Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center
THE PROJECT FOR THE RESEARCH OF ISLAMIST MOVEMENTS
Volume 3 (2005), Number 7 (October 2005)
Director and Editor: Reuven Paz.
The Project for the Research of Islamist Movements is part of the Global
International Affairs (GLORIA) Center. Site: www.e-prism.org. Email:
firstname.lastname@example.org. All material copyright Reuven Paz unless otherwise
Credit if quoting; ask permission to reprint. GLORIA is part of the
Center, Herzliya, ISRAEL
Abstract: This is a series of papers that translate and analyze articles,
reports, religious decrees, and other documents, written primarily in Arabic
by Islamist scholars, clerics, operatives, or intellectuals. Al-Qaeda's
Search for new Fronts: Instructions for Jihadi Activity in Egypt and Sinai
By Reuven Paz
On September 25, 2005, a known Al-Qaeda supporter, nicknamed Abu Muhammad
al- Hilali, published a unique analysis on the Internet, combining it with
instructions for Jihadi terrorist activity in Egypt, mainly the Sinai
Peninsula.1 The analysis is based upon the two series of terrorist attacks
at the Taba Hilton hotel and two resorts in Sinai in October 2004, and the
attack at the Red Sea resort Sharm al-Sheikh in July 2005.
The message has gained particular significance in light of the Israeli
warnings of possible terrorist attacks against Israeli tourists in Sinai in
recent days. The Sinai is a popular destination season for thousands of
Israeli visitors, especially during the Jewish holiday season.
Al-Hilali's analysis is very detailed, yet brief. Yet, its uniqueness lies
in the fact that it seems to be the first analysis of this kind to be based
upon the 1601-pages long book on Jihad by Abu Mus'ab al-Suri2, published
through the Internet in January 2005.3 Abu Muhammad al-Hilali is not only
relying on Al-Suri's book and other teachings of his, but also uses a
methodological analysis identical to that of Al-Suri. He also seems to be an
adherent of Al-Suri's doctrines.
If true, and this analysis reflect Al-Suri's views, we might face a new
phase in Al- Qaeda's or more accurately, the Global Jihad movement's
attempts at achieving two objectives. The first is to identify new fronts in
the Arab world-beside Iraq-where to conduct the struggle. The other is to
revive the basic principles laid out by Abdallah Azzam, the pioneer of
global Jihad. Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi and the Jihadi insurgency in Iraq are
accused of neglecting Azzam's principles, which may be generally summed up
as follows: First to create a new generation of Jihadists following a long
period of Islamist indoctrination; and second, to focus the Jihad on
tourists, Arab governments, and Arab economic interests, but not on Muslims
in general, Shi`is, or on fighting according to the principles of Takfir.
Based upon the writings of Al-Suri, Al-Hilali emphasizes the vital need for
using the attacks for purposes of propaganda, incitement, and indoctrination
of the new generation of Mujahidin, and not in order to threaten the West.
He also follows his teacher in openly criticizing the Mujahidin, albeit
"constructively." With regard to Egypt, it is important to remember not only
the attacks in Sinai, but also the suicide attacks against tourists in Cairo
in April 2005, as well as those at a British school theatre in Qatar in
March 2005, by the Egyptian Omar Abdallah.
Attacks against tourists have always been a priority of the Egyptian Jihad
groups. Furthermore, the attacks in Sinai brought about a wake of massive
security drive, arrests of hundreds of Bedouins in northern Sinai, and
violent clashes between them and the Egyptian security forces. At least two
senior military officers were killed. The clashes between the authorities
and the Bedouins, and the increased military presence in Northern Sinai also
interferes with the traditional massive criminal activity of smuggling
everything possible from Sinai to Israel, Gaza, and Jordan.
Is it merely a coincidence that there has been a rise in Jihadi terrorist
activity in Egypt during the past year? Or is this increase the result of
new elements of Global Jihad, whose upper echelons may be influenced by the
teachings of Abu Mus'ab al-Suri? Finally, we should ask ourselves if the
politically severe conflict between the Egyptian regime and the Muslim
Brotherhood on the backdrop of the recent presidential elections in Egypt,
may have contributed its part too to the Jihadi unrest in the country.
