Gaza Salafists Claim to “Widen War” with Nevada Forest Fires

Andrew McGregor

January 26, 2012

A Gaza-based Salafist militant group, the Ma’sadat al-Mujahideen, has made a surprising claim of responsibility for igniting a series of devastating forest fires near Reno, Nevada. The claim was made in a statement from the group entitled “Declaring War on America by Setting Fire to Nevada Forests” that was carried on a number of jihadi websites (, January 21).

nevadaThe Work of the Gazan Mujahideen?

According to the statement, a group of “brothers from the lions of Ma’sadat al-Mujahideen set the fires on January 19 as part of an effort to widen “the area of war” by transferring it to locations inside America and elsewhere. The Salafist movement declares that fighting against the civilians and military of Israel, America and their allies to be fard ayn, or individually obligatory on all Muslims until “the liberation of Palestine” is achieved. The Salafists also issue a warning:

We give the enemies of Islam and the allies of the Jews who occupy the land of Palestine three months beginning from the date of this statement to disown [themselves] from the Jews who occupy the land of Palestine, and their actions against our Moslem brothers, and we demand the end of their alliances that oppress our rights as owners of the land, or we will be forced to extend our war until it spreads in all the lands that plot with our enemies.

Demanding that the Jews “return from whence they came since they have no place among us,” the movement points out the ease with which damaging attacks can be inflicted on nations such as America from within. Referring to the alleged setting of the Nevada forest fires, the message encourages similar actions by other Muslims:  “Here you see with our own eyes what simple materials can do, that are cheap in your enemy[‘s homeland], and how much damage it can inflict in them.” The brush fire in a valley between Carson City and Reno consumed more than 3,000 acres and forced the evacuation of more than 4,000 residents (Los Angeles Times, January 19). The Gazan Salafists did not provide any evidence of their claim, the veracity of which remains highly questionable at the moment.

Though it has been impossible to confirm the role of Ma’sadat al-Mujahidin in a number of incidents of suspected arson to which the movement has made claim, the group seems rather fixated on the use of fire as a tactical weapon in an asymmetric jihad. Last December the group issued a statement entitled “Setting a Fire in Factory on Materials and Chemical Fertilizers,” and a year earlier claimed to have started the fires in the forests of the Mount Carmel mountain range in northern Israel that killed more than 40 people.

Led by Shaykh Abu Ubaydah al-Ansari, the Ma’sadat al-Mujahideen is heavily influenced by the Salafists’ intellectual hero, Shaykh Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328), and have declared it their duty to “liberate our [Muslim] lands and sanctuaries, not out of patriotism, but as a compulsory Islamic duty” (Shabakat al-Tahadi al-Islamiya, February 16, 2010). The movement is highly critical of Hamas for its alleged failure to fully implement Shari’a in Gaza, its failure to confront “the Jews” militarily, and its alleged “apostacy” (see Terrorism Monitor, March 4, 2010).

This article first appeared in the January 26, 2012 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor.

Afghanistan’s Taliban Declare Victory as Peace Initiatives Get Under Way

Andrew McGregor

January 26, 2012

The opening of an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan office in Qatar as the first step in a Qatar-backed Afghan reconciliation process has been interpreted by the Taliban as a sign of the movement’s “victory” in Afghanistan. A January 15 statement entitled: “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan: Formal Proclamation of Islamic Emirate’s Victory” said the development had “proved to the world that the Islamic Emirate is deeply rooted internally in the Afghan nation and externally in the whole Islamic Ummah. Militarily successful resistance against a gigantic international alliance, full presence on the whole soil and overall perseverance are the signs and secrets of the Islamic Emirate.”  (, January 15).

Islamic Emirate of AfghanistanAccording to the Taliban, the Islamic Emirate has overcome “the claims of Karzai and America” and demonstrated it is “a well-organized political power besides being a political power… The Afghans and Taliban are not a trivial phenomenon but an ideological and national movement which should be acknowledged as a political fact.”

The Taliban used the statement to express their pleasure with the choice of Qatar for the opening of a formal office, noting that Qatar has balanced relations “with all sides and a prestigious status in the Islamic world.” The movement outlined why several alternatives would be less desirable; Pakistan (referred to here only as a “neighboring country”) would have allowed the Karzai regime to continue its propaganda efforts to describe the Taliban as being under the control of Pakistan’s security services; Saudi Arabia was out of the question due to its close bilateral relationship with Pakistan, and Turkey was also unsuitable due to its membership in NATO. Some reports state the United States is considering a proposal to allow five Taliban leaders to leave confinement at Guantanamo Bay for Qatar as a confidence-building measure (The Nation [Lahore], January 24; January 25).

Another Taliban statement responded to images circulated in the Western media of U.S. troops urinating on the bodies of recently killed Taliban fighters by calling for the UN and other human rights organizations to bring an end to “such inhumane acts” (, January 13). The statement charged American soldiers with committing torture, abusing the Quran, killing women and children and desecrating the dead, alleging that these were “only a small fraction of the crimes which are perpetrated by the American soldiers.” The statement concluded by warning U.S. troops would have to face “the consequences of such actions and will have to confront the extra wrath and hatred of the Afghan masses.”

While the Taliban proclaims victory in its struggle against U.S. and NATO forces, there are signs that U.S. authorities have begun a wider effort to initiate peace talks with all the major insurgent groups operating in Afghanistan. Dr. Ghairat Baheer, a representative of Afghan warlord and former U.S. ally Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has reported having talks on behalf of Hekmatyar’s Hizb-i-Islami movement with CIA director General David Petraeus, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and U.S. Marines General John Allen (AP, January 25; The Nation, January 24). Hekmatyar has been a U.S. “specially designated global terrorist” since 2003.

There are also reports that the United States is exploring the possibility of including the notorious Haqqani Network in the peace talks. Working in close alliance with the Taliban, the cross-border Haqqani Network has been identified as a major threat to U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan (Express Tribune [Karachi], January 9; AP, January 25). Earlier this month, the UN added the names of two Haqqani Network members to its list of proscribed Taliban associates; Fazi Rabi, a Haqqani Network financier involved organizing suicide attacks, and Ahmed Jan Wazir, described as a key commander in the network and a deputy to Sirajuddin Haqqani (United Nations, January 6, 2012:

This article first appeared in the January 26, 2012 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor


Taliban Condemns President Karzai on U.S.-Run Prison and Continued Night Raids

Andrew McGregor

January 12, 2012

Bagram Air BaseBagram Air Base

A recent statement issued by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Taliban) has criticized Afghan president Hamid Karzai for his dependence on a small number of warlords to maintain power and his subsequent inability to combat corruption or assert Afghanistan’s sovereignty. [1]

[Karzai] speaks of national sovereignty and of the welfare of people but practically, we see that there are thousands of Afghan detainees who have been suffering in the Bagram Air Base and other American bases now for years, and without a trial. But this does not prick his conscience to feel the need of a national sovereignty!

On the same day as the Taliban statement was released, President Karzai announced the creation of an investigative commission to look in to the Bagram issue while issuing a demand that control of the U.S.-run prison be turned over to the Afghan government within 30 days (al-Jazeera, January 5). However, one Afghan daily suggested that national authorities are incapable at this time of taking control of Bagram Prison or similar facilities based on their record in recent years:

Mass escape of prisoners- most of them Taliban prisoners – from Kandahar prison, escape of a number of dangerous prisoners from Pol-e Charkhi prison, strikes and riots in different prisons of the country including in Pol-e Charkhi prison, increase of prisoner numbers in the country, lack of sufficient environment for keeping inmates, [lack of] legal professional capabilities of prison guards in Afghanistan, the overwhelming problems in regards to handling of prisoners cases, all these reveal the capabilities of the Afghan government in maintaining and controlling prisoners (Daily Afghanistan [Kabul], January 7).

Bagram is the largest U.S. run detention center in Afghanistan, with over 1,000 prisoners, though only a minority of these have been charged. Though both Karzai and the Taliban have identified U.S. control of the facility as a national sovereignty issue, there are fears that mass breakouts of Taliban prisoners might follow an exchange of control (Tolo TV [Kabul], January 9).

Karzai was also condemned in the Taliban statement for failing to prevent the night raids “conducted by the invaders, noting that even members of the administration and family members had been killed or harmed during night raids. Karzai actually began to demand an end to night-raids by NATO forces in December, 2011, but received a negative response from U.S. and NATO officials, who described the night-raids as an efficient, low casualty method of rounding up suspected militants (Khaama Press [Kabul], January 8; AP, December 19, 2011).

The Taliban used the statement to describe the Kabul government as one where corruption “is at its climax. It is apt to say that bribery and drug trafficking have become part and parcel of the daily life of the venal officials of the government. Obviously, this is the result of the Karzai mismanagement of governance…”

According to the Taliban, Karzai’s willingness to do the bidding of warlords and other corrupt individuals is preventing his administration from playing an independent or constructive role in providing a solution to the occupation of Afghanistan: “Though he has tried to deceive the people by pleasant and emotional assertions… the people have now come to know his anti-Islamic and anti-national intentions…” With increasing indications that the United States is now prepared to negotiate directly with the Taliban, it seems likely that Karzai’s demands are part of an effort to reassert his influence and prevent his exclusion from peace talks.


  1. “Karzai’s Anti-National and Pro-Warlord Demeanor,” Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, January 5, 2012.

This article first appeared in the January 12, 2012 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor.


