On the 18th
anniversary of 9/11, al-Qaeda’s media outlet As-Sahab released a 30-minute
video on Telegram. The video message titled ‘And They Shall Continue to Fight
You’, referencing verse 2.217 of the Quran, sees Zawahiri further clarifying
al-Qaeda’s strategic outlook.
jihadis appear in the video, including Abd al-Aziz al-Rantisi. Rantisi was a
founding member of Hamas, though al-Qaeda never formally worked with him. The
reference to Rantisi is probably based on his leadership role in Hamas, whose
first suicide attack in April 1994 was described as a response to the Cave of
the Patriarchs massacre.
others claimed that all Israelis either serve in the military or support the
occupation of Palestine and oppression of Palestinians – no Israeli can claim
to be a civilian.
challenges Islamic scholars that don’t support military action, arguing that
only through violence can Muslims survive the abuse, corruption, and hardship
that they face daily. A common theme in Zawahiri’s defence of jihad, in the
form of violence, is appropriate because “America does not understand anything
except the language of force.”
referencing Rantisi, al-Qaeda is sending a message to many Islamic scholars who
argue that al-Qaeda shouldn’t attack civilians because, in the eyes of
al-Qaeda, there are no civilians in this cosmic war. Each person must make a
choice: will they side with al-Qaeda and those fighting for Muslims and Islam,
or will they side with the Kafirs, apostates, and takfirs.
Zawahiri returns to the need to challenge the corrosive powers of the US and
Israel, who apparently have ‘religious enmity’ towards Muslims and the Muslim
further reinforces the message that, for al-Qaeda, this is a war that can’t be
lost; doing so would mean to give up on Islam.
no suggestions that al-Qaeda should carry out the military action as he so
declares. “Surveil the enemy and make your preparations,” Zawahiri says, adding
“Do not expect anyone to help you, except very little help perhaps. Seek help
from Allah alone, and do not show any weakness.”
be understood as a call for individual action, associated with Abu Musab
al-Suri, who more than any other Salafi-Jihadi strategist reconceptualised
al-Qaeda following 9/11.
video, Zawahiri also refers to the need to be inventive and that the global
Jihadi network should attack the enemies of Islam “at a time and place of our
for innovation is particularly significant as it is a reaction to successful
counterterrorism measures by many states which have weakened al-Qaeda Central
and ISIL. Undoubtedly, many within the Salafi-Jihadi community are respectful
of the skill, capabilities, commitment, and intelligence of the security
that they must innovate if they are to continue in their jihad, but because
they recognise the technological advantage that states have over them, there is
a growing focus on home-grown extremism.
Lanka bombings serve as a reminder of their persistence in finding weak spots
in the counterterrorism regime, as the bombers exploited political and
governance divisions within the Sri Lankan government.
connects the local and global by pushing the idea that Muslims are currently
under a crusader attack much like the regional battles they are currently
statement also reflects his critical view of Muslim scholars that challenge
al-Qaeda’s attacks on civilians, emphasising that the Pentagon, World Trade
Centre, and Congress were legitimate targets, as there is no distinction
between military, economic, political, and social institutions.
that, in the message, Zawahiri is also challenging critics to test whether they
can launch attacks against purely American, British, French, and NATO military
targets, as a way to remind them that they can’t simply focus on the military
that is “littered with American bases.” Not only that, but he also seems to
suggest attacks on China, India, and Russia – states that have been oppressing
further emphasises al-Qaeda’s networking of Salafi-jihadis, best seen in
As-Sahab’s logo. It represents four other al-Qaeda media branches: Az-Zallaqa,
Al-Andalus Media, Al-Malahem Media, and Al-Kataib Media.
current role is to educate and distribute ideological reasoning as to why
action is necessary.
that this mission has been rather successful as their claim of having reached
more countries than ever before in their 40-year history would suggest.
entities exploit humanitarian crises, lack of human security, and poor
reflect on 18 years of warfare, we must recognise that even though some key
actors are dead, the ideology remains resistant to our counter-narratives,
appealing to the disillusioned.
that we must have as we reflect on Zawahiri’s message is threefold. Firstly,
the Salafi-Jihadi movement continues to threaten international peace and
security, which is why any claims that this movement is defeated are erroneous
the movement is fragmented and is likely to remain so, and to see it as
hierarchical aggregated force is a mistake. It is a network connected by shared
ideals and the belief that formal ties are what drive their agenda. In fact, as
a decentralised network, it will pose a greater threat to global security, as
it will seek to inspire responses from lone actors and target weak states.
need to remain creative and attuned to the threat that this movement poses, as
even though they are less likely to cause mass casualty attacks today, we don’t
know what they are planning.
Headline: What can we take from Zawahiri’s latest message?
Source: The Policy Forum