Struggling al-Mustafa Army Pledges Kurds Will Take Ninawa Province “Over Our Dead Bodies”

Andrew McGregor

May 26, 2009

A spokesman for Iraq’s Jaysh al-Mustafa (Mustafa Army) used an internet question and answer session to admit setbacks but vowed to prevent the Kurdish takeover of the northern Iraqi province of Ninawa (Nineveh), the main base of the Sunni militant group (Media Commission of the Al-Mustafa Army in Iraq, May 15).

al-Mustafa ArmyAccording to the spokesman, Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Iraqi, the group was formed in Ninawa Governate two months after the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. At first they operated under the name “al-Fatihin Army” during their earliest operations in Mosul. In time, the group expanded to Salah al-Din Governate and even into the outskirts of Baghdad. This continued until April 2004, when “occupation forces broke into our locations and arrested our most prominent leaders.” After this serious setback, the group slowly recovered and today consists of 12 “brigades,” though only four of these are operational due to “poor resources and lack of funding.”  Shaykh Abu-Abdallah al-Ansari is the Amir of the Al-Mustafa Army in Iraq.

Abu Abd al-Rahman also attributed the lack of internet videos depicting al-Mustafa Army operations to “weak financial capabilities” and “the geographical nature of the city Mosul,” though the latter point was not explained. The Mustafa Army relies on “the charitable people in Ninawa Governorate” for their funding, though these contributions have declined dramatically after threats were made to those funding the group. This has resulted in a decrease in the number of operations. Al-Mustafa Army supports the use of martyrdom operations (suicide bombings), but has not conducted any due to a “lack of assets.” Despite this, Abu Abd al-Rahman insists the jihad in Iraq is mandatory for every man, woman and child.

Admission of new fighters is made on the recommendation of a trusted person or a mosque cleric. Recruits must meet certain requirements regarding religious observance, good manners, etc. Abu Abd al-Rahman denies that foreign fighters are in the ranks of al-Mustafa Army. “In fact, we have not received any admission request from expatriate brothers, but we do not deny their fraternity and we are grateful to them.” The group claims to have Kurds as well as Arabs as fighters and leaders.

Abu Abd al-Rahman commented on al-Mustafa’s relations with a number of other Iraqi armed groups:

• Army of Men of the Naqshabandi Order (a Sufi militant group): Al-Mustafa Army has good relations with this group and is ready to cooperate with them in all jihad activities.

• Gaza Martyrs Brigade: Three individuals broke from al-Mustafa two months ago and have since formed this group. “We wish them success, but we confirm there has not been any split in the group.”

• The Shi’a:  Al-Mustafa Army has “no relations” with the Shi’a public and the group does not fight them. However, the group considers the “Persian Safavids” (a reference to Shi’a militias) to be their enemies.

• Ba’athists:  Abu Abd al-Rahman denies the Mustafa Army is composed of Ba’athists, saying these are rumors designed to undermine the group, though it “does not belittle” the Ba’athists.

• The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI – al-Qaeda affiliated):  The group has good relations with ISI and has worked with several of its field commanders in the past.

• The Sahwa (Awakening) Councils:  These individuals have made mistakes by joining with the occupation forces, but the “door of repentance” remains open for them.

Though the group has suffered from security round-ups and financial shortfalls, it is still determined to resist efforts by the Kurdish Regional Government of northern Iraq and its peshmerga militias to annex parts of Ninawa like Sinjar, Rabi’ah and the Ninawa plain. “We have future plans to anticipate events and pre-empt any attempt to tear up the governate of Ninawa, which will have to be over our dead bodies…”

This article was first published in the May 26, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor.

Afghan Taliban Predict U.S. Change of Command Will Lead to American Collapse

Andrew McGregor

May 26, 2009

Afghan Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi has delivered the movement’s reaction to Washington’s decision to make changes in the command of the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan (Sawt al-Jihad, May 12). Responding to President Obama’s May 11 replacement of General David McKiernan with former Joint Special Operations Command Chief Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal and the appointment of a former general, Karl Eikenberry, as the new U.S. ambassador in Kabul, the Taliban spokesman suggested the changes were a sign “the Americans and their allies have totally lost their way as far as how to win the war in Afghanistan and are increasingly losing patience and focus.”

Qari Yusuf AhmadiTaliban Spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi

Qari Yusuf claimed that seven years of warfare had only resulted in “an increase in [the occupiers’] economic burden and total failure on the battlefield.” He went on to suggest the Taliban’s assessment was one shared by “international media and experts,” who were predicting total American defeat in the military and political fields. “At present, the enemy is in a state of panic throughout the country, rural areas have come under the control of the mujahideen and the enemy supply routes are under our watchful eyes. It seems that the latest urgent measures and leadership changes by the enemy are the result of this pressure.”

According to Qari Yusuf, it was only some months ago that there was steady discussion by American officials and the Western media of the failures and corruption of the Hamid Karzai government in Kabul, yet as elections approach, the U.S. has realized there is “no worthy political leadership in Afghanistan,” with the result that they are preparing Karzai and his corrupt team for another term in office. This political failure has led to changes in the political and military leadership of the American presence in Afghanistan.

With regard to the change in military command, Qari Yusuf pointed out, “In the past four years [the Americans] have repeatedly changed their military commanders – with every new commander boasting about new strategy and military experience. However, with the passing of time, it has been made clear to them that this war could not be won… Just like the former Soviet Union, they will be forced to admit to the realities, but it will be too late by then and many of their generals would have lost their lives and careers.”

This article was first published in the May 26, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor.

TNSM Leader Sufi Muhammad Fights Government Offensive in Swat with a Barrage of Words

Andrew McGregor

May 18, 2009

Even as 15,000 Pakistani troops prepared to flood the Swat valley stronghold of his Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) movement, Maulana Sufi Muhammad continued to unleash a series of edicts on topics as varied as democracy, the status of women and the Islamic legitimacy of photography.

Sufi MuhammadMaulana Sufi Muhammad (Dawn)

Sufi Muhammad was reported to have left his home in Lower Dir on May 4 after it was hit by mortar fire in the opening phases of Operation Rah-e-Haq 4. He is now believed to be in the TNSM stronghold at Aman Darra (Pakistan Observer, May 5). His son, Maulana Kifayatullah, was killed in the shelling of his home in Lower Dir (The News, [Islamabad], May 8).

In a recent interview by Pakistani television, Sufi Muhammad rejected democracy as the creation of “infidels.” The TNSM leader asked, “How can people who believe in democracy be expected to enforce the ideals of Shari’a?” Even the Islamic states of Saudi Arabia and Iran had failed to implement Shari’a to Sufi Muhammad’s satisfaction as he cited the Taliban regime of Afghanistan as the only example of a government that had properly administered Islamic law. According to Sufi Muhammad, communism, socialism and fascism were also “un-Islamic” political systems (Geo TV, May 4). In the same interview, he also condemned still photography and videos as “un-Islamic,” before declaring that in a Taliban-run society, women would only be allowed to leave their house to perform pilgrimage to Mecca (Daily Times [Lahore], May 4). Finally, Sufi Muhammad proclaimed that jihad was not mandatory in Kashmir as Islamic insurgents there were seeking a state rather than the implementation of Shari’a (The News, May 3).

Sufi Muhammad has not escaped criticism from other Islamic scholars in Pakistan. A recent meeting of the Ahl-e-Sunna in Karachi issued a statement asking if Taliban excesses in Swat would now be dealt with by the new Islamic courts. “If not, to whom are they accountable for the injustice they have committed? Who slaughtered innocent people, dishonored bodies, and hanged them on poles? Will they be called to any Shari’a court and [be] sentenced? Is it legal, according to Shari’a, to dishonor the body of a rival and then hang it from a tree? Do the people who have a different opinion deserve death? Are the people who have killed scholars of the Ahl-e-Sunna or forced them to migrate and taken control of their mosques, madaris, and properties exempt from the dictates of Shari’a, or are they answerable to any Shari’a court?” (Jang Online, May 4).

The Pakistani press has also been highly critical of Sufi Muhammad’s failure to fulfill his end of the peace agreement with the NWFP government, his rejection of government-appointed qazis (Islamic judges) and his unwillingness to disarm local Taliban and TNSM fighters (Aaj Kal, May 5; Nawa-e-Waqt, May 5; Jinnah, May 5). According to one major daily, “The demands of the TNSM have been accepted by the government, and they are being implemented as well. Despite this, the opposition by Sufi Muhammad and his disciples is beyond comprehension. Apparently, it appears that these people have a desire to establish a state within a state to be headed by Sufi Muhammad. Such a situation cannot be acceptable to a sovereign country. Therefore, it will be justified if the Army launches an operation for the stability and security of the country” (Khabrain, May 5).

This article was first published in the May 18, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor.

Kuwait’s Hamid Abdallah al-Ali Describes Pending Defeat of Americans in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Andrew McGregor

May 18, 2009

Shaykh Hamid Abdallah al-Ali, a leading Kuwait-based Salafist preacher and advocate of global jihad, has declared that Islam’s battle in Afghanistan will continue to escalate in the coming days, extending to Pakistan where the “Zionist-Crusader” alliance will use strategies similar to those that have already failed in Palestine, Iraq and Somalia. His analysis was contained in a May 2 article entitled; “Afghan-Pakistani Tight Spot and Zion-American Ambitions” (, May 2). The analysis was carried by many jihadist websites.

