Al Qaeda leader calls for the overthrow of Pakistan’s Musharraf

Statement by Abu Yahya al Libi contradicts Newsweek report on divisions in al Qaeda over Pakistan policy


Al Qaeda has weighed in on the Pakistani government’s military assault on the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, in Islamabad last month. As Sahab productions, the media outlet for al Qaeda’s central leadership, released a 21-minute tape by Abu Yahya al Libi, a senior al Qaeda leader who has served as a spokesman and released numerous propaganda videos. In the video, titled “Of the Masters of Martyrs,” al Libi praised the followers of the Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa as “martyrs.” He forcefully called on Pakistanis to take up arms against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, whom he called the “dirty tyrant” and a pawn of the West.

The tape was released in both Arabic and Urdu, a clear indication the message is targeted at both Pakistanis and Arab al Qaeda. Al Libi began the video by insulting the men of Pakistan for their timidity against the Pakistani government and their failure to fight. “It is the time for men to wear the burkas of the women and stay at home in the darkness after they abandoned attacking the sites where nobody can attack but the heroes and leave the way to the women,” al Libi said. “Maybe they could do something the men refuse to do.”

Abu Yahya al Libi.

He then praised the students and leadership of the Lal Masjid for “engraving a page of history, a story of fighting which seldom will be repeated.” The Islamabad mosque “graduated students and scholars who promoted virtue and prevented vice,” in the past, but after the showdown against Pakistani security forces “graduated a new generation … decorated on the same level of the masters of martyrs.”

Al Libi singled out Abdul Rashid Ghazi, whom he referred to as “the Imam, the brave scholar, and martyr” who “spoke the truth in the time of submissiveness.” Ghazi was killed by Pakistani forces during the assault on the Red Mosque.

After listing the virtues of the “martyrs” of the Red Mosque, al Libi openly called for the overthrow of the secular Musharraf regime and for attacks on “his fragile army.”

O people of jihad in Pakistan, lions of sacrifice! O those asking for martyrdom, husbands of the [72] virgins. Man may die only once, so take charge at the gardens of martyrdom. It has opened its doors in your country. Rise as one, and see if Allah will be pleased. Go to battle together in order to be rid of this infidel tyrant and remove his heretic secular rule. May you pound away at his fragile army, at his swarms of intelligence miscreants and the fortresses of his unbelieving control. Take example from your neighbors, the brave people of Afghanistan. Their determination, power, will and strong belief have turned their land into a graveyard for the haughty and overbearing empires. These, in turn, are leaving in defeat and disappointment, with their tails between their legs and their collaborators [local ones, traitors] with them. This is how you must act.

Know this: The tax paid for lowliness – which the Pakistani people will pay after surrendering and succumbing to this infidel government – is many times greater than the tax paid for glory. The latter will be paid kindly and fondly in order to fortify our religion, set the law, process doctrine, gain freedom from serving the servants and find joy in serving the Lord of Servants.

Last month, Newsweek reported on a purported split between the Libyan faction of al Qaeda central command, which is led by al Libi, and Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s second in command. According to Newsweek, the Libyan faction opposed Zawahiri’s “personal crusade to assassinate or overthrow the Pakistani leader.” The purported anti-Zawahiri faction fears “Zawahiri is inviting the Pakistani leader’s wrath, prematurely opening up another battlefront before the jihadists have properly consolidated their position” inside Pakistan’s tribal areas.”

Al Libi’s latest tape calls into question this analysis, as he is openly calling for the overthrow of Musharraf. While there are certainly internal divisions within al Qaeda leadership over their policy on Pakistan and other theaters, the divisions are not as deep as the Newsweek article makes them appear. Al Libi is on message with al Qaeda’s senior leadership, as the tape was released through As Sahab, al Qaeda senior command’s official propaganda arm.

At the time the Newsweek article was released, a senior American military intelligence officer told The Long War Journal the divisions between Zawahiri and al Libi were exaggerated. The intelligence official also explaned there were even elements inside the U.S. and foreign intelligence communities that believed al Libi is part of “the moderate wing of al Qaeda.” Al Libi’s latest tape also dispels this notion.

Nick Grace, the co-host and producer of Global Crisis Watch, explained in an email that the release of al Libi’s tape through As Sahab indicated that al Qaeda’s leadership approved the message. He also noted al Libi’s statements undermine any reporting of a moderate Libyian wing in al Qaeda.

It is important to place as-Sahab within the context of the al Qaeda organization. It was until the Damadola strike under the leadership of Abdul al-Maghribi, Ayman al-Zawahiri’s son-in-law and is answerable directly to AQ’s Shura Majelis ruling council. To date, Abu Yahya al-Libi has appeared in 8 videos produced and distributed by as-Sahab this year, accounting for 10% of as-Sahab’s total video output. Last year he appeared in just 4 videos. Ayman al-Zawahiri, in contrast, has appeared in 3 (compared with 15 in 2006). Al-Libi’s increasing visibility on as-Sahab and his calls for Musharraf’s overthrow in today’s video should put this talk of a “moderate Libyan wing” to rest.

Abu Yahya al Libi escaped from Bagram prison in Afghanistan in the summer of 2005, along with senior al Qaeda operatives Abu Nasir al-Qahtani and Omar Farouq. British forces killed Omar Farouq in Basra, Iraq. Farouq was reassigned to Iraq after his escape to facilitate the flow of money, weapons, and fighters for al Qaeda, some of it funneled from Iran. Qahtani was captured in Afghanistan in November 2006. Al Libi is operating “in the tribal areas of northern Pakistan,” an American military intelligence official told The Long War Journal last fall.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • templar knight says:

    I guess this pretty much answers the question of the purported AQ split, and furthermore addresses the position of AQ and the Taliban with respect to Musharraf. With a former high-ranking Army officer openly threatening suicide attacks, AQ calling for the replacement of Musharraf, and increasing Taliban attacks against government troops, the government in Islamabad seems to be under siege.
    I wonder if these threats are aimed at the secular Pakistanis, or perhaps at the Army itself. It seems to me that Pakistan has been under military rule for most of its existence, so perhaps the call is going out for the Army to overthrow Musharraf, with the bone of “We’ll leave you alone(no suicide attacks)” to the secular Pakistanis if you do not oppose us.
    Is a coup possible, or perhaps even likely, given the worsening situation in the NWFP?

  • Turner says:

    If Osama Bin Laden were still alive, he would be the one issuing such an opinion on Al Quaeda’s relationship with Pakistan, a primary host country. Just as Al Quaeda in Iraq had a fake leader, I believe that Osama died long ago of wounds from airstrikes.
    In this particular case, he would be issuing these declarations if American forces had not killed him. In the long run, having a dead puppet as spokesperson serves the interests of the free world more than it serves Al Quaeda.

  • CamelSpyder says:

    I wonder if this isn’t a veiled retreat from Iraq and a call to consolidate numbers in a new, more receptive theater. The 1000-2000+ IAQ estimated in Diyala didn’t materialize in capture numbers and there were a couple reports of a retreat to the mountainous region bordering Iran prior to the Diyala offensive. Could’ve been another Iranian intervention [evac] to try and boost the Waziristan movement and accelerate a Musharraf overthrow.
    They certainly wouldn’t want to announce defeat in Iraq, but there definitely seems to be momentum building among the sharia folks w/regard to a Musharraf overthrow. My guess is they are growing impatient w/Iraq and want a shot at a piece of the Pakistani arsenal sooner, rather than later.
    Would be anxious to hear thoughts from someone more knowledgeable than I on the nuances of the Iran/AQ/Waziristan Taliban [semi-secret] alliance.

  • David M says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 08/01/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.

  • Thanos says:

    I think the split was there, but not as pronounced as Newsweek had it. I think there is still some dissension on direction. This clearly is good although it looks bad.
    The shift is on, they realize they cannot win in the four theaters they’ve been fighting in. (Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Thailand) They are seeing the circle close and they are at last ditch effort to save the base it all started from. They’ve been pulling assets out of Iraq for about a month and a half (note the arrests at Taftan and other places and the articles about funding.) Red Mosque, the political events in Pakistan the past two months, and the current state were planned — I don’t think all of Al Qaeda bought in, but now they have no choice the die is cast. The tide is turning against Qutbism/Islamism, the last place they can hope for mass islamist uprising is the traditional spot — Waziristan.
    The Political schisms in Pakistan’s govt are healing between the moderates, so look for very targeted assassination attempts, more bombings, and a cat and mouse game with the army as they try to firm up allies in the tribal regions. Outcomes of jirgas, who attends and who doesn’t also bear watching.

  • Thanos says:

    One other note: background foliage and area appears similar to the tape we saw from Mansoor Daddullah recently.

  • Nick Grace says:

    Thanos – The screenshot that Bill used for al-Libi in the article is from a June 2006 video and not the current one. In this new video al-Libi is green screened.

  • Ryan says:

    Would it not be in Musharraf’s best interests to let the U.S. invade Pakistan willingly in order to weed out these enemies that will most certainly look at assassinate and overthrow him?

  • Justin B says:

    It is the time for men to wear the burkas of the women and stay at home in the darkness after they abandoned attacking the sites where nobody can attack but the heroes and leave the way to the women,”
    Funny, but Al Qaeda and the Taliban’s leadership doesn’t like the idea of fighting for martyrdom, but rather hiding in the darkness of caves and under burkas. Tough talk about martyrdom from behind a camera directed towards the pawns in their game. Our leaders hide and run, but our rank and file should seek martyrdom at every opportunity.

