Ayyub, famous as the "noble Saracen Saladin" in European literature (such as Dante's Inferno, where he is one of the "righteous infidels" who occupy Purgatory, unlike the Prophet Muhammad, who is in the lowest level of Hell) and popular culture (such as Ridley Scott's film Kingdom of Heaven), recaptured Jerusalem from the Christian Crusaders in 1187 C.E. This historical reference is common to many kinds of Muslim and Arab (which are not synonymous, despite the idiocy of some) political writings, including those of Salafi jihadis.

Cyber mural describing the September 11, 2001 attacks as an "operation to liberate Palestine," with photographs of Palestinian children killed or injured during Israeli military assaults lining the right-hand side. Photographs of the hijackers line the top and a famous photograph of Usama bin Laden is at the bottom left-hand corner.

View a short British news report short after September 11, 2001 about the shock of Jarrah's family in Lebanon HERE.

The formation of this new group, even if small, is an interesting and important development in the establishment of bases of operation by Lebanese, and perhaps foreign, Salafi jihadis in southern Lebanon. Such a development is not in the political or strategic interests of any of the major parties in southern Lebanon, least of all Hizbullah, which has actively prevented such groups from operating in the recent past, which has earned it excoriation from al-Zawahiri, al-Zarqawi, and other major Salafi jihadi leaders and ideologues.

[Keywords for Web Search Purposes: Abdullah Azzam Brigades; Lebanese jihadi group criticizes Hezbollah/Hizbullah)


View the video.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Video of American POW in Afghanistan Released by Afghan Taliban

American prisoner of war (POW) held by the Afghan Taliban, Bowe Bergdahl

The Afghan Taliban released a video yesterday of Private Bowe Bergdahl, 23, a soldier in the First Battalion of the U.S. 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, Fourth Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division who was captured on July 3 with three Afghan Army soldiers, undergoing questioning by an unseen man with excellent spoken English. In the video, Pvt. Bergdahl says that his unit was stationed in Paktika Province (southeastern Afghanistan), and that he was captured after "lagging behind" in a patrol. The video, as of yet, has not been posted to all of the major Salafi jihadi forums.

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Who currently is holding him is debated, but some believe he is being held by the Taliban faction commanded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a powerful Afghan militia leader allied with al-Qa'ida "Central" who maintains a widespread base of support in Waziristan, where Pvt. Bergdahl may have been moved to.

Jalaluddin Haqqani

In the text of the thread, in which which links to free online file-share web sites where the video has been loaded are included, part of the accompanying text (not a literal, word-for-word translation) identifies him as a prisoner of war:

"The captured American soldier is in fine and excellent health and has been treated with dignity, according to the regulations of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [Taliban] for prisoners of war..."

The "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" is the name adopted by the Taliban for the country in the 1990s, which they continue to use. An emirate in Arabic is akin to a principality or fiefdom in English.

Paktika Province, Districts

Pvt. Bergdahl is shown well-clothed sitting on cushions, with a glass of tea, as he is being questioned. When asked to compare U.S. soldiers and Taliban fighters, he says that unlike U.S. soldiers, who carry the latest technology and advanced weaponry, the Taliban have only the clothes on their backs, an "AK-47," and extra ammunition, which makes them "stronger." The Taliban is claiming that it treats prisoners of war much more humanely than the U.S. military, which has arrested hundreds of Afghans and held them for long periods of time, and its Afghan allies, such as the brutal warlord 'Abdul Rashid Dostum, who stands accused of murdering hundreds of Taliban and other prisoners in 2001. News of these allegations was just reported by the U.S. and international press, which proves that the Taliban, like al-Qa'ida "Central" and its affiliates, closely monitors world news, which it then uses to design its media releases.

'Abdul Rashid Dostum

When asked if the U.S. government is purposefully hiding the true casualty figures, he says "yes," he thinks so because release of the "real" figures would lower support at home for the war in Afghanistan. He also says at one point during the questioning (around the 14:40-minute mark) that Americans are "misinformed and lied to" about current events in Afghanistan. It must be mentioned that Pvt. Bergdahl, as a Taliban prisoner, was/is likely under pressure, either external or internal, to provide answers favorable to his captors.


ABC News reported that, "A Department of Defense official told ABC News on Friday that if it hadn't been for the BBC reporting on the missing soldier on July 2, the military would have kept the capture quiet. The goal, he said, was to minimize the amount of information that might get back to his captors that might influence the military's search and recovery. "

Image of a leaflet being handed out to Afghans by the U.S. military from CBS News, which reports that the military denies that it is a threat to Afghan civilians, 900+ of whom have been killed in U.S. airstrikes and military operations. This leaflet is just as corny and ridiculously hilarious as much of the jihadi cyber art.

