Government forces move through Qusayr, captured by the Syrian military last Wednesday
Entries in Ayman al-Zawahiri (8)
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.
Sondos Asem has butterflies, formulating answers to questions she expects to be asked and practicing her diction with the devotion of a high school debate champion. The gentle 24-year-old graduate student at the American University in Cairo is in a hotel room in downtown New York, figuring out what to wear on national television. ("This blazer would look good, right?" "Should I wear more color?")
Like many young Egyptians, she's been tweeting the fallout after the 2011 uprising that brought down former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The stakes are higher than 140-character dispatches might suggest. Asem has emerged as an unlikely unofficial spokeswoman for the Muslim Brotherhood, helping to run its English-language Twitter feed, @Ikhwanweb, and in turn revamp the group's image in the West.
Abdel Hakim al-Hassadi seems unperturbed by the fact that someone blew up his car last night. "I was at evening prayer in the mosque when it happened," he says. An unknown assailant threw a grenade under the car, sending it into flames. "I believe it was a message," he adds. "If they wanted to kill me — they would do it in an open place." Then he offers his guests tea.
In post-Gaddafi Libya, where a weak, fledgling government means little security and a lot of uncertainty, life is still a little dicey. But to al-Hassadi, perhaps the most powerful man in the eastern Libyan city of Darnah, it's all part and parcel of moving forward, past the era of dictatorship and into something freer, and hopefully better. "After decades of destruction, it's impossible to change in a few hours or even a few years," he says. "But now we are free. Even the land has changed — it's growing new grass again."
The targeting of Norway should not be a surprise. In 2003, Al Qaeda --- through its current leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri --- first threatened Norway, possibly because of the involvement of Norwegian special forces in Afghanistan. Since then, the Norwegian role in Afghanistan has expanded, although its troops are to be withdrawn later this year.
In July 2010, the Norwegian police announced the arrests of three suspected Al Qaeda members who may have been planning an attack. Two months later, the suggestion was that the attack they were planning was in retaliation for the publication of the cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad. In December 2010, there was the suicide attack in neighbouring Sweden by a British resident. On 12 July, an Iraqi-born cleric, facing deportation since 2005 as a security risk, was charged with issuing death threats against Norwegian politicians.
1. His importance to the story of Al Qa'eda can’t be underestimated. Last summer at a private gathering, I heard a journalist who met bin Laden in the 1990s say that he had underestimated bin Laden’s central role, not just as the money man and spiritual leader of the organization but also in determining strategy.
2. Osama bin Laden was no longer central to the continuing threat of Al Qa'eda and AQ-inspired terrorism.
9/11 ensured that. A massive gamble to shift the status quo in the Middle East, it ultimately shifted the focus of Al Qa'eda, as the organisation dispersed, with its leaders’ priority on survival. Those inspired by Al Qa'eda and bin Laden now in many ways represent the biggest threat.
Sometimes Twitter misses the story.
The sub-140-character flash this morning was "Bin Laden Hiding in Northwest Pakistan". And I'm thinking, "This is news to whom?"
But then I click the link, to CNN's website, just to confirm the bleedin' obvious: "NATO official: Bin Laden, deputy hiding in northwest Pakistan". Still nothing to break a yawn.
Then, in the third paragraph, the significant news jumps out: "Al Qaeda's top leadership is believed to be living in relative comfort, protected by locals and some members of the Pakistani intelligence services, the official said."
Whoa. Someone from NATO just threw petrol on the fire: Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, are not only surviving but free from imminent challenge. The deadly duo can put their feet up, not just because of the "tribes" in the "autonomous" areas beyond Islamabad's control --- the story-line for most of the past eight years --- but because some people in Islamabad are supporting them.