Hamid Abdullah al-AliShaykh Hamid Abdullah al-Ali

Al-Ali says the most prominent achievement of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Baitullah Mahsud has been the rejuvenation of “the jihadist network in Afghanistan, all the warlords from Pashtun [tribes] and the mujahideen from the Punjab district… aligning them under one banner.”  The fusion of trained jihadis, funds and organizational skills has made it possible for Baitullah to strike anywhere in Pakistan. According to al-Ali, the success of the Taliban is based on its ability to win supporters and postpone “secondary disputes” within the alliance.

The Salafist preacher is, unsurprisingly, critical of Shiite Iran. Al-Ali notes that the “Safavids” (Iranians) do not cooperate with Sunni jihad movements, except temporarily to “burn out such movements” in a “wicked scheme.” “What is astonishing in their ambition is that they want a deal that reaches a degree that equalizes them with the international deals the West concludes with China or Russia.” The shaykh suggests Iran will continue to display their ability to cause harm continuously until they are given status alongside the great powers, even if it involves provoking the United States in Latin America (an apparent reference to Iranian relations with Venezuela).

The shaykh suggests that the destruction of NATO supply lines through Pakistan to Afghanistan would be one of the greatest achievements of the ongoing jihad. This would help make the Afghanistan-Pakistan region “a vast and safe camp” for Islamic jihadis. “The Afghan-Pakistani jihad is gearing up to a higher degree, taking advantage of the U.S. exhaustion caused by the Iraqi quagmire, the economic crisis, [and] the widespread American fatigue from external wars…”

Shaykh Hamid Abdallah al-Ali is best known for his 1999 fatwa declaring the government of Kuwait to be composed of disbelievers – legitimate targets for the mujahideen – and for his early 2001 fatwa sanctioning suicide bombings, including those involving the flying of aircraft into public buildings (see Terrorism Monitor, April 26, 2007).

This article was first published in the May 18, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor.

Former ISI Chief Hamid Gul Claims U.S. Supplies Arms and Money to Pakistani Taliban

Andrew McGregor

May 8, 2009

Hamid Gul, the former chief of Pakistan’s controversial Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, claimed the United States was supplying arms and cash to Pakistan’s Taliban movement in a recent interview with al-Sharq al-Awsat (April 25).

Hamid GulFormer ISI Chief Hamid Gul

Gul also claimed ISI support for the Taliban ended in 1989, but says he maintains social relations with Afghan al-Qaeda elements: “They are old friends… But it is not true at all to say that Pakistani intelligence officials are now supporting the Taliban movement and that this is their policy. This is incorrect.” One of Hamid Gul’s “old friends” is the leader of the Haqqani Network, best known for its suicide attacks on U.S., Coalition and diplomatic targets. “Jalalludin Haqqani is a personal friend of mine. When I sent my two sons to Afghanistan to wage jihad against the Soviet forces they fought alongside Jalalludin Haqqani’s men. He is a very, very good man.”

Gul described four types of fighters active in the tribal regions of Pakistan:

• Fighters who are dedicated to avenging Pakistani military operations, especially the 2007 assault on Islamabad’s Lal Masjid (Red Mosque)

• “Criminal elements” that fled Pakistan’s cities and have taken refuge in the tribal regions. These are not provided any support by the other mujahideen.

• U.S. Intelligence has established 50 mujahideen units in the tribal areas. These are formed from local and foreign elements and supported by Indian intelligence agencies.

• Mujahideen who want to fight in Afghanistan but are forced instead to defend themselves from attacks by Pakistan’s military. “This is what the Americans want. They want to see these mujahideen fighting against the Pakistani army and not crossing the borders to fight the Americans and the international forces.” The former ISI chief maintains the United States is supplying the Pakistani Taliban with arms, equipment and money to fight the Pakistani army. The Americans “want the national Pakistani youths to fight against the Pakistani army and they have succeeded in this.” Gul adds that volunteers from the Punjab region are now joining the tribal mujahideen in Afghanistan.

According to Gul, the Pakistani Taliban movement remains loosely organized. “Each tribe is fighting in its region and no tribe crosses to the region of the other tribe. Each tribe has its command structure.” The Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was formed to improve cooperation, but does not yet control all the various Taliban groups in the region.

Regarding the possibility of al-Qaeda procuring weapons of mass destruction, Gul describes this as “sheer U.S. propaganda” designed to destroy Pakistan’s status as a nuclear power, saying, “The Pakistani nuclear program is the main goal of the Americans.”

Gul predicts that the American presence in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region will not be long-lived: “If the Americans are wise, they will leave Afghanistan within one year. If they are not wise, Pakistan will witness a revolution as a result of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. They will be defeated in Afghanistan and they will have to leave Afghanistan in 2010 or 2011.”

