Key al-Qaeda Branches Call for Unity Against US-led Strikes on ISSeptember 17, 2014 in Iraq, Syria
Two of al-Qaeda’s most prominent branches in North Africa and Yemen issued an unprecedented joint statement Tuesday, calling for jihadists operating in Syria and Iraq to join forces against the threat emanating from the US-led coalition that is targeting Islamic State (IS) fighters in the region. The statement comes as a supporter of IS militants warned of attacks against the United States and its allies.
Al-Qaeda Branches Issue Joint Statement
Two of al-Qaeda’s most prominent branches in North Africa and Yemen issued an unprecedented joint statement Tuesday, calling for jihadists operating in Syria and Iraq to join forces against the threat emanating from the US-led coalition that is targeting Islamic State (IS) fighters in the region.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) urged their “brothers” in Iraq and Syria to “stop killing each other and unite against the American campaign and its evil coalition that threatens us all.” AQIM and AQAP have also called on the citizens of ten Arab countries that have joined the coalition to prevent their governments from acting against the terrorist group, which has recently achieved lightening territorial advances in Iraq and Syria. AQAP and AQIM have also promised “dark days” to the “alliance of infidelity and evil,” and have urged Syrian rebels to keep up their fight against President Bashar al-Assad, warning them to “beware of being tricked by America…and thus being diverted from your path” and becoming its “pawns.”
Tuesday’s joint statement however marked a significant change in al-Qaeda’s strategy as under the leadership of Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s successor, al-Qaeda disavowed IS. Both the Yemeni-based AQAP, which is seen by Washington as the network’s most dangerous branch, and AQIM have rejected IS’ June declaration of an Islamic caliphate, adding that they remained loyal to al-Zawahiri. Al-Qaeda also has its own branch, the al-Nursa front, that operates in Syria. While the network’s joint statement called for differences to be set aside in the face of a new growing coalition, the statement did not explicitly offer support for IS. Instead it is likely an attempt by al-Qaeda’s affiliates to maintain relevant in Washington and within IS. Similar statements of solidarity issued by other Islamist militant groups will likely surface as the US continues airstrikes in the region, however such statements do not necessarily mean that global support for IS is growing.
IS Supporter Warns of Attack Against US and Allies
A supporter of IS militants has warned of attacks on the United States and its allies if they continue to carry out military action against the group in Iraq and Syria. The message, which was posted on the Minbar Jihadi Media website, a well-known Islamist militant online forum, is just one of a few responses from supporters of IS to last week’s announcement by Washington indicating that it was preparing to extend airstrikes against the group into Syria.
The message condemned “intervention in the affairs of other peoples,” adding that “it will lead to an equal reaction of the same strength in targeting the American depth and also the nations allied to it and in all aspects.” The posting, by a supporter referred to as “Amir al-Thul,” also stated “I directed a sternly worded warning to each of those nations involved with America, or that are allied with it in their war against the Islamic Caliphate, that their local and international interests will be legitimate targets.”
While the message also called on the public in the US and its allies to oppose government actions against the group, it remains unclear what influence, if any, the author has on the actions of IS.