The Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC), a Gaza-based Salafi jihadist group, released a statement of condolence on July 17 to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) for the death of its deputy leader, Said al Shihri (a.k.a. Abu Sufyan al-Azd).
AQAP announced the death of al Shihri in a video that was released on July 16.
The new statement from the MSC, which was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, praised al Shihri for “[speaking] out the truth” and denounced the US strike that killed him. The statement further called on Allah to “preserve” AQAP emir Nasir al Wuhayshi.
The statement concluded by saying, “Our solace is that the tree of Tawhid [monotheism] and jihad is only irrigated by the blood of the best of the sheikhs and the heroes.”
Yesterday’s statement is not the first time the MSC has issued a statement of condolence for the death of an al Qaeda leader. Following the death of Abu Yahya al Libi, the group released a eulogy to jihadist forums.
Additionally, its attack on June 18, 2012 that killed one Israeli civilian was dedicated “to our brothers in Qaedat al Jihad and Sheikh Zawahiri.” And other media material released by the group since its founding has portrayed its members as al Qaeda martyrs.
Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem
The Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC) is a consolidation of a number of Salafi jihadist groups operating in the Gaza Strip including, but not limited to: Tawhid and Jihad Group in Jerusalem, and Ansar al Sunnah. Sheikh Anas Abdul Rahman, one of the group’s leaders, has said that the group aims to “fight the Jews for the return of Islam’s rule, not only in Palestine, but throughout the world.”
The MSC has taken responsibility for a number of rocket attacks against Israel, as well as the June 18, 2012 attack that killed one Israeli civilian. The group said the attack was “a gift to our brothers in Qaedat al Jihad and Sheikh Zawahiri” and retaliation for the death of Osama bin Laden. In early February 2013, the MSC released a martyrdom video branding one of the terrorists killed in the June 2012 attack as an al Qaeda “martyr.”
On Oct. 22, 2012, the MSC released a 32-minute-long video detailing some of its rocket attacks against Israel and threatening to “fight you [Israel] as long as we hold…weapons in our hands.” In November 2012, the group carried out joint rocket attacks with the Army of Islam. Following the institution of a ceasefire that ended Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense, the MSC said that they were not truly a party to the ceasefire.
Over the past two years, the Israeli Air Force has targeted a number of MSC members. On Oct. 7, 2012, the IDF targeted Tala’at Halil Muhammad Jarbi, a “global jihad operative,” and Abdullah Muhammad Hassan Maqawai, a member of the MSC. Maqawai, likely a former member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, died of his wounds. On Oct. 13, 2012, Israel killed Abu al Walid al Maqdisi, the former emir of the Tawhid and Jihad Group in Jerusalem, and Ashraf al Sabah, the former emir of Ansar al Sunnah, in an airstrike. The two men were said to be leaders of the MSC. Numerous jihadist groups and media units as well as al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri issued statements following the death of the two jihadists.
More recently, in April this year, the IAF targeted and killed Hithem Ziad Ibrahim Masshal, a well-known jihadist in the Gaza Strip, who was said to be a member of the MSC. On May 7, Masshal was eulogized by a senior member of the MSC who claimed that he never visited Masshal “without finding his room full with materials for manufacturing and preparing rockets, and the materials of jihad.”
In June, jihadists in Syria called on Hamas members as well as members of other Palestinian factions in Gaza to join the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem.