Jihad on the Internet – The Anomalous Case of Abu Jandal al-Azdi

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Note: A version of this article was originally published in 2007 by the Journal for Intelligence, Propaganda and Security Studies. Due to the up-to-date nature of what type of content jihadists create, curate, disseminate and of course share via online (and offline networks), the article is slightly reworked republished here. The work by Faris al-Zahrani, a core member of the first generation of AQAP and it’s electronic da’wa networks that serve as a theological-activist legacy foundation for both AQ and IS, is a valuable cornerstorne in understanding jihadism in their own (Arabic) words. His work is shared on Telegram, sometimes in it’s original release format, sometimes in a more timely package, and his interview for the Sawt al-Jihad is a legend within jihadist circles online. Abu Jandal al-Azdi, as he was known by his nom de guerre, was al-Qa’ida’s editor and a muscle of online jihadi activism as coined by the marvelous Joas Wagemakers, one of the few scholars in the field of jihadism who actively reads Arabic content to make sense of the vast content released by extremist actors & groups.

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(above: 2018 Telegram screenshot of a group conveying English materials to provide da’wa to non-Arabic speakers in the jihadist understanding of pedagogy; this group shared old-AQ and – at the time – new IS materials)

2007: The Internet has become the medium of communication and exchange of information for the Jihadis. In the past years, the Internet has been increasingly used on a very efficient and professional basis. Countless online Jihad communities have come into existence. Not only have a number of online forums been established[1], but there are countless blogs and traditional websites available, which spread and share a broad variety of documents and data in general. Jihadis often refer to the Arabic term isdarat for data, that consists of general publications, videos (suicide bombings and last testimonies, roadside bomb attacks etc.), sermons or general statements and declarations – but also technical information such as bomb-making, weapons guides or chemical crash courses[2]. Over the years the Internet has become a 24-hour online database, where any user with sufficient knowledge of the Web (and some Arabic[3]) is able to access and/or download these isdarat. In an interview with al-Qa’ida’s first online magazine (2003), Sawt al-Jihad (Voice of Jihad), Abu Jandal al-Azdi explains the reasons for these isdarat and states that „these [isdarat] guide the youth of Islam and they [the Mujahidin and their leaders] have published books, statements, audio-files, and videos.”[4] Today the users exchange useful tips and practical hints, discuss ideological and theological issues and allow an insight into their tactics and strategies within the online forums. The usage of the Web has been systematically funneled by the al-Qa’ida cells on the Arabian Peninsula.[5] To provide a short overview on what kind of isdarat are being spread over the Internet here are several categories (letzter Halbsatz unklar-passt es so?)[6], roughly comprising, what I would call world-wide Online Jihad:

  1. Handbooks: Explosives – how to fabricate, how to use (for example RDX, TNT or IED’s and practical tips from battle-tested Mujahidin); Weapon handbooks – nearly all weapons categories are described, such as anti-tank cannons, assault rifles, rockets; ABC weapons – explanations and theoretical discourses; Military handbooks – translated U.S. Army material as well as handbooks designed for urban and guerrilla warfare; Toxins, Assassinations, Intelligence and counterintelligence, etc.
  2. Technical assistance (hard-, and software), using the Internet – essential information such as how to program, design and maintain a web page, how to make videos and what file-hosting-sites are best used (and porn-free) to host these sometimes 1 or 2 GB-size files; Programs, what programs should be used to protect oneself, to conceal the IP address, Firewall, Anti-Virus etc.; another important aspect is the use of PGP, the encryption software, that has led to the development of „ the first Islamic program to communicate secure over networks.”[7]
  3. Ideology – Ranging from statements, letters, books and comments from Osama bin Laden, to very detailed and thoroughly described would-be legal documents (fatwa’s) [8] and documents in general that deal with all kinds of religious or practical justifications and explanations. These sometimes several hundred pages long WORD and/or PDF documents include topics such as „Guiding the Confused on the Permissibility of Killing the Prisoners”[9], referring to the capture of seven Russian police officers in Chechnya who were later executed; the call to join, or a call for Jihad, as written by Abdullah ‘Azzam in his prominent document entitled „ Join the Caravan!”[10] or the writings of al-Maqdisi, who is currently imprisoned in Jordan and who regularly denounces democracy and democratic elections as being un-Islamic and therefore kufr (disbelief)[11], are circulating on the Internet and are being read by mostly those who also are participants (active and passive) in the numerous online forums.

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Shared by AQ groups online 2000s

The Internet has become essential to understand (and identify) the ideology of al-Qa’ida and other radical islamic currents. With the creation of online databases, the ideological documents are now available for everybody. The Jihadis have undertaken the endeavour of digitalising a great deal of writings that played a major role in the 1980s Jihad against the Soviets (Abdullah Azzam) and have influenced a generation of radicalized youth, who then continued this tradition – only this time using laptops and the Internet.

Most authors of ideological documents – as listed above – usually entitle themselves as being a Shaykh, a respected and knowledgeable man, who has either studied at a Islamic university and specialized in sharia law or other fields of Islam, or is being called a Shaykh because of his understanding of Islam. Take Yusuf al-‘Ayiri, the ideological predecessor of Faris az-Zahrani (also known as Abu Jandal al-Azdi) and the first leader of the al-Qa’ida organization in Saudi Arabia. Although he never completed secondary school, he has become one of the best-known and famous authors of Jihad literature. He was killed during a clash with Saudi security forces in 2003, but has since his death attained an even more important role and his writings are influencing those, who are interested to find out more about Jihad through the Internet. His writings consist of works such as „The Ruling on Jihad and its [varying] Classes“, „The Truth about the New Crusader War”, or „The Islamic Ruling on the Permissibility of Self-Sacrificial Operations.“ After his death al-Qa’ida started to publish its second online magazine to commemorate al-‘Ayiri, it was called mu’askar al-battar (the Camp of the Sabre), whose nom du guerre had been al-Battar.

