The latest Osama bin Laden tape has focused almost exclusively on the death and lionization of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, with very little deviation on this theme. As Evan Kohlmann indicated last evening, the “intended audience are those primarily supportive of Al Qaeda.” Excerpted below are items of interest in the tape (post will be updated when a full transcript is available):
Osama bin Laden compares Zarqawi to Muhammed and the revered Imams of the Islamic faith, including Imam Ali, who is venerated in Shia Islam. Given Zarqawi’s practice of slaughtering the Shia to incite a civil war, this hypocritical reference by bin Laden is curious.
Abu-Mus’ab followed the example of our Prophet Muhammad, God’s peace and blessings be upon him, and followed the example of Mus’ab, Umar, Ali, and Ja’far, may God be pleased with all of them. He fought war with a smile, so God elevated his status and reputation and he became an example for people after him.
Osama bin Laden invokes the jihad in Sudan for the second time this year, and also mentions the rise of the Islamic Courts in Somalia:
“We will continue, God willing, to fight you and your allies everywhere, in Iraq and Afghanistan and in Somalia and Sudan until we waste all your money and kill your men and you will return to your country in defeat as we defeated you before in Somalia.”
“This is a not-so-subtle nod to the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) in Somalia that successfully control of southern Somalia… which could also be an indication that bin Laden may have been aware of the fact that long-time al Qaeda ally Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys has been appointed the new head of the ICU executive council,” says independent terrorism analyst Dan Darling.
Zarqawi is put on the same plane with Mulla Mohammad Omar, the Taliban’s spiritual leader. The Afghan theater is still a priority for al Qaeda, as Zawahiri’s recent tape underscores.
We pray that God will give our brave knight the best reward, and that He will reward whoever extended to us condolences over the death of our great knight, may God have mercy on his soul. We note in particular Mulla Mohammad Omar, the prince of the faithful, and we beseech God to help him and his brother mujahidin to victory over the infidels.
Osama yet again invokes the Palestinian cause, and notes Zarqawi’s attempts to expand al Qaeda’s presence in Palestine and the Levant:
Abu-Mus’ab, may God have mercy on him, passed away after he had established a base for defending religion and regaining Palestine, God willing. He avenged the oppressed there.
Finally, there is no mention of Zarqawi’s successor, as I speculated yesterday. Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri have yet to publicly acknowledge the new leader of al Qaeda in Iraq. The Mujahideen Shura Council has issued only two written statements on the identity of Zarqawi’s successor, one stating Abu Hamza al-Muhajir is Zarqawi’s replacement, and one clarifying that al-Muhajir is not Abu Ayyab al-Masri, as the U.S. military claims (and continues to maintain). al-Muhajir has yet to issue a videotape (the purported video of him beheading captured U.S. soldiers lead the Al-Fajr Media Center, the media arm of the Mujahideen Shura Council, to decry this as a hoax.)
Given the setbacks al Qaeda in Iraq has faced since Zarqawi’s death, and the divisions within the Islamist insurgency between Zarqawi’s factions, Ansar al-Sunnah, and the domestic jihadis, combined with the Iraqi government’s efforts to cleave off a significant portion of the Sunni insurgency, this is a curious development. It would seem logical that al Qaeda should want to unify the Islamist elements of the insurgency at this critical juncture.