  • Tom W. says:

    “Would it not be in Musharraf’s best interests to let the U.S. invade Pakistan willingly in order to weed out these enemies that will most certainly look to assassinate and overthrow him?”
    Invade, no. Muslim pride and all that. They’re not humiliated by their own endemic violence, backwardness, corruption, poverty, incompetence, tribal strife, etc., but the second a foreign army invades, they leap into action out of pride. Whatever.
    But I’ve been reading for years that whenever an American diplomatic mission visits, they bring along several men who mysteriously disappear. These are “retired” special operators who are not official members of the U.S. armed forces, which is why Musharraf allows them to operate in Pakistan.
    He can thus say in all honesty that there are no foreign troops in Pakistan, which will prevent the fragile national ego from being bruised.

  • Thanos says:

    Nick thanks for pointing that out, I was going to watch it last night, but a bridge collapse and the ensuing coverage interupted.

  • madconductor says:

    At the time the Newsweek article was released, a senior American military intelligence officer told The Fourth Rail the divisions between Zawahiri and al Libi were exaggerated. The intelligence official also explaned there were even elements inside the U.S. and foreign intelligence communities that believed al Libi is part of “the moderate wing of al Qaeda.” Al Libi’s latest tape also dispels this notion.
    I would certainly feel more comfortable with a concensus in our intelligence community. Judging by this report, there are certainly some inside the circle that have correctly assessed the Pakistani/AQ situation. Dispelling a Newsweek opinion is not difficult. Having agreement within our own intelligence circle that is cohesive enough to be actionable seems only prudent. Hopefully we’ve learned something from this that will move the elephant forward.
    Thanks Bill – as usual, your reports are extremely enlightening.

  • templar knight says:

    madconductor, I wish myself that our intelligence services could come up with some kind of consensus, but the divisions that now exist in the CIA, and its flight from quality, have made this wish impossible.
    Frankly, I have more faith in military intel, and perhaps even more in people like Bill who have taken it upon themselves to fill the gap left by the CIA and others, which is to get good, solid information out here that can be trusted. I realize Bill and others in his position do not have the resources of the government, yet they do more with less. It has everything to do with the quality of the person who desiminates the info. In any event, I think it of the utmost importance that our intel community work together for the defense of our nation, yet partisan politics prevents it. I hope and pray that this changes very soon, as I’m not confident that someone might…might ignore something in the hopes that a terrorist attack would have political implications for the other side. I hope I don’t come off as a conspiracy theorist, as I’m not, I’m just concerned about the quality and integrity of our intelligence services, and particularly the politicalization of the CIA.

  • Turner says:

    Regardless of how real the schsim between leaders is, the absence of Bin Laden, promotes fractious infighting. While that would fit the history of radical Islam, in the long run, it’s one of the inherent weaknesses of Al Aquaeda.

  • Tr3Man says:

    Maybe a little off topic as I was reading all of them from each article over the days past. Couldn’t the “big suprise” that Al Queda is promising, leading up to their next release, be that Oh Osama Bin Laden himself is tried to be integrated into the video as if he is still alive himself, after years of silence and us all thinking he is dead? I mean we have heard nothing, and i am starting to agree with most others, that he’s long passed, but by some long shot, if he is, now is the time they will have him announce something himself, and then that will be what the cell’s need to move forward throughout the rest of the world to attempt this “spectacular attack” they keep promising, hence branding it Osama’s right fromt the get go, or just as the top leader in Iraq was a fake, maybe they’ll think they are getting advanced with their media productions and try to fool everyone with a video implying or whatever that Osama is alive. They need to dispell the rumors of his death if not true, NOW not later, as the momentum of all thinking he’s passed, is moving way to fast and they’ll lose a handle on the group and will splinter beyond what they want, having it operate independently if needed, rather giving way to everyone’s own al Queda. No direction, not leadership, and no victory for them!
    Its late, so sorry if that seemed like rambling…just wanted to get it out before I got to work in the morning and forgot!

  • Why Zawahari and Libby are interested in removing Musharaff NOW? Why not before? What he was doing before didnot anger these AQ but has angered them now?
    It is because CIA cannot analyse well. AQ is actually the sword arm of OIC and in turn is controlled by Saudiroyal family.
    As Musharaff looses popular base , the Prince in waiting is already selected by the Saudies and that is why Musharaff made a desperate airdash to riyadh and UAE.

  • RHYNO327 says:

    if Musharraf does not act with all the force he can muster, he will not hold onto power. t-ban, AQ want him gone so they have what they have always wanted. if the Gen. is worried about moslem pride and backlash if the US intervenes directly, then it must be done quietly, without regular US forces. i believe eventually he will lose power. killed, or ousted by his own generals who are t-ban or AQ in uniform. so, no matter if we strike or not, this guy is doomed. if i were him, i would clear those provinces, even if the casualties are high. for Musharraf, a small price to pay.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram