A New Leader for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula?
Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 1 Issue: 8
The al-Jazeera TV channel ran an audio tape given on November 1 by Shaykh Hammud bin Sa’ud al-Utaybi, one of the 26 names on the wanted list in Saudi Arabia. Delivered at the same time as bin Laden’s address, he urged the Muslims to fulfill their duties in aiding the mujahideen in Iraq who are facing the attack on Fallujah.
At the time, the Saudi newspaper al-Riyadh noted that al-Qaeda was tacitly recognizing that Salih al-Awfi had been killed, given that al-Utaybi had been the one to deliver the sermon urging Muslims to fight. There were reports that he had been the target of a series of raids during the night of July 20-21. But as Terrorism Focus reported (Volume 1, Issue 1), the claims that al-Awfi had been one of the fatalities of that raid, during which his wife and children were detained, proved false. Saudi authorities have since insisted that al-Awfi died of wounds sustained during that operation, but the claim of al-Awfi’s killing has yet to be independently confirmed.
Al-Riyadh also observed that al-Utaybi had penned the foreword to the latest edition of the online al-Qaeda magazine Sawt al-Jihad (issue 28, appearing on November 2) – a further indication of his new status. This interpretation was repeated unchanged in the western press. However, through the news commentary in their sister publication Mu’askar al-Battar, al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia poured scorn on this interpretation, arguing that al-Utaybi had been writing the forewords for the magazines “for over four months” (which Terrorism Focus can verify – al-Utaybi began writing the forewords starting at issue no.20 shortly after the death of Ibn Muqrin, whose last contribution was for issue no.19). It also dismissed the comment by Okaz newspaper that the mujahideen were now in a desperate state. (al-Battar, Issue 22, p.20).
The call for jihad in Iraq is nonetheless interesting, since it appears to contradict earlier insistence by al-Qaeda leaders that Saudi mujahideen perform their jihad closer to home. The question is whether the motivation for this change is powered more by the fighting opportunities provided by Fallujah, or the increasing difficulties of maintaining the armed struggle in the Peninsula.