Neighborhood Watch: Spreading their wings

Zawahiri’s statement urging Muslims to "liberate occupied lands" is latest evidence of al-Qaida reemergence.

Ayman al-Zawahiri (photo credit: REUTERS/Reuters TV)
Ayman al-Zawahiri
(photo credit: REUTERS/Reuters TV)
As Israel faces a growing threat from extremist al-Qaida-affiliated terror groups in Sinai and Gaza, al-Qaida published a statement this week purportedly written by its leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, which urges Muslims to liberate “occupied Muslim lands” – including “Palestine.”
Al-Qaida’s publishing house, the As-Sahab Foundation for Islamic Media Production, distributed the document on Tuesday on major jihadist forums, including the Shamukh al-Islam website.
In the statement, obtained and translated by The Jerusalem Post, Zawahiri says that the Muslim nation is facing “the most powerful crusade in its history” and urges Muslims to work to recreate the medieval caliphate.
Zawahiri says the Muslim people have tried to gain their independence under Shari’a (Islamic law), but the forces of secularism and crusaders tried to stop “these historic changes taking place in Muslim countries.”
The al-Qaida leader said that in these circumstances, the Muslim ummah, or nation, should unite itself around the |word of Tawhid,” the Islamic doctrine of Allah’s unity.
Addressing Muslims, Zawahiri said that “your brothers in the Qaida community” have established a set of objectives designed to achieve their goals.
These objectives include adopting Shari’a to resolve disputes and rejecting judgement by “any other principles,” including the United Nations, which Zawahiri says is “controlled by five arrogant powers [the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council] who impose their will on the rest of the world’s peoples.”
The UN also allowed non-Muslim states to take over Muslim lands, Zawahiri says, citing “Russia’s takeover of the Muslim Caucasus, China’s [takeover] of Eastern Turkistan, Spain’s [takeover] of Ceuta and Melilla and Israel’s of Palestine.”
Zawahiri says that the UN has issued “tens of decisions that legalized assault on Islamic lands, such as the decision to partition Palestine and the decision to recognize the State of Israel.”
The statement also says that the UN had agreed to impose sanctions on Iraq and “legalized the Crusader invasion of Afghanistan.”
Western nations are “looting the wealth of Muslims,” Zawahiri says.
The al-Qaida leader called on Muslims to work toward the reestablishment of an Islamic caliphate which “does not recognize the nation state” but would be a “Caliphate on the lines of Prophethood” – a reference to a hadith by Sunni scholar Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal that says the Caliphate will be established for a second time.
The caliphate would unite Muslim lands, “remov[ing] the limits imposed on them by their enemies,” spread justice and support the liberation of all Muslim lands, Zawahiri says.
He also urges Muslims to spread the word about these “Islamic goals.”
The reestablishment of the Islamic Caliphate, the first Islamic system of government encompassing the Muslim ummah and governed by Shari’a, is one of al-Qaida’s main goals.
The Egyptian-born Zawahiri, who took over as leader of al-Qaida in May 2011 following Osama bin Laden’s death, has previously said that once the caliphate is restored and Islamic rule reestablished, “history would take a new turn, God willing, in the opposite direction against the empire of the United States and the world’s Jewish government.”
Al-Qaida’s decision to publish Zawahiri’s statement is the latest sign that the terror group is making efforts to spread its ideologies by taking advantage of the power vacuum in Arab states after the upheavals of the Arab Spring.
In an interview with Lebanese daily As-Safir in August, Bruce Riedel, a Brookings Institution researcher who worked on Middle Eastern affairs with the CIA for 30 years, said that al-Qaida had taken advantage of former Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman’s death to “establish infrastructure in the Sinai.”
The Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) said last month that extremist Salafist-Jihadist groups have emerged in several other Arab countries, including Yemen, Libya and Tunisia, following the upheaval in the Arab world.
Israel’s neighbor, Jordan, has also seen a rise in al-Qaida-related extremism. Last month, Jordanian security forces said they had foiled a massive terror plot, arresting 11 locals “with clear ties to al-Qaida.” Days earlier, a Jordanian Salafist cleric with ties to al-Qaida said that jihadists had planned a suicide attack against Israel.
Extremist Islamists with al-Qaida ideals are similarly taking advantage of the increasing lawlessness in the Sinai peninsula to carry out an increasing number of terror attacks against Israeli interests.
Since the Egyptian revolution, several extremist Salafist-Jihadi groups have emerged in the peninsula whose ideals, experts say, match those of al-Qaida even though they are not – at least for now – formally affiliated with the terrorist group.
The most active of those groups, Ansar Bayit al-Maqdis, claimed responsibility of the September 21 border attack that killed an Israeli soldier. Another group, the Mujahadeen Shura Council of Jerusalem, claimed responsibility on Sunday for many of the rockets fired from Gaza in the recent round of violence.
The growth of al-Qaida-affiliated groups in Sinai also means Israel faces increased threats from the growth in weapons smuggling from Iran via Egypt, including across the country’s 1,200-km. border with Sudan.
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) has said that Iran provides Sudan with weapons which are then transferred via Sinai to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.
The growth in weapons smuggling, combined with increasing Salafist-jihadi activity in Sinai, has led to fears that Sinai terrorists could also obtain trafficked weapons and use them against Israeli and Egyptian targets.
On Wednesday, IDF spokesman Yoav Mordechai said that Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad had smuggled Iranian weapons into the Gaza Strip.
“By continuously smuggling weapons, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have turned Gaza into a frontline Iranian outpost,” Mordechai said.
Also on Wednesday, Channel 10 reported that four Katyusha rockets had been fired from the Egyptian town of Rafah and had hit Eshkol in the Negev.
There have been conflicting reports in the Egyptian media regarding the rocket attacks. On Wednesday afternoon, Al- Masry al-Youm cited an unnamed military source as confirming that four rockets were fired from Rafah in Sinai. The report said the Israeli side had requested the formation of a joint military commission to investigate the circumstances surrounding the rocket fire.
The unnamed sources said in a statement to the daily that the formation of the commission is ‘under way’ to determine the circumstances of the incident and prevent a recurrence.”
In a slightly later report, Al-Masry al- Youm cited “high level security officials” as dismissing Israeli reports that the rockets came from Rafah and noted that Israeli security officials were investigating the matter.
On Thursday, the apparent firing of rockets from Sinai was discussed on al- Qaida linked jihadist forums, although as yet no group had claimed responsibility. •