Struggle between North and South Sudan Increasingly Tied to Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

Andrew McGregor

January 12, 2012

In late December, South Sudan president Salva Kiir made a state visit to Israel, meeting with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The visit alarmed many in the traditional Khartoum power structure, including former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, who described the visit as “devilish” and part of an Israeli effort to find new allies after alienating Turkey and losing the cooperation of the Mubarak regime in Egypt (Sudan Vision, December 26, 2011).

Salva Kiir Mayardit 2President Salva Kiir Mayardit

A spokesman for the Sudanese Foreign Ministry said the government was studying the national security implications of Kiir’s visit to Israel, citing Israel’s leading role in an international campaign to “foment” the conflict in Darfur (Sudan Tribune, December 22, 2011).

Also on the agenda was the fate of an estimated 15,000 Sudanese refugees in Israel, many of them Muslims from Darfur and Christians from the South Sudan that the Israeli government would like to return in order to preserve the Jewish character of Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu likened the arrival of these refugees to “a nationwide plague – in the economy, society, homeland security. There is no obligation to take in illegal infiltrators. This is no longer a matter of making a decision – it’s a necessity, an imperative… Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state must be secured” (YNet News, December 27, 2011).

After Kiir’s visit, Israel announced it would send a delegation to South Sudan to investigate means of assisting the new nation. Kiir is reported to have asked for greater cooperation in the fields of technology, agriculture and water development (DPA/Reuters, December 20).

Rolf Steiner in Biafra

Israel’s interaction with South Sudan goes back to the Anyanya rebellion of the 1960s, when it provided covert training and arms supplies to Southern guerrillas in an effort to open a new front against Khartoum and prevent the deployment of Sudanese troops along the Suez Canal as part of the Arab alliance against Israel. German mercenary Rolf Steiner, fresh from exploits in the Congo and Biafra, attempted to join the Anyanya forces, but was forced to join another separatist faction after what he believed were Israeli objections to his service with Anyanya based on his experience as a teenaged Jungvolk commander in Nazi Germany in 1943-44. [1]

Right on the heels of the South Sudan president’s visit to Jerusalem came the first official visit to Sudan by the Hamas prime minister of Gaza, Ismail Haniya. After arriving in Khartoum on December 27, the Hamas leader predicted the “Arab Spring” would eventually bring victory to the Palestinian resistance and thanked the Sudanese people for their support (Sudan Vision, December 31, 2011).

Haniya was joined in Khartoum by Khalid Mesha’al, the exiled Hamas leader, and Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Zahar as the delegation sought financial support for its reconstruction following the 2008 Israeli attack on the territory as well as political support for recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state (AFP, December 29). Mesha’al was reported as warning the Sudanese president that Israeli authorities were trying to ethnically cleanse Jerusalem by “Judaizing” the city (Elnashra [Beirut], December 29, 2011; Jerusalem Post, December 30, 2011).

Meanwhile, both the Sudanese and Israeli press have been full of unverified stories alleging Israeli military incursions and airstrikes in the Red Sea coast region of Sudan. In an attack said to have occurred in November, Israeli aircraft were reported to have struck two vehicles in the Wadi al-Allaqi area of northern Sudan near the disputed Hala’ib Triangle region along the Sudanese-Egyptian border (Haaretz, December 25, 2011; December 27, 2011). A second incursion was reported by Sudanese media to have taken place on December 15, involving Israeli Apache attack helicopters landing near a Sudanese radar installation and even Israeli submarines operating off the Sudanese Red Sea coast (YNet News, December 26, 2011). Sudanese officials denied reports that Israeli aircraft had carried out strikes on targets in eastern Sudan on December 18 and 22 (al-Bawaba, December 25, 2011).  A pro-government daily reported that the men killed in a convoy of six Toyota Land Cruisers attacked by Israeli aircraft on December 18 were “gold prospectors”  (Alintibaha [Khartoum], December 24, 2011).

Most of the reports display some confusion over the actual dates and some apparently different reports may refer to the same incident. Colonel Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad, a spokesman for the Sudanese Army, was adamant that no trace of an aerial incursion had been detected by Sudanese radar and air defense systems (Haaretz, December 25)

Israeli claims that Iran was shipping arms through Sudan and overland through Egypt to Gaza emerged in 2009 just prior to an earlier series of mysterious airstrikes in Sudan’s Red Sea coast region (Jerusalem Post, March 3, 2009).


  1. Scopas S. Poggo: “Politics of Liberation in the Southern Sudan, 1967-1972: The Role of Israel, African Heads of State, and Foreign Mercenaries,” The Uganda Journal, Vol. 47, November 2001, pp. 34-48; Rolf Steiner: The Last Adventurer, Boston, 1978, pp. 178-210; Edgar O’Ballance: The Secret War in the Sudan 1955-1972, London, 1977, pp. 126-130.

This article first appeared in the January 12, 2012 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor.