||The Era of Individual Jihad
Al Qaeda's Plan for the Future
by Laura Mansfield [author, analyst] 2/23/07
An Egyptian man attacks an El Al airline counter at Los Angeles International Airport on July 4, 2002, killing three. An off-duty pilot takes control of an EgyptAir flight out of JFK airport in 1999, sending into a nosedive into the Atlantic, killing all aboard. A graduate student drives his SUV into a crowd of students on a busy college campus. Six people were wounded, and one killed by a Pakistani-American in a shooting attack on the Seattle Jewish Federation. A young man attacks a shopping mall in Salt Lake City on Valentine’s Day, killing five. Another young Muslim convert was arrested on charges that he planned a Christmas shopping season attack on a Chicago area mall.
Laura Mansfield is a writer and commentator on issues regarding the Middle
East, Islam, and Radical Islamic Terrorism.
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Nation Under Allah
Were these incidents terrorism? In each of these incidents, the FBI at least initially said “no” because there were no clear ties to any organized terror groups.
All of these alleged perpetrators re Muslim. Were these really radical Islamic terror attacks?
We can’t be 100% certain that they were or weren’t.
Like any other group in society, there are criminals who claim to adhere to the Muslim faith.
But what complicates the assessment is the sheer volume of jihadist writings that have emerged over the past decade trumpeting the role of the individual terrorist, which insist that “personal jihad” in one’s home country is something that is mandated of all Muslims.
These ideas and doctrines are readily found on the internet, and have become more popular. They are not only being discussed on Arabic language websites like Ekhlaas, but are also discussed on English language social networking sites like MySpace.com, Orkut, and MSN Spaces.
Al Qaeda ideologues such as Abu Mus’ab al Suri have advocated been strong advocates for individual jihad. In his 1604-page book Da’wat al-Moqawma al-Islamiyah al-Alamayah, or Call to Global Islamic Resistance, al Suri claims that the era of the “secret organization” such as the Muslim brotherhood is over. He maintains that the hierarchical nature of such groups makes them especially vulnerable to infiltration and exposure by security agents.
He acknowledges the role of “Open Fronts” for jihad in place like Chechnya are Afghanistan, but he finds that this option is not available for most individuals.
Instead, he says that the only opportunity for jihad for most people is individual jihad in one’s own country. In fact, al Suri maintains that there is a religious imperative for Muslims to do so, citing the Qu’ran. Claiming that Ayat 60 of Surat al-Anfal (The Spoils of War) provides justification for going to war as part of jihad:
Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know. Whatever ye shall spend in the cause of Allah, shall be repaid unto you, and ye shall not be treated unjustly.
He cites Ayat 46 of Surat al-Tawbah (Repentence) expressing his low regard of those who fail to take up arms in jihad
If they had intended to come out, they would certainly have made some preparation therefor; but Allah was averse to their being sent forth; so He made them lag behind, and they were told, "Sit ye among those who sit (inactive)."
Al Suri stresses that individual jihad should be carried out by individuals or small groups who cannot be linked back to any central organization. Instead, the “base” should serve as a source of inspiration and motivation, rather than act as a chain of command.
He suggests the role of a “middle-man”, a “cell organizer” whose role is to help set up individuals or small groups, providing seed funding, but who then leaves the area, providing no discernable links such as money transfers or paper trails.
In other words, these individuals and small groups are supposed to appear for all intents and purposes to self-contained and self-motivated.
Al Suri isn’t the only Al Qaeda ideologue to promote this idea. Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula launched an on-line training magazine, providing a how-to guide for the individual jihadist. Books such as the Mujahideen’s Poisons Manual (in English, French, and Arabic) provide details on how to create biological weapons such as botulinum toxin and ricin. Instructional videos readily available on the internet show in the smallest detail how to brew explosives using readily available household chemicals, and even how to make simple chemical gas dispersal devices and explosive vests.
There’s little doubt that the infrastructure is in place for the individual jihadist.
Do the incidents outlined above, along with dozens of others, fit the definition of “individual jihad”?
That’s a question for law enforcement.
By definition, that’s not going to be an easy question to answer, because by definition, the rogue jihadist is delinked from any central organization. There may be little or no evidence delineating the ideological or political convictions of the individual jihadist. At most, investigators may find some material downloaded from the internet as clues. But it’s very unlikely that paper trails such as money transfers from Al Qaeda Inc, or plane tickets to Pakistan for training will be found.
Instead, for all intents and purposes the rogue jihadists will look like he’s working alone, perhaps inspired and trained through the internet, but working on his own.
The incidents above certainly fit this description.
Are they the work of rogue jihadists, or are they simply criminal acts, perpetrated by individuals acting for unknown reasons?
We may never know. In many cases, the truth dies with the attacker.
But it is almost certain that the era of the roque individual jihadist has arrived. And even if the attacks listed above are not the work of men on a personal jihad, then it is inevitable that such attacks are coming.
The questions are when and where. CRO
2006 Laura Mansfield