Saturday, June 16, 2012

My New Article on Abu Yahya al-Libi, "Al-Qaeda Loses its Chief Juridical Voice," at Foreign Policy's AFPAK Channel

A new article of mine was published on Thursday afternoon at the AFPAK Channel, a joint project between Foreign Policy magazine and the New America Foundation. 

The article looks at Abu Yahya al-Libi, a senior Al-Qaeda Central ideologue and alleged operational leader who was reportedly killed in a U.S. drone missile strike over the Waziristan region of Pakistan on June 4.  His killing has been claimed by U.S. officials but has not yet been confirmed by Al-Qaeda, which historically acknowledges the killings of its leaders and does not try to hide them, though there may be delays in official confirmation and eulogizing. 

Specifically, the article examines Abu Yahya's role as Al-Qaeda's unofficial jurist/juridical voice, particularly with regard to the targeting of the Pakistani state and military writ large.  He was, in my view, one of the juridical architects for the transnational jihadi current generally and Al-Qaeda Central specifically for the anti-Pakistani state campaign following the Pakistani government's bloody siege of the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) in Islamabad in July 2007.

Abu Yahya joined Al-Qaeda following a brazen 2005 escape with three others from the U.S. military's prison at Bagram, Afghanistan.  They walked out the front gate.  His skills as an orator and previous religious and juridical education, which Al-Qaeda never fully elaborated on but seems to have been composed of 5 or 6 years of intensive study with Salafi scholars and jurists in Mauritania, led to his rapid rise in the organization's ranks.  A Libyan national, he had formerly been a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a group dedicated to the overthrow of Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi.  Until his arrest in 2002 in the Pakistani port city of Karachi he was a webmaster for the Afghanistan Taliban.

The article also looks at Abu Yahya's influence and popularity with Al-Qaeda Central's regional affiliate organizations such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in North Africa, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, and Al-Shabab in Somalia.  Specifically, I look at how these affiliates have quoted his writings and sermons/statements in their own media releases.  These citations include using his juridical writings as support for their own actions.  For example, Al-Shabab cited at length sections of a 2009 book Abu Yahya wrote on the legal punishment of Muslim spies in a video released by Al-Shabab in October 2009 documenting the execution of two Somalis accused of spying.

The article may be accessed via the hyperlink below:

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