Al-Qaeda leader: ‘Patient’ western jihadis should carry out ‘easy and simple’ attacks at home
Hard on the heels of the Islamic State telling its Western adherents how to use Craigslist and eBay to set up murders and hostage situations, an al-Qaeda leader posted an online video asking jihadis in the West to carry out “easy and simple” terrorist attacks.
In the video, as translated by the Long War Journal, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) emir Qasim al-Raymi assures “patient” followers “living in the Western countries” that al-Qaeda’s high command sees them as “a group, a brigade, or even an army in itself.”
His message was framed as an appeal to Muslim solidarity against the infidels, seeking to energize “lone wolf” jihadis by encouraging them to see themselves as commandos in a great Muslim army.
“It is important to view yourself from this angle, that you are part of this Ummah, a part of this body. If any part of the body is not well, then the whole body shares the sleeplessness and fever with it. We are a single united body, and today this body is in pain in many places. And you are situated in a place where you can harm our enemy. And so it is upon you to carry out that role,” al-Raymi added. Ummah is a term referring to Muslims around the world.
“We are a single united body,” he emphasized. “An American Muslim is the same as a Yemeni Muslim, and a Yemeni Muslim is the same as an Australian Muslim. We do not believe in nationalism; we believe in Islam.”
He rattled off a list of conflicts involving Muslims fighting non-Muslims across the Middle East, from Israel to Syria, and asked: “If every operation against the Muslims were to be retaliated by a single Muslim living in the West and result in the killing of many Americans, then what do you think will happen?”
The Long War Journal interprets the video as al-Qaeda’s effort to reclaim its relevance among jihad-inclined Western Muslims, who were long ago lured away by the competing terrorist brand of the Islamic State. Interestingly, LWJ notes that Raymi only mentions one lone-wolf jihadi by name: Omar Mateen, the Orlando nightclub shooter, who swore allegiance to ISIS during his attack.
“How many smiles do you think he drew on the faces of the widows, orphans, and Mujahideen all over?” Raymi said of Mateen. “Today, the Muslim Ummah only hears of tragedy after tragedy facing it. Yet it is you who [can] draw a smile in their face. And if making a Muslim smile is a charity, then what about drawing a smile upon thousands and millions of Muslims?”
“Don’t complicate matters, take it easy and simple, the same as our brother Omar Mateen did,” Raymi advised. “He took an AK-47 and headed towards their gatherings and attacked them. If such operations were to continue whenever there is a tragedy upon Muslims, we will be transferring the tragedy back to them, and it will be an eye for an eye.”
Here the Long War Journal interjects to note that Raymi’s embrace of Mateen’s attack plan is at variance with previous statements from al-Qaeda criticizing the Orlando jihadi for attacking a nightclub filled with gays and Latinos. Al-Qaeda strategists said it was better to target “areas where the Anglo-Saxon community is generally concentrated.”
Raymi, who is believed to be 38 years old, has been one of America’s most-wanted terrorists since he gained control of al-Qaeda’s franchise in Yemen in 2015. He was reportedly one of the targets of the January 29 raid by U.S. Navy SEALs and United Arab Emirate commandos, although the Pentagon has disputed claims he was the primary target of the operation.
In an interview posted by al-Qaeda media a few weeks ago, Raymi hit similar themes of a worldwide Muslim war against infidels.
“There is no Muslim who sees America violating sanctity, killing children and women and yet hesitates in fighting them,” he said. “If an American comes at your doorstep, that is by all means a test to your faith and loyalty. Therefore, this is a golden chance to avenge your fellow Muslims by this American soldier who practices crime against the Muslim nation in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria and among other Islamic countries.”
“The mujahideen do not let the crimes of America pass by without consequences,” he declared, adding threats against Arab nations like the United Arab Emirates that “cooperate and contribute with the Americans constantly.”
Qasim al-Raymi is among the world’s most wanted terrorist leaders for good reason. Former FBI agent Ali Soufan recently argued at the Daily Beast that al-Qaeda is stronger than ever, having taken advantage of Obama administration euphoria over the death of Osama bin Laden and the worldwide focus on ISIS to build its strength, fill its coffers, and expand its alliance.
“Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is thought to have more than 4,000 fighters under its command. In Somalia, al Shabaab has more than 7,000. In Syria, al Nusra boasts more than 20,000. Each of these numbers represents a vast increase from six years ago,” Soufan notes. “Meanwhile, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has made millions of dollars from ransom payments, the Taliban is back in control of several Afghan provinces, and al Qaeda’s Southeast Asian affiliate, Jemaah Islamiyah, which had 31 extremist madrassas when it carried out the Bali nightclub bombing in 2002, now has 66.”
Furthermore, Soufan warns that al-Qaeda has amassed political capital by inserting itself into regional conflicts, most notably in Libya, Syria, and Yemen, cannily positioning itself as the “moderate” alternative to homicidal maniacs like the Islamic State.
The more cartoonishly obvious deceptions might not fool anyone, as with al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front in Syria changing its name, but it’s all too easy for al-Qaeda groups to exploit the chaos of multi-sided civil wars to seed other groups with their members and ideology. Arguments have been made, for example, that Western nations and the U.N. will have to be a bit less picky about dismissing groups with tenuous links to al-Qaeda to have any hope of cobbling together a stable government for Libya.
A U.S. servicemember was recently killed while advising Somali National Army troops in a battle with al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s increasingly menacing affiliate in Somalia.