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Al-Qaeda”s Secret Emails Part Three | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Al-Qaeda”s Secret Emails Part Three

Al-Qaeda''s Secret Emails Part Three

Al-Qaeda”s Secret Emails Part Three

A collection of secret documents obtained by Asharq Al Awsat from Ayman al Zawahiri’s computer, in Afghanistan, reveal the level of anxiety the leader of Islamic Jihad and Osama bin Laden’s ally felt, after the group radically shifted its stance and embraced peaceful action and halted military operations in Egypt and abroad.

In three documents exchanged with Abu Yasir (real name Rifai Taha), Islamic Jihad’s military chief and member of its Shura (consultative) Council, al Zawahiri tries to dissuade the organization’s leadership from continuing their policy of nonviolence. Writing to Abu Yasir, who was extradited from Syria to Egypt in 2002, he attempts to persuade him to return to the fold and embrace “the International Front for Fighting the Jews and Christians”, which later split from Islamic Jihad and joined the ranks of al Qaeda. For his part, Abu Yasir had publicly announced his withdrawal from the Front and issued a controversial statement in July 1998 stating that attacking US interests wasn’t a priority of Islamic Jihad. The letters sent from al Zawahiri, variously signed “your loving brother Abd al Muizz” and “Abu Mohammed” are dated nine months after the bombing of US Embassies in Africa , which took place on August 1998.

The letters, delivered by Abu Hazim (real name Mustafa Hamzah), the current leader of Islamic Jihad’s Shura Council, represent the response of al Zawahiri to the suspension of violent action. After reading extracts from the letters, a leading Egyptian Islamist, living in London , explained to Asharq Al Awsat the reasons behind Zawahiri’s attack on the policy of non-violence.

Traditionally, Islamic Jihad doesn’t conduct dialogue with Arab regimes it deems to be apostate and idolatrous, as they serve US and Jewish interests. Deceitful, dishonest, and untrustworthy, these regimes should be the first to be attacked. Leaders of Islamic Jihad also believe that Arab governments would never enter into a constructive dialogue in return for peace. Al Zawahiri mentions this repeatedly in his letter and recalls the fate of Hassan al Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, who was killed by the Egyptian authorities at midnight on 12 February, 1949 , as a birthday present for King Faruq. The monarch had famously declared that members of the Brotherhood were neither brothers nor Muslims. The group had been disbanded earlier by the government of Prime Minister Mahmoud al Nuqrashi in January 1948, its assets confiscated and members arrested. By referring to these events, al Zawahiri is alerting the leaders of Islamic Jihad that they will meet a similar fate, if they make peace with the authorities. Using intimidating language, al Zawahiri urges his followers to wait until the government becomes a Muslim one, for as long as it refuses to follow Sharia (Islamic law), it was unacceptable to initiate a dialogue or enter into an agreement with it.

Asharq Al Awsat, in the section below, is publishing the letter in full, after it’s been examined by experts in militant Islamic affairs, who are sympathizers of Islamic Jihad, in order to solve the riddles they include and uncover the real names of leaders of the organization they refer to. Among these is Abu Kahled, real name Muhammed Shawqi al Islambuli, brother of President Anwar al Sadat’s killer and member of Islamic Jihad’s Shura Council, who was a resident of Afghanistan until the collapse of the Taliban regime. It is thought he now lives in Iran alongside a number of al Qaeda leaders. Another code name in the letters is Abu al Dardir, believed to refer to a leading official in the group, Isam Mutayyar.

According to the Egyptian source, in order to decipher the puzzles and codes contained in the letters, one has to look at the history of Islamic Jihad. The organization, at the time of writing, had suffered repeated blows with dozens of its members arrested abroad and handed over to the Egyptian authorities by Albania , Azerbijan, and other Arab countries. Some of the names of those arrested appeared in Egyptian Criminal Case number 8, in 1998, popularly known at the “Returnees from Albania ”. The case demonstrated that the traditional overseas breeding grounds for Islamic militants such as Afghanistan , Peshawar in Pakistan , and Sudan , continued to produce new members.

This e xplains, in part, the harsh criticism of al Zawahiri in one of his letters to Muntasir al Zayyat, a prominent Egyptian Muslim fundamentalist lawyer, who supported the non-violence course.