Although, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood does not engage in political
violence, as the largest Islamic opposition movement in Egypt and the Arab
world, it has been second to none in creating an "Islamist atmosphere" to
promote Jihad through a small but vociferous group of highly educated
youngsters affected by the regime's suppression of the Brethren. The
Egyptian Islamic elements also tend to be affected by the struggle of Hamas
against Israel, and by anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiments in general.
The latter are hardly sanctioned upon by the Egyptian government, despite
its peace agreement with Israel.
The Egyptian Arena and the Armed Jihad
Al-Hilali admits that he is unfamiliar with the situation in Egypt from
close, but only through the media. He accuses the Egyptian government of
behaving like a colony of the "Zionist-Crusader" project, both regionally
and on a global scale. Egypt secures the borders with Israel, trains the
Palestinian and Iraqi security forces, and supplies camps and services for
interrogations of non-Egyptian detainees.
On the background of this situation, Al-Hilali suggests the following:
. A thorough study of the circumstances and the response that is in
accordance with the Shari'ah and Salafi principles.
. The adoption of Salafi-Tawhidi principles in order to create radical
. The preparation, training, and practicing of an armed struggle. "Buying
arms and training is a divine duty and one commanded by the Prophet. It is
neglected as a result of the government's division of society into civilians
and military-a division that does not exist in Islam. The armed struggle is
the basic means to consolidate around it all other Islamic means "
There are numerous teachings of how to promote the armed Jihad, in the
writings of scholars such as Abu Mus'ab al-Suri, Abu Bakr Naji, Osama bin
Laden, Ayman Zawahiri, and Abdallah Azzam. The main priorities and stages we
can extrapolate from these writings, especially by Al-Suri, are the
. Attacks against the American enemy are the top priority. "Only if this
enemy would be hit and would be occupied with its own problems, the
Mujahidin could be free to deal with the governments of their "colonies." In
case these governments find a new alternative ally-the European countries
for example- the Mujahidin should deal with them too.
. In the second phase a struggle should be waged simultaneously against the
Arab governments and the Jews.
The Mujahidin, according to Al-Hilali, are currently in the phase where they
attack the United States. From time to time they attack other Western allies
of the United States. Whenever there is a strategic need for it, the
Mujahidin also attack Arab governments, since these attacks harm American
interests as well.
Al-Hilali summarizes this point by saying that the Jihad should follow the
analysis of the Jihadi strategists from among the clerics and the Mujahidin.
As written by Abu Mus'ab al-Suri, "the most important Jihadi target in this
phase is attacks against tourists. They regard the Muslim countries as their
back yard, and import with them their moral dirt." The attacks in Sinai
were, therefore, a highly successful example of this strategy, both against
the Egyptian government and in terrorizing the Westerners.4
The Lack of Islamist Propaganda
Al-Hilali discusses another important issue, namely how the Sinai attackers
failed to utilize the bombings for purposes of propaganda and incitement of
Muslim youngsters. He complains that following the attacks only few unclear
or overly enthusiastic announcements were released, which in his mind may
have caused more harm than good. The lack of propaganda is tantamount to a
defiance of the order of Allah, who commands-"and you should incite the
believers." Incitement is an integral part of the struggle, and it is a
vital element for the Mujahidin, who are looking at Jihad as the only
alternative to radically change their destitute conditions. They need a
starting point to hold on. The best example of such a lack, according to
al-Hilali, was the attack in Al- Azhar in Cairo, in April 2005.
The poor propaganda allowed the Egyptian government to falsify the effect of
the attacks, while presenting them as the acts of a small and marginal
group. If the late issuing of statements of responsibility, and their
contradictory nature, were not enough, those failures were further
compounded by the lack of a strategic religious analysis of the attacks, as
evidenced by the current dispute among clerics over the legitimacy of the
attacks. In this regard Al-Hilali specifically mentions Abu Basir
al-Tartousi, who, following the bombings in London in July 2005, and in a
recent fatwa against suicide operations, published several declarations
against attacking civilians.5 The attacks in Egypt and Sinai, Al-Hilali
charged, were not even accompanied by the public release of the wills of the
bombers-an "important element serving as a model for the Islamic youth."
Al-Hilali calls upon the Mujahidin to take an example from the numerous
religious and strategic publications of the Mujahidin in Saudi Arabia. They
established a large library of Jihad, in accordance with the divine order of
inciting the believers, thus complementing Jihad with the ongoing thorough
study of its doctrines. This project does not harm the security of the
operations. He criticizes the Mujahidin in Sinai/Egypt for preparing the
military operations for a long time, since 2002-2003, without taking any
step in the area of Da`wah and indoctrination.
