Al Qaeda official in Syria tweets in solidarity with Islamic State

Abu Sulayman al Muhajir, an Australian cleric on the Al Nusrah Front’s Sharia Committee, has been tweeting in recent days about US military action against the Islamic State. In one tweet, al Muhajir states: “The US is not fighting a jama’ah (group) as they claim. It is a war against Islam, the latest sequel to their crusade. Muslims must stand united!” In another tweet, al Muhajir says: “May Allah unite all sincere Muslims of Ahl as Sunnah (Sunnis) and protect the Ummah (worldwide Islamic community) and Mujahideen from those whom You know will harm our cause.”

Along with posts similar to those, al Muhajir also heavily posted with the hashtag “#US_vs_Islam.” These posts included: “US Soldier not man enough to face a mujahid, so drones instead vs Mujahid sees the hoor [women of paradise] calling him behind enemy lines,” and “US soldier fights for a wage; Mujahid fights for the weak, for justice, for jannah [heaven],” according to the SITE Intelligence Group.

Another tweet includes the following:

Al Muhajir has criticized the Islamic State

In a video posted online in March by Al Nusrah, al Muhajir offered his testimony against the Islamic State (called “ISIS” then) in rebuttal to senior ISIS official Abu Muhammad al Adnani’s critique of Al Nusrah official Abu Abdallah al Shami. [See LWJ’s report, Al Qaeda official in Syria was extremist preacher in Australia.]

Al Muhajir’s testimony focused on key aspects of the infighting.

First, and foremost, he rebutted the claim made by ISIS supporters that Abu Bakr al Baghdadi did not swear a formal bayat (oath of loyalty) to Ayman al Zawahiri. The ISIS had advanced this claim in order to avoid the obvious implication that al Baghdadi is in the wrong for failing to follow orders. And Al Nusrah argued the opposite, that al Baghdadi is insubordinate because he has failed to abide by his pledge of bayat to Zawahiri.

Al Muhajir said that the ISIS “accepted” him as a mediator in the conflict with Al Nusrah. But some within the ISIS began to claim that al Baghdadi’s oath was not a “full” bayat and instead a bayat for “love and support” only. Al Muhajir said that he did not know what sort of bayat the Islamic State “was speaking about.”

So he brought the matter up with al Baghdadi. According to al Muhajir’s testimony, al Baghdadi responded, “I seek refuge in Allah, I have a true binding bayat to Sheikh Ayman, to hear and obey, in hardship and in ease!”

This, according to the al Muhajir, “affirmed to us what we already know, that [al Baghdadi] is a soldier in the command of al Qaeda and that he listens and obeys like the other [leaders] of other regions.”

Al Muhajir’s posts are similar to statements released by AQIM, Boko Haram, and AQAP

On July 1, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), one of al Qaeda’s official branches, posted a statement on jihadist forums praising the Islamic State’s military gains in Iraq. AQIM also called for reconciliation between the Islamic State and rival jihadist groups in Syria. The message was first obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. [See LWJ’s report, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb calls for reconciliation between jihadist groups.]

AQIM’s message began by praising “the victories of our people the Sunnis in Iraq under the command of their mujahideen sons, and on top of them the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham” (ISIS). Interestingly, AQIM argued that the Islamic State’ advances in Iraq have “alleviated our calamity in” Syria and “mended the rift and directed arrows of the mujahideen to the necks of the enemies of the Ummah and the religion: the Crusaders, the [Shiites], and the apostates.”

Without naming any specific groups in Syria, AQIM addressed jihadists there, arguing that they should support the Islamic State’s efforts in Iraq. “We call upon our mujahideen brothers in Sham to strongly support the conquests of their brothers in Iraq and protect their backs and provide them with what they need to continue their march and complete their victory, as recommended by our Sheikh and Emir Sheikh Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri, may Allah preserve and protect him, because Iraq is a debt upon the entire Ummah.”

By referring to Zawahiri as “our Sheikh and Emir,” AQIM clearly stated that Zawahiri is the group’s overall leader. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State, famously disobeyed Zawahiri’s orders, leading al Qaeda’s general command to disown Baghdadi’s group in early February. Baghdadi and the Islamic State have been attempting to win the support of al Qaeda’s regional branches, including AQIM, since then. However, AQIM’s statement did not indicate that AQIM is siding with Baghdadi over Zawahiri.

