Al Qaeda portrays US-led bombing campaign as ‘Crusade’ against Islam

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a branch of al Qaeda’s international organization, has issued another statement denouncing the US-led bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria. The group once again calls on rival jihadist factions, including the Islamic State and its rivals, to come together against their common enemies in the West.

The Islamic State, headed by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, has been warring with the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, and other jihadist organizations since last year.

AQAP and other al Qaeda-allied ideologues are portraying the air strikes as part of a “Crusade” against Islam and, therefore, they argue that the jihadists must set aside their differences for now. They are pushing this theme on social media and in their official messaging.

The AQAP message, a “Statement Regarding the Crusader Coalition,” was posted on Twitter earlier today and first translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

“Within the Crusader war on Islam, the global coalition waged a fierce campaign on the mujahideen in Iraq and Sham [Syria], and especially our brothers in the Islamic State, where there was bombardment and killing without respect for sanctities,” AQAP’s message reads. Now that “the enemy” knows that the airstrikes won’t work, AQAP argues, the West is beginning to “talk about ground campaigns.”

“And on this occasion, we assert our support to our brothers against the global Crusader campaign, and we are with their enmity against this campaign,” AQAP’s jihadists write.

The group goes on to argue “that it is forbidden to participate in their war [referring to the campaign of the West and its allies in the Middle East] under the pretext that they [the Islamic State] are Kharijites [extremists], and they are not that.” AQAP means that it is impermissible for jihadists to fight Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s Islamic State on behalf of the Western-led coalition, even if the Islamic State’s rivals believe that Baghdadi and his subordinates have attacked their fellow Muslims and rejected other widely-recognized jihadist authorities.

“We advise all the mujahideen to forget their disputes and to stop the infighting among them, and to be diligent in pushing away the Crusader campaign that targets all,” AQAP’s jihadists write, according to SITE’s translation.

AQAP concludes by calling on anyone who can to strike the US “militarily,” “economically,” or in the media because the Americans are the “leaders of this war and the foundation of this campaign.”

Since the beginning of the US-led bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria this past summer, al Qaeda has attempted to use the intervention as a cause for reconciling the opposing jihadist factions. Even if a full reconciliation is not possible, al Qaeda’s branches and closely allied ideologues argue that the strikes should at least serve as the basis for a truce.

AQAP and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) released a joint statement in mid-September urging the jihadists in Iraq and Syria to unite against their common enemy, America, “the head of infidelity.”

Sheikh Nasser bin Ali al Ansi, an AQAP official, released a video on Sept. 30 urging unity against the “Crusader coalition.”

Some of the Islamic State’s harshest critics are also attempting to use the bombings as an opening for reconciliation. The same day that al Ansi’s video was distributed online, a group of jihadist ideologues proposed a truce in a statement titled, “An Initiative and Call for a Ceasefire Between Factions in Syria.”

One of the proposed truce’s key signatories is Sheikh Abdallah Muhammad al Muhaysini, who is closely tied to the Al Nusrah Front.

Muhaysini has pushed for a truce on multiple occasions. In late September he released a message, “A Statement Regarding the Crusader War on Islam,” via a video posted on his popular Twitter feed, which has 330,000 followers. Muhaysini’s message included the same themes as AQAP’s missives.

And Muhaysini has since launched a web site with both his twitter handle and the word “crusade” in the url address. The site contains a petition denouncing the bombings as part of a campaign “against Islam” and highlights America’s alleged “crimes” against Muslims. Various photos of American soldiers supposedly mistreating Muslims are used on the site.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

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2 Comments

  • Jackbo Godfrey says:

    Nothing like a common enemy to unite “friends” among all these Radical Islamist groups.
    Netanyahu nailed it: Hamas, Islamic State, Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda, Al Nusra Front, etc etc etc = All poisonous fruits of the evil tree: Radical Islam.
    This “truce” and call for unity should come as no surprise.
    Meanwhile,there is a reason why no western leader will speak boldly out against Radical Islam.
    The Total War which will be required to wipe out Radical Islam as a viable political force will require a threat worthy of uniting Western Political Leaders and Population and it will be no small task in terms of resources and military risk and lives along with it.
    The evil fruit of Radical Islam is simply not big bad and ugly enough . . . yet, still needs to ripen.
    Chamberlain did not buy into Churchill’s strategy of a “Grand Alliance” back in his Appeasement days because there was no possibility at that moment in the 1930s when Churchill recommended it: USA was isolationist and Russia not interested.
    Just like the Nazi / fascist threat to western civilization, so too will Radical Islam require to be ripened.
    Excellent reporting LWJ!

  • Tom says:

    Considering the growing string of defections to IS from other groups, reconciliation is certainly working alright, a bunch of FSA held cities even defected to IS.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cities_and_towns_during_the_Syrian_Civil_War and a different map using different sources https://pietervanostaeyen.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/img_1339.png
    YPG is getting its @#$ kicked and bad. Not surprising given their drug use, sex, and drinking while on duty. Watching the livefeed from the border, its clear al-Kurdi, the IS Commander is opening a safe corridor for the YPG to Tell Shair to give them an illusionary out as he continues to press them in the city so that they don’t fight to the death in buildings and instead flee out into the open where they can be more easily hit by Indirect Fires.
    Even if Kobane City holds. IS controls the Canton and the Main Road and is already laying down a bypass road. So al-Kurdi has already achieved his primary strategic objective while his female counterpart on the YPG side, Narin Afrin, has failed her duty to defend her Canton. She had 12,000 fighters and 1,500 PKK soldiers came from Turkey to assist plus 1,000 FSA soldiers joined her. She had 700 Technicals, and 40 23mm AA guns, plus 33 home built tanks, 14 MILANs.
    al-Kurdi hit her with a reinforced Mechanized Brigade of 6,000 men and routed her forces, destroying the majority of them and posting the pictures to Social Media, much of which was removed.
    Narin Afrin now only has her hardest fighters left. In 2 weeks she has lost the majority of her city. Contrast that with the USMC which fought 6 weeks to secure Fallujah.
    Narin Afrin and Al-Kurdi are also the same age. Two Kurds, of vastly different backgrounds now opposing foes. Well somewhere someone is no doubt writing a bad love story over it.

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