Saturday, September 29, 2007

'Al Qaeda leader' killed in Iraq

A senior leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq has been killed in an air strike near Baghdad, according to a US military commander.

Brigadier General Joseph Anderson identified the man as Abu Usama al-Tunisi, a Tunisian reportedly viewed as the successor to Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the Egyptian previously the group's most senior figure in Iraq.

"Abu Usama al-Tunisi was one of the most senior leaders within al-Qaeda in Iraq," Anderson said.

The general said a precision strike on Tuesday near the town of Musayyib killed al-Tunisi and his death was a "significant blow" to al-Qaeda in Iraq.

He said al-Qaeda may shift its forces from Iraq to Afghanistan in order to try to expand its operations there.

"All we can tell you is that by numbers and how the groups are operating in very remote locations and not collaboratively they're fractured, ruptured, mitigated here. "The question becomes, where would they go? What would they do?" he said. Handwritten note Anderson said: "United States Air Force F-16 aircraft attacked the target. "Reporting indicated that several al-Qaeda members with ties to senior leadership were present at that time. Three were killed, including al-Tunisi," he said. "His presence was confirmed by one of the two detainees from the operation, one who left the target area just prior to the air strike, who we eventually captured minutes later," he said. Ground forces recovered a handwritten note at the site that was believed to have been written by al-Tunisi, Anderson said, displaying a slide with photographs of the note. "The key points in this hand-written note include, he's surrounded, communications have been cut and he's desperate for help," he said. "What I make of that is that we're having great success in isolating these pockets." Anderson said al-Tunisi oversaw the movement of foreign fighters in Iraq and designated areas to them from where they could launch suicide attacks and car bombings in the Baghdad area.

Via Al Jazeera.


Well, we may not have gotten Osama, but we have killed Abu Osama, which is progress, I suppose.

Seriously, this article is very good news. If al-Qaeda is forced to retreat from Iraq, it will be a cataclysmic blow to its reputation. It would be one thing if Iraq was just another front, but it's not. Al-Qaeda's plan foresees three stages: the stage of "the power of vexation and exhaustion", during which the existing order is torn down, resulting in chaos and anarchy; the stage of "the administration of savagery", in which a sort of pseudo-state is set up within this area of anarchy; and the stage of "the power of establishment", in which the pseudo-state matures into a full fledged nation.¹ Had operations in Iraq been in the first stage, withdrawing would not be a problem; operations are expected to be fairly fluid in this stage. When al-Qaeda announced the formation of the "Islamic State in Iraq", however, operations moved into the second stage. Withdrawing now would be admitting that their plan had failed. The subtitle of the book The Management of Savagery is "The Most Critical Phase Through Which the Umma Will Pass", this certainly seems accurate, since this is where they have failed.

¹The Management of Savagery, translated with funding from the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

ISAF authorization extended another year


Strongly condemning the violence that continued to destabilize Afghanistan, the Security Council decided this afternoon to extend the authorization of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in that country for another year beyond 13 October 2007.

By resolution 1776 (2007), adopted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter by a recorded vote of 14 in favour to none against, with 1 abstention (Russian Federation), the Council also called on Member States to contribute personnel, equipment and funding to strengthen the Force and make it more effective.

It stressed, in addition, the importance of improving Afghan security services in order to provide long-term solutions to the violence in the country, and encouraged ISAF and other partners to sustain their efforts to train and empower the National Police and other Afghan forces.

Speaking before the vote, the representative of the Russian Federation said his country had traditionally supported ISAF and the continuation of its mandate as the Force continued to be important in combating the terrorist threat posed by the Taliban and Al-Qaida. However, the Russian delegation had abstained in the vote because the new issue of maritime interception had yet to be clarified.

In statements after the vote, the representatives of Italy and China said they had voted in favour of the resolution because it gave the best support to Afghanistan’s stability. China’s representative, however, expressed the hope that future decisions on the issue would be made by consensus.

The meeting opened at 5:20 p.m. and closed at 5:30 p.m.

Via UNSC Department of Public Information.


The source link includes the full text of the resolution.

While it is good to see that the Security Council is still backing us on this, some of our allies have been growing frustrated. In Canada, opposition to the war in Afghanistan has been growing. As one Canadian I know told me, "There has been little if no progress with the original mission due mostly to the shift in focus to Iraq by the U.S. administration. As a basically peace loving liberal population we have grown tired of this bullshit. This is a major issue with our country. We are no longer willing to support a 'War on Terror' when the main player has decided to move on for other reasons." Canada's contribution to the war has been immense, with the 2,500 or so Canadian troops responsible for securing volatile Qandahar. If they were to withdraw, we would face a serious problem. At the same time, though, my friend does have a point. Canada is under no obligation to continue helping us defend ourselves if we ourselves have stopped doing that.

