Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 9


In a recent interview, a commander of the Masadat al-Mujahideen, a Gaza-based Salafist militant group, described his movement’s confrontation with Hamas, demanding that the Islamist movement “repent” its apostasy and stop fighting the Salafists “on behalf of the Jews” (Shabakat al-Tahadi al-Islamiya, February 16). Beset by internal dissension over prisoner swap negotiations with Israel, an international embargo, the cutting off of its tunnel smuggling system by Egyptian forces, and the assassination of a leading Hamas commander in Dubai, Hamas now faces an ongoing and often violent struggle with Salafist militants who reject Hamas leadership.

Describing his movement as a “Salafist Jihadi group,” Shaykh Abu Ubaydah al-Ansari outlined the motivation of Masadat al-Mujahideen. “We gathered and agreed to support our religion and liberate our lands and sanctuaries, not out of patriotism, but as a compulsory Islamic duty. Whenever one expanse of the lands of Muslims is occupied, Muslims must liberate it, under Islam.” Typical of Salafi-Jihadi groups, Shaykh Abu Ubaydah goes on to cite the influence of Shaykh Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328), whose fatwa declaring nominally Muslim Mongol invaders “apostates” because their use of “man-made laws” rather than Shari’a gave the Mameluke rulers of Egypt and Syria the necessary religious justification to fight invaders who claimed to be fellow Muslims. In this context, Abu Ubaydah quotes Ibn Taymiyya, “There is no more necessary duty – after faith – than pushing back the attacking enemy who corrupts the religion and the world, under any condition. Yet, if the enemy wants to attack Muslims, repulsing him is the duty of everybody, whether they volunteered or not.” Though Ibn Taymiyya’s works remain controversial in Islamic theological studies, Salafists tend to imbue him with an authority just short of the Qur’an and the Hadiths in legitimacy. Ibn Taymiyya’s influence is seen in Abu Ubaydah’s declaration. “He who applies manmade law and human legislation, whether he is a Palestinian or something else, becomes an infidel, and whoever resorts to it for judgment also becomes infidel and fighting him becomes permissible.”

Though Hamas has made significant moves in making Shari’a the law of Gaza, these efforts fall short of Salafist expectations. Abu Ubaydah refers to “imitations of Shari’a,” and asks, “What can we say about one who applies Shari’a as legislated by himself? There is no doubt that this person is an infidel, as agreed by all scholars, no matter how big his turban is, nor how small his garment.”

The Palestinian Salafists are also displeased with Hamas’ failure to prosecute a jihad against Israel and what they perceive as a decline in anti-Israel militancy on the movement’s part since it formed the Gaza government. “Formerly, they were fighting the Jews, but currently they fight those who fight and confront the Jews [i.e. the Salafists]… If they want to repent, stop their unilateral battle against us, and leave us alone, we will welcome their desire in order to devote ourselves to fighting the Jews. However, if they insist on fighting us on behalf of the Jews and to keep their positions, the conflict will not be settled… We believe that it is not permissible to reconcile with them for they have become apostates.”


As it gradually becomes drawn into the war in neighboring Somalia, Kenya has begun looking for new sources of security assistance beyond traditional partners like Great Britain and the United States. On February 11, Kenya’s Minister of Internal Security, George Saitoti, met with his Israeli counterpart Yitzhaq Aharonovich in Jerusalem to request Israeli military assistance in countering radical Islamists who are threatening Kenya (Shabelle Media Network, February 14). Saitoti told the Israeli Minister, “The jihad is taking over Somalia and threatening to take over Kenya and all of Africa. No one is more experienced than you in fighting internal terror.” Israeli officials brought up the problem of African migrants and refugees attempting to enter Israel through the Sinai, evoking this response from the Kenyan Interior Minister: “Help us fight al-Qaeda and we’ll help you with the infiltrators. We have vast knowledge in the subject” (Y-Net News, February 11; Arutz Sheva, February 11; Somaliland Press, February 12; Israel Today, February 14). The Israeli government was also reported to have said it is ready to hold consultations on forming a joint force with Kenya to guard the northern Kenyan border with Somalia and to prevent the entry of extremists (Shabelle Media Network, February 14).  

Somalia’s al-Shabaab movement has threatened repeatedly to attack northern Kenya, most recently on February 10, when Shaykh Husayn Abdi Gedi announced plans to strike at troops belonging to Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) who are completing military training from Kenyan instructors in northeast Kenya (Radio Gaalkacyo, February 10, Puntland Post, February 6).

The talks with Kenya appear to be part of a growing Israeli interest in the Horn of Africa. In early February, the spokesman of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yigal Palmor, told Somali media that Israel was ready to recognize the breakaway territory of Somaliland as an independent nation (Golis News, February 11).  If Israel proceeds, it would be the first nation in the world to recognize Somaliland since its split from the rest of Somalia in 1991. International recognition is almost an obsession in Somaliland, which is unable to receive foreign aid, military equipment or development assistance without it. The elected government in Hargeisa is sure to show its appreciation to any nation that broke the two-decade-old diplomatic freeze-out. The Israeli declaration came on the heels of a statement by the deputy leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula that the movement intends to cooperate with Somali militants to place both sides of the narrow Bab al-Mandab strait at the southern end of the Red Sea “under the protection of Islam” (al-Malahim Establishment for Media Production, February 8; see also Terrorism Monitor, February 19). German-made Israeli Dolphin class submarines believed to be equipped with nuclear-armed cruise missiles carried out naval exercises in the Red Sea in June 2009 after passing through Egypt’s Suez Canal (Haaretz, July 5). A few weeks later, two Israeli warships passed through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea (AFP, July 14). These excursions were widely interpreted as a warning to Iran.

The Somali press has cited unconfirmed reports that Israeli troops may establish a military outpost in the Somaliland port of Berbera to guard the approaches to the Red Sea (Shabelle Media Network, February 14). Berbera’s small naval port is a Cold War legacy, built by the Soviets in 1969. Shifting alliances led to U.S. use of the port by 1980 and a U.S. upgrade of facilities in 1985. Since then, the port has become dilapidated but still continues to provide a major source of foreign currency for the Somaliland government. Berbera also has a long Soviet-built runway capable of handling all types of military and cargo aircraft. <iframe src=’’ border=0 name=’inner_menu’ frameborder=0 width=1 height=1 style=’display:none;’></iframe>