Two weeks later, AQIM released a statement explicitly rejecting the Islamic State’s caliphate declaration. AQIM also reaffirmed its bayat (oath of allegiance) to Zawahiri. [See LWJ’s report, AQIM rejects Islamic State’s caliphate, reaffirms allegiance to Zawahiri.]

In a video released in July, Boko Haram emir Abubakar Shekau voiced his support for Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, as well as for leaders of al Qaeda and the Taliban. In the video, he said:

To you my dear brethren, Muslims, those who are true believers and not those that practice democracy, not those who believe in constitution, not those who believe in western education. My regards to my leaders like Mullar Umar, the Amirul Muminin in Afghanistan, great minds like Sheikh Al Zawahiri; those like Amir of Yemen, Abu Basir; the likes of Abu Mus’ab Abdul Wudud; and others In Pakistan and Iran, like Al-Baghadad. My greetings go to you all. I thank you all. We give thanks to almighty Allah; here we are in the land called Nigeria; but we don’t see it as Nigeria.

On Aug. 12, the al-Malahim Media Foundation, the media wing of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), released a video featuring chief AQAP ideologue and theologian Ibrahim al Rubaish, who commented on a variety of current events.

After his opening statements, Rubaish turned to recent developments in Iraq. He congratulated the mujahideen as well as the entire Muslim community “for the victories achieved by our brothers in Iraq,” without explicitly mentioning the Islamic State by name. Rubaish noted that these military victories are a “grace from Allah” and stressed the importance of giving thanks for such blessings. [See LWJ’s report, AQAP ideologue praises jihadi victories in Iraq, comments on Berghdal release.]

In July, Rubaish and another AQAP ideologue released a message denouncing the “slander” of jihadist leaders. Even though Rubaish did not name the Islamic State’s supporters, the message was clearly aimed at them. Rubaish’s critique coincided with the release of a poem by Nasir al Wuhayshi, who serves as both AQAP’s emir and al Qaeda’s general manager. Wuhayshi heaped praise on Zawahiri in the poem, calling him the “sheikh father” of the mujahideen. [See LWJ’s report, AQAP praises Ayman al Zawahiri, defends jihadist scholars against ‘slander’.]

Al Nusrah’s al Muhajir has now joined jihadists in AQIM, Boko Haram, and AQAP in speaking and tweeting in solidarity with the Islamic State. However, expressing solidarity is not the same thing as declaring bayat, or allegiance, to the group.

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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1 Comment

  • Robespierre Jackson says:

    These tweets might explain why Obama, Cameron, Holland or any Western leader will not go out and overtly say we are fighting Radical Islam and that, over and over again, we hear that the Islamic State is “not Islamic.”
    However is this a case of the elephant hiding behind a flower?
    And how effective is Western political rhetoric on persuading sympathetic Islamist ears anyways?
    “Christian” or Western nations like USA, France, UK with a presence in Muslim countries make for easy arguments on “Crusaders” returning by all the Islamists (from ISIL to Muslim Brotherhood).
    What is so obviously missing and anemic is the Sunni Muslim countries commitment to send troops and “boots on the ground.”
    Without strong presence from such “Sunni” Muslim countries as Saudi, Jordan, Qatar, Turkey, and/or Egypt, etc., this new “Coalition” will have major credibility issues with local Sunnis. Sunni Muslim soldiers need to be on the front lines and part of the counter-insurgency or conventional forces, not just from Iraq but other regional Sunni countries. The Iraqi Army (Shia dominated) and Peshmerga will not be received too sympathetically. It needs to be in the final analysis, good Sunni vs. bad Sunni. Where are the “good” Sunnis in the current equation?!
    This seems obvious but the other Sunni countries of the Arab League and Turkey seem to lack the courage of their convictions (if any).
    Once again Sunni Muslim countries in a pickle (with Radical Sunni Islamists!) let the USA and West do their fighting for them with all the ensuing highly dangerous outcomes back in the mix.


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