A New Journal for Algerian Jihad

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 15

At a period of uncertainty and fragmentation for the Salafist movement in Algeria, a new publication has made its appearance on the internet. In May, the first issue of Al-Jama’a (The Group) was posted on the website of the Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat (GSPD). [1] The journal is in imitation of eastern models such as Al-Qaeda’s online magazines for the jihad in the Arabian Peninsula, Sawt al-Jihad (Voice of Jihad) and Mu’askar al-Battar (The Al-Battar Military Camp) — indeed the similarity of the production style and standard immediately calls to mind these eastern forerunners. That there should be editorial links is, of course, unsurprising, given the history of the foundation of the GSPD, and the close links maintained between these groups. Edition 6 of Sawt al-Jihad excerpts an article on the Algerian Jihad urging its readers to draw lessons in the Arabian Peninsula from the experience of their mujahideen in the West:

We should learn from the example of Algeria, that democracy is a fiction…designed to distract the energies of vigorous youth…Algeria teaches us that the peaceful solution is a deficient one…and teaches us that hastiness for results causes reverses, and that progressing too soon from guerrilla warfare is a lethal mistake. [2]

The 38-page long Al-Jama’a describes itself as a “periodical magazine on Algerian jihad affairs” and comes:

Amid such decisive moments in the history of the Nation, to present one of the vanguards of Jihad, one of the fighting outposts that is still, after 12 years, raising the standard of Monotheism and Jihad atop the heights of Muslim Algeria. [3]

The tone of the publication can be gauged by the essay Take up the Weapon for Life:

From Afghanistan comes the kernel of the Nation; it was the beginning…proud Iraq was not the end…for those infidels and the apostate agents in our lands there are not enough graves…it is high time that Rome had its Cross uprooted and the city decked out for the arrival of the new conquerors, passing through Al-Andalus [4] and the Pavement of the Martyrs [5], and Vienna [6] and Constantinople, to which we are yet drawn by a longing that grows in our breasts day by day. For our Prophet (who does not lie when he speaks, being the most truthful of speakers) did promise: “God hath set aside for me the world, and I beheld its east and western lands, and the dominion of my Nation shall reach unto that which was set aside for me.” [7]

Unlike its sister publications in the Arabian Peninsula, Al-Jama’a, at least for this first edition, is short on specifics, and long on generic homilies on jihad. A lot of space is taken up with issues of legitimizing the current leadership. Having recently undergone some seismic shocks with the deposition of Hassan al-Hattab (later rumored to have been executed by his former colleagues), the GSPD journal devoted seven pages of dense print to Questions on Legitimacy, outlining the background to the deposition of Hattab and the legal support for the leadership of Abu Ibrahim Mustafa. Documentation on his election is included, along with an extended interview with him, introducing his views and his curriculum vitae. [8]

As part of its stated purpose “to remove confusion and clarify the facts,” the magazine’s intention appears to be to serve as much as a morale booster as a communications vehicle.

Each of those who follow the rolling march of ponderous events, notwithstanding all the heavy costs, heavy sacrifices made in blood and limbs and pain, now may deservedly declare in resounding, optimistic shout: “Hold fast, O Mujahideen! Be patient O Murabitin! And hold to the blessed path, for signs of the coming victory are already on the distant horizon!” [9]

Abu Ibrahim Mustafa, himself, outlines the reasons for the GSPD’s refusal to accept the amnesty in Denial Communiqué. Mustafa also contributed three other essays to the publication: Islam’s Alienation, A Discussion, and Election Communiqué (dated 18th Jumada II 1424). Among the other essays included in this addition is The Fountain Pen… and the Bullet Word by Abu al-Hasan Gharib: a generic, exhortative discussion on the aims of the Jihad in Algeria. A page of uplifting quotes from Sayyid Qutb [10] entitled Al-Jama’a Recreation rounds out the issue. The concluding section, Final Word, is a request to distribute copies of Al-Jama’a and a direction to look out for the next edition.

