The Project for the Research of Islamist Movements (PRISM) Herzliya, ISRAEL
Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center
THE PROJECT FOR THE RESEARCH OF ISLAMIST MOVEMENTS (PRISM)
Volume 2 (2004), Number 3 (October 2004)
Director and Editor: Reuven Paz.
The Project for the Research of Islamist Movements is part of the Global
Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center. Site: www.e-prism.org.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. All material copyright Reuven Paz unless
otherwise stated. Credit if quoting; ask permission to reprint. GLORIA is
part of the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, ISRAEL
Abstract: This is a series of papers that translate and analyze articles,
reports, religious decrees, and other documents, written in Arabic by
Islamist scholars, clerics, operatives, or intellectuals.
From Riyadh 1995 to Sinai 2004: The Return of Al-Qaeda to the Arab Homeland
By Reuven Paz
(PRISM Series of Global Jihad, No. 3/2 - October 2004)
The attack in the Sinai resorts of Taba and Nuweiba on October 7, 2004, put
an end to exactly seven years of a de facto timeout in terrorist operations
conducted on Egyptian soil. During these seven years the Egyptian
authorities have managed to thwart several attempted terrorist operations.
In the course, they have arrested several hundred Islamists, most of whom
were returnees from other Islamist fronts outside of Egypt-Afghanistan,
Bosnia, Chechnya, Albania, and other countries. In November 2002, Syria
extradited to Egypt the leader of the Egyptian Gama'ah Islamiyyah-Dr. Ahmad
Rifa`i Taha, who was part of the global Islamist front of Al-Qaeda, since
1998. Egyptian groups-primarily the Jihad and Gama'at-either found other
arenas for their fight, or reversed their policy and publicly declared a
shift from the military into a political struggle. This shift led the
Egyptian authorities to gradually release members of the Gama'at from
prison, including senior activists who took part in the assassination of the
late President Anwar al-Sadat in October 1981. Several Islamist independent
groups of Egyptians, the largest of them a group named Al-Wa`d, were tried.
The authorities also increased their pressure on the Muslim Brotherhood and
their social infrastructure. Yet, it was also important to point out that so
far, some ten days after the attacks in the Sinai Peninsula, the Egyptian
authorities have not yet arrested significant Egyptian suspects, besides
Bedouins in Sinai who provided logistic support to the terrorists. This
means that if the attackers were Egyptians, they are not members of the
groups and circles under surveillance in Egypt, or are unknown to the
Consequently, the attacks in Sinai were a renewal of Islamist terrorist
activity. As far as the targets of the attacks are concerned, these
operations were also conducted in typical Egyptian manner - the combination
of Israeli civilians and tourism. Nevertheless, the attacks may have been
carried out by a new generation of Islamists.
The "Return Home" Syndrome
One of the most important doctrines of the Egyptian Jihad from its birth in
the late 1970s, has been what Ayman Al-Zawahiri and before him Muhammad Abd
al-Salam Faraj phrased as follows: "The way to liberate Jerusalem moves
through the liberation of Cairo." Zawahiri wrote it in several of his books,
including "Knights under the Prophet's Banner," published in December 2001.
Faraj referred to this notion in his famous book "The Neglected Duty,"
[Al-Faridhah al-Gaebah] which has been circulated by the Egyptian Jihad
The principle that the road to the liberation of Jerusalem goes through
Cairo, has always been accepted by Egyptian Islamists before and after the
globalization of the Jihad by other Islamists, primarily among them the
Palestinians such as Abdallah Azzam and Abu Muhammad al-Maqdesi. It might
have been due to the fact that Islamist Palestinians who emerged in exile,
including in Jordan, Kuwait, or Europe, had a strong tendency to globalize
their Islamist struggle, like their nationalist counterparts did from within
the PLO. Islamist groups that remained on Palestinian soil-such as the
Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas-tended to limit their
struggle to Palestine. The two Palestinian uprisings in 1987-1993, and the
ongoing Intifada that began in September 2000, only deepened the national
and localized element of their Jihad.
The regional view of Islamists in the Arab world of the "infidel"
governments as the first priority target has also been a vital
element of the Saudi party of Al-Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden. Many among
the younger generation of Islamist scholars in Saudi Arabia supported this
view. According to Al-Qaeda's strategy, the global Islamist struggle against
the United States aims first and foremost at pushing the Americans out of
the Arab and Muslim world, and not necessarily at destroying the United
The war in Iraq has deepened the American involvement in the Arab world, and
thus, provided Al-Qaeda with a better opportunity to focus its efforts on
this part of the world. The Americans "intruded their home" and should
therefore, be fought by means of a violent Jihad. The American occupation of
Iraq gave the Islamists a golden opportunity to focus on their original
arena, and return home from exile in distant regions. Once again, this
return to the homeland is accepted by both the Saudi and Egyptian elements
of Global Jihad.
