Head of al Qaeda’s Syrian branch threatens Russia in audio message

15-10-12 Julani's speech on Russia

The head of Al Nusrah Front, Abu Muhammad al Julani, has released an audio message addressing Russia’s role in the Syrian war. Julani depicts Russia as being “Eastern Crusaders,” calls for reprisal attacks inside Russia, says the jihadists should attack Shiite villages, and argues that groups fighting the Assad regime shouldn’t seek assistance from the West or countries throughout the region. He also offers bounties of several million Euros to anyone who kills Bashar al Assad or Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Julani’s 21-minute audio message, which was released online yesterday, is entitled “The Russian Intervention – The Last Arrow.” It has been translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

Julani argues that Russia has not come to fight the Islamic State, as it claims, but is instead targeting the Jaysh al Fateh alliance, which is led by Al Nusrah and its close jihadist ally, Ahrar al Sham. Jaysh al Fateh delivered successive blows to the Assad regime since the beginning of the year and this is the reason Russia intervened, according to Julani.

It is well known “that the [Islamic] State group does not threaten the presence of the [Assad] regime, for the places controlled by the State group do not touch the depths of the regime,” Julani says, according to SITE’s translation. “No wonder then that it began its bombardment by targeting the factions of Jaysh al Fateh and the factions that were in direct confrontation with the regime forces, and by striking the safe villages, killing women and children, continuing what has been done by the criminal regime.”

A common al Qaeda talking point is that the US is part of an anti-Sunni alliance with Iran and Shiites throughout the Middle East. Julani repeats this claim in his speech. “It is no secret to anyone how Iran and its parties from among the Rafidha [Shiites] of Iraq helped the Americans in occupying Iraq, and quickly the Americans delivered Iraq on a golden platter to Iran,” he says.

Russia’s support for this axis will not change matters, however, according to al Qaeda’s man. The war in Syria “will make Russia forget the horrors they faced in Afghanistan,” Julani threatens, referring to the Afghan War in the 1980s. He argues that Russia’s airstrikes are “no different” from the Assad regime’s in terms of accuracy or efficacy.

Julani urges the “mujahideen in the Caucasus to distract” Russia’s attention from the war in Syria whenever possible by killing Russians in their home country, including soldiers. “If the Russian soldier kills from the masses of [Syria], kill from their masses. And if they kill from our soldiers, kill from theirs,” Julani says, according to SITE. “One for one. We will not be the ones who begin.”

The infighting between various factions must come to a stop, Julani argues, so that the jihadists can focus on “breaking” the “Eastern and Western Crusader campaigns.” And the jihadists should mobilize on “all the fronts” throughout Syria in response. “All must start a large battle on the most sensitive areas for the regime, and the battle must be escalated and the Nusayri [Shiite] villages in Latakia targeted.” Latakia is a coastal province that has long been a stronghold for the Assad family.

“I call upon all the factions to gather the largest possible amount of shells and rockets and strike the Nusayri [Shiite] villages every day with hundreds of rockets, just as the cursed ones do in the cities and villages of the Sunnis,” Julani says, according to SITE. “Make them taste some of the torture of our people. If they leave the villages and cities of the Sunnis, we will leave them alone and will not attack, for he who treats others the same as he treats himself is not unjust.”

Here, Julani is likely discussing the Sunni jihadists’ strategy of attacking Shiite civilian areas in order to force the Assad regime to refrain from attacking predominately Sunni areas. Al Nusrah, Ahrar al Sham and other Sunni jihadist groups have employed this strategy throughout the year by, for example, attacking Shiite villages in northern Syria until Assad, Iranian forces, and Hezbollah lay off of areas in the south where Sunnis, including jihadists, are cornered. Jaysh al Fateh has effectively used this plan to free civilians and some fighters stationed in Zabadani, a small city close to the border with Lebanon.

Julani warns other groups in Syria to avoid seeking assistance from “the Western states and the regional states,” saying it will only bring more “humiliation and shame.” Julani does not address this warning to any specific parties, but he could be referring to Al Nusrah’s ally, Ahrar al Sham, which receives assistance from Turkey and Qatar. Al Nusrah itself has likely received support from Gulf nations, Turkey and other actors at times. In fact, al Qaeda ideologues have explicitly condoned such arrangements, arguing that it can advance the jihadists’ cause. Al Qaeda has even said it is permissible on theological grounds to receive support from Iran, which is currently the Sunni jihadists’ foe in Syria and elsewhere. So, while Julani may openly decry this practice, it is one al Qaeda has repeatedly deemed to be acceptable.