The one element of the Al-Jama’a dealing with contemporary events, and which is clearly the source of some anxiety, concerns the government amnesty and the potentially demoralising effects of claimed negotiations in progress for the surrender of some 300 GSPD members. Under the rubric Viewpoint on Events, Al-Jama’a devotes five pages to the GSPD’s rejectionist position, and is at pains to deny that there has been any substantial take-up of it by the militant group’s members. The essay Storm in a Teacup – Standpoints on the So-called Heathen Truce pours scorn on the Algerian media reports:

It appears that peoples’ mental simplicity has sunk to its lowest this year in Algeria, and I do not know how to describe the rumours concerning communications with the Salafist Group, “the impending group surrender of the Mujahideen (God forgive them)” and “ongoing talks with some of the leadership of the Mujahideen” and other such like various headlines which make me almost pass out merely to think of them. I don’t know how to describe them other than that they are a Storm in a Teacup.” [11]

The mujahideen, the author insists, are steadfast. The author points to how the red map of jihad is now enveloping the Muslim world, and that, therefore, there is no room or need for truces with the “Tyrants”:

We say: relax, use your head and have faith in the victory of God, for indeed atop the Auras mountains and the hills of Kabylie and the southern Sahara there are still many who despise the Jews and the Christians and their dogs, such as Bouteflika and Lamari [12]…

Despite the disillusionments and the many infiltrations and plots… they did not consider even for a moment to sell their Jihad for a base price… they discarded [the efforts of peace doves] like the stone from a fruit, and shunned it like some pollutant that would defile the purity of their Jihad.

The author reserves his highest scorn for members of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), who have entered into negotiations with the Algerian government and announced their participation in the political process.

So what sort of Algerian crisis is this that they wish to resolve? The true crisis which the Islamic nation has fallen into since the fall of the Caliphate is the abandonment of Jihad and the replacement of brigades and razzias with ballot boxes, “parties” and “elections.”

What shocks us to the core, O “Men of Salvation” is that your brothers are besieged by the enemy while you are eating and drinking and enjoying the pleasures of life. Indeed, some of you the while have made things worse by whole-heartedly collaborating with that dwarf Bouteflika and have given legitimacy to his election. Do you not have any feelings left in your soul? God knows that I wish to write these words and shout at the top of my voice: “Help me O mountains, and save me O stones, since the men of ‘Salvation’ have lost their manliness!”

Given the advances made by the Algerian military in the war against the insurgency, the publication of the Al-Jama’a magazine would seem to parallel the publication of Al-Qaeda’s Mu’askar al-Battar and Sawt al-Arab magazines— that is, the construction of a virtual arena for training and indoctrination following the loss of the territorial arenas in Afghanistan. Its fantastic, apocalyptic tone also parallels the peninsular publications:

You shall see, God permitting, the Place des Martyrs in the capital [Algiers] turn into a fearful arena of massacres for you after we have finished slapping your face and kicking your backside. “And in that day the Believers will rejoice in Allah’s help to victory.” [13]

However, just the one edition of Al-Jama’a has been published to date. Two months having passed since its appearance on the web, it will be interesting to see whether this will remain the only issue, now that the leader of the GSPD, Nabil Sahrawi (Abu Ibrahim Mustafa), has been killed. Given the resilience of its sister productions in Saudi Arabia, which have continued to publish even after the killing of ‘Abd al-‘Aziz bin Muqrin and the raiding of its publishing base at the end of June, it is possible that Al-Jama’a will reappear after the group has had time to reorganise.

Notes:

1. First issue: Rabi’ al-Thani 1425 (May 2004). The al-Jama’a web magazine can be found on the GSPD’s website at http://www.jihad-algeria.com.

2. The excerpt is from Abu ‘Abdallah al-Sa’di’s Abatil wa-Asmar (‘Myths and Idle Prattle’), pp.11-12.

3. Editorial comment, p.2.

4. The historical Islamic term for Spain, preserved in the present day province of Andalucía. The author is recalling ‘unfinished work.’

5. Balat al-Shuhada: the village near Tours in France where the Muslim conquerors led by Abd al-Rahman al-Ghafiqi were halted by the Merovingian Charles Martel in 732 AD, marking the furthest point of Muslim expansion in western Europe.

6. The Ottoman army was halted at the gates of Vienna in 1683, marking the high-water mark of Islam in eastern Europe.

7. Al-Jama’a, p.12.

8. August 17th 2003. The Bayan Tansib appears on p.28.

9. Editorial comment, p.2.

10. Sayyid Qutb, 1906-1966, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was a prominent Islamist (revivalist) figure and was one of the chief ideologues of the modern jihadist movement.

11. Article Zawba’a fi Finjan, by Salah Abu Muhammad, Al-Jama’a, p.7.

12. Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Mohammed Lamari, the eminence grise of the Algerian military, who has declared victory in the war against Islamist insurgents.

13. Al-Jama’a, p.9. Concluding quotation: Qur’an, XXX, 4,5.