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The Case of Abu Jandal al-Azdi

 

Faris az-Zahrani, known by his alias Abu Jandal al-Azdi is an ideologue whose importance and meaning is not much inferior to al-’Ayiri’s. Both ‘scholars’ have added many important documents that are vital for ideological purposes of al-Qa’ida and are crucial for its survival and propaganda. While al-‘Ayiri reappears regularly on the Internet[12], Faris az-Zahrani is a special case even though he has not been as popular as al-‘Ayiri. Az-Zahrani was arrested in Saudi Arabia in August 2004, „while he was preparing a bomb attack on a cultural centre in the town of Abha, in the south of the Kingdom.“[13] Unlike al-‘Ayiri or most of the wanted Mujahidin and ideologues, az-Zahrani, the number 8 on the list of the 26 most wanted jihadis, is alive, serving a prison sentence and has a university degree[14]. He has become known for having written books and essays such as „Bin Laden: The Reformer of our Times and Defeater of the Americans”[15], his book referring to 9/11 „Allahu akbar – America has been devastated”, or „the Dispute [between] the Sword and the Pen”[16] and for his articles in the Voice of Jihad (such as „Pledge them Loyalty until Death”[17]). Az-Zahrani, whose real name was unknown until the release of the „List of the 26 Most Wanted”[18] by Saudi authorities explains in an interview with the Voice of Jihad his reasons for publishing under the alias Abu Jandal al-Azdi, as he compares himself with other prominent ideologues. Beginning with Osama bin Laden (also known as Abu ‘Abdallah, or Abu Qa’qaa’), he refers to other scholars that publish their work using an alias, „since the Mujahidin and their leaders are at war with the Crusaders, the Jews (America and Britain […]) and their agents, the heretics, who are present in our country.”[19] He goes on by mentioning the works of writers and scholars that are available online and it seems that az-Zahrani has read most, if not all, of their work and concludes „the day will come, you will know who is Abu Jandal al-Azdi – I am begging God for firmness until death.”[20].

al-azdi america has been devastated Cover

Unlike the older scholars, the new generation of radical writers are roaming freely on the Internet, having adapted themselves to modern technology, being able not only to read the huge amounts of must-read Jihad literature, but they do not have to fear being arrested while secretly printing or distributing their writings. In an interview with the Voice of Jihad, az-Zahrani reveals how he used the Internet to publish his work and explains the advantage of the Web. Being asked „well known on the Internet is your beneficial book ‘the Scholar on the Ruling of Killing Individuals and Officers of the Secret Police’, could you briefly tell us about the judicial sharia-ruling [that allows] to target the secret police?”[21], Az-Zahrani informs the reader about the second edition of this „most famous book, that is circulating on the Internet, (…) this book provoked [lots of] good reactions among those seeking knowledge and the youth of Islam, and it also provoked severe reactions from the supporters of the idols [the ruling Saudi family].”[22] Books like these and articles of the Voice of Jihad, as for example „the Urgent Letter to the Soldiers in the Land of the Two Holy Places”[23] led to reactions by Saudi counter-terrorist units. Furthermore az-Zahrani delivers a detailed description how his work stirred up the establishment ‘ulama’, the religious scholars of Saudi Arabia who are loyal to the Saudi ruling family, and reflects about the reaction of several Arabic newspapers after one of his students confronted his professor with this work – and was banned from university. „After five days I met the young man, the agonized innocent, and I asked him whether or not he has returned to his studies, he said no. I told him that I will take his matter to the Minister of Education […]., I withdrew the book from the Internet and gave the Minister of wakf (endowment) a copy […], but we never saw any reaction.”[24] Az-Zahrani concludes the first part of the interview by drawing a direct parallel to al-Maqdisi, who wrote the book „Obvious Disclosures of the Disbelief of the Saudi State”[25]. What had been the case with al-Maqdisi happened to az-Zahrani: both had published books using an alias, both attacked the Saudi system and the ruling family, denouncing them as being unbelievers, heretics, stressing that it is the fault of the Saudis, that Americans and Westerners are in the holiest country of Islam and both sparked public debates lead by the establishment ‘ulama’ on national TV.

The capture of az-Zahrani has been a vital blow against al-Qa’ida in Saudi Arabia, just a few months after the death of the newly appointed third leader ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Muqrin; the organization lost their leading ideologue as well. Immediately after his arrest, the Voice of Jihad published a „Statement regarding the Capture of Abu Salman Faris az-Zahrani,”[26] clearly defining what may best be termed as re-enacting prophecy.

Re-enacting Prophecy – re-enacting Moses and the Game of the Pharaohs”

 

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For Jihadis life is full of temptation (fitna) and trials (ibtila’) set by God and only those who are true believers can resist these temptations, remain focused and concentrated on the main objective of human existence – the service of God, Him alone (‘tawhid’). The battle is on against a system of disbelief and heresy, notably led by the U.S. with the help of their agents within the Islamic world, whereas the members of the ruling clan of the Saud family are nothing less than agents of the West. This notion is part of a widespread rhetoric in Jihad literature. Therefore the perception of being imprisoned by Saudi authorities means to be imprisoned by the worldwide system of disbelief, whereas the God fearing, righteous Muslim is suddenly subdued, his belief is endangered and will be tested. The „Statement regarding the Capture” starts with the declaration that „captivity is a milestone of the marks of the path”[27] and „a form of the test, by which God wants to trial the believers and is a ruse of the unbelievers, just as God says: “And when those who disbelieve plot against thee (O Muhammad) to wound thee fatally, or to kill thee or to drive thee forth; they plot, but Allah (also) plotteth; and Allah is the best of plotters.”[28] The statement continues by directly comparing the situation of the Muhjahidin today with Moses, who was sent by God to the Pharaoh and who was – just like the Mujahidin in their perception – persecuted and imprisoned by the infidel ruler. To underline their argument, several verses of the Quran are being cited. Unusual is the fact that most of these verses are taken from the surat ash-shu’ara’ (the Poets), that narrates the stories of the Prophets Moses, Abraham, Noah, Hud, Salih and others. Just like the Mujahidin, Moses was first tempted in prison, then later publicly contested – and beat the Pharaoh by his unique arguments and his ability to counter the magic deployed by the magicians summoned by the Pharaoh.[29] By this he won over the people and the magicians , who subsequently recognized that Moses was sent by God and recognized that Pharaoh is not their Lord and his Gods have proven wrong.[30] This notion probably prospered when the Saudi „government, under pressure because of the violence[31], apparently tried to appease the Jihadis by offering an amnesty period of one month (June – July 2004).”[32] Now, just like the interaction of Pharaoh and Moses, the ruling system, deemed infidel, invited the opponents, the Mujahidin, fighting on the „path of God” to – just like Moses – be opposed by the rulers who activated „specific heraldries, having been able to mobilize armies from their available soldiers (magicians, scholars, authors, journalists and the general media).”[33] If the majority of the Mujahidin and their scholars accepted this amnesty, then they would have been imprisoned because the ruler is aware that he cannot defeat the „arguments of truth” and would thus publicly display his flaws. Since the rulers are aware of that, according to az-Zahrani, there cannot „be a true dialogue with the People of the Truth (= the Mujahidin),” for they, the Saudi government, are „incapable to give answers to the questions by the free Mujahidin […] published on their websites and elsewhere.” The questions are for example:

„What is the ruling on the rulers who do not judge based on what God has revealed (…); what is the ruling on the rulers who decide, based on the laws of disbelief and idolatry, instead of what God has ruled; what is the ruling on the rulers, who permit the inviolable and have forbidden the permissible; what is the ruling on the rulers that wage war on God, His messenger and the believers, using different kinds of techniques, [such means as] enticement and terror; what is the ruling on the rulers that keep the peoples away from the religion of God?”

These questions have not been answered by the Saudi regime. Radical ideologues like az-Zahrani claim to be the bearer of truth with their attacks on the regime, stating that „whoever does not do what they [the Saud family] want, then they will place him in their prisons, and they will torture him, and they will say there is no dialogue with such people except with the rifle and the sword.” The question is not co-existence, but to remove the ungodly ruler and (re-) establish an Islamic caliphate on the Arabian Peninsula, implying the rule of God, the sharia and thus allowing all Muslims, all believers the right path, defined by the strict exegesis of Quran and Sunna. The constant comparison to Moses and the Pharaoh is an ancient comparison to modern times – obeying the ruler and denouncing belief, or resisting the ruler and be imprisoned. And just as Pharaoh had assembled his „magicians”, so will the rulers of Saudi Arabia gather their „magicians” to fight an inevitable battle with the Mujahidin, who will like Moses remain steadfast and resolve this battle victorious.

Quranic verses, taken out of their context and placed to underline the arguments such as 26:29: [Pharao said] „If thou choosest a god other than me, I assuredly shall place thee among the prisoners”, re-affirm the reader (and the writer) of their holy mission, that they cannot be misguided and are struggling not only for the truth but a greater good, namely the Islamic umma. According to al-Zahrani, the „phenomenon of the Pharaoh” is present at all times, throughout history of mankind – manifested by the rule of the Al Saud (Saudi family) on the Arabian Peninsula, the birthplace of Islam. With their writings, ideologues such as Faris az-Zahrani consolidate the conviction of certain circles, that the near enemies, the governments in the Arabic countries are kept alive by the West, if it serves the interest of the West and rule their people not only in a un-Islamic manner but do not tolerate any form of freedom.[34] And freedom for hard-core ideologues like az-Zahrani and others means that their interpretation of the religion of God must be applied.

What has been written about imprisonment, torture, arbitrary use of power, etc, by certain regimes in the Middle East may be true; the mixture of frustration and the obligatory identification of a scapegoat combined with the Islamists conviction that their understanding of Islam is the only permissible school of thought (for all of mankind) has become an attractive alternative to many younger people, not only living in the Middle East.

2020 Does the writings by al-Zahrani / al-Azdi still matter?

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Writings released 2014/5 featured in the context of writings by al-Azdi, having penned “advice to the soldier” whereas 2014/5 IS took this right up to issue a clear (based on AQAP generation output) “ruling in regards of the soldier of the taghut”;

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and al-Azdi’s scholarly framed “ruling on killing individuals and soldiers of the secret police”;

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and of course the now intensified cross-platform use: IS January 2020 advising to get know al-Azdi using old links (up since 2015) via TamTam.

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[1] Most of these forums, which are sometimes falsely described as chat-rooms, are online for several years now. Some of these forums have vanished, others have always been re-established after having been shut down by either authorities, or, as we can observe these days, by individuals who undertake counter-cyberjihadist measures. See for example: http://www.washingtontimes.com/article/20071010/NATION/110100083.

[2] There is countless data on the web – especially in the forums issues such as bomb-making or tips for snipers are being discussed. Sometimes Mujahidin share their field knowledge and sometimes users simply seek the know-how.

[3] The main forums are all Arabic, but forums in other languages (English, Turkish, Russian etc.) are available. The Jihad videos are also sometimes subtitled and quite a few documents have been translated by „brothers of the translation department” into English.

[4] sawt al-jihad number 11, 17.

[5] Al-Qa’ida is subdivided in several organizations (tanzim), each having a specific name, identifying the area of operation; tanzim al-Qa’ida fi-jazirat al-‘arab is the official name for those cells operating on the Arabian Peninsula. Commented translations of all statements and memoranda made by al-Qa’ida on the Arabian Peninsula: Nico Prucha, Die Stimme des Dschihad – al-Qa’ida’s erstes online Magazin (thesis soon to be published).

[6] These few categories shown here as an example, serve to manage and keep track of the loads of growing downloadable data.

[7] This program, called „the Secrets of the Mujahiden” (asrar al-mujahidin), was published online in the forums and has received some attention on the Internet. This program, written by the „Technical Squadron” of the GIMF, the Global Islamic Media Front, is designed to be a secure method of communicating over the Internet, for „al-Qa’ida worldwide, for the Islamic State Iraq, Ansar as-Sunna (…)”, even for the „Islamic Army of Palestine” and the Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat – the GSPC that officially became the Organization al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb. More prominent is a handbook called „the technical mujahid” (al-mujahid at-tiqqani), that gives a detailed description how to use PGP encryption software (chapter 4), how to hide data within JPEG pictures (chapter 1) and how to fire smart weapons, shoulder-fired rockets at U.S. Army helicopters (chapter 3). For a good insight on the manual: Abdul Hameed Bakier, The New Issue of Technical Mujahid, a Training Manual for Jihadis, Terrorism Monitor, March 29, 2007, http://jamestown.org/news_details.php?news_id=232 (09.10.2007).

[8] Islamic legal documents, issued by the ‘ulama’ (religious scholars). Since al-Qa’ida doesn’t recognize the Saudi ‘ulama’, al-Qa’ida ideologues issue their own fatwa’s, denouncing the Saudi ‘ulama’ as ungodly and therefore claiming to be responsible for the guidance of the Islamic community.

[9] Yusuf Al-Ayiri, Al-hadayat al-hiyara fi-juwaz qatl al-asara – for a description of the writings of this prominent al-Qa’ida ideologue: Roel Meijer, „Re-Reading al-Qaeda Writings of Yusuf al-Ayiri, http://www.isim.nl/files/Review_18/Review_18-16.pdf.

[10] Abdallah Azzam, Ilhaq al-qafila, http://tawhed.ws/r?i=1600 – a detailed commented translation of his article „ Join the Caravan” is provided by Thomas Hegghammer in Al-Qaida Texte des Terrors, ed. Gilles Kepel and Jean P. Milelli (Munich: Piper, 2006), 193-212.

[11] For example: „Useful answers regarding parliamentary participation and it’s election [that are] contradicting the unity of God” (p.10-25) – taken from the „ Fatwa-Collection by Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi.”

[12] In most forums a new file (19.10.2007) had been posted and ready to be downloaded – a 440 MB-data compilation that comprises al-Ayiri’s writings and speeches, as well the writings of other prominent al-Qa’ida activists (e.g. al-Muqrin) that had been killed by Saudi security forces.

[13] Roel Meijer, The ‘Cycle of Contention’ and the Limits of Terrorism in Saudi Arabia, in Saudi Arabia in the Balance: Political Economy, Society, Foreign Affairs, ed. Paul Aarts and Gerd Nonneman (London: Hurst and Company, 2005), 271-314.

[14] According to Stephen Ulph, „ he was highly trained in fiqh [Islamic jurisprudence] and was a graduate of the Shari’ah College of Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University’s Abha branch.” Stephen Ulph,  Al-Qaeda’s Ideological Hemorrhage, The Jamestown Foundation, http://jamestown.org/terrorism/news/article.php?articleid=2368409.

[15] For a description of this work: Reuven Paz, Sawt al-Jihad: New Indoctrination of Qa’idat al-jihad, PRISM Series of Global Jihad, No. 8, http://www.e-prism.org/images/PRISM_no_8.doc.

[16] http://tawhed.ws/a?i=9 – a list of most of his publications.

[17] Sawt al-Jihad Number 13, 16-18.

[18] http://www.saudiembassy.net/documents/Wanted%20Poster.pdf.

[19] Sawt al-Jihad number 10, 23.

[20] Ibid.

[21] The intention is of the interviewer is the receive a clear statement by the scholar az-Zahrani, based on the Islamic corpus juris, that allows to actively combat the Saudi authorities, especially it’s agents of the secret police and also the common soldier.

[22] Sawt al-Jihad number 10, 26.

[23] Sawt al-Jihad number 16, 21-26 defines the soldiers in the service of the authorities as being apostates (murtadin), who are being used by the Saudi government and the Crusaders as executioners. „ If you do not obey those [Saudi] ‘ulama in resisting God, there is no doubt that you are not just guilty of disobedience [to God], but of apostasy from Islam (…). You are not assisting the Crusaders in a few words, you have assisted them by yourselves (…), why don’t the Crusaders come by themselves to kill the Mujahidin!!!”

[24] Sawt al-Jihad number 10, 26.

[25] http://tawhed.ws/r?i=2

[26] Sawt al-Jihad number 22, 5-6.

[27] Referring to the work Milestones by Sayyid Qutb (ma’alim fi-t tariq).

[28] Quran 8:30, translation by Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall, http://www.sacred-texts.com/isl/pick/index.htm.

[29] Quran 26:30-38 (Pickthall).

[30] Quran 8:50(Pickthall).

[31] In 2004 the Jihadis had targeted several Western oil companies and killed five Western workers in the Red Sea city of Yanbu.

[32] Al-Rasheed, Contesting the Saudi State Islamic Voices from a New Generation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 190.

[33] Abu Jandal Al-Azdi, A Program We won’t show you except what the Al Sa’ud perceives and the Al Sa’ud doesn’t Guide you to anything else than to the Path of Reason, http://tawhed.ws/r?i=1823. This document is also known by the title the Game of the Pharaohs.

[34] A common theme in the jihadi literature, and thoroughly described in “The Statement of the Mujahidin on the Arabian Peninsula concerning the last declarations of the [Saudi] Ministry of the Interior” that calls for the fight against the rulers as being a jihad for freedom, against tyranny and oppression; Sawt al-Jihad number 2, 33-35.

Theological drivers of online ghazwat and the media mujahidin

Exclusive for the supporters (message on Telegram)
Text reads:
#exclusive for the supporters (munasireen) and companions (ashab) of the raids (al-ghazawat) on #platforms of social media: More than 500 links to electronic releases (isdarat) of the Islamic state that are not eligible for #deletion by the will of god, we ask god to anger the kuffar, the apostates, the hypocrites. These links by the will of god do not get deleted all the while these will help the munasireen in their raids of social media platforms. Share and deem the reward (ajr) and we advise you [to place these links] in the comment section on YouTube. We warn you after placing your trust in god to use a VPN and to ensure to enforce technical security measures for the protection for the raiders on the social media sites. (raiders in Arabic is stated as ashab of the raids). We will continuously renew [this collection of links protected from removal] until we have more than 1000 links, god willing Experiment with the links, share them and reap your reward.
The release of this collection of ‘500 links’ through pastethis.to highlights the theological underpinning of the actions taken by the media mujahidin. This includes:
  • The nature of rewards in the Jihadist belief system.
    • Theological underpinning – reaping your reward, ajr
    • Murabitin, Ghazwat and the Ribat.
    • Jihad – Media – Activism – Militancy – Documenting the Struggle Online to Influence Target Audiences
    • Isdarat – the groundwork of Online Jihad by AQAP, first generation
  • The different roles platforms play within the ecosystem.
  • The role of the website jihadology within the jihadist ecosystem.

Rewards in the Jihadist Belief-System

“Conveyed by ‘Ali, may god be pleased with him: “whoever inspires his brother to jihad will be rewarded likewise upon every step of this endeavor of the worship of the Sunna.”
Cited by Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, “Join the Caravane”, January 4, 2004, citing in length ‘Abdallah ‘Azzam’s “Join the Caravane”, referenced furthermore in jihadist literature to historical scholar Ibn Nahhas.
To give readers a deeper nuanced insight into the above statement issued on Telegram, we will decipher a few keywords / concepts that are in most cases absolutely clear and easily understood when issued by Arabic native speakers, born as Sunni Muslims, to their core target audience: Arabic native speakers, born as Sunni Muslims. The message was transmitted across the Jihadi Telegram network. Jihadists are religious people (if we like it or not) who over the past 40 years have been prolific writers to craft a specific theology. The theology of Islamic State (IS), al-Qaeda (AQ) and any other Sunni extremist groups, is based on Arabic-language religious scriptures, not just Qur’an and Sunna, but also references elements of the rich 1,400-year long tradition of Islamic writings. Yet, as penned by Rüdiger Lohlker, there is a lack of willingness to deal with the writings and motivations of jihadist subcultures and their inherent theology. The term theology is provocative, referring to the specific type of rhetoric and thinking regarding the relationship between humans and god. While it may be comforting for some to describe al-Baghdadi as ‘monstrous’, or a female follower as a ‘witch’, academic study can make greater progress if focusing less on the moral outrage and instead focusing on how Sunni extremists actually articulate, pitch, and project their messages.[i] Within the ecosystem of jihadist writings, including historical authors that matter for modern jihadist groups, many theological concepts are identifiable – if you are able, and so inclined, to read the easy findable electronic PDFs. With the apparent inability to read basic Arabic jihadist texts or fully understand videos (which are 99% in Arabic in the case of IS), the majority of keywords and textual content remains behind a veil. Conversely, for any Arabic reader versed in Arabic-language jihadist writings, the speeches, audios, images and videos they produce clearly contain key theological concepts. Similarly, for those with an understanding of the socio-cultural context of the intended audience, even the non-Arabic language products have a clear theological meaning. Unfortunately, these theological concepts have passed largely unnoticed in the pop-science analysis of English-only magazines such as AQ’s Inspire, Dawlat al-Islamiyah’s Dabiq and the multi-lingual Rumiyya dominates the ‘research’ output have created an absolute win-win situation for Jihadist groups. With the neglect to either treat Arabic language extremist sources as primary data[ii] or entering it into evidence to relate the use of language for non-Arabic IS products, Sunni extremist propaganda (including the pro-jihadist ‘salafist’ materials) targeting a non-Arab(ic) audience, attacking open, inclusive societies, continues without much interruption. Hardcore texts of violence include lengthy citations, textual references and include sources of Qur’an and Sunna used by contemporary ‘Salafist’ text books projected via the Internet in respective languages into European societies. The art of the jihadist pen, or “scholars of jihad”, as extremist scholars of this subculture refer to themselves, is to express a coherent theology, referencing historical authors such as Ibn Taymiyya or Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, and to embed citations or references to Qur’an and Sunna. With the establishment of over 300,000 pages of Arabic text since the 1980s, all available online if you know where to look يا لغوي, jihadists have developed a specific hermeneutical reading of scripture and project their actions as the active application of what is defined in writing as divine law, the will of god, the commandments, absolute rulings that must be enforced to be a ‘pious believer’ – and be eligible for paradise. Texts authored by the “scholars of jihad” include references and citations of linguist dictionaries such as Lisan al-Arab, tafsir works and sometimes ridicule religious curricula taught in MENA schools claiming the references of jihad (for example) are either omitted or taught in a wrongful way. In order to understand groups such as IS, you must be literate in Arabic and be able to comprehend the propaganda that is often well versed in religious references and sources – this is the habitus that extremist groups exploit to address their primary, single most important key target audience: Arab native speakers.
Religious extremists have no easy, cozy relationship with an intervening deity that to them is real, this is not limited of course to this context. For religious extremists in general, the relationship to god is personal and intimately – while socially re-enforced based on human interpreted divine commandments etc. How most of the intended audience orders their reality is that;
  • an intervening deity is real,
  • articulated in the jihadist framework, this is a world they pass through, referencing an authentic hadith,
  • after this world they hope their actions will be deemed such that the intervening deity permits them entrance to paradise, reference – among many – i.e. Qur’an 3:169.
Hence statements of those either passively ‘martyred’ by air strikes, or during combat when not having actively sought it, as well as the istishhadi operatives, suicide or ‘martyrdom’ bombers who deliver their explosives actively to their targets, are often introduced by Qur’an 3:169:
“Think not of those, who are slain in the path of God, as dead. Rather, they are alive with their Lord, they are bestowed with provision.”[iii]
This mind-set is further sanctioned by citing Qur’an 2:154, to back up the above statement:
“Do not say that those who are killed in God’s cause are dead; they are alive, though you do not realize it.”[iv]
The stories of ‘martyrs’ enable the narrator to present the individual as a ‘true’ Muslim who indeed lived, fought, and sacrificed for implantation of the divine definition as set in Qur’an, 3:146 to widen the conviction of “being alive with God” in the afterlife (akhira):
“Many prophets have fought, with large bands of godly men alongside them who, in the face of their suffering for God’s cause, did not lose heart or weaken or surrender: God loves those who are steadfast.”[v]
The jihadist, in his self-perception, is part of “bands of godly men” and as such have remained steadfast, reluctant of their own physical safety or lives – after all, humans are tested by god in this world to decide who will be rewarded in what way in the next world. Furthermore, the jihadist sources emphasize that individual believers are expected to have “spent” their lives and their wealth “on the path of God”. Qur’an 9:111 is cited to provide an alleged theological and judicial framework:
“God has purchased the persons and possessions of the believers in return for the Garden – they fight in God’s way: they kill and are killed – this is a true promise given by Him in the Torah, the Gospel, and the Qur’an. Who could be more faithful to his promise than God? So be happy with the bargain you have made: that is the supreme triumph.”[vi]
Many of the theological distinctions come in deciding which actions will gain ajr – a form of reward – and which will not, i.e. lead to “sin” or tribulations. A shared broad mental construct, and socio-cultural context is laid out in the religious coded, Arabic language corpus of jihad – the distinction comes from how one must behave to obtain reward, which may subsequently cause you to be permitted entrance to paradise. Thus, from a linguist perspective, the jihadist language is clear and easy to comprehend. Osama bin Laden was killed in May 2011, most Sunni jihadist groups had been quick to issue statements ensuring that bin Laden was a human (and not a prophet or the like), having invested his life for the worship of god by his actions and sacrifice. Following a classical jihadi-lingual ductus, he was referred to as “the shaykh, the martyr – as we deem him to be – Osama bin Laden.”[vii] In other releases, i.e. the death of Hamud b. ‘Uqla’ al-Shu’aybi, died in late 2001 and having been cited by bin Laden but also having had an important influence on Saudi jihadists of the 2000s, the full reference of the martyr in this framing is expressed: “we deem him to be a martyr, god is the measure of all things” (al-Jarbu’, 2002, shared in AQ forums as word document at the time). This wording was later used throughout the 1500 page strong The Voice of Jihad AQ magazine to refer to their members who had been ‘martyred’. Steadfastness is another way of earning ajr, and is an integral element of jihadist literature and videos. Steadfastness is the expression of maintaining a sincere intention towards god, as your actions of this world in the service for god will be judged to determine your status, reward, in the afterlife.

Theological underpinning – reaping your reward, ajr

“Reward”, or ajr in Arabic, in the mindset of modern jihadist groups and thinkers, however, is based on the ancient understanding thereof and is two-fold:
  • The reward must be earned based on one’s deeds and actions for god in this world to be eligible to enter paradise after death. This is one of the main literal elements of the textual corpus of jihad. As for jihadists, jihad means an active form of worshipping and serving god, with a sincere intention, driven to fight for the protection, revenge or for the security of the jama’a ahl al-sunna; reward is earned along this way in this world with death as the new stage of life in mind. Hence popular slogans of this subculture, expressed in writings and placed in active application in many of its audio-visual releases, embody this with further theological reference points. A popular propaganda-slogan thus states that the Mujahid seeks one of the two most precious things (al-husayn): victory (nasr) or attaining the shahada, exiting this world and dwelling in paradise. This is a citation of Qur’an 9:52 and used by al-Zarqawi in the beheading video of Olin “Jack” Armstrong in 2004. The Chechen hostage takers of the musical Nord Ost in Moscow in 2002 also put up a black banner on the wall, reading in Arabic the Islamic shahada complemented by allahu akbar and ihda l-husnayyin, the reference to Qur’an 9:52. IS used this slogan, for example, in the last videos that had emerged from Mosul before the fall, framing the expected reward despite worldly – or physical loss – as a win for what comes after life in the conviction of humans who see themselves as enablers of divinity.
  • Reward is also a historical reference to the physical world that early Muslims obtained as a result of raiding the caravans of the Quraish. The “spoils” or “booty of war” are filled with Qur’anic references to surat al-Anfal and surat al-Tawba. A physical reward thus is based on receiving a share of the “spoils of war”, often referred to as in Arabic as ghanima. Yet jihadists warn of focusing on the potential to make ghanima through jihad, rather than having a sincere intention.
A 2003 article in “The Voice of Jihad”, the first regular electronic magazine released online by AQ on the Arab Peninsula, warns of prioritizing “taking ghanima as reward of one’s jihad”, thus neglecting a complete understanding of the concept of jihad and the spoils of war by omitting “when raiders take ghanima a third is their reward.” The article continues: “the ahadith provide clear evidence whoever seeks to embark on his jihad solely for the purpose of gaining worldly presentation, will not receive any ajr.”[viii] The reference of ajr in this context is strictly related to what the Mujahid, having a sincere intention, will receive when killed. This hadith is also used by ‘Abdallah ‘Azzam in his “Declaration of Jihad” and further contextualized with another hadith sources: “Conveyed by al-Nisa’i based on a stable isnad[ix] by Abu Usama who said: “a man came to the prophet, peace and blessings upon him, he said: “have you [ever] seen a man raiding looking for ajr, thinking about financial gain?” The messenger of god, peace and blessings upon him said: “god will not acknowledge anyone [as a martyr] except those who are pure and sincere in their desire.”[x]
Ajr: Rewards in the afterlife for deeds and actions in this world, a jihadist Telegram channel member asking for reward for his Jaysh al-‘Izza brethren for having slain mercenaries, for their jihad and to receive their martyrs. The reward is also contingent on the context in which action is taken. Anwar al-Awlaki described in Allah is Preparing Us for Victory, when times are hard, the reward for taking action is increased. If it comes at a time when things are easy then the ajr is reduced. But if the time is one of difficulty, then the ajr is increased. Ajr is in accordance to the difficulty. Comprehending the meaning and importance of ajr within the Jihadi understanding, shows that claims in Western commentary that ISIS seeks to pursue a ‘utopian project’ or present a ‘utopian narrative’ are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of jihad. It is life on the ribat that is the life revered by the jihadist movement. The reward they seek is ajr, which, if sufficient, may permit access to janna.
Murabitin In his chapter on the virtues of life on the ribat, Ibn-Nahas highlights why behavior on the ribat is among the best livelihoods. Abu Hurairah narrated, the messenger of god said: “Among the best livelihoods of people is that of a man holding the rein of his horse in the path of Allah, flying on its back whenever he hears the call. He flies in search of killing or being killed. And a man on top of a mountain peak or on the bottom of a deep valley, establishing prayers, paying his zakah, and worshiping his Lord until death visits him. People see nothing from him but good.” Those who spend the night on the ribat are murabitin. The image of murabit on the classical ribat is important to the understanding of the identity and approach of the media mujihidin today, as it is the self-image of those on the electronic ribat. As noted: Murabita, according to the British Orientalist, translator and lexicographer, Edward Lane, “also signifies a company of warriors; or of men warring against an enemy; or a company of men having their horses tied at the frontier in preparation for the enemy; or keeping post on the frontier; and in like manner”.[xi] To translate and conceptualise the Arabic term ribat can be very contentious. The term is frequently referred to in both jihadist videos and in print / online literature in the context of religiously permissible warfare; in a modern meaning it could loosely be translated as “front”. Ribat is prominent due to its reference in the 60th verse of the eight chapter of the Qur’an, the Surat al-Anfal (“the Spoils of War”). It is often used to legitimize acts of war and among others found in bomb making handbooks or as part of purported theological justification in relation to suicide operations – for decades. Extremists consider the clause as a divine command stipulating military preparation to wage jihad as part of a broader understanding of “religious service” on the “path of god.” Ribat as it appears in the Qur’an is referenced in the context of “steeds of war” (ribat al-khayl) that must be kept ready at all times for war and hence remain “tied”, mostly in the Islamic world’s historic border regions or contested areas. In order to “strike terror into [the hearts of] the enemies of Allah”, these “steeds of war” are to be unleashed for military purposes and mounted (murabit – also a sense of being garrisoned) by the Mujahidin. The relevant section reads: “Prepare against them whatever forces you [believers] can muster, including warhorses,[xii] to frighten off [these] enemies of God and of your, and warn others unknown to you but known to God. Whatever you give in God’s cause will be repaid to you in full, and you will not be wronged,” Qur’an 8:60. Ribat Ribat has two main aspects in contemporary jihadist thinking. First, the complete 60th verse of the Qur’an is often stated in introductions to various ideological and military handbooks or videos. While some videos issue ribat in connection with various weapons and the alleged divine command in the jihadist reading thereof. As the real-world fighting Mujahidin are considered “strangers” (ghuraba’) in this world fighting at the very edge of worldly perception, thus being ‘mounted’ at the front (ribat) and the borders (thughur), the background networks of the ‘media Mujahidin’ must be accredited likewise. Thus, in the past fifteen years, ribat has migrated and expanded into the virtual “front”, as the murabit who is partaking in the media work has been equated with the actual Mujahid fighting at the frontlines. In a similar understanding, the physical “frontier” or “border” has shifted to the ‘arm-chair jihadists’, the professional media teams embedded with fighting units as well as the global network of media supporters as the value of the media jihad is understood and used on a tactical and strategic level by militants to further their cause.
Ghazwa The advantage exploited by the muribiteen in early Islamic history is the ability to move rapidly, have a heavy impact on the target, and move on. This is encapsulated by the concept of Ghazwa (غزوة), a raid or expedition.[xiii] Jihadist groups around the world have used the word to describe their physical operations such as “ghazwat al-asir”, a campaign by the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) to avenge the imprisonment of Muslims.[xiv] In 2006, IED attacks in Bouzareh near Algiers, was valorised as “Ghazwa Bushawi” by the “the Media Council of the Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat” before the group merged with AQIM.[xv] Today these raids occur on online, Channels on Telegram act as coordination points through which these raids are organised. In one approach, Jihadi groups post the time and target for the raid that day. They provide supporters with pre-prepared tweets or URL which supporters can copy and post directly onto platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.[xvi] These raids seek to cause sudden spikes in activity to spread their message broadly, there is no attempt at permanence as they know the accounts they use will be removed. In fact, they plan for it. Just as the self-image of horse backed warrior, the users in the online ghazwa arrive suddenly, have an impact but do not intend to stay around. A longer discussion of these concepts appears in: Ali Fisher, Netwar in Cyberia

Jihad – Media – Activism – Militancy – Documenting the Struggle Online to Influence Target Audiences

Incitement to jihad is well established within the online dominions, where media activism can be achieved from any place, in- or outside of conflict zones. With a ring of decentralized media workers supporting those who are ‘embedded’ with fighting elements, the jihadi media has in the past two decades greatly improved in providing professional made videos and writings from real-life combat zones for computer-, tablet-, smartphone-, and television-screens throughout the world. The ‘media mujahid’ as a role model promotes those ‘embedded’ front-line cameramen in particular, without whom the quality and quantity of jihad groups worldwide would not have a lasting impact or relevance. In the jihadists’ self perception, the;
“media [worker] has become a martyrdom operative without an explosives belt, for they are entitled to these merits [of jihad]. Furthermore, haven’t you seen how the cameramen handle the camera instead of carrying Kalashnikovs, running in front of the soldiers during attacks, defying death by exposing their chests to the hails of bullets!?’[xvii]
Rather, the media worker in the field has turned into a role model of adoration just like any hardcore fighter or martyrdom operative, and is portrayed by the jihadi media likewise and accredited as an istishhadi, as someone who actively has sought out and attained the shahada. The wish to become a martyr, having a “clear intention” (as described above) as proof of their piety and their loyalty to god, being ‘true’ practitioners of Islam expecting compensation in the afterlife. This powerful new role model is backed by the accreditation of the value of the quantitative and qualitative online propaganda:
“Haven’t you seen the cells responsible for expanding the electronic media files (isdarat), how they enter the most dangerous and most fortified areas and how they disseminate the isdarat of the Mujahideen in the heartlands of the hypocrites (munafiqin)!?”[xviii]
Media workers, on the other hand who are not directly embedded with fighting units, are not of lesser importance. For they ensure the process, editing, the layout, translating and subsequent publication.

Isdarat – the groundwork of Online Jihad by AQAP, first generation

Since the early 2000s with the first generation of AQAP being active in Saudi Arabia while ISI used the power vacuum in Iraq, the Internet has become the medium of communication and exchange of information for Jihadis. In that time, the Internet has been increasingly used on a very efficient and professional basis. Countless online Jihad communities had come into existence. Not only have a number of online forums been established, but there had been (and still are to a certain extend) blogs and traditional websites available, which spread and share a broad variety of documents and data in general. Jihadis often refer to the Arabic term isdarat for data, that consists of general publications, videos (suicide bombings and last testimonies, roadside bomb attacks etc.), sermons or general statements and declarations – but also technical information such as bomb-making, weapons guides or chemical crash courses. Since the early 2000s the Internet has become a 24-hour online database, where any user with sufficient knowledge of the Web (and Arabic) is able to access, understand and/or download these isdarat. In an interview with al-Qa’ida’s first online magazine (2003), Sawt al-Jihad (Voice of Jihad), Abu Jandal al-Azdi explains the reasons for these isdarat and states that „these [isdarat] guide the youth of Islam and they [the Mujahidin and their leaders] have published books, statements, audio-files, and videos.”[xix] Today the users exchange useful tips and practical hints, discuss ideological and theological issues and allow an insight into their tactics and strategies within the online forums. The usage of the Web has been systematically funneled by the al-Qa’ida cells on the Arabian Peninsula and provided the framework for extensive online operations as of writing (2019). Isdarat was also the name of one of the most prominent early IS websites. It has been a website and telegram channel where users could access the content. For IS, with the changing circumstances of being able to mainstream “jihad” more due to the acquisition of territory on an unprecedented level, videos are a key element to convey what AQ projected in writings in a more compelling audio-visual format.

The different roles platforms play within the ecosystem.

Websites such as Isdarat, exist within an ecosystem of content stores, aggregators and beacons. Since the emergence of the media mujahidin on social media in 2013, the different elements have formed part of a multi-platform zeitgeist. Likewise, the telegram post (above) shows how the interconnectivity between platforms continues to allow jihadi groups to share information and avoid disruption on social media and the surface web.
The message is shared on Telegram (beacon), directing users to Pastethis.to which functions as the aggregator for the links. The aggregator gives the location of each individual file (or content store). Traffic between platforms can be harder to locate because often all that is visible on the aggregator is the URL rather than the actual content. The PasteThis.to page contained a list of video titles and URL where these are stored. In this case the content store is most often Videopress or WordPress, with many of these originally posted on Jihadology.

Jihadology in the ecosystem of online jihad

Analysis of the URL made available via the Pastethis.to pages, shows a clear tendency toward using particular content stores.
Domains in URL shared on Pastethis.to
Advertised as unlikely to be removed, the most common links lead to Videopress. Videopress is notable for being used by Jihadology to store material. As discussed previously, the videos are not only accessible via the site but via the underlying videopress URL which opens the video in a browser rather than on the site. Having located the underlying videopress URL jihadi sympathizers are able to share the location of the content via the aggregator, benefiting from the stability of content posted on Jihadology, but without the user having to visit the site.
Sub-domains in URL shared on Pastethis.to
Similarly, where subdomains appear in the URL, the most common subdomain is azelin.files, followed by videos.files. This image shows how the videopress link which was shared on pastethis.to can be found in the source code for Jihadology.
URL in Jihadology source code
This is not a one-off example, another aggregator (still available using Google cache) shows an audio file available via the azelin.files subdomain.
Now deleted aggregator accessed via google cache
While the other links are dead (apart from the archive.org) content posted on Jihadology and hosted on WordPress is still available. The Pastethis.to aggregator, features the video No Respite. The shortcode used in the aggregator is the same as the one available via Jihadology.
This video is also notable as Abdul Hamid was arrested … “after he posted a four-minute-long Isis propaganda video called No Respite”, which was viewed more than 400 times on his Facebook page”. Hamid subsequently “pleaded guilty to disseminating a terrorist publication” according to the Evening Standard.

Conclusion

Analysis of this release has shown,
  1. The theological underpinning of the actions taken by the media mujahidin, and the theological aspects cannot be separated from their strategy. They are integral parts of jihadi thought and cannot be treated as window dressing to be stripped away at the whim of Western researchers.
  2. The persistent presence of the Swarmcast is in part due to the agility of the media mujahidin. They use a diverse range of platforms and share the location of specific content stores via beacons and aggregators.
  3. The Jihadology website, as shown previously, is exploited within the jihadist ecosystem as a content store. URL of the videos are extracted from the site to be shared with jihadi sympathizers. These links are shared in such a way that the video plays in the browser rather than on the site – ensuring the individual accesses the content in a Jihadi context.

Notes:

[i] Rüdiger Lohlker, Theologie der Gewalt. Das Beispiel IS, Facultas: Vienna, 2016. [ii] Baart Schuuhrman, Terrorism studies and the struggle for primary data, November 5, 2018, https://www.sv.uio.no/c-rex/english/news-and-events/right-now/terrorism-studies-and-the-struggle-for-primary-dat.html [iii] All following verses of the Quran are quotations of: Muhammad A. S. Abdel-Haleem, The Qurʾan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). [iv] See for example Mu’awiyya al-Qahtani, “The Biography of the Hero Abu Talha al-Ansari”, Mu’assasat al-Mas’ada al-I’lamiyya, 2012. [v] Ibid. [vi] For a contextual reading, Nico Prucha, “Abdallah ‘Azzam’s outlook for Jihad in 1988 – “Al-Jihad between Kabul and Jerusalem””, Research Institute for European and American Studies (2010), http://www.rieas.gr/images/nicos2.pdf. [vii] For example in the as-Sahab video release la tukallafu ila nafsak, June 2011. [viii] This part of the sawt al-jihad (no.3, Ramadan 1424), is the exact same as provided here: https://library.islamweb.net/newlibrary/display_book.php?ID=3&startno=0&idfrom=2&idto=8&bookid=81&Hashiya=3#docu and also referenced by, for example, Yusuf al-Qaradawi: https://www.al-qaradawi.net/node/2072 [ix] Chain of transmission. [x] ‘Abdallah ‘Azzam, I’lan al-jihad, electronic version, 1997. [xi] Prucha, Nico, “Jihadists‘ use of Quran’s ribat concept”, in: Janes Islamic Affairs Analyst, August 2009 [xii] Ribat al-khayl [xiii] Ghazwa is also the name of a magazine distributed by Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan. Hanley Jr, John T., et al. The Anatomy of Terrorism and Political Violence in South Asia Proceedings of the First Bi-Annual International Symposium of the Center for Asian Terrorism Research (CATR) October 19-21, 2005, Denpensar, Bali, Indonesia. No. IDA-P-4096. INSTITUTE FOR DEFENSE ANALYSES ALEXANDRIA VA, 2006. [xiv] For discussion of bombings linked to ghazwat al-asir see: https://onlinejihad.net/2010/04/11/isi-embassy-bombings-in-baghdad/ [xv] Nico Prucha, Online territories of terror: how jihadist movements project influence on the Internet and why it matters off-line, PhD Thesis, Universität Wien | Philologisch-Kulturwissenschaftliche Fakultät (2015) (p. 280) [xvi] Prucha, Nico. “IS and the Jihadist Information Highway–Projecting Influence and Religious Identity via Telegram.” Perspectives on Terrorism 10.6 (2016). [xvii] Al-Manhajjiyya fi tahsil al-khibra al-i’lamiyya, first part, 18. This ideological handbook is part of a lengthy series sanctioning the media work in general, published by the media groups Markaz al-Yaqin and al-Furqan in May 2011. [xviii] Ibid. [xix] sawt al-jihad number 11, 17.

3 Frenchmen killed and 4 wounded in Saudi Arabia

http://www.alriyadh.com/2007/02/27/article228395.html

Today a group of French citizen was attacked close to Mekka. According to alriyadh.com, the group consisting of 3 men and 4 French women and two children came under fire when they stopped at a reststop at the highway connecting the cities al-maura and tabukand came under fire by an unidentified car passing by. 2 of the French men were killed instanly and two of the group were wounded, one died shortly after being transported to the hospital.