Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 44


A new communiqué from the Saudi Arabian deputy leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Abu Sufyan al-Azdi al-Shihri (a.k.a. Sa’id Ali Jabir al-Kathim al-Shihri), urges troops in the service of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to abandon their “apostate” masters and take up arms in the service of jihad (Global Islamic Media Front, November 18).

Al-Shihri was captured on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in December 2001 and sent to the American detention camp at Guantanamo Bay in January 2002. He was released in November 2007 and repatriated to Saudi Arabia, where he completed a government-sponsored rehabilitation program. Following his graduation he immediately traveled to Yemen, where he joined AQAP, quickly becoming its deputy leader under Nasir al-Wuhayshi (a.k.a. Abu Basir), who escaped from a Yemeni prison in 2006.

The AQAP deputy commander says his advice was prepared in response to inquiries that had reached AQAP from members of the Saudi armed forces. These individuals serving the “al-Sa’ud infidel and apostate government” were unsure of whether they should remain in uniform or join the mujahideen in the “Land of Jihad and Preparation in [the Prophet] Muhammad’s Peninsula,” i.e. Yemen. Al-Shihri cites the works of scholars such as Ibn Hajar and Shaykh Ibn Taymiyah in preparing his response, as well as the works of contemporary Jordanian jihad ideologue Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi, the former spiritual guide of late al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Besides the apostasy of the Saudi rulers, who have allied themselves with “Jews and Crusaders,” al-Shihri also accuses the regime of promoting “moral corruption, permitting the forbidden intermingling of the two sexes and the spread of nakedness and unveiling, and the corruption of society from drugs, alcohol and other types of clear sins…”

Al-Shihri condemns the treatment of Haylah al-Qusair (a.k.a. Umm Rabbab), a rare female al-Qaeda leader who joined the organization in 2004 after her husband was killed. Since her arrest earlier this year, al-Shihri says the “shaykhs of Satan, the scholars of al-Sa’ud” have “spoiled her reputation, sitting with her, debating with her and pressuring her through her daughter Rabbab, who was shackled in chains.”

Al-Shihri also warns of the regional machinations of the Jews of Israel and the “Magian Rafidites,” a pejorative appellation for Iranian Shiites that implies both paganism and religious deviation: “Understand well that the Muslim nation may soon enter a war, the ferocity of which none but Allah knows.” According to the AQAP leader, the Jews seek to rebuild the Temple of Solomon and establish Greater Israel, but have been foiled by the Salafi-Jihadi movements in Gaza. The “Magian Rafidites” of Iran are set on seizing the holy cities of Mecca and Medina according to al-Shihri, who says “the Jews will launch a war against Iran, but the actual battleground will be al-Sham (i.e. Greater Syria, or the Levant) and the Arabian Peninsula.”

Al-Shihri instructs would-be jihadis in the armed forces to focus their attentions on targets in nearby Israel:

"Openly declare your disobedience to the commands of the idolaters [i.e. the royal family] and do not direct your weapons at Muslims who have rebelled against the idolators… Rather, aid them and direct your weapons towards Israel which is only a few kilometers away from you, whose lights can be seen from Haql, an area in the north of the Arabian Peninsula. The pilots among you should seek martyrdom over the skies of Palestine, and those in the navy should point their weapons at the Jews there, earning the honor of martyrdom in the Cause of Allah."

For the soldiers of Saudi Arabia, al-Shihri offers the following advice:

• Form small cells to recruit those in the military and political fields who can aid the cause, especially “those who belong to the Air Force, or are responsible for weapons depots, are officials in the army, Interior Ministry, operations centers or media…”

• Work secretly in creating operational cells to gather intelligence and identify key targets.

• Guards of the government and royal family should emulate the example of Khalid Ahmed Showky al-Islambouli, the Egyptian military officer who played a key role in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981.

• Employees of the Interior Ministry should gather intelligence from ministry records and pass this along to al-Qaeda.

• Avoid spilling blood unnecessarily, “even if it results in delays in attacking specified targets.”

