New ide­o­log­i­cal tac­tics of Al-Qaeda to re­vive its power


Ac­cord­ing to Amer­i­can in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, in the re­cent six months the in­flux of new re­cruits from post-Soviet states of Eura­sia to Syria, who want to fight for the es­tab­lish­ment of the Caliphate, has sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced. It has oc­curred af­ter the fall of the so-called Is­lamic State in Iraq and Syria, and also af­ter a sig­nif­i­cant weak­en­ing of po­si­tions of the ji­hadist group Hay’at Tahrir Al –Sham as­so­ci­ated with al-Qaeda.

How­ever, al-Qaeda, via its groups in Cen­tral Asia and Cau­ca­sus, which are fight­ing within Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, has de­vel­oped and ac­tively used new tac­tics of re­cruit­ment and dis­tri­bu­tion of the rad­i­cal ide­ol­ogy of ji­hadism. Since March 2018, two ter­ror­ist groups from Cen­tral Asia, Kat­i­bat Ima­mal Bukhari and Kat­i­bat al Tawhid­wal Ji­had have started to ac­tively dis­trib­ute pho­to­copies of leaflets via so­cial me­dia sup­port­ing the ji­hadist line of al-Qaeda.

The leaflets in Rus­sian, Uzbek, Kazakh, Uighur and Ta­jik ad­vo­cat­ing the sup­port of pro-al-Qaeda groups in Syria and call­ing on the con­tin­u­a­tion of the “ji­had to pro­tect Is­lam” have been reg­u­larly pub­lished on a Tele­gram chan­nel. The ge­og­ra­phy of such leaflet dis­trib­u­tors is rather broad. For rea­sons of se­cu­rity, the leaflets don’t con­tain full names or sur­names of the new sup­port­ers of al-Qaeda. In­stead, they con­tain only a re­gion, coun­try, town or vil­lage of the leaflet senders. The senders’ ad­dresses im­ply that the senders re­side in Western Europe, Rus­sia, Cau­ca­sus, Cen­tral Asia and Xin­jiang Uygur Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion of China.

De­spite the fact that leaflets are writ­ten in var­i­ous lan­guages and sent from var­i­ous re­gions of the Eurasian con­ti­nent, the con­tents of such leaflets are iden­ti­cal.The fun­da­men­tal idea be­hind the leaflets is to sup­port the ji­hadist groups fight­ing in Syria and to be­come a mem­ber of the main Sunni ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion al-Qaeda.

Thus, March 4, 2018, the Tele­gram page of Cen­tral Asian mil­i­tants of Kat­i­bat al Tawhid­wal Ji­had con­tained the leaflet with the fol­low­ing con­tent in Uzbek, “Dear Mus­lims mu­jahideen Ahlu al-Sun­nah wa al-Ja­maah! We sup­port the holy strug­gle pur­sued by the brave war­riors of Al­lah Hay’at Tahrir Al –Sha­mon the blessed land of Sham (Syria) against athe­ists. Your ac­tions are meant to es­tab­lish the sharia laws on earth. May Al­lah be pleased with you. Soon we will come to you to sup­port you. Al­lahuak­bar! Ta­jik­istan, Hud­jont, 03.04.2018.”

An­other leaflet said that “the Mus­lims in On Adyr mi­cro-dis­trict, Osh, Kyr­gyzs­tan, sup­port the mu­jahideen of Hay’atTahrir Al –Sham. Let Al­lah give you vic­tory in the war against the cru­saders.” Also a leaflet from Dages­tan, Rus­sia, has been pub­lished with a call to “sup­port the mu­jahideen of Hay’at Tahrir Al –Shamand a prayer for the early es­tab­lish­ment of the caliphate.” Tawhid­wal Ji­hadon his Tele­gram page has pub­lished the pho­to­copies of over 100 leaflets call­ing to sup­port ji­had un­der the lead­er­ship of proal-Qaeda groups in Syria. These leaflets have been sent from Mos­cow, Chelyabinsk of Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion; Jizak, Ferghana, Na­man­gan re­gions of Uzbek­istan, Chimkent, KyzylOrda of Kaza­khstan; Uz­gen, Osh, Ara­van, Nookat, Jalal-Abad of Kyr­gyzs­tan; Ukraine (no town spec­i­fied), South Korea (no town spec­i­fied), Western Europe (no state spec­i­fied) and Jed­dah of Saudi Ara­bia.