The Egyptian Tile in the Islamist Axis
The attacks in Sinai have generated many reactions on Islamist web sites.
Most reactions were expressions of support for the operations, often
including expectations of further attacks. The reactions included heavy
criticism of the Palestinian Islamists-mainly Hamas-who publicly denied any
involvement in the attacks and stressed that their operations are limited to
attacks against Israel and against Israeli targets on Palestinian soil.
The only reaction that we might consider as an official one was published in
the most recent issue of the on-line magazine "Sawt al-Jihad" (No. 27),
published in October 18, 2004. Within the description of the attacks, taken
from the media, they wrote:
"It was the proper target from the strategic point of view, since the
attacks targeted the Jews, who are the first element of the original
infidels, and a target for all the Jihadi groups. It took place during their
religious holiday, what guaranteed a large number of them in the place of
the attacks. Allah healed the heart of the believers from the massacres of
Sabra and Shatila, Gaza, and Beit Lehem, and took revenge for our targeted
Muslim brothers in Palestine. Let the tyrants be happy with their peace
agreements, road maps, and ridiculous initiatives. They represent themselves
only, and the Muslim nations are exempt from them."
The emphasis was not on Egypt but on targeting Israeli tourists. But, in the
editorial of the on-line magazine, written by the Saudi Saud al-`Utaybi, he
blessed Egypt "where your brave brothers made their move by targeting a
hotel crowded with Jews, killing dozens of them as a sacrifice for Allah,
and on the eve of Ramadhan."
Of the several analyses of the attacks, one is particularly worthy of
mentioning, as it may sketch the future strategy of Al-Qaeda or Global
Jihad, a strategy that contains the notion of the "return home."
A short article written by Abu `Abbas al-`Aedhi-a name that suggests a Saudi
origin-analyzed the attack on the background of the old/new strategy of
Al-Qaeda. The article, titled "From Riyadh/East to Sinai," was published
in several Islamist forums. Its fully translated text appears below.
Al-`Aedhi's analysis may not be accurate, and may not have been written with
the approval of Al-Qaeda or another Islamist group. Still, the analysis was
outstanding, and its style reminds us of the former generation of
interpreters of Al-Qaeda whose analyses were posted on the Internet between
2001-2003, and the most prominent of whom was the Saudi Lewis Atiyyat Allah.
The main theme of the article is the centrality of Jihad in Arabia for the
groups of global Jihad. Hence, the attack in Sinai is the most recent link
in the chain of attacks that began in November 13, 1995, in East-Riyadh, in
which seven foreigners, among them five Americans, were killed and about 60
were injured. A group calling itself "The Islamic Movement for Change"
carried out the explosion by means of a car bomb detonated in complex
housing foreign employees in the Eastern part of Riyadh. Four of the
attackers were arrested and executed on May 31, 1996, shortly before another
significant explosion in the buildings called "Khobar Towers" in the city of
Dhahran, in June 1996. If the confessions of four interrogees, which were
published by the Saudi media, were true, we could learn that the group was
influenced by the Islamist Palestinian-Jordanian scholar Abu Muhammad
al-Maqdesi. Al-Maqdesi is the spiritual father of several Islamist terrorist
groupings in Jordan, including the group "Al-Tawhid wal-Jihad" that is
currently active in Iraq under Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi. Al-Maqdesi, who is in
the past two years has been held under arrest in Jordan without a trial, was
the main figure to combine Wahhabi radical Salafism with the global Jihad of
Abdallah Azzam, to then create the Jihadi
Salafiyyah, which inspired Al-Tawhid wal-Jihad. Another link to al-Tawhid is
Europe, primarily Germany and the United Kingdom, where another Islamist
Palestinian ideologue-Omar Abu Omar "Abu Qutadah"-was active. A link to
Germany and the Tawhid wal-Jihad was the Egyptian Muhammad Atta, the
commander of the September 11 attacks, and operatives linked to the
terrorist attack on the Jewish synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia, in April 2002.
The attack in Djerba bore the same "Egyptian" nature - the combination of a
Jewish target and a group of tourists, this time mostly Germans.
Al-`Aedhi's analysis mentions several important points to start with:
- The attack was carried out by a new Egyptian group, which was formed only
seven months prior to the attack.
