Center for Strategic Communication

Abu Hafs al Maqdisi - August 11, 2013.jpg

Abu Hafs al Maqdisi, the leader of the Gaza-based Jaish al Ummah (Army of the Nation), today called on Egyptians to wage “jihad” against Egyptian army commander General Abdul Fattah el Sisi. Al Maqdisi, who was released from a Hamas prison in December, also called on Egyptians to overthrow “the tyrant” (el Sisi) and establish an Islamic state. In addition, al Maqdisi said he hoped that one of el Sisi’s bodyguards would kill him.

Al Maqdisi further stated, according to press reports, that although Jaish al Ummah does not currently coordinate with any Salafist groups in Egypt, it is prepared to work with any Muslims who are prepared to implement sharia, or Islamic law.

Al Maqdisi’s comments come a day after Egyptian authorities took action to disperse two sit-ins by supporters of former president Mohammed Morsi. The forcible measures used to disperse Morsi’s supporters quickly led to massive clashes.

Security forces carried out “a scorched-earth assault that killed hundreds” over more than 12 hours, the New York Times reported. The health ministry today announced that at least 525 people had been killed, including a number of security personnel.

The events in Egypt have elicited a number of responses from jihadists [see Threat Matrix report, Jihadists respond to violence in Egypt]. In the jihadi forum Shumukh al Islam, one user claimed, in remarks obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, that now “is the opportunity for a ‘military’ jihadi armed current to rise to defend Sunnis with the sword and spear.”

Similarly, Abdullah Muhammad Mahmoud of the jihadi Dawa’at al-Haq Foundation for Studies and Research warned Egyptian Muslims in an article posted to jihadist forums yesterday that “if you don’t do jihad today, then only blame yourselves tomorrow.”

Another prevalent jihadist theme in reaction to events in Egypt, which al Qaeda and its affiliates have pushed repeatedly since Morsi’s ouster, is the argument that the Muslim Brotherhood made a mistake by engaging in the democratic process. In an essay posted to jihadist forums in July, Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi, a global jihadi ideologue and former mentor of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, argued that the Egyptian army’s overthrow of Morsi’s government “demonstrate[d] the soundness of the jihadi project and the choice of the ammunition box over the ballot box.”

And today the Afghan Taliban released a statement condemning the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. The statement, obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, claimed that there had been at least “2,600 martyrs.”

The Taliban, who condemned Morsi’s ouster as a coup on July 8, today called on security forces in Egypt “to stop shedding the blood of the innocent and oppressed among the children and women, and youth and elderly.” The group’s statement reiterated a previous call on July 14 for Morsi’s reinstatement. “[I]n order for the situation not to become worse, it [the army] must pave the way for the return of the legitimate president-elect [Morsi] to power,” the Taliban said today.

Jaish al Ummah

Jaish al Ummah is one of a number of Salafi jihadist groups operating in the Gaza Strip. The group has warned about the creeping influence of Iran in the coastal enclave, in particular through Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In addition, the group has claimed responsibility for numerous rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel and was praised by a leading Salafi jihadist official for its actions during Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.

Following the deaths of Abu al Walid al Maqdisi and Ashraf al Sabah, two leaders of the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC), on Oct. 13, 2012, Jaish al Ummah released a statement in support of the MSC. Similarly, following the death of Hithem Ziad Ibrahim Masshal, a well-known jihadist in the Gaza Strip, in late April 2013, the jihadist group issued a statement praising Masshal.

Over the past year, the Salafi jihadist group has issued a couple of statements related to situation in Syria. For example, on Jan. 20, 2013, an audio speech from Abu Abdullah al Ghazi, an official in Jaish al Ummah, was released to jihadist forums. In the speech, which was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, al Ghazi said the Levant should be seen as an open “market of jihad.” In addition, he called on fighters to “[t]ake the initiative and rise to establish the Islamic State in the Levant and reestablish the rule of Allah over His land after you pluck out that criminal tyrant [Assad] and retaliate for the blood that was spelt and the honors that were violated.”

Nine days before this audio speech was released, a video from Jaish al Ummah was released to jihadist forums. In the video, which was dedicated to fighters in Syria, the group showed “how to manufacture a 107mm rocket,” according to SITE. The video also “provided recommendations about substitute materials and quantities depending on the size of the rocket.”

Jaish al Ummah has also expressed for support for Sunni Muslims living in Ahvaz, Iran. In a video released in January, an unidentified speaker denounced Shiites as “a poisonous dagger in the side of this Ummah.” The speaker called on Muslims to provide greater support to Sunnis living in Ahvaz. “Rise now, in a firm aware revolution against the [Shi’ites] and their plots. Lie in wait for them everywhere and face your [Shi’ite] enemies and foil their plots, because, by Allah, if they dominate you, it will be an affliction on earth and a lot of corruption,” the speaker said. The video concluded with the speaker urging “all the mujahideen all over Earth to target Iranian interests everywhere.”

In addition to expressing support for Sunnis in Ahvaz, Jaish al Ummah has issued statements in support of jihadists in Mali. “[W]e will support and be loyal and aid our mujahideen monotheist brothers in Mali without limits,” the Salafi jihadist group said in a statement released to jihadist forums on Jan. 20, 2013. In the same statement, Jaish al Ummah urged Muslims to “attack all the French and Western interests in their countries, and target what they can of their citizens and men.”