The leaflets have been writ­ten mainly in Uzbek and Rus­sian by hand by an or­di­nary pen. There’s no doubt in the au­then­tic­ity of these leaflets. The gram­mar of pre­sen­ta­tion, the authors’ hand­writ­ing and the time of pub­li­ca­tion in the Tele­gram in­di­cate that the leaflets have been writ­ten by dif­fer­ent peo­ple, at dif­fer­ent times and in dif­fer­ent coun­tries.

Among the nu­mer­ous leaflets pub­lished by Kat­i­bat al Tawhid­wal Ji­had on the Tele­gram chan­nel, we have paid at­ten­tion to those sent from Turkey and Egypt. The leaflet from Turkey was in the form of an Is­lamic flag of al-Qaeda and con­tained the prom­ise that “we will soon ar­rive in Sham and to­gether with the Mu­jahideen Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham we will sing Tak­fir (de­vo­tion to Al­lah). And then the dead bod­ies of the kafirs will lie un­der our feet.” The leaflet from Cairo was writ­ten by hand in lit­er­ate Ara­bic, in which the sup­port of al-Qaeda is ex­pressed on be­half of the Mu­jahideen of Egypt.

Kat­i­bat al Tawhid­wal Ji­had is af­fil­i­ated with the Jab­hat Al-Nusra group and its an­ces­tor Al Qaeda. The leader of the group is the Uzbek ji­hadist, Abu Saloh. His real name is Siro­jid­din Mukhtarov, born in the Osh re­gion of Kyr­gyzs­tan. Ac­cord­ing to the Kyr­gyz law en­force­ment agen­cies, in

2014 Abu Saloh was wounded in the eye in fight­ing against the Syr­ian gov­ern­men­tal forces and then was treated in Turkey. Abu Saloh jointly with the Uighur ter­ror­ists from the Turkestan Is­lamic Party or­ga­nized the ex­plo­sion in the Bishkek-based Chi­nese em­bassy in Au­gust 2016. Also, the Fed­eral Se­cu­rity Ser­vice of Rus­sia ac­cuses him of or­ga­niz­ing an ex­plo­sion in the metro of St. Peters­burg on April 3, 2017, which killed

15 peo­ple, and wounded more than 50 oth­ers. The bomb was blown up by a sui­cide bomber, Ak­bar­jon Jalilov, a 22-year-old na­tive of Kyr­gyzs­tan.

An­other ji­hadist group from Cen­tral Asia Kat­i­bat Imam al Bukhari, close in its ide­o­log­i­cal doc­trine to al-Qaeda, has also pub­lished on its Tele­gram page many dozens of leaflets. It should be em­pha­sized that the main core of mil­i­tant groups are na­tion­als of Uzbek­istan, Kyr­gyzs­tan and Ta­jik­istan, who are fight­ing to­day in the Syr­ian prov­ince of Idlib in al­liance with Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham against the regime of Bashar As­sad. The leader of Kat­i­bat Imam al Bukhari is a na­tive of Ta­jik­istan, eth­nic Uzbek, Abu Yusuf Muho­jir, who is known for his deep re­li­gious knowl­edge in the field of ji­had and de­vo­tion to the idea of al-Qaeda. He has trust-based re­la­tions with the lead­er­ship of the Tal­iban move­ment. Some of the mil­i­tants of the Uzbek group help the Tal­iban in Afghanistan. But Abu Yusuf Muho­jir him­self is now in Syria, and he leads the group there.

A leaflet with the al-Qaeda em­blem dec­o­rated with an Ara­bic en­grav­ing “Al­lah is Great” was pub­lished on the Tele­gram page of Kat­i­bat Imam al Bukhariat the bot­tom of which is writ­ten in Kyr­gyz,“By the will of Al­lah, we love, re­spect and sup­port the brave lions of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. Soon we will fol­low the path of ji­had, and we will fight shoul­der to shoul­der with you against the en­e­mies of Is­lam. Kyr­gyzs­tan, Osh, Nookat. 03.04.2018.”