- The opening sign to for the new phase of Jihad in Egypt was given by Ayman
Zawahiri in his audio clip, a short while before the operation.
- The attack in Sinai was also meant to mark global Jihad's opposition to
Hamas' policy of limiting the fight against Israel to Palestine proper.
- The direct link between the start of Jihad in Arabia and in Egypt is aimed
at warning the Egyptian people that the "infidel Crusaders" would enter
every possible country in the Arab world that is governed by "tyranny."
- The Mujahidin in Arabia assisted their Egyptian colleagues by contributing
their Jihadi experience.
- The Sinai attack was only the first of several forthcoming attacks in
Egypt, and is part of a clear strategy approved by the Mujahidin in Arabia,
Iraq, and Egypt. The Jihad in Iraq and Egypt should be viewed as the ropes
to strengthen the Jihad in Arabia.
- The next steps are the beginning of Jihad in Arabia, namely Yemen and
Kuwait on the one hand, and the unification of the North African Jihadi
groups in Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, and the Sudan, on
- The new phase of Jihad in Egypt will not hit the Christian Copts. They
might be forced to convert to Islam in the future or pay the special tax of
Dhimmis (Jizyah). This constitutes a change from prior periods when Islamist
groups targeted Copts in Upper Egypt.
- The strategy of Al-Qaeda organization is to create a class of young
Islamists as the vanguard of the Islamic nation in the struggle against the
external and internal occupier.
The main theme of Al-Qaeda's strategy, however, is to place Saudi Arabia and
the Jihad groups there, in the center of its gravity, coordinating the
Islamist activity with the two "branches" in Iraq and Egypt, as part of this
Regardless of whether Al-`Aedhi's analysis is a real interpretation of
Al-Qaeda's strategy in the Arab world, or merely a reflection of the
thoughts of one of its supporters, both Western and Arab governments, would
be well advised to take this short article into consideration. The
involvement of young Saudi scholars, the most prominent of whom was the late
Yousef al-`Uyeri, in sketching the future strategy of Qaedat al-Jihad, is
important. They reflect the real aspirations of the first generation of
Al-Qaeda and global Jihad leaders, and they are the first audience of the
Islamist Jihadi messages.
Whoever reads Al-Zawahiri's book from December 2001-"Knights under the
Prophet's Banner"-cannot ignore the first priority of global Jihad, namely
the Islamist Jihadis' return to their homelands. The focus on Saudi Arabia
reflects the shift of gravity of these scholars and commanders from
Egyptians to Saudis and Jordanians.
In October 17, 2004, Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi declared that the group he is
leading in Iraq-"Al-Tawhid wal-Jihad"-joined Al-Qaeda and he personally took
an oath of loyalty to Osama bin Laden. It is still premature to assess the
actual meaning of that step. Yet, it might be in accordance with the attempt
at creating the new axis between Islamists in Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia,
and Egypt, under one command and primarily one strategy. All in the
framework of "returning home."
The Article -- From Riyadh/East to Sinai
The words of Osama bin Laden on the eve of the invasion of Iraq were the
sign to open the Jihad in the Arabian Peninsula. The conditions there were
prepared after the Mujahidin had paved the way, right after the first attack
against the barracks of the Crusaders in Riyadh in 1416H [November 1995]
This attack, known as Riyadh/East, was the actual start of the Jihad in
Arabia. It was launched against three Crusader centers and caused a lot of
confusion for the American plans and the Saudi government. It was the start
of the confrontation between the soldiers of Allah and the soldiers of
Few days ago Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri gave through his speech the sign to
open the Jihad in Egypt. Zawahiri referred to the start of Jihad in Egypt in
the same way as he did to the Jihad in Arabia - the Muslims would not wait a
long while before the Crusade would enter their country, like what happened
The attack in Sinai was obviously carried out by the organization of Qa`idat
al-Jihad. Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri had a vision-by Allah's mercy-when he
pointed out that the Jihad in Palestine was not for the land, but a
religious one. He pointed out clearly to the export of the war outside of
Palestine, while he was warning about the nationalist trends of Hamas. Hamas
and other Palestinian groups, as expected by the Sheikh, hurried to announce
that they had nothing to do with the attack. Furthermore, they declared that
their battle is only in Palestine, and for Palestine. The Sheikh anticipated
it in his speech and warned against it.
The blessed attack in Sinai had long-term dimensions, the same as the attack
in Riyadh. Egyptians in Egypt carried out the Sinai attack, yet, with the
support of the experience of their brothers in Arabia and elsewhere.
