Shabaab claims US is ‘Satan of our time,’ praises al Qaeda’s leadership

Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, has released a nearly a 55-minute video professing its adherence to global jihadist principles. The production is titled, “They Are Not Welcome — They Shall Burn In Their Fire.” It emphasizes that “defending Muslim lands is from the most important of individual obligations.”

Al Qaeda figures are peppered throughout the video, including clips of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, as well as the leaders of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Al Qaeda’s most infamous terrorist operations against the US and American interests — including the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the 2000 USS Cole bombing, and the “blessed raids” of 9/11 — are all celebrated.

A snippet from a previously released talk by Zawahiri plays over images from Sept. 11, 2001. “By the grace of Allah, we are a nation that never accepts oppression nor do we forget to seek our vengeance,” Zawahiri said. “Therefore, whoever fights us we will fight them. And whoever kills us we will kill them. And whoever bombs us we will bomb them and the oppressor will eventually meet his deserving fate.”

The video concludes with a scene from a training camp for “martyrdom seekers” named after Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker for the 9/11 attacks inside the US. Jihadists are shown firing at targets set up at the “Mohamed Atta Training Camp,” which is presumably located in Somalia.

The media produced by al Qaeda and its regional branches has generally improved over the course of the past year. And “They Are Not Welcome” is a good example of this trend. Shabaab’s propaganda arm, Al-Kataib Foundation for Media, released the montage in four different languages: Arabic, English, Somali, and Swahili. Screen shots can be seen below.

The necessity of waging jihad

Viewers are introduced to Shabaab’s worldview with an audio recording of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who explained when jihad becomes mandatory. Rahman, who was convicted on terrorism-related charges stemming from his role in several terror plots in New York in the 1990s, passed away in a US prison earlier this year. His teachings had a profound impact on al Qaeda’s development and he is still revered by the group.

“The scholars, both past and present, are of the consensus that if a hand span of Muslim territory is occupied, then jihad becomes obligatory and a binding duty upon every Muslim, whether he is old or young, rich or poor, youthful or elderly and whether he is trained or not,” Rahman said. He continued: “The Muslim lands that have been occupied are not merely a hand span or even a thousand hand spans, but rather it is millions of hand spans. Entire countries have been forcefully taken from the lands of the Muslims and as such, jihad has become an individual obligation upon every Muslim.”

The teachings of other Islamic and jihadist scholars — such as Ibn Taymiyyah (a medieval thinker), Sayyid Qutb (a Muslim Brotherhood ideologue) and Abdullah Azzam (the godfather of modern jihadism) — are used throughout to underscore the necessity of waging jihad.

For Shabaab, parts of Somalia and Kenya are “occupied” and “defensive” jihad is required to liberate them.

Shabaab’s narrator expounds on this theme further, arguing that a “global coalition of disbelievers” is waging war against Islamic civilization around the globe. Even though the parties that make up this supposed coalition (the Assad regime in Syria, Russia, Iran, the US and other Western countries) differ in many respects, the narrator claims, they are all united in their enmity for Islam. Footage from the aftermath of a US airstrike that destroyed a mosque in Syria’s Aleppo province, as well as scenes from Burma, Chechnya, Central African Republic, Kashmir, and East Turkistan are included as evidence of this supposed conspiracy. (US officials have claimed that the building struck in Syria was actually an al Qaeda “meeting location.”)

The war in East Africa between Shabaab and AMISOM (the African Union Mission in Somalia) is part of this same global conflict, according to the group. The “African crusaders” want to “bring an end to rule according to Islamic Sharia,” the narrator says.

Shabaab accuses AMISOM of various crimes, including a “systematic campaign of sexual violence” and rape targeting Muslim women in southern Somalia. Independent analysis by Human Rights Watch (HRW) has verified at least some of these claims. Excerpts from one HRW report are shown on screen.

Al-Kataib Media includes footage of Muslim women who were allegedly raped by AMISOM or other local forces to highlight the point. One woman accuses AMISOM of killing her sister.

Shabaab: America is “Satan of our time”

Al Qaeda’s leaders first marketed the idea that Muslims are confronted by a worldwide, anti-Islamic campaign. And Shabaab includes archival footage of Osama bin Laden to buttress the point once again.

“The global alliance of disbelievers have incited and gathered against the Muslims,” bin Laden said. The al Qaeda founder continued: “What we are witnessing today is bombings, the destruction of bridges and homes, the violation of honor and the spilling of blood. The blood of Muslims today is considered the cheapest of blood.”

“Know that there in no way to repel oppression except by fighting and defending oneself,” bin Laden advised.

“Did we forget who America really is?” Zawahiri asked in another clip reproduced by Shabaab. “America is the enemy of Islam and the Muslims…We do not expect from America anything except every evil and corruption,” Zawahiri added.

In January, US Special Forces carried out a controversial raid targeting AQAP in Al Baydah, Yemen. A number of women and children were killed during the operation. Shabaab replays part of a speech by AQAP emir Qasim al Raymi concerning the aftermath.

“O’ Muslims wherever you are! You and the rest of the world have witnessed the level of hatred that the crusaders harbor towards the Muslims,” Raymi said. “You have seen their targeting of women, children and even the infants in the wombs of their mothers, whom the Americans deliberately killed in a fit of crusader animosity. This is America! And this is its evil ugly face!”

Shabaab’s narrator goes even further, claiming that America is the Devil. “And thus the blood of the Muslims is mercilessly spilled, their honor violated, children orphaned, and lands invaded,” the narrator claims. “What we are witnessing today is a total war against Islam, spearheaded by none other than the Satan of our time: the United States of America.”

