Abdullah Azzam: The Voice of Al-Qaeda in Syria
By: Fidaa Itani
Published Wednesday, December 28, 2011
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades have issued a statement denying their involvement in the twin suicide bombings in Damascus last Friday, pointing the finger at the Syrian regime.
The statement is the eighth in an ongoing series that the Brigades have been releasing, entitled “Showing the Ways of the Criminals,” which is intended to “expose Hezbollah and its role in preventing al-Qaeda fighters from carrying out attacks against the Israeli occupation.”
The statement accuses the Syrian regime of fabricating and extracting false confessions through torture to pin the bombing on al-Qaeda. It also touches on political developments in Syria and Lebanon, condemning the Syrian regime and its “arm” in Lebanon, i.e. Hezbollah, as well as other allies of the regime in the region.
Published on jihadist websites affiliated with or supporting al-Qaeda and jihadist Salafism, the statement bore the signature of al-Fajr Media Center. The center releases the statements and achievements of jihadist groups within al-Qaeda, such as those made by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and those stamped by Ziyad al-Jarrah Brigades (the Lebanese wing of the Azzam Brigades).
It is possible to draw a number of conclusions from the statement. First, it is a credibly official announcement from the Brigades. This is important as false statements have previously been made, such as those claiming responsibility for rocket attacks on Israel.
Second, the statement comes in response to Syrian state media reports implicating al-Qaeda in the bombings. The statement points the finger at the Syrian regime and Hezbollah, and alludes to the “mujahideen in Syria” as if serving as a media spokesperson for them, if not more.
Of course, jihadist groups present in Syria or those that have arrived there recently operate under different names, but the most important of them is without a doubt Jund al-Sham, which has been operating in Syria since before 2000, largely under the media radar.
The communique also addresses the situation in Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps, such as Ein al-Hilwe near the southern city of Sidon. It accuses Syria and Hezbollah (in addition to the Syrian Social Nationalist Party) of threatening the security and stability of the camp and claims they have used “a series of assassinations, bombings (against UNIFIL), and rocket attacks” against Israel to point an accusatory finger at the camp.
The assertions and accusations made in the most recent Abdullah Azzam Brigades’ statement intersect politically with what has been said by Palestinian and Lebanese politicians. This is not the first time that the Brigades have made points that largely agree with the March 14 bloc’s point of view.
The Brigades also avoid directing blame toward the figures who have been attacking them in the media the most, like Lebanese Minister of Defense Fayez Ghosn and Minister of the Interior Marwan Charbel, illustrating the marginality of the ministers’ respective roles and information (if they have any).
As far as Lebanese politics is concerned, the communique focuses on the role of Hezbollah, followed by the commander of the armed forces, and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP).
It is notable that the statement’s allegations of fabrication by the Syrian regime include the accusation that “the regime’s intelligence will not be incapable, as they have before, of forcing one of its prisoners to record a confession under torture to an operation that he knows nothing about, just as they did with Ahmad Abu Adas.”
What is interesting here is the Brigades’ seeming adoption of Abu Adas (who was originally thought to have assassinated Rafik Hariri) as “part of the family,” so to speak.
In another section, the Brigades’ stance once again lines up with the March 14 bloc when it commends the positions of some of the Lebanese Christian and Druze leadership, especially toward the “revolution” in Syria and Sunni Muslims in general.
The statement could also be read as an attempt by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades’ to distance themselves from any involvement in the bombings in Damascus. This is a signal that al-Qaeda is unwilling to claim responsibility for acts of violence in Syria like it did in Iraq, because these bombings and assassinations (in Syria or Lebanon) will have the effect of strengthening the Syrian regime’s argument in the face of its enemies.
Even if the regime extracts confessions, the statement suggests that al-Qaeda had nothing to with the Damascus attacks and raises the possibility that the regime itself is to blame.
What follows are excerpts from the Abdullah Azzam Brigades latest statement.
From the introduction:
“Through the determination of the champions of the Umma in Syria and with the failure of the tyrant’s regime to subdue those rebelling against it through the use of force, killing, and excessive crimes, the regime has resorted to elevating its plots against the revolution with new evil cunning arranged by the intelligence. This can be seen in the mobilization of its apparatuses in Syria and Lebanon, the most recent of which were acts falsely attributed to the mujahideen, practically announcing that they will use every trick in the book that they think might help them escape from their impending doom and save them from the revolution that they know will not die down until the people are free from the tyranny of this regime. Therefore, we have a position to declare regarding these recent events.”
Under the heading of the “Damascus Bombings”:
“On Friday, 23 December 2011, Damascus witnessed bombings that targeted two headquarters of Bashar Assad’s security, and the regime’s media immediately claimed that the preliminary signs point to the mujahideen, whom they described as terrorist groups.They displayed pictures and footage begging for the sympathy of the West, the delegation of the Arab League, and the Syrian people. The regime began to exaggerate in its description of the events as a conspiracy, repeating blatant lies and false accusations. We in the Abdullah Azzam Brigades would like to clarify to our patient, fighting, and resolute people in Syria the following facts:
First: None of the mujahideen groups are linked to these sinister and sinful bombings, and the accusations are lies and falsification. The real perpetrators are the beneficiaries, the Assad regime and its intelligence apparatus, and so these failed operations must be recorded as [belonging to Assad’s regime], so he and those working in his interest who carried out the attacks may be held accountable.
This will not change the fact that tomorrow, in the media or on suspicious websites, a recording of one of our mujahideen claiming responsibility for this attack will come out. With the mujahideen of the Umma in the prisons of this tyrant numbering in the thousands, the regime’s intelligence will not be incapable, as they did before, of forcing one of the prisoners to record a confession to an operation that he knows nothing about under torture, just as they did with Ahmad Abu Adas. The mujahideen have official media outlets and they do not release a statement except through these outlets.
Second: The mujahideen do not hide nor feel ashamed of their acts, because they only do them out of complete conviction based on a faithful legal [sharia] perspective and a clear strategic vision. The absence of an announcement is tantamount to denial, just like their announcements denying responsibility.
Third: Bashar’s regime and its arm in Lebanon [the Shia Hezbollah] do not abide by religion, principles, or morality in their trickery. They will not heed the interests of the country and they will not shy away from killing innocents or committing any crimes that might save them from their inevitable demise and the fall of this regime, which has now begun to collapse by the grace of God and by the perseverance of the heroes of the Syrian revolution and the tremendous sacrifices they have offered.
The statement concludes by saying:
Some Christian figures such as the commander of the army and the like have conspired with the Assad regime because of personal considerations and interests at the expense of the interests of Christians in Lebanon and their safety. The changes taking place in the region are major, and it would not be wise for any rational person from any of the sects to rely on a falling power. We commend the courage and just stances of many Christian and Druze leaders and figures in Lebanon in denying the victory of the oppressor, if only in word, but we draw their attention to the shameful positions by some of those who put their personal interests ahead of the interests of their communities lest they draw them into something they are trying to avoid.
The Camps in the Eye of the Storm
It is also worth highlighting the section of the statement which talks about the current situation in the Ein al-Hilwe refugee camp. Perhaps this is the most important part of the statement given current levels of tension in the camp. The following excerpts stand out:
In this poorly staged farce produced by Syrian intelligence and embodied by the intelligence officers of Hezbollah’s army as well as a nationalist party claiming resistance in Saida (Sidon) (i.e. the SSNP), along with some of their assets in the camps of the South, they have carried out a conspiracy intending to ignite the situation in the Palestinian refugee camps, thereby helping the Syrian intelligence and Hezbollah to achieve their wicked aims, as the Assad regime is relieved at the expense of all sides in this conflict within the camps in order to draw attention away from its crimes in Syria.
We warn these factions against falling into the trap of the Syrian regime and Hezbollah. They are exploiting them and realizing their political goals with the blood of their children, and at the expense of the safety of our people in the camps. We call on all sides from the various affiliations to be aware of their intentions and what is being plotted against them.
They should know that the regime in Syria and its arm in Lebanon do not lack the means to achieve their objectives, and they have begun a series of assassinations, bombing, and rocket attacks, through which they wish to shuffle the deck and thereby prolong the life of the tyrannical regime in Syria.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.