Russia abstained because of the clause in which the UNSC states that it is "Expressing its appreciation for the leadership provided by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and for the contributions of many nations to ISAF and to the OEF coalition, including its maritime interdiction component" (boldface mine). What, you may ask, does a mission in a landlocked country have to do with naval activities? Well, according to, Japan currently has some naval forces in the Indian Ocean, which are refueling various US forces involved in Afghanistan. This is regarded with suspicion by Russia, which is evidently concerned that they might be used in a US attack on Iran, and is outright opposed by the Japanese opposition party. The inclusion of the phrase in question was apparently meant to bolster the majority party's efforts to extend the Imperial Navy's deployment.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Iraq tribes vow to avenge murder

Sunni Arab tribes in Anbar, the western Iraqi province, have vowed to avenge the killing of Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, their leader. He died in a roadside-bomb attack near his home in Ramadi, the provincial capital, on Thursday.

Abdul Sattar Abu Risha was leader of the Anbar Salvation Council, an alliance of clans that supported the Iraqi government and US forces in fighting al-Qaeda in the province. An al Qaeda-led group said on Friday it carried out the killing of Abu Risha, according to a posting on a web site.

The Islamic State in Iraq said the killing of Abu Risha was a "heroic operation", but the authenticity of the statement could not be verified. "Allah enabled your brothers ... to track down and assassinate the imam of infidelity and apostasy ... one of the dogs of Bush," said the statement.

Funeral crowd

Thousands of people gathered in Ramadi on Friday to attend Abu Risha's funeral. "We blame al-Qaeda and we are going to continue our fight and avenge his death," Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, brother of Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, said on Friday. Ahmed Abu Risha was elected the new leader of the Anbar Salvation Conference just hours after his brother's killing.

Sunni Arab tribes in Anbar, the western Iraqi province, have vowed to avenge the killing of Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, their leader. He died in a roadside-bomb attack near his home in Ramadi, the provincial capital, on Thursday.

Abdul Sattar Abu Risha was leader of the Anbar Salvation Council, an alliance of clans that supported the Iraqi government and US forces in fighting al-Qaeda in the province. An al Qaeda-led group said on Friday it carried out the killing of Abu Risha, according to a posting on a web site.

Pallbearers carried Abdul Sattar Abu Risha's body from Ramadi to the cemetery 10km outside the city, while the funeral procession shouted "revenge, revenge on al-Qaeda." Others mourners chanted "there is no God but Allah and al-Qaeda is the enemy of Allah" and "Abdul Sattar is the pride of Ramadi". Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, was represented by Muwaffaq al-Rubaie, his national security adviser, who condemned the killing. "It is a national Iraqi disaster. What Abu Risha did for Iraq, no single man has done in the country's history," al-Rubaie told the mourners gathered in the sheikh's house. "We will support Anbar much more than before. Abu Risha is a national hero."



"There is no god but God and al-Qaeda is the enemy of God." That's some pretty powerful rhetoric. For those of you who don't recognize it, that's a variation of a phrase called the Shahada: "There is no god but God and Muhammad is the Prophet of God." The Shahada is the central creed of Islam. To elevate opposition to al-Qaeda to such a level is so extreme that I'm actually somewhat taken aback. In any case, though, I think it's probably safe to say that al-Qaeda's plan for Iraq, as set out in the terrorist text The Management of Savagery and the Zawahri-Zarqawi letter, has failed. The Management of Savagery describes trapping America "in a state of war with the masses of the region"*. However, it is al-Qaeda that has become so entrapped.

This is not the first time this has happened. Back in May, when this blog was just starting out, a group of Uzbek terrorists responded to the Pashtuns' hospitality by assassinating a tribal leader. The Pashtuns responded by completely annihilating the Uzbeks. Apparently, though, al-Qaeda still has not learned that you cannot solve tribal problems simply by smashing them.

According to the article, Abu Risha has become a national hero, along the lines of Ahmad Shah Masoud in Afghanistan. It says that "'His programme now against al-Qaeda has become a national programme. Diyala province, Salahuddin province, Baghdad province are following now his programme.'" It is unfortunate that I was not aware of him prior to his martyrdom, as it would have been an honor to cover his achievements. He was a true hero, and Iraq needs heroes badly in this day and age.

*Funding for this translation was provided by the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University.

Friday, September 14, 2007

NES 10

I am currently taking the class NES 10 (Introduction to the Near East) at UC Berkeley, and am going to be using some of the posts on this site for the diary we are supposed to be keeping. Such posts will be tagged "NES-10", so that it will be easy to call them all up. I will also be giving the graduate student instructor the dates of the posts.

