London, Asharq Al-Awsat- For the second day running, extremist websites were clad in black, as they mourned the death of Iraq’s most wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al Zarqawi.
While many sites speculated about Abu Mohammed al Masri, who the US army suggested would take over the helm of al Qaeda in Iraq, the bayaa, or ceremony to pledge allegiance to al Zarqawi’s deputy, Abu Abdel Rahman al Iraqi, appeared to have already started.
An extremist leader, using a screen name, asked, “Could the American forces appoint a successor to al Zarqawi?” Others cast doubt about whether al Masri would take over the running of al Qaeda’s activities in Iraq . Several websites broadcast taped messages purportedly of Abu Abdel Rahman al Iraqi, who announced in a statement, which can’t be authenticated, the death of Abu Musab, signed by the Muhajideen Shura Council’s Media Committee, dominated by al Qaeda in Iraq . “We announce the martyrdom of our mujahid sheikh Abu Musab al Zarqawi in the land of the Two Rivers.”
A new website was created to mark the occasion. It includes the most-wanted terrorists’ statements and commands to his followers prior to his death. The Falluja Media Center for Jihad also broadcast taped messages apparently of Abu Abdul Rahman al Iraqi.
Other websites also featured inciting articles which deplored the death of Abu Musab, such as “Whereas al Zarqawi has died, in the umma, there will a thousand more Zarqawi.” Sif al Adl, a nickname for a senior terrorist figure, was also accepting congratulations for Abu Musab’s death online.
For their part, websites close to al Qaeda re-posted several articles on the continuation of jihad, irrespective of the leaders in charge, including a commentary by Youssef al Ayiri, believed to have founded al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia and who was killed in June 2003. In another article, the Egyptian Islamist Hani al Sibai, who lives in London , extolled the virtues of Ibn al Khattab, the Saudi warlord in Chechnya who died in 2002. For his part, the renowned Kuwaiti Islamist, known on militant forums as Hamid bin Abdullah al Ali, didn’t wait for a confirmation of Abu Musab’s death to “celebrated the news of his martyrdom. “Al Zarqawi is a martyr; herald the upcoming victory in Iraq ”, he said.
The Jordanian terrorist’s death was lamented by a large number of militant Islamist internet users, sometimes in lengthy poems. “It is true the lion and leader has been killed. If al Zarqawi was killed, in our nation there are millions and millions Zarqawis”, wrote an extremist known as Abu Kana. “Our nation is well, if al Zarqawi died a martyr, thousands will follow in his footsteps”, he added.
Some websites opened a “book of condolences” and others a “book of congratulations”, while several writers called for special prayers to be held in memory of al Zarqawi in mosques worldwide. The Jordanian’s sole appearance in a recent videotape was replayed on a number of websites, alongside pictures of the terrorist.
However, support for al Zarqawi was far from unanimous. In a number of Islamist forums, posters criticized the Jordanian terrorist and decried his violent streak and random killings. “Abu Musab exaggerated his significance and his vanity. His hands were sullied with the pure blood of the people of the Sunna. The main Sunni mujahideen groups are displeased with what he is and his groups are doings, including the random killings and attacks and the barbaric bombings carried out throughout Iraq ”, one person wrote. “Ahla al Sunna in Iraq dissociate themselves from him and exonerate themselves from him.”
One Islamist advised his jihadist comrades to “Be patient and wait.” Another said, “Al Zarqawi died but the pinnacle of Islam continues. It will remain as long as the Quran remains and its verses are memorized and quoted in the speech of the muhajideen.”
Another appeared to be overrun by emotions. “By Allah, I am lost for words. I have lost the light of my life. “
Meanwhile, Muntasir al Zayat, the Islamist lawyer in Egypt , told Asharq al Awsat, “I ask God to have mercy on his soul. I call on God to forgive him. I disagreed with the way al Zarqawi carried out some operations, outside the realm of legitimate resistance in Iraq, despite his pure intentions to drive away the occupation in Iraq.”
As for the effect of al Zarqawi’s absence on al Qaeda in Iraq , al Zayat said, “A temporary confusion will reign across the organization. This is normal and to be expected. But, I believe al Qaeda will overcome this confusion quickly, given that a religious group with many independent cells, will have taken into consideration the absence of its leader, or his death or imprisonment. New alternative leaders will be ready to take his place.”