Ayman al Zawahiri discusses Southeast Asia in episode eight of al Qaeda’s “Islamic Spring” series.
Al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, As Sahab, has released three new messages from Ayman al Zawahiri. Two audio messages and a 7-page statement from the al Qaeda emir have been disseminated online in the past day.
The first audio message, titled “Al Saud, Murders of the Mujahideen,” is just over seven minutes long. Zawahiri encourages the Saudi people to rise up against their monarchy and criticizes the Saudi government’s execution of more than 40 prisoners earlier this month.
The al Qaeda chieftain claims the “murders of more than 40 mujahideen” and Nimr al Nimr (a prominent Shiite cleric) were really intended to serve the interests of America and the “Crusaders.” The “mujahideen” Zawahiri refers to include a number of al Qaeda operatives, including jihadists who were accused of launching a series of attacks inside the kingdom beginning in 2003.
Zawahiri’s message is preceded by a clip of a talk given by Anwar al Awlaki, an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula ideologue who was killed in a US drone strike in 2011. The clip is intended to emphasize the importance of martyrdom in the wake of the Saudi government’s executions.
“Martyrdom is like the tree,” Awlaki told his audience. “Fruits grow on it, and then ripen, and then comes the time for reaping those fruits. This happens in specific seasons. This is how Allah’s slaves pass through stages until they reach to a stage where it is time for them to be taken as martyrs.”
The clip ends with Awlaki saying: “Hence, the tree of martyrdom in the Arabian Peninsula has already got ripened fruits on it and the time for reaping them has come, so the Almighty Allah took from among those martyrs.” Although these words were spoken long before Saudi Arabia’s executions earlier this month, they are used in the new audio message to explain the supposed value of al Qaeda’s martyrs.
Zawahiri’s condemnation of the executions was posted online on Jan. 12. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), two regional branches of al Qaeda, published their own statement blasting the death sentences just two days beforehand, on Jan. 10.
The second audio speech delivered by Zawahiri is episode eight of al Qaeda’s “Islamic Spring” series. It is more than 24 minutes long. Zawahiri focuses primarily on Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. He claims that the region is ripe for a jihadist revival, just like other parts of the world.
The production opens with a clip from an interview CNN conducted with Amrozi Nurhasyim (seen on the right), who was convicted and executed for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people; 88 of the victims were Australians visiting tourist locations in Bali.
“My message for Australians: don’t you come to places like that ever again,” Amrozi said in the interview. “I’m sure that my colleagues will bomb it again.”
The end of the video includes footage of other perpetrators of the Bali bombings and Abu Bakar Bashir, a radical jihadist cleric.
The third statement, titled “The Levant is Entrusted Upon Your Necks,” includes Zawahiri’s written condemnation of Saudi Arabia and its role in the Syrian war.
The al Qaeda leader claims that a recent Saudi-sponsored conference for rebel groups opposed to Bashar al Assad’s regime is really “one of Saudi Arabia’s attempts to distort the path of jihad in general, and in the Levant in particular,” according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal. Zawahiri warns others that “Saudi Arabia will not provide you freedom, dignity, or glory.”
Some Islamist groups fighting alongside Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, have praised Saudi Arabia and participated in its rebel conference in Riyadh. But Al Nusrah’s leader, Abu Muhammad al Julani, said late last year that participating in the conference was an act of “treason.” Therefore, Zawahiri’s message adds additional support for Al Nusrah’s anti-Saudi stance and draws a contrast between Al Nusrah and some of its allies.