Another fault noted by Al-Hilali following the operations in Sinai is the
absence of any clear message from the attackers. A message, he believed,
should have been published for two audiences: the civilian tourists and the
Egyptian government. Al-Hilali believes that the Mujahidin should have sent
a clear message to the tourists, saying that these operations were a result
of their governments' support for the campaign against the Muslims. The
tourists should therefore return to their countries and borders, and stay
there. "From now on there is a curfew on their movements in the Muslim
The other message should have been directed to the Arab governments, that
from now on "there is a permanent state of hostility between them and us,
which is going to last as long as we are alive." These faults in the field
of propaganda and information turned the otherwise brilliant operations into
"an harassment" by the Egyptian authorities, which declined the attacks'
Another criticism by Al-Hilali is about operations devoid of military value,
such as against the multi-national force (MFO) in Sinai in August 2005. The
MFO is not a strategic target of the Mujahidin and the attack upon it should
not have been conducted, if they indeed were responsible for it. Al-Hilali
also warns the Mujahidin in Egypt and Sinai from attacking the Egyptian army
or from engaging in any fight with it, except for self-defense. Quoting the
biggest strategists, such as Abu Mus'ab al-Suri, he says, "This kind of
fight should be defensive only. It would be as foolish as to try to break
the stones of the pyramids in order to destroy them." He also quotes Abu
Muhammad al-Maqdesi, who warned against a situation in which "a group that
obtains weapons and explosives tends to choose the easy targets to attack
without a serious study and consideration of the advantages and risks."
The Future Strategy for the Egyptian Mujahidin Al-Hilali, who as he says,
lives outside of Egypt, follows the approach extolled by Al- Suri in
offering the future strategy of the Jihad in Egypt, which includes:
. Targeting tourists by killing them or taking hostages.
. Targeting the movement of ships and attacking the main ports in both the
Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
. Targeting the transfer of oil and gas to Israel.
. Targeting any foreign presence in Egypt, such as cultural centers,
companies, and embassies.
All of these steps should be taken after a period in which the focus would
be on recruitment, training, and indoctrination. The last of these elements
is crucial. "The Da`wah can spread only through the barrels of the cannons.
One will of a martyr is much more efficient and effective than dozens of
religious lessons and sermons. This is the first goal of the Jihad. Jihad is
not only a military activity. It should be accompanied by a proper Salafi
Da`wah and incitement."
Since Egypt, like other Arab countries, is a police state, the proposed plan
for Jihad there is to recruit small cells of Mujahidin, while providing them
with psychological and practical training. The cells' structure should be
based upon the writings of strategists like Al-Suri. He adds that there is
plenty of room for clandestine training in Sinai, its mountains and caves,
where the authorities could not locate them.
The most significant element of the above document is the direct public
reference to Abu Mus'ab al-Suri and his monumental book. In recent months
there has been a significant rise in references to the book in Jihadi forums
on the Internet. It appears that it took a rather long time for supporters
of Global Jihad to read such a big book. There has been recently a growing
effort of posting material written or lectured by Al-Suri by the Global
Islamic Media Front (GIMF) on the Internet.
The document is also the first attempt to interpret and implement Al-Suri's
doctrines, which differ from those of the old Al-Qaeda, but also from the
tactics of Zarqawi in Iraq, which have already been criticized by his
mentor-Abu Muhammad al- Maqdesi-who is quoted here.
Apart from the significance of Egypt apparent from Al-Hilali's document,
another major implication of this text is that it seems that we are on the
eve of the "Al-Suri era" in the history of Global Jihad. There is a high
likelihood that henceforth we will now be facing two separate and even
competing parties of Global Jihad with-Zarqawi in the Iraqi arena and
Al-Suri in other parts of the Arab world, serving as the major exponents.
Osama bin Laden can retire now, or focus on his alliance with the Taliban in
Afghanistan, which has been much more active and successful in the past
The two parties of the present Global Jihad-Zarqawi and Al-Suri-are not
equal. Zarqawi is charismatic, and has the strict loyalty of his supporters.
The Jordanian mastermind however, uses mass killings of Muslims as a
strategy, a choice that over the long run may gradually sap his insurgency
of much-needed support from Sunni Iraqis.