In his writings, al Zawahiri repeated asks how the lawyer dared to defend the peaceful initiative and announce in media interviews that he wouldn’t participate in attacks on US targets. The anger that permeates the letters of al Zawahiri was a reaction to Islamic Jihad leaders’ appeal, from their prison cells, to Egyptian political parties, urging them to support their peace offer and calling on the government to respond to their offer.

Following is the letter al Zawahir wrote to Abu Yasir, in full:

“Honourable brother Aby Yasir,

I hope the Lord will guide you to succeed in endeavours that please Him and satisfy Him. I wish that God guide you to bring peace to His loyal subjects and wage war in His enemies; that He use you to achieve victory to His religion, hi Holy Book, the Sharia, and the faithful, and that He fill you heart and those of all believers with the satisfaction of vengeance against the supporters of Satan.

I wish that He fill you with His grace and blessings, turn your fear into security, and return you soon to your homeland, safe and triumphant, God willing. I pray to God to grant His blessings to your children and family, and protect your health, and shield you from harm.

Honourable brother, I hesitated before writing to you, after hearing, in the media, about your announcement of end to military operations. I listened and read comments in the media indicating that this latest initiative will put an end to disagreement between members of the group, in Egypt and abroad. The reviews added that the declaration demonstrates that the government’s crackdown was successful.

I remembered, after reading these reports, that we’d spoken about this issue earlier and that I’d written to you on the subject more than once but you never replied.

I also considered if writing to you once more would be seen as interference by some brothers and meddling in the affairs of others. However, after much reflection, I decided it was best if I wrote to you again, knowing you have faith in me, and because I believe it is my duty to advise you on this vital issue.

Let me begin by asking you if the media reports accurately reflect the situation and, if so, what are the details?

There are many frightening thoughts going through my mind at present. Did you all agree on this policy [of non violence]? What is the strategy vis-à-vis the government? Have you reached an agreement with the authorities? If so, what are the details? Why wasn’t it publicised? Is the accord secret in some parts or entirely? Would the secret be known to the government but concealed from [the rest of Islamic Jihad]? If an agreement has taken place, what is the government permitting you to do?

Furthermore, why was the declaration issued? Why was it frank on the withdrawal from the “International Front” but silent on other issues?

What is the position of Muntasir (al Zayyat, lawyer representing Islamic Jihad members in Egypt )? If an accord has been signed with the authorities, what are the implications for other militant movements?

What are the facts regarding report alleging that Salah Hashim (One of Islamic Jihad’s founders and currently imprisoned in Egypt ) has called for the formation of a new political party?

Should I believe media reports on the matter? How unanimous is the decision to stop violent attacks? Is the government aware of any disagreement among your ranks, if it exists? If media reports are incorrect, why are you silent on the issue? Why won’t you issue a clarification, keeping in mind that, on other matters, such as the Front with bin Laden, you have been very vocal?

I also want to ask you about your personal stance on this issue. Abu Khalid (brother of President Sadat’s killer) tells me he has resigned because he doesn’t want to face the consequences of this latest initiative. I am also informed, by Abu Hazim (the current leader of Islamic Jihad’s Shura Council) that the outcome of this proposal will hinge on solving the disagreements between our brothers in jail on how to run Islamic Jihad. He also told me this declaration sought to calm matters so our imprisoned brothers do not contradict those outside and complicated matters further. In effect, they have continued to issue announcements while you remain silent. This is why I am interested in finding out your position on this matter .

Let me repeat, once more, that the declaration contradicts, for a large number of brothers, the principles on which Islamic Jihad was founded and its proud legacy. If one is to believe media reports and analyses, the initiative represents a serious setback to, with you continuing silence giving me the impression you accept it.

The experience of Hassan al Banna with the Egyptian government is still fresh in our minds. His end came after he chose to praise the despots and declare peace. They killed him as a present to the King! If making agreements with the authorities was productive, the Brotherhood would’ve benefited before you. Instead, members are still being imprisoned across Egypt .

Beware of losing both in this world and thereafter. Your loyalty must be to God and His Prophet. Righteousness will be you salvation in this world and the next.

In conclusion, I urge you to come and visit us. It is very important that you consult with all the brothers. I hope you have faith in me to receive this letter with an open heart and mind. May God give you success, nurture you, and guide you. May He help you to cling firmly to what is right, until the day when you will meet Him and He will forgive all your sins. Peace and God bless you.

Your loving brother, Abu al Muizz

Monday 4 Muharram, 1420 of the Hegira ( 19 April 1999 )