Sim­i­lar leaflets in sup­port of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham po­si­tions have been widely pub­lished on the Tele­gram by the me­dia struc­tures of Cen­tral Asian ji­hadists Ji­hodShamoli (Wind of Ji­had), Sham Ovozi (Voice of Sham) and Tavhid Xabar­lari (News of Tawhid). Tac­tics of Sur­vival of al–Qaeda

We have quoted the leaflets in de­tail and tried to re­veal their deep mean­ing so that the coun­tert­er­ror­ism ex­perts could un­der­stand the ide­o­log­i­cal tac­tics pur­sued by the main Sunni ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion of al-Qaeda and its af­fil­i­ated groups Hay’at Tahri­ral-Sham, Kat­i­bat Ima­mal Bukhari and Kat­i­bat al Tawhid­wal Ji­had.

As the anal­y­sis shows, the con­tent and ide­o­log­i­cal plat­form of all these leaflets are iden­ti­cal. This cam­paign aims to, first of all, con­sol­i­date al-Qaeda sup­port­ers in Western Europe, Rus­sia, Cen­tral Asian coun­tries, Xin­jiang Uygur Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion of China and the Mid­dle East.

In­ter­net and so­cial me­dia have be­come the main tool of vir­tual con­sol­i­da­tion and re­cruit­ment for Salafi-ji­hadi groups, af­fil­i­ated with al-Qaeda. The al-Qaeda re­cruit­ing strat­egy in the re­gions of Cen­tral Asia and Cau­ca­sus ac­cepts only ide­o­log­i­cally ver­i­fied peo­ple who are di­rectly re­lated to the fac­tions of Kat­i­bat al Tawhid­wal Ji­had, Kat­i­bat al-Imam Bukhari, Turkestan Is­lamic Party and Kat­i­bat al-Ghuraba.

Al-Qaeda leader Ay­man al-Zawahiri is known to strictly ob­serve all the re­quire­ments of se­crecy (no cell phone, no so­cial me­dia us­age, no in­ter­net us­age, and no emails). There­fore, the ide­ol­o­gists of the leaflet cam­paign have de­cided not to men­tion al-Qaeda in leaflets di­rectly, rather they have or­ga­nized pub­lic and mass sup­port of his fight­ing wing, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. De­spite the lat­est tac­ti­cal dif­fer­ences be­tween Ay­man al-Zawahiri and Abu Mo­ham­mad al-Ju­lani, the ide­o­log­i­cal po­si­tion of the Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham group to­day fully cor­re­sponds to the po­si­tion of al-Qaeda.

The new ide­o­log­i­cal tac­tics of al-Qaeda proves the state­ment of the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions of the US that“in re­cent years, al-Qaeda has been qui­etly re­build­ing and for­ti­fy­ing its var­i­ous branches, sys­tem­at­i­cally im­ple­mented an am­bi­tious strat­egy and dis­creetly con­sol­i­dated its in­flu­ence wher­ever the move­ment has a sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence.”

The wars in Syria and Iraq have shown that al-Qaeda and ISIS have dif­fer­ent tac­tics for us­ing mil­i­tants from Cen­tral Asia in a real bat­tle. ISIS is known for us­ing the mil­i­tants from Cen­tral Asia as can­non fod­der, ne­glect­ing hu­man lives. In the pro­tec­tion of Mo­sul and Raqqa, Ta­jik and Uzbek ji­hadists have been mas­sively used as sui­cide bombers who blew them­selves up in the name of Al­lah as mar­tyrs. Ac­cord­ing to the study of The In­ter­na­tional Cen­tre for Counter-Ter­ror­ism, in the ISIS ranks, peo­ple from Cen­tral Asia were lead­ing in terms of the num­ber of sui­cide bombers. As a re­sult, more than 80% of the Cen­tral Asian mil­i­tants in the ISIS were de­stroyed. The sur­viv­ing mil­i­tants have man­aged to move to Afghanistan and re­join ISIS-Kho­rasan. Some of them have re­turned to their coun­tries and sur­ren­dered to law en­force­ment agen­cies, as a re­sult, many of them were sen­tenced to prison.