Speaking of the GSI, he requested that I give some indication that I am indeed the author of this weblog, since the name appearing beneath each post is not the one he was expecting. As he surmised in an email he sent me, "Sergei Andropov" is a screen name, which I have been using for quite some time. It's a take-off of "Pickup Andropoff", the fictitious Russian chauffeur mentioned in the end credits of the radio show Car Talk. Anyway, consider this the confirmation.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The day began like any other...

It happened at 8:46 am. The clip begins at 8:31 am. Footage is from

Monday, September 10, 2007

al-Qaida Says 2nd Bin Laden Video Coming

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Osama bin Laden will appear for the second time in a week in a new video to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, presenting the last will and testament of one of the suicide hijackers, al-Qaida announced Monday. Each year, al-Qaida has released videos of last statements by hijackers on the anniversary of the 2001 attacks, using the occasion to rally its sympathizers. But this year's releases underline how bin Laden is re-emerging to tout his leadership - whether symbolic or effective - of the jihad movement. While past anniversary videos featured old footage of bin Laden, the latest appears likely to include a newly made speech. [More]


After having been pent up in the mountains for so long with nobody to talk to but the sheep and the goats, Osama evidently has a lot to say. Needless to say, this coming video will totally reframe the discussion about whether or not September 7th's was real, so the discussion of that issue, which I had hoped to post on today, will have to wait for tomorrow.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Full bin Laden video

Azzam al-Amriki

In my previous post, I speculated that Azzam al-Amriki may have written the bulk of Osama bin Laden's. Having read of his life, and having viewed his video messages, I am now fairly certain that that is the case. He is a highly disturbing individual, because he reminds me so much, in his mannerisms and speech, of those that I know, yet he has fallen into the clutches of the Apostasy. He is, as I had suspected, something of a disaffected Leftist; he was born to a pair of hippy goatherds living in seclusion in Southern California and grew up feeling and perceiving the emptiness that most of today's youth have either observed or experienced themselves. He first sought to express that emptiness through the Death Metal subculture, and later sought to fill it with religion. The religion he found, based on its true merits, was Islam, but through an unfortunate quirk of fate the mosque that he found had a strong extremist presence. He fell in with and was assimilated by these extremists, and was radicalized through them. Despite having spent many years in the Middle East, his old ties to the Grumpy Young Californian Liberal culture are still readily apparent — at one point in one of his tapes he refers to Bush as "Dubya" — and he is thus almost certainly the source of the familiar, though perverted, tone of the middle part of Osama's speech. He does seem to have laid it on pretty thick, though, in comparison with his other videos, which leads me to suspect that he may have been trying to reach out to the 71%.

An excellent article on him can be found here, and some of his videos can be found here and here (part one of six).

Friday, September 7, 2007

Bin Laden shows his face again

Osama bin Laden has finally ended his longest-ever communications silence, though not entirely on his terms. The half hour video, which was supposed to have been released on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, was somehow obtained by the SITE Institute, which released its pirated copy on September 7. A number of transcripts have been made available by assorted news organizations; the most legible is available here.

This is a somewhat peculiar video. While As-Sahab's make-up team seems to have done a fine job making bin Laden look as healthy and photogenic as possible,
whoever it was that put the speech together did considerably shoddier work. I have read from various sources speculation that Azzam al-Amriki influenced the content; while I am unfamiliar with Amriki's rantings, I am still inclined to agree, because much of the speech does not seem to have been put together by bin Laden, and indeed appears to have something of an American touch. Compare, for example, the following, from a 2006 audio tape:

As for us, we do not have anything to lose. The swimmer in the sea does not fear rain. You have occupied our land, defiled our honour, violated our dignity, shed our blood, ransacked our money, demolished our houses, rendered us homeless, and tampered with our security. We will treat you in the same way. You tried to deny us the decent life, but you cannot deny us a decent death. Refraining from performing jihad, which is sanctioned by our religion, is an appalling sin. The best way of death for us is under the shadows of swords. Do not be deluded by your power and modern weapons. Although they win some battles, they lose the war. Patience and steadfastness are better than them. What is important is the outcome.¹

with this, from the just-released video:

It has now become clear to you and the entire world the impotence of the democratic system and how it plays with the interests of the peoples and their blood by sacrificing soldiers and populations to achieve the interests of the major corporations. And with that, it has become clear to all that they are the real tyrannical terrorists. In fact, the life of all of mankind is in danger because of the global warming resulting to a large degree from the emissions of the factories of the major corporations, yet despite that, the representative of these corporations in the White House insists on not observing the Kyoto accord, with the knowledge that the statistic speaks of the death and displacement of the millions of human beings because of that, especially in Africa. This greatest of plagues and most dangerous of threats to the lives of humans is taking place in an accelerating fashion as the world is being dominated by the democratic system, which confirms its massive failure to protect humans and their interests from the greed and avarice of the major corporations and their representatives.

