Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 6


Al-Qaeda’s al-Fajr Media Center has released a religious ruling on the permissibility of mass-casualty attacks in public places like markets. Written by Shaykh Atiyatullah, the ruling came in response to an inquiry into the October 28, 2009 market bombing in Peshawar. The bombing was carried out through the detonation of 150 kg of explosives hidden in a parked car, and it devastated the Mina Bazaar of Peshawar, reserved for the use of women and children. Over 100 people were killed and 200 wounded, mostly women. At the time, both the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and al-Qaeda denied involvement in the attack, which sparked widespread outrage (The News [Islamabad], October 29, 2009; Dawn [Karachi], October 30).

In the format typical of such rulings, a questioner asked whether it was permissible in Islam to celebrate the deaths of “shoppers, merchants and the general populace,” given what the questioner asserted to be the victim’s “serious shortcomings in matters of religion, thinking only about their worldly life and sustenance, refraining from jihad, deserting the mujahideen, and living under the authority of an apostate government?”

Shaykh Atiyatullah’s ruling starts out in a promising fashion with a strong condemnation of such attacks, saying that Muslims are obliged to object to them as means of spreading corruption, falsehood, oppression and transgression. In short, they are “contrary to the pure religion of Islam.” According to the shaykh, “It is a religious fact known to all that it is forbidden to transgress against a Muslim’s life… It is considered one of the greatest of sins after shirk [polytheism].”

Based on these considerations, Shaykh Atiyatullah draws the conclusion that these types of bombings could not have been carried out by the mujahideen, whose activities never transgress the laws of Islam. “We firmly believe that they are carried out by the enemies of Allah, either through criminal security contractors such as Blackwater [Xe Services LLC] and their likes, or other filthy groups working under Pakistani intelligence [Inter-Services Intelligence – ISI] or some criminal impure generals in the army.” The Shaykh alleges that the purpose of these bombings is to discredit the mujahideen and destroy their image in the Islamic world while scaring Muslims away from participating in jihad.

Shaykh Atiyatullah provides a lengthy quotation from an earlier statement by al-Qaeda’s commander in Afghanistan, Shaykh Mustafa Abu al-Yazid (a.k.a. Shaykh Saeed al-Masri) on the Peshawar bombing (, November 11, 2009). Part of the passage cited by Atiyatullah similarly claims the bombing and all those like it to be the work of Blackwater and Western intelligence agencies in league with the apostate rulers of Muslim nations:

"We believe that such bombings are the work of the Crusaders, the enemies of God, and their allies in the government and intelligence. It is part of the dirty war that they practice. How could that not be when they are the ones who mean harm to Muslims? They do not have any consideration for any sanctity and Muslim blood is worthless to them. Today, everyone knows that Blackwater and other criminal groups have violated Pakistan with support from [Pakistan’s] corrupt and criminal government and its security agencies. They commit these ugly actions and blame them on the mujahideen through their media outlets in order to tarnish the image of the mujahideen and Muslims."

Shaykh Atiyatullah pauses to consider the possibility that some of these mass-casualty attacks on civilians may have been committed by the mujahideen, noting that if this is so, the culprits “are not mujahideen, but rather havoc-wreaking criminals… But in reality the probability of this is negligible, and all praise is due to Allah, the mujahideen can certainly not do this.”


In an Arabic-language interview carried on January 29 by al-Jazeera, Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai acknowledged that covert talks with Mullah Omar’s Taliban began nearly 15 months ago in Saudi Arabia and suggested NATO had made “major errors” in the defense of his regime.

With regard to trying American, British or NATO soldiers for killing Afghan civilians, Karzai confirmed his desire to have suspects delivered over to his government for justice. “We want this and we demand it.” At the same time, the president said it was his intention to follow through with his campaign pledge to “free every Afghan prisoner” held in American prisons in Afghanistan. “I hope that the U.S. side will understand this as an indispensable need in order to win the trust of the Afghan people so that they might continue their journey with us. In order that the United States might succeed in Afghanistan this thing must happen.”

While acknowledging the Afghan National Army was not yet capable of ensuring national security, Karzai laid the bulk of the blame for Afghanistan’s deteriorating security conditions at the feet of NATO. “Both sides are responsible… The Afghan forces were not strong enough and they made mistakes. The NATO forces made major errors.” Karzai suggests that the bulk of the Taliban forces are composed of young men without hope or shelter and distinguishes between these young men and “the terrorists” that must be defeated in Afghanistan. “That is what I want the NATO forces to understand; namely, that the war against terrorism should not be waged in Afghanistan’s villages; it does not mean pursuing every man with a beard and a turban, or anyone who dons the Afghan traditional outfit."

The president confirmed recent rumors that members of his government had met with a Taliban delegation approved by Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar in Saudi Arabia in September 2008. "Yes, this happened sometime ago. They are Afghans and we also are Afghans and we have known each other since the days of jihad against the Soviets. There was cooperation between me and Taliban when this movement appeared. I know them very well." The talks in Mecca were reportedly initiated after a senior Saudi official traveled to Pakistan’s North Waziristan Tribal Agency in an attempt to meet with top Taliban leaders and al-Qaeda’s deputy leader, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. Though the Saudi official failed to meet anyone other than third-tier Taliban commanders, the effort led to the organization of secret talks in Mecca sponsored by the Saudis and attended by American officials. Though nothing came of these talks due to the Taliban’s insistence on an American withdrawal before negotiations could begin, parleys facilitated by Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) and Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Directorate (GID) are reported to be ongoing (The News [Islamabad], February 6).  Karzai announced on January 28 that he had made a formal request to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud for help in facilitating talks with the Taliban (The News, January 28).

Karzai denied the existence of direct talks between himself and Mullah Omar. "Unfortunately I cannot find him and talk to him directly. If I can find his telephone number or his address I will certain contact him.” In another interview several days later, Karzai expressed his hope for reconciliation with Mullah Omar and the Taliban leader’s return to Afghanistan – under one condition: “Mullah Omar is first and foremost an Afghan, and we want all Afghans to return. Afghanistan is a democratic country, but it is also an Islamic country, and the Taliban know that… The rejection of al-Qaeda and terrorist networks is an absolute prerequisite [for reconciliation]” (Der Spiegel, January 31).