• Imprisonment should be avoided in favor of martyrdom.


Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni became the first foreign head of state to visit Somalia in over 20 years when he made a three hour visit to Mogadishu on November 28. Though the president’s visit was a carefully concealed secret until his arrival, it served as confirmation of Museveni’s continuing commitment to the political stabilization of Somalia and the elimination of radical Islamist groups such as al-Shabaab and Hizb al-Islam. Ugandan troops form the majority of the African Union’s peacekeeping force in Somalia, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Though many other nations have pledged military support to the mission, only Burundi has actually sent troops to support the Ugandans.

After landing, Museveni travelled to the AMISOM Halane base camp and met with AMISOM commanders, including Ugandan force commander Major General Nathan Mugisha, Burundian deputy commander Major General Cyprian Hakiiza, Ugandan contingent commander Colonel Michael Ondonga and AMISOM’s Ugandan chief-of-staff Colonel Innocent Oula (Daily Monitor [Kampala], November 29). The president also met with Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) president Shaykh Sharif Shaykh Ahmed and the new Prime Minister, Muhammad Abdullahi Muhammad.

With Uganda and Burundi engaged in frontline combat to preserve the imperiled TFG, Museveni was critical to the point of sarcasm in commenting on what he described as a lack of seriousness regarding Somali security issues on the part of the international community, which maintains an expensive deployment of warships off the Somali coast that has had little impact on piracy and virtually no impact on the internal struggle for Somalia:

"We want more troops from Uganda or from anywhere in Africa. Uganda is a country of 33 million people, so we could mobilize three million people. But who will pay for it? International support is not enough. [The international community] don’t take the Somali problem seriously. They are busy enjoying themselves in the ocean, having a nice time in the ocean. Do you know how much money they spend in the ocean? The pirates who go to the ocean to steal from ships come from land. Have you heard that Somalis have become aquatic?"  (Daily Monitor, November 29; New Vision [Kampala], November 29).

AMISOM troops have assumed the burden of defending the TFG from Islamist assaults. A continuing effort to train the TFG’s own military force has been largely unsuccessful with a lack of discipline and resources cited as the main problems. Somali information minister Abdirahman Omar Osman recently admitted that the TFG’s failure to make regular payments to its troops and the appeal of al-Shabaab’s Islamic propaganda have led to defections from TFG forces (Daily Monitor, November 7). The TFG mandate expires in August 2011, leaving an uncertain future for Somalia.

Though the Islamists continue to control most of southern Somalia, Ugandan Colonel Michael Ondoga says progress has been made in recent months in Mogadishu, where AMISOM troops have expanded the area under the control of the TFG to roughly 50% of the city, the largest area secured by the peacekeeping force since its deployment three years ago. The next step is to take Mogadishu’s Bakara Market (currently in the hands of al-Shabaab), but further offensives are hampered by insufficient forces to consolidate and hold positions already taken (New Vision, November 29). The market was the scene of several days of heavy fighting and shelling that coincided with Museveni’s visit (Garowe Online, November 30).

Ugandan diplomats have argued with the UN Security Council (whose chairmanship Uganda will relinquish next month) that an enhanced AMISOM force of 20,000 men would be cheaper and more effective in dealing with piracy than a varied naval presence that lacks a unified leadership (New Vision, November 14). Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza has also called for reinforcements and a more aggressive mandate for AMISOM (Garowe Online, November 19). Burundi has just sent an additional battalion to AMISOM, bringing the peacekeeping force up to the original projected strength of 8,000 men for the first time (Daily Monitor, November 26).

Museveni’s visit was not well received by Hizb al-Islam, whose spokesman Shaykh Muhammad Osman Arus claimed AMISOM was committing genocide in Mogadishu: “[Museveni] came here to witness how the Muslim people are being harmed. He must have felt pleased by the atrocities committed.” The shaykh pledged new attacks on AMISOM to demonstrate the Islamists’ displeasure (Africa Review [Nairobi], November 30).