Since when does Osama bin Laden care about the Kyoto Accords? He's pissed off at us because of our alleged war against Islam, not our lack of concern for the environment. He cares about the smoke rising from our bombs, not the smoke rising from our smokestacks. These seem more to be the words of a former American Leftist than of a former Arab mujahed. Either Osama spent some time cruising the blogosphere for issues he thought Americans would identify with, or the issues were selected by someone who was himself an American — al-Amriki.

There are also important stylistic differences. Osama is fond of using flowery metaphors like "the swimmer in the sea does not fear rain" and "[George Bush is] like the one who plows and sows the sea: he harvests nothing but failure." This seems to me to be a very Arab way of speaking; I am reminded of the words of the Prophet Muḥammad when He said, "By God, if one man were to be guided at your hands, it would be better for you than red camels." (Bukhari 2942). This presumably made a lot of sense to 'AlĂ­, to whom t was addressed, but it seems a mite peculiar to Americans. Although parts of this speech are in this highly Arab style, other parts seem to be in the much more direct manner of speech characteristic of Americans. This is also noticeable in terminology; compare the above mentioned audio tape's "influential people and war merchants in America" with the new video's much blander "major corporations".

Also present are things that I just can't imagine Osama bin Laden saying on his own. In particular, his depiction of Islam as tolerant of Christians and Jews seems inconsistent with "Every Muslim, from the moment they realize the distinction in their hearts, hates Americans, hates Jews and hates Christians."² Also somewhat curious is the sentence, "This innocence of yours is like my innocence of the blood of your sons on the 11th - were I to claim such a thing." Osama has, in fact, claimed precisely that, and I doubt he would have voluntarily risked drawing attention to
this dishonesty.

It seems to me that this speech was most likely written by Azzam al-Amriki and then sent to bin Laden who, after making some adjustments, read it for the video. As I said, though, I know very little about Amriki other than that he is an American convert to Salafism; a follow up post profiling him should shed further light on the situation.

UPDATE: The follow-up has been posted.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Suicide bomber strikes in Algeria

At least 15 people have been killed after a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of people shortly before a visit by Algeria's president. Abdelaziz Bouteflika visited some of the 60 wounded in a hospital in the eastern town of Batna, 430km from the capital, Algiers. The president accused the attackers of trying to damage his policy of national reconciliation, which is aimed at ending 15 years of fighting between the army and rebel groups. There was no immmediate claim of responsibilty for the attack. [More]


Maybe not, but there's only one really active terrorist group in Algeria, and that's al-Qaeda. Some things go without saying.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Germany says bomb plot foiled

German security services arrested three Muslim activists on Tuesday and foiled a plan to carry out "massive bomb attacks" against US installations in Germany, officials say. Monika Harms, federal prosecutor, said on Wednesday in Karlsruhe that the men, two German nationals and one Turk, had been on the verge of launching their attacks after acquiring enough material to make a bomb with explosive power equal to 550kg of TNT. [More]


The three belonged to the Islamic Jihad Union (also referred to as the Islamic Jihad Group), which is a splinter group of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and has been responsible for several high profile bombings in that nation. The IMU, while a separate organization, has very close ties with al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, from whom it has received substantial sums of money. The IJU's al-Qaeda ties appear to be even closer, due to the extreme sophistication of their attacks. The IJU's apparent branching out into Europe is disturbing, to say the least, as is the temporal proximity of these events to the anniversary of 9/11. Al-Qaeda had originally planned to launch a follow-up attack on US soil on September 11, 2002; it looks like they may have taken that idea back out of cold storage. When considered in conjunction with the recent arrest of eight terror suspects in Denmark, an ominous trend begins to emerge.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Freed hostages arrive back in Seoul

Nineteen hostages released by the Taliban have arrived back in South Korea more than six weeks after they were captured in southern Afghanistan. The group of Christian aid workers looked tired and subdued as they stepped off a flight from the United Arab Emirates at Incheon airport early on Sunday. [More]


Al Jazeera has reported that a ransom of $20 million has been paid, but this has been denied by the involved parties. In this case I am inclined to believe them, since the hostage situation has become something of a public relations fiasco for the Taliban and I doubt that such a high ransom would have been necessary.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Progress is being made

As those of you who have been following this blog for some time know, it has long been an objective of mine to provide maps showing the various incidents in Afghanistan. I am pleased to report that significant progress towards this goal has been made, and I have successfully created a rudimentary base map of the region, as shown above. Now all that needs to be done is devising a way to depict the incidents themselves, and I have been making progress here, too (although not as much).

The above image was produced with the Maya Personal Learning Edition using NASA's Blue Marble satellite imagery and data from the same agency's World Wind DEM.