Jihadist Commentary on the Killing of Rafiq al-Hariri

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 2 Issue: 4

Reaction to the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri on the Jihadi websites mirrored the diversity — and the bewilderment — of the world’s press. As a sample of this diversity, the following postings are taken from the jihadist discussion web magazines and forums Muntadiyat al-Ma’sada al-Jihadiyya (www.alm2sda.net), Shabkat al-Ahrar (www.ala7rar.net) and Mufakkirat al-Islam (www.islammemo.cc).

Immediate comments on the day of the killing searched for the usual suspects: “Brothers, believe me, the Jews and the Christians, that is the Americans, they were the ones who killed al-Hariri… the CIA and Mossad did it in order to fight against Syria” to which the writer subsequently added in English, “we will kill all Jewish in all this world!”

But soon the video of the jihadist group claiming the attack attracted much attention. There was some initial enthusiasm for the idea, and one participant felt impatient with all the hand-wringing about the effect of the bombing on regional stability: “Brothers, the first point I’d like to mention is that stability in the Middle East is a prime American interest. We the oppressed in our lands do not seek this stability!” … “This martyrdom operation may conceal good things for many people … the reason being the strength of the upheaval … For whatever material benefit al-Hariri provided his people, … he did not walk the path of the righteous… so beware of being caught up in false, Satanic emotions …”

As for the videotape displayed on al-Jazeera television: “The martyr who appeared on the tape claiming responsibility has all the features of piety and sincerity … do you not see this on his shining face? It may not be necessary that this group should rally officially or organizationally under the banner of al-Qaeda, but rather morally so. If this organization survives, then it will rally to the banner of al-Qaeda, just like al-Zarqawi and his organization. And it will be blessed by the Shaykh of the Mujahideen Usama [bin Laden].”

However, the vast majority of comments greeted the idea of a Jihadist group being responsible with scepticism: “Not that I want to defend al-Hariri, but the truth is, there is no such group as the al-Nasr wal-Jihad (Victory and Jihad) … And despite all that has been said about al-Hariri, he was the one who safeguarded the rights of the Sunnis in Lebanon…”

“As for the theater of the al-Nasr wal-Jihad fi Bilad al-Sham group,” said another, “an unknown group claiming this huge operation with international ramifications — there are no ‘Wahhabi’ organizations in Lebanon. The religious Sunnis in Lebanon belong for the most part to Islamic organizations, the rest being a matter of scattered individuals … the only organization bearing arms is the very limited ‘al-Dhaniyya’, who can manage a Kalashnikov at best…”

One female contributor signing herself “Daughter of the Lions’ Den” was unconvinced by the reasons given by the martyr about the links between al-Hariri and al-Sa’ud justifying the slaughter of so many. She put forward another point: “The face of the one speaking on the tape appears fully revealed. Whereas we are used to seeing the spokesmen of the Jihadi groups with their faces covered…”

Was it al-Qaeda? A message was posted on February 14 purporting to be from Tanzim al-Qaeda fi Bilad al-Sham (al-Qaeda Organization in the land of [Greater] Syria) categorically denied any connection with the bombing. It gave four reasons for this:

1) “The priorities of the al-Qaeda Organisation in Syria are focused on its foundation [in the country] not on blowing up cars in towns”

2) “Our main priorities now are aiding our brothers in Iraq and Palestine”

3) “The way we support our brothers in the Arabian Peninsula has never been and will never be by way of what has happened today”

4) “What al-Qaeda carried out in New York and Washington and the sacrifices it made of its finest men, were on behalf of Beirut; it is illogical that it would today carry out bombings against Beirut’s streets and buildings.”

However, two days later, on in a message from the Tanzim Qaedat al-Jihad Fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (al-Qaeda Organisation in the Land of the Two Rivers, the group headed by al-Zarqawi), official spokesman Abu Maysara lambasted the “Crusader press’ for its lies, and dismissed “the claims by Reuters that we had spoken about the killing of the tyrant al-Hariri. No, we have never spoken a word concerning him.”

But Abu Maysara, nonetheless, used the opportunity to make a point about the media war: “This, Brother Muslim, shows you their bankruptcy of truth … and our message to all Crusade media men is [contained in] what happened today to the Broadcasting Center in Mosul.” (The center was subject to a rocket attack for its role as a “Station of Infidelity and Sin … aiding the Jews and Christians”).