After being captured, he was moved from Paktika Province to Kandahar, the heartland of the Taliban and home to its leader, the elusive Mullah Muhammad 'Umar (Omar), according to the unseen questioner. ABC News is reporting that unidenfitied "sources" involved in the intensive search for Pvt. Bergdahl and the three Afghan soldiers have said that he may have been taken into South Waziristan in Pakistan's North West Frontier Provinces (NWFP), a hub for the Afghan Taliban and its Pakistan Pashtun allies. Taliban power grew by leaps and bounds under the leadership of Nek Muhammad who challenged and even assassinated Waziri Pashtun tribal leaders who opposed him and the Taliban. He was assassinated himself in June 2004 in a an airstrike claimed by the Pakistani military but believed to have been actually carried out by the U.S. military with Pakistani government agreement.

Waziri Pashtun jihadi Nek Muhammad, the subject of an excellent PBS Frontline documentary

When asked who controlled the considerable area between the two provinces, Pvt. Bergdahl replies, "no one," confirming what everyone already knows: vast swaths of the country, essentially all those areas outside of U.S. or NATO military control, which is limited primarily to Kabul and a few other large military bases and urban centers, are outside of the control of the Afghan central government of President Hamid Karzai and the U.S. and NATO military forces.

Jihadi Cyber mural

Pvt. Bergdahl is specifically asked about President Obama's "new" strategy for the
"good" war in Afghanistan:

"Does Obama have any new strategy to win the war in Afghanistan?"

"No, he has nothing new other than to increase the troops in Afghanistan, which only increases the violence, the fighting, and the hatred of the people here, and of those American soldiers. I am one of the new soldiers that is sent over here, and it didn't take me very long to realize that the only thing it is accomplishing is more casualties of American soldiers. And I am not alone in my thoughts. My fellow soldiers, my friends that I fight with, they all agree when I say, 'This is a waste. We should not be here, and we know it. This is accomplishing nothing. We understand this. It's a waste of American lives and of American money. We know that we shouldn't be here, and we just want to go home. That is what we think."

_____________________

Pvt. Bergdahl was asked about the recent U.S. military campaign in Helmand Province, the subject of a cyber mural that I found recently while conducting research for my current project. The text reads, from right to left (as Arabic, Persian, and many other Islamicate languages are read): "Helmand: Graveyard of the Crusaders....With God's permission, you will not leave except to Hell."

"What's your message to your government, what should they do for your release?"

"My message to my government is to remove Americans from Afghanistan because that's not where we belong. I am an American, I'm not an Afghan, and I don't belong here. My country's first concern should be its people and its own country. We can't go around fixing other countries or trying to fix other countries when we haven't removed our own problems. When our country is failing, we can't help anyone else. I'm an American and my government should hold my concern above all else, as well as all the other Americans that are over here. Their concern should be for all of their lives."


The U.S. government has condemned the video as a violation of the international laws of war, which it is (using a prisoner of war-POW as a propaganda tool, which the video clearly does). Of course, the U.S. government under the previous president and continuing under Barack Obama has continued practices questioned and seen by other nations and many Americans as in violation of the same laws of war. It is also alleged that it turned a blind eye in the winter of 2001 when its Afghan Northern Alliance allies massacred hundreds of prisoners. The U.S. government also permitted filming and broadcasting of footage of captured Iraqi dictator Saddam Husayn in December 2004, which was then also criticized for being a violation of the same laws.

Nonetheless, violations do not justify other violations. The Taliban video is a clear violation of the international laws and norms of warfare. The Taliban has also massacred prisoners and civilians, such as hundreds of Hazara Afghans in 1998, during its campaigns in the mid-1990s to conquer all of Afghanistan. Toward the end of the video, the unseen questioner asks a rather disgusting question for propaganda effect concerning Pvt. Bergdahl's family. He lists members of his immediate family such as his parents and sister, and his "girlfriend that I'm hoping to marry," and then, beginning to choke up, says:

"I miss them every day that I'm gone. I miss them, and I'm afraid that I may never see them again and that I'll never be able to tell them that I love them again, that I'll never be able to hug them."

You stay classy, Taliban.

Summary Taliban "justice" in Pakistan...Who are the victims? Other Muslims.

When asked about what message he has for Americans, he says:

"To my fellow Americans who have loved ones over here, who know what it's like to miss them, you have the power to make our government bring them home. Please, please bring us home so that we can be back where we belong and not over here, wasting our time and our lives, and our precious life that we could be using back in our own country. Please bring us home. It is America and the American people have that power."

Pvt. Bergdahl is asked about what he knows about Islam, to which he replies that he knows little. His interrogator/questioner asks whether he plans to learn more about Islam, to which he gives the admirable response, presuming it was his own, that according to his morals, he has been taught that one cannot judge something before really knowing something about it. He finishes by saying that yes, he does plan on learning more about Islam. One hopes that he discovers that Islam and Muslims are much broader than the simplistic and militant interpretation practiced by the Taliban and its allies, both foreign and domestic. Afghan Muslims were the ones who suffered under the Taliban for years before September 11, 2001. The Taliban and AQC do not represent the vast majority of Muslims.

The video closes with Pvt. Bergdahl eating a full meal, presumably provided by his captors.


View the video.