This article first appeared in the May 8, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Al-Qaeda’s Abu Yahya al-Libi Attacks Pakistan’s “Criminal Army” in New Book

Andrew McGregor

May 8, 2009

A 29-page Arabic-language book entitled Sharpening the Blades in the Battle Against the Government and Army of Pakistan was released by al-Fajr Media Center on April 30. The author is Abu Yahya al-Libi, a leading al-Qaeda ideologue and Pakistan-based member of al-Qaeda’s core leadership.

Abu Yayha al-Libi 2Abu Yahya al-Libi

Most of Abu Yahya’s work is dedicated to vilification of Pakistan’s security services, and condemning the army, intelligence agencies and police as collaborators in “the non-believer alliance that is waging war on the religion of Islam”, saying “They have established military bases and private air spaces for the various types of aircrafts of the disbelievers. They have facilitated and protected their supply lines and set up prisons to detain the monotheist believers…There is no doubt after this that this criminal army is an accomplice to the Christian armies in the crimes they carry out. They are their accomplices, and the punishment will be jihad against them.”

Abu Yahya calls on scholars of religion to promote jihad in preparation for a decisive battle against the disbelievers. “This is an invitation for the virtuous scholars of Pakistan and their righteous proselytizers to recognize the responsibility they have in inciting the believers to fight, and that the day of epic and dire meeting is coming, regardless of how hard we try to postpone or avoid it.”

The al-Qaeda leader outlines three reasons to fight the Pakistani military and “the rest of the institutions that are considered the pillars of their tyranny”:

1. Islamic scholars are agreed that non-believing rulers must be removed from power. “The non-believer (whether he is a non-believer to begin with or an apostate) is an object of humiliation and contempt, inferiority and lowliness.” Abu Yahya insists that Salafists have always taken the lead in preventing non-believers from assuming power in Muslim communities. Abu Yahya takes care to present the arguments made by famous religious scholars in support of overthrowing non-believers, relying heavily on the works of Hanafi scholars (the dominant school of Islamic jurisprudence in Pakistan) such as Abu Bakr al-Jassas al-Hanafi (d.961), Imam Ja’afar Al-Tahawi (d.935) and Ali ibn Sultan al-Qari (d.1605).

According to Abu Yahya, the president of Pakistan is just another in the line of non-believers, arguing, “If Muslims in Pakistan are ordered by the Shari’a to remove those non-believing and corrupt rulers, it will be achieved only through fighting their army and intelligence services that defend and protect them, strengthen their power, stand in the path of Muslims, and prevent them from fulfilling their duty.” Abu Yahya dismisses the idea that the army provides collective security to the Muslim community and should not be fought as contradictory. “How would [Shari’a] order us to disavow a non-believer’s rule over us and at the same time forbid us from that because the non-believing ruler’s group that defends him pretends to be Muslim, or is Muslim?” Abu Yahya notes the Pakistani armed forces are a volunteer force and thus their members are legitimate targets for the mujahideen.

2. The Pakistan Army rejects Islamic law. Abu Yahya says the army and intelligence services do not abide by most Islamic teachings and use all their power to prevent the implementation of Shari’a.

Abu Yahya makes numerous appeals for believers to attack NATO supply lines running through Pakistan. “[The government] opened the doors of supplies to the occupying enemy so that now more than 80 percent of its military, logistics and other supplies come through Pakistan, under the protection of the Pakistani army… These forces guarded their convoys, military bases, and secret prisons, and were used to pursue the mujahideen wherever they are- directly handing them over to Christian America to violate their honor and desecrate the book of God before their eyes to spite them.”

3. The Pakistan Army is an enemy that assaults Islam and must be fought. Abu Yahya accuses the military and the security services of Pakistan of invading homes, demolishing houses and torturing men and women. “It is needless to wait for them to launch a new assault. I want to emphasize that it is imperative for people to be compelled to fight these sects [i.e. the security services]. The fight is not limited to Waziristan, Peshawar, Suhat or other places, but extends to every speck of Pakistani territory.” Abu Yahya sees no difference between the current situation and that encountered at the time of the “apostate communist Russian occupation of Afghanistan.” With Pakistani forces clearly allying themselves with the “Christian Crusaders and their helpers,” the al-Qaeda ideologue concludes there is no law that would prevent Muslims from fighting them.

Condemning the government’s decision to allow Shari’a rule in Swat, Abu Yahya insists this is nothing less than an admission that the rest of Pakistan is not ruled by Shari’a and that the armed forces were fighting Muslims in Swat with the intention of preventing the implementation of Islamic law. Pakistan’s army “was established and founded not to implement Shari’a, as they claim, but to prevent it; not to help those seeking to implement it, but to fight them and not remove non-Islamic rulers, but to strengthen them and fight with them.”

This article first appeared in the May 8, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor