Government forces move through Qusayr, captured by the Syrian military last Wednesday
Entries in Al Qa'eda (99)
Writing for Al Jazeera English, Basma Atassi, claims that the head of Al Qa'eda, Ayman al-Zawahari, has intervened in a dispute between the Syrian insurgency Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq with a letter to the leaders of the two groups.
The clash arose in April when the head of the ISI, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, tried to claim oversight of Jabhat al-Nusra in a message. A senior JAN commander, Abu Muhammad al-Joulani, responded by asserting the insurgents' autonomy in Syria.
Media coverage incorrectly claimed that the ISI and JAN had "merged", as well as emphasising al-Joulani's reference to al-Zawahari as a "pledge of allegiance".
An audio recording purportedly from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, calls on jihadi groups in Syria to prevent the establishment of a pro-US regime in the country.
In the message, published on the internet on Thursday, urges the "Lions of Islam in ash-Sham [the Levant] to gather and unite" above sectarian issues, saying that "America and its agents" want you to shed your blood… to bring down the criminal Baathist regime and then to set up a regime loyal to them that will guarantee Israel's security".
The message goes on to say that jihad in Syria aims to establish an Islamic caliphate in the country, and then condemns Iran for desiring "Safavid expansion". The Mujahadeen of as-Sham have "exposed the ugly face of Iran…and its heinous crimes", al-Zawahiri says.
1942 GMT: Fighting Near Border with Lebanon.
NOW Syria reports from the border village of al-Qasr, just inside Lebanon, where insurgent fire hit for the first time:
Al-Qasr [did not] feel like a place hit by lethal rocket fire just two days ago. Despite an army statement Sunday declaring its increased presence in the area, there wasn’t so much as a routine checkpoint impeding our entrance. In the village center, all shops were open; adults and children alike going about their business as usual. It could have been anywhere in the Beqaa.
Except, of course, for the two crumbled walls near the main mosque, results of an unprecedented series of rockets fired Sunday by Syrian rebels that, for the first time, left one resident dead and up to nine injured (another was killed by the same attack in Hosh al-Sayyid Ali, a nearby village on the Syrian side of the border). The blood of 23-year-old Ali Hassan Qataya, light brown by now, still spans the width of the street where he died.
“He was just visiting,” said a local resident who did not give his name. “He lived in Beirut, and came here to visit his fiancée.”
Why, then, was Qataya killed? The Syrian National Coalition, the opposition body recognized by over a dozen countries as the representative government-in-exile, said Monday that “the Free Syrian Army was forced to respond to [the] repeated aggressions” of Hezbollah, whom it accused of carrying out “military operations on Syrian territory.”
Sudden demonstration in the Mehdat Basha Souk in old Damascus on Sunday
2006 GMT: Lebanon. Insurgent commanders have confirmed their forces responded to Hezbollah strikes by firing shells into Lebanese towns on Saturday and Sunday, but said there were no attacks on Monday.
"If we have to, we will target civilians just like they do. Our civilians are not less valuable than theirs. Hizbullah is killing arbitrarily in Syria," one commander said. Yesterday, we responded. We hit back at Hizbullah's positions."
Claimed footage of a "barrel bomb" that killed between 12 and 24 people in Saraqeb in Idlib Province on Saturday
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1655 GMT: Protest. A sudden demonstration in the Medhat Basha Souk in Old Damascus:
Mass demonstration last month in Raqqa, soon after the city was taken by insurgent forces including Islamists
The commander --- a Dutch dentist of Syrian origin who called himself simply ‘Doctor’ --- was a member of the Ahrar al-Sham, the most powerful Islamist group in the vast array of factions fighting against the Syrian regime. His was a common perspective amongst the Salafi Islamists I met in northern Syria: measured, well-thought out and intellectually consistent, drawing on the realities of a war inexorably descending into factional chaos. Syria is on a knife’s edge, they told me. The regime will fall but most didn’t expect the fighting to end there. They feared a larger sectarian war and were practically begging the international community to help them prevent it.
It was a stark contrast to the few jihadists I encountered, whose only cerebral quality seemed to be their proficiency with weapons. Those men, aligned with the al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al -Nusra, spoke in terms familiar to a Western audience: global jihad, the re-establishment of the Caliphate, and, most frighteningly, perpetual war until their rule over Muslims is achieved.
Conflating the two groups is like mixing Christian fundamentalists with the Amish. And yet, Western governments continually cringe at the thought of Islamists, particularly Salafis, gaining a foothold in the various revolutions playing out in the so-called Arab Spring.
One of the pictures accompanying the scare stories of Al Qa'eda taking control of part of the Syrian insurgency (Photo: AP)
This is the story of a story.
Or, rather, this is the story of the creation of a myth --- the myth that Al Qa'eda has taken over parts of the Syrian insurgency.
This is the story of how that myth --- based on failure to consider sources, let alone evaluate them; built by exaggeration and distortion --- points to the media's failure to responsibly cover important developments. More importantly, it indicates how that failure can have political consequences which are counter-productive and dangerous, contributing to poor decisions by policymakers.
Rally in northern Gaza for the Syrian opposition, January 2013
On leaving the house of the Salafist leader, who insisted on remaining anonymous, I was able to get an interview with the families of two Salafists who had participated in the battle in Syria, and who were declared dead by al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra on the Internet.
When I reached the house of the deceased Muhammad Qunayta, his brother refused to talk to me, despite having earlier confirmed the meeting.
However, the women poured their hearts out to me, expressing their sorrow for the sudden and tragic death of their son.
The sister of the deceased said, “Before he traveled, he was watching several videos from Syria and bitterly crying for the souls of children, women and wounded people. Then, he told us he was going to Turkey for trade purposes. We found out later that he went to Syria to carry out a martyrdom there.” She added that her brother’s conscience pushed him to fight in Syria. In his last days, he used to repeat, “My conscience cannot rest with all this injustice in Syria.”
Five minutes --- prompted by a Washington Post article, fed by the Obama Administration, which received far too little attention --- on how the Obama Administration is expanding the authorisation for the use of deadly force to "associates of associates of Al Qa'eda":
So President Obama, his military, his CIA --- they don't have to go out anymore and say, "Will the real Al Qa'eda please stand up?" They just have to say, "Whether you're standing up of sitting down, you're a target."