Un­like ISIS, al-Qaeda fol­lows the doc­trine of its leader Ay­man al-Zawahiri who said, “We should adapt to the prac­ti­cal re­al­ity wher­ever it is. We would take into ac­count the cir­cum­stances of each ji­hadist arena and what achieves its in­ter­ests”.Due to this tac­tics, al-Qaeda has man­aged to sur­vive and main­tain the ef­fi­ciency of its groups in Syria, in­clud­ing Kat­i­bat Ima­mal Bukhari and Kat­i­bat al Tawhid­wal Ji­had from Cen­tral Asia. Ac­cord­ing to the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions, in Syria alone, al-Qaeda now has up­wards of twenty thou­sand men un­der arms, and it has per­haps an­other four thou­sand in Ye­men and about seven thou­sand in So­ma­lia.

Due to the strat­egy of adop­tion to the prac­ti­cal re­al­ity, al-Qaeda has sur­vived from un­manned air­crafts, ground clashes with the As­sad forces and won in the tough com­pe­ti­tion with ISIS for the lead­er­ship in the global ji­had. ISIS no longer can com­pete with al-Qaeda in terms of in­flu­ence, cov­er­age of ter­ri­to­ries, mil­i­tant force or sol­i­dar­ity. The only trump card of ISIS is its abil­ity to launch transna­tional ter­ror­ist strikes in Europe and USA. To­day only due to “lone wolves” ISIS can still main­tain its men­ac­ing brand and hold in­tel­li­gence ser­vices on western coun­tries in sus­pense.

Pur­pose of Leaflet Cam­paign

The leaflet cam­paign in sup­port of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham group pur­sues the three aims that com­ply with the strate­gic task ofal-Qaeda.

First, as we have al­ready men­tioned, this is a con­sol­i­da­tion of sup­port­ers and dis­tri­bu­tion of the al-Qaeda ide­ol­ogy in the post-Soviet ter­ri­tory. Com­pared to the Ara­bic coun­tries of the Mid­dle East, African Maghreb, and South­ern Asia, the post-Soviet coun­tries of Cen­tral Asia and Mus­lim republics of Rus­sia re­main the least ex­posed to the rad­i­cal ide­ol­ogy of al-Qaeda. There­fore, al-Qaeda thinks that it’s time for the deeper in­va­sion in the Eurasian re­gion.

Sec­ond, the re­cruit­ment of new mem­bers for Salafi-ji­hadi groups af­fil­i­ated with al-Qaeda is an im­por­tant aim of this leaflet cam­paign. Af­ter the fall ofISIS, many of its sup­port­ers and po­ten­tial ji­hadists in Cen­tral Asia have be­come con­fused. In this sit­u­a­tion, al-Qaeda has de­cided to fill in the gap and con­vert the for­mer ISIS mem­bers to their side. More­over, the war in Syria and Iraq has shown that Cen­tral Asia has a good po­ten­tial for the re­cruit­ment of ji­hadists.

Third, al-Qaeda is in­tend­ing to open an­other branch in the post-Soviet area of Cen­tral Asia in ad­di­tion to the five ex­ist­ing branches. These tac­tics sup­ports the am­bi­tions of al-Qaedato be­come the leader of the global ji­had. Af­ter the de­feat of ISIS, Ay­man al-Zawahiri has turned into a pow­er­ful leader able to set strate­gic tasks and to im­ple­ment them suc­cess­fully step by step.

In con­clu­sion, it should be em­pha­sized that the main tar­get of al-Qaeda is, ac­cord­ing to the will of Bin Laden, the USA and its al­lies. There­fore, western coun­tries at the head of the US should take the “leaflet cam­paign” of al-Qaeda se­ri­ously be­cause it has far-reach­ing goals and poses a se­ri­ous threat to the in­ter­ests and part­ners of the USA all over the world.

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