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The document was posted on Sept 13, according to SITE, although it was unclear when the guidelines were written by Zawahri, whose messages, based on their content, appear to take weeks to be smuggled out from where he is in hiding.   — File Photo by AFP
The document was posted on Sept 13, according to SITE, although it was unclear when the guidelines were written by Zawahri, whose messages, based on their content, appear to take weeks to be smuggled out from where he is in hiding. — File Photo by AFP

LONDON: Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri has issued his first specific "guidelines for jihad", urging restraint in attacking other Muslim sects and non-Muslims and in starting conflicts in countries where jihadis might find a safe base to promote their ideas.

The document, published by the SITE monitoring service, provides a rare look at al Qaeda's strategy 12 years after the Sept 11 attacks on the United States and the nature of its global ambitions from North Africa to the Caucasus to Kashmir.

While al Qaeda's military aim remained to weaken the United States and Israel, Zawahri stressed the importance of “dawa”, or missionary work, to spread its ideas.

“As far as targeting the proxies of America is concerned, it differs from place to place. The basic principle is to avoid entering into any conflict with them, except in the countries where confronting them becomes inevitable,” he said.

Those comments are particularly relevant for North Africa, where many analysts believe al Qaeda is using the less restrictive environment which followed the 2011 Arab uprisings to seek new followers, often through local alliances, while avoiding drawing attention to itself by eschewing attacks.

“...our struggle is a long one, and jihad is in need of safe bases,” Zawahri said in his “general guidelines for jihad” posted on online forums.

Zawahri spelled out where conflict was inevitable, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Somalia.

In Pakistan, he said fighting “aims at creating a safe haven for the mujahideen in Pakistan, which can then be used as a launching pad for the struggle of establishing an Islamic system...”

Zawahri cited the need to weaken Algeria, which crushed Islamist militants in a civil war in the 1990s, and spread jihadi influence throughout the Maghreb and West Africa.

And in an apparent nod to those who say al Qaeda's focus on the United States weakens their battle against governments at home, he endorsed the right of militants to fight Russians in the Caucasus, Indians in Kashmir and Chinese in Xinjiang.

Avoid attacking other sects

Founded in 1988 during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, al Qaeda has adapted to the Western onslaught against it which followed the Sept 11 attacks by building a network of alliances and affiliates in Muslim countries around the world.

Adept at exploiting conflicts like Afghanistan and Iraq, the Arab uprisings have given al Qaeda a new lease of life, in Syria for example, fighters loyal to al Qaeda play a powerful role in the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.

But its indiscriminate violence, including suicide bombings and targeting of Shia Muslims, has made it unpopular among many Muslims.

Zawahri called on his mainly Salafist followers to avoid attacking other Muslim sects, and said if they were attacked, they should limit their response to those involved in fighting.

They should also leave alone Christians, Hindus and Sikhs living in Muslim lands, respect the lives of women and children and refrain from targeting enemies in mosques, markets and gatherings where they mix with Muslims they were not fighting.

But while affiliates subscribe to al Qaeda's ideology, they are largely autonomous in day-to-day operations, making it hard for Zawahri to control the behaviour of their fighters.

“The biggest theme in Zawahri's document is restraint,” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said on Twitter. “This seems to acknowledge the excesses that have tarnished AQ's brand.”

The document was posted on Sept 13, according to SITE, although it was unclear when the guidelines were written by Zawahri, whose messages, based on their content, appear to take weeks to be smuggled out from where he is in hiding.

Comments (13) Closed

Girish Sep 17, 2013 10:22am

Basically its not change in mind but change in strategy for better changes of achieving their objective i.e Islamization of this world. Every non Muslim must stand and fight for their believe, respect and legacy. Probabily, Muslims have now offically endured their mission objective where as non Muslims are still talking about secularism and law. Hindus, Sikhs and Christians are almost on the verge of complete wipe out in Pakistan and yet no one wants talk about it. Probably its an endorsement that either Muslims are right or non muslims are cowards and fools.

Dixit Sep 17, 2013 10:24am

I see....... they want the terrorist to be selective killers. How can someone be merciless and sensitive at the same time.

Touseef Sep 17, 2013 11:35am

@Girish: Girish they are targeting any one who is against their ideology even other Muslim Sects or even ppl or scholars in their own sects if they differ or as them to observe any form of restrain. These are hired mercenaries nothing to do with religion mate and no one is after any other religion everyone wants to live in peace and with security and respect and I really wish everyone on this earth can have all of that and live according to their beliefs.

Syeda Jafri Sep 17, 2013 12:51pm

@Girish: "Hindus, Sikhs and Christians are almost on the verge of complete wipe out in Pakistan". Really? Talk about facts. Its the shias who are being targetted the most in Pakistan which is also a sect of Islam. Its not about Muslims vs non-muslims. Its about extremism, terrorism vs humanity & peace.

loyal Sep 17, 2013 01:08pm

Girish - What you are seeing in pakistan is result of power struggle in the region where intelligence agencies of quarter of the world are fighting on the soil of pakistan exploiting poverty and religion. Still no where close to "Gujrat Muslim Massacre in India" or "30 years of Muslim's Massacre in Burma by Hindus" not to forget "34 years of Israel oppression of Palestinians muslims" ...and many more around the world...

fairy Sep 17, 2013 01:07pm

@Girish: in pakistan every one is targeted irrespective of relegion. most recently an army general, a Lt colonel and a sepoi were brutally murdered by taliban. all armymen were muslims. dont make it muslim vs non muslim conflict. actions of a group of people do not represent actions of a relegion. according to your logic, if an indian girl was raped by four or five hindus, then all hindus are rapist. if the lawyer of those convisted rapists publicaly called burning her daughter alive for premarital sex then all hinuds will burn thier daughters alive for that. just talk some sense or you are no better than these militants.

kanwaljeet Sep 17, 2013 04:08pm

@fairy: It is true that these monsters are killing muslims also now a days. but it all started mulsim vs non muslims only. Pakistan army created these monsters with the help of US intellignece agencies who has this uncanny habit of poking their nose anywhere and everywhere in the world to keep their so called world domininon. Now pakistan and its army is reaping the fruits of their deeds. Whereever there is a trouble in the world, one party involved is always muslim.

Desi surfie Sep 17, 2013 04:42pm

Where is Mr Zawahiri hiding...Any Gusses:))

ramesh Sep 17, 2013 08:23pm

@Touseef: grt buddy we need people like u more and more who wants to live in peace with all the religions.

Ahmed Sep 18, 2013 06:56pm

@Syeda Jafri: It is a bitter reality that muslim is killing muslim more than other religion people in Pakistan.

Ahmed Sep 18, 2013 07:01pm

@Dixit: Important to note over here is that these Al Qaida and Talibans emerged with their own ideology. But the current situation is even worse. Now there are numerous other small groups which are using Al Qaida name and having their own agendas. They are more brutal then the formers. And the control over those groups is slipping from Al Qaida.

Ahmed Sep 18, 2013 06:59pm

@Girish: Sorry bro but totally an illogical comment. The ground reality is very much different then what you are saying.

Sarwat Sep 19, 2013 07:53am

Too late Mister!!!! You and your cohorts are already hell bound, you guys have murdered thousands of innocent people, when it was not ordained on to you by Allah. Allah created his creatures and you without any authority killed them.