« New charges against Headley for 2008 Mumbai attacks | Main | Shabaab suicide bomber was Danish citizen »




Muslims account for 85 percent of casualties in al Qaeda attacks



The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point recently released a stunning report which found that Muslims have accounted for 85 percent of the casualties from al Qaeda attacks between 2004-2008. Even more astounding, during the last two years of the study (2006-2008), the percentage of al Qaeda's Muslim victims skyrocketed to an almost-unbelievable 98 percent.

The report's findings decimate the claims made in 2007 by al Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al Zawahiri. In response to questions posted on an online jihadi forum, Zawahiri responded to criticism about Al Qaeda's indiscriminate killing of Muslims by insisting that "al Qaeda has not killed innocents," and downplayed any "incidental" Muslim casualties by explaining that "if there is any innocent who was killed in the Mujahideen's operations, then it was either an unintentional error, or out of necessity."

The revelation that a full 85 percent of the 3,010 people killed by Al Qaeda between 2004 and 2008 were Muslims serves as a conclusive rebuke of Zawahiri's claims. Furthermore, while Western columnists and politicians have often remarked that Muslims are "the real victims" of jihadi terrorism, never before has that assertion been so conclusively or overwhelmingly supported by hard data.

A potential PR disaster for Al Qaeda

The CTC report's authors (Scott Helfstein, Nassir Abdullah, and Muhammad al Obaidi) wisely used only Arabic-language reporting in their research, in order to sidestep any complaints of bias that would have inevitably resulted from using English-language news accounts.

Indeed, while this story has some relevance for Western audiences -- many will no doubt be shocked to hear that only 2 percent of Al Qaeda's victims since 2006 have been non-Muslims -- the most powerful potential impact of this report is in the Muslim world. It's true that Al Qaeda's support in the Muslim world has already been steadily declining in recent years -- mainly due to this very issue. But the headline "Al Qaeda Kills Eight Times More Muslims Than Non-Muslims" could well be a final death blow to al Qaeda's efforts to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim world.

The story has already received some limited coverage by a few Arabic news outlets, including Al Quds, the largest Palestinian daily, as well as the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jarida, which printed the story complete with the CTC's headline, "Vanguard of Death." It's a good start, but for this story to have the impact it deserves, it will need to be picked up by many more (and bigger) Arabic-language news outlets, including Al Jazeera.



READER COMMENTS: "Muslims account for 85 percent of casualties in al Qaeda attacks"

Posted by T Ruth at December 9, 2009 1:48 PM ET:

Alexander, with respect, there's nothing stunning about it...not even surprising.

Without denying the PR value of the report--ISAF should air-drop fliers across AfPak...ooops across Af and lets see if the Pak air force is willing to do the same in their territory.

But of course the PAF believes that its not AQ but the usual US/India/Israel axis that are the culprits.

Posted by Bungo at December 9, 2009 5:22 PM ET:

Unfortunately such facts, data and any accompanying logic don't carry much sway in the propoganda/information aspect of this war. It's gonna be a Long, Loooonnng War.

Posted by KW64 at December 10, 2009 9:54 PM ET:

If the US was really at war with Islam as the Islamists claim, we couldn't do much worse than arming Al Queda. Since, in fact, we are trying to free people of this horrible heretical menace, we won't.

Posted by Cacoombah at December 16, 2009 12:05 PM ET:

Actually such facts are supposed to carry or provide a significant level of impact minus the largely ineffective leaflet drops which are ineffective only in that most Information SME's understanding of effective strategic communications begins and ends with leaflet drops.

I must admit however, the fact that some Arab outlets are running the story, it does not surprise me that this fact lacks the sensational luster apparently required for a story to be news worthy in the United States. How could this EVER compete with Tiger, Brittany or any other more note worthy subjects!

Posted by Nevena at December 24, 2009 11:13 AM ET:

And what percentage are apostates?
Do you have these figures

How about the Iraqi Shia, they are often mistaken for muslims by laymen