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

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13 Comments

  • WW3 says:

    Al Queada still active? I guess USA did not do a good job ending them lol Russians are laughing

  • Russia never claimed to be solely targeting the IS group, instead they claimed that they will attack all terrorists in Syria of whom Mr. Julani is moxt certainly numbered.. I look forward to Golanis sudden violent death in the near future and it is only a pity that the criminal backers of al Nusra will not share his fate.
    These would include Turkey Saudi Arabia and the CIA.
    How sickening to watch the Western media attempt to brand al Qaeda’s Syria affiliate as “moderate” rebels. Since when do moderates carry AKs and wear suicide vests?

  • mike merlo says:

    is this the Syrian AQ’s version of the White House’s “PEN & PHONE” WarFair?

  • Lisa says:

    Just turn it all into glass!

  • Dennis says:

    It’s uncanny how jihadist groups makes things alright, or not alright just by saying it’s their right to change their fatwas mid fat. Sounds so Damm familiar.

    • mike merlo says:

      @ Dennis

      “if you like your plan you can keep your plan if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor”

  • rtloder says:

    Muslims see the Secular Jews destroying the Holy Dome as a game changer, and Julian has nothing to offer, except self centered jingoistic rhetoric as featured above.

    • Dean says:

      Huh???

      • rtloder says:

        Put it another way then. Julani is hot air but some of it burns he will go soon but Zawahiri won’t, because he’s got no known whereabouts.
        Muslims backed these Jihadist tactics when the US was at their back, now because of Jerusalem being desecrated US will not be able to do the humanitarian intervention to protect their clients who protect and fund Julani.
        Zawahiri will stay, probably in Libya which can be his, and Afghanistan too, jihad will end except for Israel, that’s the best thing possible.

  • Steve Chapel says:

    Putin can play this game only so long. If Russian casualties start to climb or costs go too high then he will have to find a reason to withdraw to secure bases and find reason to pack up and leave. Putin thinks he is a younger modern Stalin. He wants what Stalin wanted, which is anything he can get (at minimum cost) that will weaken NATO and the US. Fortunately he does not have Stalin’s resources in material, time, money and manpower.

    • kimball says:

      I don’t agree with you Steve, to run one base with 30 jet fighters and defence + groundtroops is a drop in the bucket compared to the fiasco in Afghanistan that brought them, with the help of Reagan admin. to their knees.
      Scenario is fascinating, Erdogan, who promoted IS for a long time is suddenly encircled and don’t bet on Nato doing more than noices in regard of Turkey.Russian Tomahawks are flying and Iran brings out the trippel whammy, all hunky dory on the nuke question – activate hezbollah and join hands with Russia. All Sunni sheiks , kings and princes are going bananas but what can they do??
      Send more weapon to their proxysoldiers and look over their shoulder regarding Jemen, Al Quaida and Shias in general, + Iran are working on huge energy deals for the eastern part of the globe. Europe is pondering this, Iran is maybe a better partner in the long run than the erratic Arabs, so how to dump them with minimum economic fall out. US is wringing their hands regarding Pak idea about suitcase nukes and huge mistake to not take that nuke program away from Pakistan long before 9/11, but for some naiv reason, US have always supported Pakistan, through Bangladesh genocides and so forth. Putin is not our ” cup of tea”, but balls of brass rules right now and it looks like the Western world blow the ” Arab spring” big time!

  • kimball says:

    Finally, who more than China is laughing here?

  • ibn monsur says:

    sadly, an opportunity passed by during the cries of Ukraine during the putin invasion of crimea couple of years ago whoch wouldve been revolutionary where the eastern european Christians offered an alliance to the mujahideen to support them against the oppression of Russia.
    we missed this fundamental link which is necessary to ensure the best outcome and been a step towards developing the solution to this power hunger war games fuelled and endorsed by the actors and agents of political elite.
    the confusion and chaos being selectively orchestrated only smoke screens the darker pursuits of the engineers of globalisation. the assassination of any of these false professors of humanity is incumbent to root out the evil with which they came, but how many of the 1% are actually influential players of the string quartet.
    I’m falling into riddles and this attempt partially ridiculous as I’m sceptical about the purpose of the contents in this message will fall short in being received for the intended recipients.
    chess is a simulation for strategic management of a field of units countering every probability but my opponents were in checkmate from before they thought to move.
    are we seriously going to attempt to fight this blood flesh and guts wretched stale smell of corpses by words amongst men.
    just like feeding the caged wild animals with carcases in nurturing these carnivorous species to not bite the hands off the one that feeds them… Al wahn

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