The Sinai attack was just the first of the coming attacks in Egypt, in the
framework of a clear strategy approved by the Mujahidin in Arabia, Iraq, and
Egypt. The Jihad in Iraq and Egypt should be viewed as the ropes to
strengthen the Jihad in Arabia. This is the spring and the generator of the
Jihad movements in those countries and others, and in the rest of the Sha'm
[Greater Syria] soon.
The Egyptian Jihadi brigade was organized just seven months ago. But, when
it was ready then came the sign to place another tile of the Jihad in the
region, and to call the people of Egypt to rush into the gates of Paradise.
It was the first attack with important goals and dimensions, as was the
attack in Riyadh.
The Jihad in Iraq and Egypt is meant to prevent the Saudi government from
halting the Jihad in Arabia. It means also that the Algerian and Egyptian
experience and tactics, which the Saudis want to use in Arabia, are about to
fail. If the complicated strategies of the Mujahidin have embarrassed the
leaders of the war against Islam, how about their tails?
The attacks by Qa`idat al-Jihad mean a variety of advantages in each
operation. Furthermore, the start of the Jihad in Kuwait and the Yemen-with
Allah's help-would have a great advantage that will serve both the Mujahidin
in Iraq and in Arabia equally.
The Mujahidin in Arabia have already shown their direct link to the
Mujahidin in Iraq, primarily with the great commander Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi.
The triple coordination-Arabia, Iraq, and Egypt-will have a tremendous
effect on the Jihadi movements in the region. The start of the Jihad in the
Yemen and Kuwait, even though it will be in general part of the Jihad in
Arabia, will be like a double-edged sword.
The organization of Qa`idat al-Jihad posted a principle, which was not
understood by most of its enemies. They think that Qa`idat al-Jihad wants to
gain political influence. They do not know that the strategy of the
organization of Al-Qaeda is to create a class of young Islamists as the
vanguard of the Islamic nation in the struggle against the external and
internal occupier. Qa`idat al-Jihad is the revived spirit in the body of the
Islamic nation, based upon the blood of the Jihadi vanguard, to wipe from it
the dust of humiliation, and to start an Islamic circle of struggle against
the global and local tyrants.
Qa`idat al-Jihad has never been a fluid organization that forms itself
according to international policies, but has had since the beginning a clear
strategy, with complete vision, which was seeking to awaken the nation
before fighting the enemy. The September 11 attack had plenty of benefits.
Yet, the biggest of them sought by Qa`idat al-Jihad, was the revival of the
Islamic nation. That was what the Amir of the Mujahidin Osama bin Laden has
It is now the time for the activity of the Mujahidin in Egypt. It is time
for the Egyptians to show their Lord what they can accomplish in favor of
his religion. The Jihadi strategy in Egypt is going to be in accordance with
the Jihad in Arabia. But, it will not target the Egyptian Christians or
their churches. Their Jihad could come only after they will have the
capability. Islam will be proposed to them, and if they accept they will pay
the Jizyah [taxes] otherwise they will be killed.
The strategy from now onward is to attack the Zionists wherever they are in
Egypt, and to watch the Americans and their economy, in addition to
purifying the Egyptian soil from the dirt of the Jews and the Christians,
who come to Egypt to spread their corruption there. The believers among the
Egyptians deny it. From Egypt will come the groups of defenders of Allah and
the Muslim lands and honor.
The Jihad in Egypt means the integration of the North African Jihadi groups
in Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, and the Sudan, in order to
establish a block that would serve as pioneer for the powerful Islamic army
in the future great war. This block will fuse with the Mujahidin in Arabia,
Iraq, and Greater Syria.
The hopes and goals of the tyrants are over. The Jihad in Egypt will put an
end to most of their dreams, which had been
embroidered with their Jewish and Christian brothers. This means a Jihad
against the Jews and Christians equally. It means also the beginning of the
neutralization of the nationalist groups and the exposure of their shame.
The Islamic vanguard in these countries, which will be burnt in the flames
of war, will prove that they did not emerge for lands, money, or positions,
but to defend the Lord's religion and establish his law. Their Jihad has no
geographical borders designed by the occupiers. They are pure as the Prophet
The beginning of Jihad in Egypt means more than what I have just sketched.
But, the best we can say is that this Jihad is a copy of the Jihad in
With Allah's blessing the brigades of the Mujahidin in Kuwait and the Yemen
would start acting in the near future. Then the tyrants will become dwarfs;
the monks and clerics of the evil will withdraw; the secularists will cry;
and the differentiation we expect so long will start. Allah will
differentiate the evil from the good.
Abu al-Abbas al-`Aedhi
24/8/1425H (8 October 2004)