Abu Khalil al Madani, from his latest al Qaeda video. Image from the SITE Intelligence Group.
A member of al Qaeda’s Shura Council who hasn’t appeared in an as Sahab video since July 2008 has issued a new audio message. Abu Khalil al Madani’s message, “A Call for the Pure Nature,” was uploaded to jihadist forums on July 14. The message was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
Much of Abu Khalil’s audio speech is a boilerplate lament, similar to al Qaeda’s many messages in the past. He blames the “weakness” of the Muslim Ummah on its supposed lack of faith. Abu Khalil claims that Muslims worship the countries “that exercise power over people today,” instead of Allah. On “top” of these countries, in Abu Khalil’s view, is America.
In his recounting of history, Abu Khalil relies on the same narrative al Qaeda has consistently proposed. It is one in which conspiratorial forces have moved against Muslims to prevent them from succeeding. Thus, “the enemies foiled … the war between Israel and Egypt” just as the people had become united in jihad. And after “the fall of the Soviet Union, the conspiracies started being woven to foil the fruit to which the mujahideen reached” in Afghanistan. Fortunately, from al Qaeda’s perspective, Allah intervened to install the Taliban.
Abu Khalil praises the Taliban and Mullah Omar, who “sacrificed his state” in late 2001 “due to his certitude that what Allah has for him is better and permanent.” He also criticizes the House of Saud for supposedly sacrificing “the Muslim Ummah in order to fulfill the desires of their bellies and private parts,” according to SITE’s translation.
Al Qaeda videos featuring new faces
Abu Khalil al Madani’s reemergence in al Qaeda’s propaganda comes just over two weeks after Hossam Abdul Raouf made his first appearance in an as Sahab video. Raouf is the longtime editor of al Qaeda’s Vanguards of Khorasan magazine, but had not previously been featured in the group’s videos. [See LWJ report, New al Qaeda video features magazine editor, discussion of Arab Spring.]
In 2012, al Qaeda lost key propagandists in drone strikes. In June 2012, Abu Yayha al Libi was killed. After his escape from an Afghan prison in 2005, al Libi had risen through al Qaeda’s ranks to become one of the organization’s most prolific and influential propagandists.
Several months later, in December 2012, Khalid bin Abdul Rahman al Husainan (a.k.a. Abu Zeid al Kuwaiti) was also killed in a drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
Al Husainan was a former imam in the Kuwaiti Endowments Ministry. SITE noted that he had “appeared in dozens of as Sahab videos since August 2009, some lecturing on jihad and others speaking on Islam in general.” Al Husainan was “presented as an al Qaeda religious scholar.”
With the loss of propagandists such as al Libi and al Husainan, al Qaeda has begun to feature new leaders in its messaging. Time will tell if al Madani and Raouf can be as effective as their predecessors.