A June 23 posting to an Islamist website presented the text of an announcement from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi concerning the death of Sheikh Abdullah Mohammad Rashid al-Rashoud in the Iraqi town of al-Qaim.
In customary fashion the statement, as posted on the jihadist Al-Qal’a forum, celebrated the death as a victory: “Let the Islamic Nation rejoice in the martyrdom of one of the most outstanding standards of beneficence, jihad and knowledge.” The eulogy went on to describe his ‘participating in the battles of al-Qa’im” explaining that the Sheikh met his end as a result of air strikes on mujahid positions, thus joining the ‘caravans of the martyrs ridden before by Sheikh Abu Anas [al-Shami]. The forum entries following this entry are filled with expressions of congratulations and prayers for his soul. [www.qal3ati.net]
Sheikh al-Rashoud was one of the most influential ideologues for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, famous for his January 2004 Bayan ila al-Umma al-Islamiyya (Declaration to the Islamic Nation), in which he challenged the Saudi government’s legitimacy in terms of Islamic Law and was featured on the 26 most wanted list issued by the security authorities.
His disappearance from the scene in Saudi Arabia last summer was the cause of much speculation. It was thought that Al-Rashoud had been killed alongside al-Qaeda field commander of the time Abd al-Aziz al-Muqrin in June 2004 following an armed confrontation with the security forces. However, this was denied by Saudi authorities at the time and the mystery was compounded by a later story, published by the Saudi daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat on March 15, which quoted ‘informed sources’ stating that Al-Rashoud had actually been slain by his mujahid colleagues. This apparently had been due to differences with Al-Muqrin on the Islamic propriety of the commander’s military actions, which were targeting non-combatant Muslim civilians. Al-Muqrin and Faysal al-Dakhil were said to have driven him to an isolated place to effect a cure of his ‘madness’, following which the Shaykh was never seen again [www.aawsat.com].
The present announcement does little to resolve that mystery, but his claimed exit from Saudi Arabia to al-Qaim, is symptomatic of the tightening squeeze placed by the authorities on jihadist activities in the Kingdom, as demonstrated by the raid on the Sawt al-Jihad publishing house late last year, which in the pages of its Sawt al-Jihad online magazine published regular ideological treatises from the Sheikh relative to the jihad.