“So let the Muslims know that the objective of this global crusade is nothing but to extinguish the shining light of Islam, plunder the wealth of the Muslim ummah [worldwide community of Muslims], and spread immorality and all sorts of moral vices within the Muslim population,” the narrator says. “There is no other solution to these horrific atrocities, nor is there any other practical way to restore the rights of the oppressed, and implement Islamic sharia, except for Muslims to hold on firmly to the rope of Allah, unite under the pure banner of Tawhid [monotheism], so that they may fulfill the obligation of jihad and repel the aggressive onslaught spearheaded by the enemies of Islam.”

Shabaab’s war part of al Qaeda’s global jihad

In “They Are Not Welcome,” Shabaab trumpets its role in al Qaeda’s network and shares in the group’s legacy. Footage from pre-9/11 training camps in Afghanistan, including the Al Farouq (al Qaeda’s primary facility at the time), is included.

“It was through these epic battles of the global jihad that the mujahideen in East Africa…derived their inspiration,” the narrator says after some of al Qaeda’s most devastating attacks on the West, including 9/11, are trumpeted.

“Know that our jihad is a global one and not restricted to geographical boundaries,” Sheikh Abu Ubaidah Ahmad Umar, the current emir of Shabaab, says. “Our jihad is rooted in elevating the Kalima (word) of Allah, defending the downtrodden Muslims, fighting the disbelievers, liberating the occupied Muslim lands and freeing the Muslim captives from the prisons of the infidels and it will not stop until shirk [polytheism] in all its forms is eradicated and the Shariah of Allah is implemented on earth,” Umar adds. “It is obligatory upon you to uphold the unity of the Muslims and to consolidate the ranks of the Mujahideen. Never compromise on remaining one unified Ummah.”

In Aug. 2012, Sheikh Aboud Rogo, the leader of Al Hijra, was killed in Mombasa. Al Hijra was part of Shabaab’s plan to extend its reach in Kenya and elsewhere. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report: UN warned of Shabaab ally’s ‘new and more complex operations’ in Kenya]

In a talk prior to his demise, Rogo drew a sharp line between Shabaab’s cause and nationalism. “I remind you again: do not think that the war in Somalia is a nationalistic war. That is not the case,” Rogo said. He continued: “The war in Somalia is between the cross and the Quran. Sympathize with your Somali brothers for they have hated and despised the cross throughout their history. Our brothers over there do not want the cross to enter their land and by Allah, we support them in their fight to expel the crusaders from Muslim lands.”

Rogo’s view was the same as Zawahiri’s.

“According to the Mujahideen, there is no difference between the Ethiopian invaders and the Kenyan, Ugandan, Burundian, African Union crusaders or whatever other names they call themselves,” Zawahiri said in another clip that is replayed for Shabaab’s audience. “All of them are disbelieving troops who have invaded the lands of Islam and it is an individual obligation on every Muslim to expel them from these lands.”

The Sheikh Muhammad Dulyadeyn Raid

In January, Shabaab overran a Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) base in southern Somalia. The al Qaeda branch claimed that more than 67 Kenyan soldiers were killed. The raid was named after Sheikh Muhammad Dulyadeyn, the alleged mastermind of the 2015 massacre at Garissa University College in Kenya. Dulyadeyn was subsequently killed in mid-2016.

Dulyadeyn is presented as the model jihadist scholar in “They Are Not Welcome.” As Dulyadeyn rallies his fighters in one scene, a clip is played of AQAP ideologue Ibrahim al Rubaysh explaining why it is necessary for scholars to take action and not just advocate jihad from the sidelines. Rubaysh, a former Guantanamo detainee, was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen in 2015.

Dulyadeyn advocated attacks on Kenya’s Christians, arguing that such operations are religiously permissible. Dulyadeyn rhetorically asked his fighters: “Did we transgress upon them or are they the transgressors?” He continued: “Do we then not have the right to bring back what was unjustly taken from us, take their wealth, burn their churches and destroy their economy? Is this not justified in our religion?”

Al Qaeda’s senior leadership certainly thinks that operations targeting the Kenyans are not only “justified,” but necessary.

“To my Mujahideen brothers wherever they are: our battle is long, difficult and requires patience, and our greatest weapon in this battle is our creed,” Zawahiri said in yet another clip included toward the end of the video. “It is therefore important that we concentrate on specific goals, the first of which is targeting American and Jewish interests as well as the global crusader alliance, for these are the most important targets.”

But Zawahiri quickly added that the “second” priority is to target “the local leaders of disbelief such as those in the army, the police, the intelligence agencies, the apostate journalists and the hypocritical judges.” And that includes Kenyan forces.

Screen shots from Shabaab’s video, “They Are Not Welcome — They Shall Burn In Their Fire”

Several clips of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri are included in the video:

Shabaab celebrates al Qaeda’s anti-American attacks, including the “blessed raids” on 9/11:

Shabaab’s “Mohamed Atta Training Camp for Martyrdom Seekers”:

Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman:

Abdullah Azzam on jihad:

Sayyid Qutb highlighted the importance of ideology:

Ibn Taymiyyah on “defensive” jihad:

Shabaab’s emir emphasizes that Shabaab’s war is part of the global jihad:

Sheikh Aboud Rogo rejected the idea that the war in Somalia was a nationalist cause:

Clips of the AQAP and AQIM emirs are included:

Two other deceased al Qaeda leaders — Abu Yahya al Libi and Atiyah Abd al Rahman — are included:

Shabaab promotes “The Sheikh Muhammad Dulyadeyn Raid” – named after the alleged mastermind of the Garissa University massacre:

Similar to other jihadist groups, Shabaab uses inghimasis (highly-trained fighters who immerse themselves in battle):

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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