The Abdullah Azzam Brigades (AAB) has taken credit for three separate rocket attacks targeting Israeli locations, the most recent of which took place on Thursday, July 10. In a series of tweets on AAB’s Twitter account, the group said that its Yahya Ayyash Brigades launched three rockets at the Israeli city of Ofakim and the Sufa military support site on Thursday night.
AAB began its rocket attacks on Israel on July 7, the first day of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, which is aiming to silence the barrage of rockets launched by Hamas and other jihadi terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip. AAB claims to have fired seven rockets on July 7, and 11 more on July 9, in addition to the three rockets launched on July 10.
AAB claimed that the Yahya Ayyash Brigades was responsible for firing the rockets into Israeli territory on all three occasions. Yahya Ayyash was a Palestinian terrorist known as Hamas’ top explosives expert before he was killed in January 1996 as a result of a bomb-laden cellphone. According to the IDF, Ayyash, also known as The Engineer, “personally built the bombs used in a number of Hamas suicide attacks which resulted in 439 casualties.”
AAB’s Twitter messages on July 8 taking credit for its initial rocket attack in response to Operation Protective Edge were the first public confirmation of the link between the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and the Yahya Ayyash Brigades. The Twitter messages read, “Allah facilitated for your brothers in the Yahya Ayyash Brigades, which belongs to the Brigades of Abdullah Azzam, to fire a number of rockets at the Jewish aggressors on the night of Monday, 7-7-14.”
Including the three rocket attacks targeting Israel in the past week, AAB has executed a total of six attacks this year, mostly focused on Iranian and Hebzollah locations in its home base of Lebanon. In January and March, AAB’s Marwan Hadid Brigades staged joint attacks with the Al Nusrah Front against Hezbollah locations in Hermel. In February, AAB carried out a double suicide bombing at the Iranian Cultural Center in Beirut, killing 129. Notably, an AAB suicide attack also rocked the Iranian Embassy in Beirut in November 2013 and led to the deaths of 147 individuals.
These pictures tweeted on July 12 show a Yahya Ayyash Brigade fighter on July 10 preparing a Grad rocket intended for the Israeli city of Ofakim:
The following video released by AAB’s Al Awzaey Media Foundation on July 9 includes an audio message from the AAB’s former leader Majid bin Muhammad al Majid and allegedly shows AAB fighters launching rockets at Israel:
Background on Abdullah Azzam Brigades
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which is named after al Qaeda’s co-founder and Osama bin Laden’s mentor, was formed by Saleh al Qarawi sometime after 2004 as an offshoot of al Qaeda in Iraq, and was tasked with hitting targets in the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories) and throughout the Middle East.
Qarawi is a Saudi citizen and is on the list of 85 most-wanted terrorists that was issued by the Saudi Interior Ministry in 2009. He appears as number 34 on the Saudi list and is identified as Saleh Abdullah Saleh al Qarawi.
Qarawi has been described as a “field commander” by Flashpoint Intel, which published a translation of an interview that was released in April 2010. According to Qarawi, he fought with former al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi in Fallujah (presumably in the two battles in 2004), and was ordered by Zarqawi to form the Abdullah Azam Brigades.
“Allah rewarded me to participate with my brothers in Fallujah, and I came to know the Sheikh Abu Musab al Zarqawi–may Allah have mercy on him–closely, and he assigned me to a job outside of Iraq,” he said.
In the same interview, Qarawi said that the Abdullah Azzam Brigades is tasked with striking not only in Lebanon, but also elsewhere.
“[The Abdullah Azzam Brigades] are not confined to Lebanon but there are targets that our fires will reach Allah‐willing in the near future … the Brigades are formed of a number of groups that are spread in numerous places … and the groups of ‘Ziad al‐Jarrah’ in Lebanon are only some of our groups, and we rushed to create these groups and announced them because of the urgency of the battle with the Jews and the priority of the initiative at the time and the place, but the rest of the groups are outside Lebanon.”
The Ziad al Jarrah Battalion, which operates primarily in Lebanon, is named after Ziad al Jarrah, a Lebanese citizen who was one of the masterminds of the Sept. 11 attacks on the US. He was the pilot of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed into a field in Shanksville, Penn., after passengers attempted to retake the plane from the terrorist hijackers.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades releases propaganda on a routine basis. In recent years, the group has advocated for the overthrow of the Saudi government and called for an uprising in Lebanon, as well as voiced support for Syrian rebels. The terror group also released a statement immediately after the death of al Qaeda emir Osama bin Laden in May 2011.
“May Allah have mercy on Osama, the Sheikh of Jihad, the Imam of Piety, the example of asceticism and the model of patience, the pioneer of glory in this age, and the awakener of the Ummah from its slumber,” the terror group said in a statement translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. The group also said it had been formed “after incitation” by bin Laden.
Groups calling themselves the Abdullah Azzam Brigade have also claimed attacks in Egypt and Pakistan. It is unclear if the groups are linked.
Both the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and Tawhid and Jihad claimed they had carried out the July 2005 bombings in Sharm al Sheikh, Egypt that killed 88 people and wounded 150 more. The bombings occurred at cafes and markets frequented by foreigners in the Red Sea resort town.
And a group calling itself the Abdullah Azzam Brigade claimed credit for the June 2009 suicide assault on the Pearl Continental Hotel in a high-security zone in Peshawar, Pakistan. A spokesman named Amir Muawiya claimed the attack and said the Taliban and al Qaeda shura directed that all future strikes would be claimed by this group. Amir Muawiya is a leader in the Commander Tariq Group, a Taliban faction based out of Darra Adam Khel in northwestern Pakistan. Muawiya is also known as one of several of al Qaeda’s “company” commanders in Pakistan.