Sunday, April 22, 2012

Another day, another dead al Qâ'idah leader

Today, April 22nd 2012, al Qâ'idah's publishing house - al Fajr Media Center - announced the death of Shaykh 'Abd al Majîd 'Abd al Mâjid. 

The cover of today's "Statement on the martyrdom of Shaykh 'Abd al Majîd 'Abd al Mâjid"

In a world where the media only speaks about Ayman al-Dhawâhirî, Abû Yaha al-Lîbî and sometimes Khâlid al Hussaynân if it comes to al Qâ'idah Central's (in the following AQC) leadership figures in the Afghânistân/Pâkistân (AfPak) border region, the esteemed reader may not have heard from this particular guy.

This points to the mistake the media does. Appearing on video does not necessarily equal high rank in AQC. 'Abd al Majîd was identified by al Qâ'idah as a member of their majlis al-shûrâ, so he basically belonged to the top ten or twenty decision makers of AQC. While Abû Yahya and Hussaynân are important for AQC's public relations efforts there is no evidence of them being involved in the top echelon of the group that I know of.

'Abd al Majîd was known in e-jihâdî circles as a prolific writer with some credentials as a religious scholar (he apparently had an M.A. in Islamic Studies). He published a number of books through various e-jihâdî groups since 2007/2008. It is worth mentioning that he has his own page with some of his works at the most important salafî-jihâdî website Minbar al-Tawhîd wal Jihâd. Additionally to his books he also wrote articles for the official magazine of Al Qâ'idah in Khurâsân (AfPak) "Talâ`i' Khurâsân" (Vanguard of Khurâsân).

In 2010 he participated in one of the open meetings organized by the jihâdî internet forums that give jihâdîs the possibility to "speak" to their ideological leaders. Also in 2010 he was featured in the third episode of an unofficial AQC (?) audio series entitled "Hidâ` al âhibbah fî Waziristân al âbiyyah" (Chantings of the loved ones in proud Wazîristân). [Hat tip to Kévin Jackson who brought my attention to this audio series and helped out in cases of dead links!]

The release information says he appears at 1:52. His voice is audible at various points in the nearly three-hour audio.

 عنوان الشريط : جلسـة ســمر في وزيرستان ملاحظة : مدة الشريط (ثلاث ساعات إلا 8 دقائق تقريبا) يوجد في أواخر الشريط كلمة للشيخ عبد المجيد عبد الماجد في الدقيقة 1:52

AQC may have been interested in making 'Abd al Majîd a new public face as they urgently needed one and his name and voice was already used in their propaganda. Well, it's not going to happen as he is dead.

Today's statement written by his widow is unfortunately rather scarce on information on his life and death. Let's see the interesting parts:

أتقدم أنا زوجة الشيخ / رافع مصطفى سيد أحمد سليمان (المعروف بالشيخ عبدالمجيد عبدالماجد)(المكنى بأبي المقداد المصري )  رحمه الله  عضو مجلس شورى تنظيم قاعدة الجهاد بتقديم العزاء الخالص للمجاهدين في ساحات النزال وللأمة الإسلامية في استشهاده.
فنعزي أمة الإسلام في شيخنا الجليل: أبو المقداد, ونجليه:
1) المقداد رافع مصطفى ( المكنى بـ أسد الله ) رحمه الله
2) خالد رافع مصطفى ( المكنى بـ سيف الله ) رحمه الله
وذلك يوم الجمعة السادس عشر من ذي القعدة 1432هـــ  الموافق 14 اكتوبر 2011 مـــ

We get to know that 'Abd al Majîd 'Abd al Mâjid - member of the shûrâ council of Qâ'idah al Jihâd - was also known as Abû al Miqdâd al Misrî (the Egyptian, so now we are sure where he came from) while his real name was Râfi' Mustafâ Sayyid Ahmad Sulaymân. He was killed alongside his two sons al Miqdâd (known as Assad Allah) and Khâlid (known as Sayf Allah) on Friday, October 14th 2011.

أخيراً إليكم قصيده كتبها أحد طلابه المحبين له ( زوج ابنته ) منذ ثلاث سنوات ونصف تقريباً , ثم قتل بعد الزواج بسنة ونصف تقريباً, وهو / أكرم محمد أحمد رجاء ( عزام المهاجر اليمني ) رحمه الله  

The six pages statement includes a poem in honour of 'Abd al Majîd written by one of his students known as 'Azzâm al Muhâjir al Yemenî whose real name was Akram Muhammad Ahmad Rajâ`. This guy married one of 'Abd al Majîd's daughters about three and a half years ago only to be killed about one and a half year after his marriage (meaning he died about two years ago).

While the statement does not mention the cause of death there are reports about drone strikes on October 14th, for example this one by Joby Warrick and Haq Nawaz Khan for The Washington Post (October 27th).

Separate strikes Oct. 14 killed Abu Miqdad al-Masri and Abd al-Rahman al-Yemeni, two al-Qaeda veterans tied to the group’s senior leadership and actively involved in planning operations overseas, said two senior U.S. officials familiar with details of CIA operations. The officials said Masri was a former associate of Osama bin Laden.

'Abd al Majîd is actually mentioned. Unfortunately the media does not point out the importance of Abû al Miqdâd. Possibly they - like me - did not have the information that Abû al Miqdâd is in fact no other than 'Abd al Majîd. So "tied to the group's senior leadership" is not entirely correct. Part of the senior leadership is right. Or rather say most senior.

It seems that October 14th was no good day for AQC. They lost not one "Sword of God" (Sayf Allah) but two, the other one being Ahmad, the son of the notorious Blind Shaykh ('Umar 'Abd al-Rahmân).

Other alleged senior militant operatives killed during a flurry of missile strikes Oct.13-14 were previously identified as Ahmed Omar Abdul Rahman, also known as Saifullah, the son of the blind Egyptian cleric tied to the 1993 bombing of New York’s World Trace Center [....]

While I could find no additional information on 'Abd al-Rahmân al Yemenî who was killed with 'Abd al Majîd I believe I found something on his son-in-law 'Azzâm al Muhâjir al Yemenî. Evan Kohlmann may have mentioned him in conjunction with the Yemenî AQ faction in Pâkistân.

Fellow mujahidin comrades of Ghazwan al-Yemeni from the frontline on the Afghan-Pakistani border added their own voices to the chorus of discussion. On March 12, 2010, a registered user on the Falluja Islamic Network calling himself “Abu Abdelrahman al-Qahtani in Waziristan” offered a first-person biography of the late Yemeni al-Qa`ida commander:
“We were not able to recover the first body until midnight, and our mujahid brother Ghazwan al-Yemeni [was one of the dead]. He had not even completed his third year [in jihad]. His journey with jihad and martyrdom began when he was captured in al-Haramain along with his traveling companion Azzam al-Yemeni, due to their activities and communications with their mujahidin brothers. He was in prison in Sana`a for a long period of time and then he was released… 
He turned his gaze towards the precious land of…Afghanistan, passing through a third country where they stayed for a lengthy period awaiting entrance visas to Iran. Eventually, Allah permitted for them to enter, and from the first day here, they enrolled in the training camps… 
I remember the first time I saw him in Wana and he came to learn about explosives from an expert in the Afghani field—in fact, the expert of all aspects of jihad, as they were all the students of Abu Khabab al-Masri… 
eventually, he went back to North [Waziristan] and…settled in Miran Shah, where he organized and trained the Taliban and assisted in making preparations for many of their military needs.“

If this is in fact the same 'Azzâm al Yemenî he would have entered the AfPak region in 2007 after years of trying to go there. He may have gained the trust of AQC's commanders and was married to the daughter of one of them - 'Abd al Majîd - in 2008 or 2009. Then he was killed in 2010, the same year that his travelling companion was killed in.

Concerning 'Abd al Majîd himself Murad Batal al-Shishani pointed out that his name (or most likely his name, Râfi' Mustafâ Sayyid Ahmad instead of Râfi' Mustafâ Sayyid Ahmad Sulaymân) appears on a list of those 1536 Egyptians (mostly Islamists) arrested in September 1981 (one may say the act directly led to the Sâdât assassination and the following civil war like situation in Egypt).

'Abd al Majîd 'Abd al Mâjid a.k.a. Râfi' Mustafâ Sayyid Ahmad, no. 15 on the list of the 1536 arrested in September 1981

We once again see how strong the connections between AQC and the 1980's Islamist movement in Egypt are. For this reason the current political developments in Egypt are so important for the future of AQC.

The obvious news is that AQC took a beating in 2011. From the top of my head there is Usâmah bin Lâden, 'Atiyyah Allah al-Lîbî, Ilyâs Kashmîrî and now 'Abd al-Majîd who were killed in 2011. This may be more than AQC can take. It is quite possible that they are no longer able to replace the losses.

A sign of this may be that today's statement was written by the widow of 'Abd al Majîd instead of a son or another male relative. Two of his sons (how many has he?) were killed with him. The poem in his honour is written by his son-in-law who is also dead. Does this particular jihâdî family have any men left? And if not how representative is this family for AQC in general?

Another important point is the connections jihâdîs build. 'Azzam al Yemenî is not the only jihâdî who became the son-in-law of an AQC big shot. These social and familial links between jihâdîs are important and the media should have a closer look at this topic. Think about it, of those five AQC guys known to have been killed on October 14th 2011 three were the sons of influential jihâdî scholars.    

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