Turning Fallujah, Tel-Afar, Ramadi, and other Iraqi towns into Salafi
strongholds is not the dream of the Iraqi Sunnis. His massive attacks
against Shi`i civilians cannot last forever without a similar response
backed by Iran. He and his people might serve as symbols of fervent
anti-Americanism, but not forever. Unlike Zarqawi, Al-Suri is a real scholar
and strategist. His book, which was written over the course of three years
during his retirement, is a masterpiece of strategic thought.
If this document reflects the start of an attempt to create a new base for
Global Jihad in the Arab world outside of Iraq, it seems that Egypt-and
primarily Sinai Peninsula- might become the potential new arena of holy
warfare. The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza; the Egyptian inability or
unwillingness in controlling the borders between Sinai and Gaza; the rise of
Hamas' power vis-.-vis the Palestinian Authority in Gaza and the present
chaos there; and attempts by Hizballah to infiltrate into the area, might
turn Sinai into a dangerous arena and a greenhouse for Jihadists.
The whereabouts of Abu Mus'ab al-Suri since the fall of the Taliban in
Afghanistan in December 2001 are unknown. He managed to run away from
Afghanistan via Iran to somewhere in the Middle East for about three years.
He floated again in November 2004, when the U.S. Department of State
declared him an international terrorist. There were some rumors about his
location, in the Yemen or the Horn of Africa, but they have not been
Al-Suri is probably the most talented combination of a scholar and operative
of Global Jihad. He was one of the chief trainers of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan
on explosives, but also gave many lectures about Jihadi strategy, religion,
and indoctrination. Many of his lectures from Afghanistan are posted on his
web site in the form of video and audiotapes, and much of the material there
appears in his monumental book. He seems also to have the patient character
of the first generation of Al-Qaeda leadership, and unlike the second and
third generations in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, he acts according to a
well-organized plan. In his 9-pages public letter to the State Department
from November 2004, as well as in his book and lectures, he presented
independent critical positions and even criticized Bin Laden. His call for a
"Global Islamist Resistance" could be part of Global Jihad, but also a call
for a new form of Al-Qaeda, loyal to the doctrines of Abdallah Azzam, but
not necessarily to the Saudi form of Jihadi Tawhid. He seems to be more
pragmatic in being assisted by "infidels" such as Iran and even North Korea
for acquiring WMD. He has no anti-Shia sentiments, and refrains, as much as
known, from being involved in the Islamist insurgency in Iraq. His
pragmatism might be connected also to his known Sufi family origins.
According to his writings, he prefers terrorism to guerrilla warfare,
primarily by small cells of elite units, what might explain his absence from
the Iraqi arena.
Al-Suri is dangerous for another reason-his European connections. He is a
Spanish citizen as a result of marriage, and lived in the 1990s in Spain and
London. He is well familiar with the European arena and Muslim communities
there, primarily North Africans.
On a final note, intelligence and security service, as well as experts,
would be wise to translate at least the last 400 pages of Al-Suri's
monumental book on Jihad and review his lectures. There lies the future
strategy of Global Jihad, whether in the form of Al- Qaeda, or in the form
of "Global Islamist Resistance," as al-Suri prefers to name it. ***********
1 Abu Muhammad al-Hilali, Risalah ila Ahl al-Thughour fi Sina' (A message to
the People of the Frontiers in Sinai). See online in:
2 His full name is Mustafa Abd al-Qader Mustafa Hussein bin Sheikh Ahmad
al-Muzayyek al-Jakiri al- Rifa`i. The family name Sitt Maryam comes from his
grandmother. The family is a respected Sufi family of the Rifa`iyyah order
in Halab/Syria. He was born in Halab in 1958, and was close to the late
Marwan Hadid, one of the leaders of the Syrian Islamic Jihad. Al-Suri is
known also by the name Omar abd al- Hakim.
3 Abu Mus'ab al-Suri, Da`wah lil-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah al-`Alamiyyah (A
Call for the Islamic Global Resistance). See the book online in:
4 On the importance of attacking tourists see also in one of Al-Suri's
audiotaped lectures, posted on the Internet by Global Islamic Media Front
(GIMF) in 5 October 2005. The tape can be downloaded from --
5 On the debate raised by Abu Basir see: "Islamic Legitimacy for the London
Bombings," PRISM Occasional Papers, no. 4/3 -