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article imageOp-Ed: Al-Qaeda chief, Ayman al-Zawahri sets out guidelines for jihad

By Ken Hanly     Sep 17, 2013 in Politics
Ayman al-ZawahrI, the leader of al-Qaeda, recently issued guidelines on how to conduct jihad or holy war. The report on the guidelines comes from SITE monitoring service yesterday (Sept. 16).
ZawahrI said conflict was inevitable in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Somalia, but even so he urged restraint in attacking other Muslim and even non-Muslims or starting conflicts in any countries where Al-Qaeda might find safe haven to spread their ideas. These guidelines suggest that the organization is weak and needs time and safe havens to rebuild.
Groups linked with Al Qaeda are quite diverse. The situation is complicated by the fact that the US and other western countries tend to characterize any radical Islamic group they consider enemies as Al-Qaeda linked. Many groups having little or no link to the leadership also voluntarily adopt the Al-Qaeda tag to show their militancy and anti-US credentials. How much if any influence the top leadership such as Al Zawahri has on such groups is not clear. The use of the term guidelines is no doubt appropriate since there is no way that Al Zawahari can enforce them.
Zawahri, who is a trained physician from Egypt originally, is believed to be in hiding in Pakistan. In that country he said that fighting "aims at creating a safe haven for the mujahideen in Pakistan, which can then be used as a launching pad for the struggle of establishing an Islamic system in Pakistan." Many Islamic radicals in Pakistan have been trying to strike a peace deal with the government. Zawahri stressed the importance of "dawa," missionary work to spread the movement's ideas.
He stressed the need for flexible strategies noting that targeting US proxies involved different tactics in different areas. He said: "As far as targeting the proxies of America is concerned, it differs from place to place. The basic principle is to avoid entering into any conflict with them, except in the countries where confronting them becomes inevitable."
This strategy seems to be employed at present in North Africa in particular where different Al-Qaeda linked groups seek new followers after being driven from Mali. Many are no doubt in Libya. Zawahri said that the struggle was a long one and that the jihad was in need of safe bases. In areas such as Yemen, Al-Qaeda now uses guerrilla warfare tactics rather than attempting to hold territory against vastly superior forces.
His guidelines also implicitly sanctioned groups whose battle is not against the US or Israel per se but their own governments in specific areas. He endorsed the right of jihadists in Russia to fight in the Caucasus, and in China to fight in Xinjian, and in India to fight in Kashmir.
Recently, on Sept. 13 an audio message allegedly from Zawahri was issued although the authenticity of the message has not been independently verified according to Al Jazeera. In the message he urges his followers to attack inside the US and to "bleed American economically." The audio message appeared on a website that is used frequently by Al Qaeda.
Zawahri continued: "We should bleed America economically by provoking it to continue in its massive expenditure on its security, for the weak point of America is its economy, which has already begun to stagger due to the military and security expenditure," Zawahri praised the Boston Marathon bombing last April.
On the Syrian civil war, Zawahri warned his followers in Syria that the US wanted to use "the Muslim people as a means to topple the pro-Iran Baathist regime and install a secular government and peaceful to Israel." The US "will try to push the mujahedeen to compromise with the secular factions and the enemies of Islam. I warn my brothers in Syria against any compromise with those factions. They have to learn the lesson of Egypt." No doubt Zawahri was referencing the overthrow of the Morsi Islamist government by the military.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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