Thursday, August 05, 2004

Band of Fanatics-- Part 2

by William Webb

HAMAS-Harakat Al-Muqawama Al-Islamia-The Islamic Resistance Movement

Hamas, which is both the Arabic acronym for The Islamic Resistance Movement and an Arabic word for courage and bravery, shares "A-Team" billing with Hezbollah as a powerful and dangerous terrorist force with worldwide connections. It employs its own shock troops, Al-Suad Al-Ramaya-the "throwing arm" for these purposes.

Formed in late 1987 by current spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Hamas is an outgrowth of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Various Hamas elements have used both political and violent means, including terrorism, to pursue their goals. They are loosely structured, with some elements working clandestinely and others working openly through mosques and social service institutions to recruit members, raise money, organize activities, and distribute propaganda.

According to the ICT, in the course of the Intifada, Hamas gained momentum, expanding its activity in the West Bank, to become the dominant Islamic fundamentalist organization in the Territories. It defined its highest priority as jihad for the liberation of Palestine and the establishment of an Islamic Palestine "from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River." By its participation in street violence and murder, it boosted its appeal in the eyes of the Palestinians, further enhancing its growth potential and enabling it to play a central role in the Intifada.

According to a Congressional Research Service report "Hamas is reputed to be a more efficiently run organization than the widely dispersed and heavily structured PLO with its organizational overhead and diverse activities. The Hamas share of religious donations is rising in relation to the PLO. According to some sources, a large amount of money is coming from devout Muslims in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states who used to contribute to the PLO before it sided with Iraq during the Gulf war. Hamas also supported Iraq in the war but was much less conspicuous because it was so closely identified with the Palestinian population in the territories. Hamas wisely avoided open confrontation with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states."

The military wing of Hamas is known as the Izz al Din Qassam Brigades, the force behind most of the violence and killings attributed to Hamas. The cells operate under the control of four or five relatively independent geographical commands. In May 2002, Islam online published an interview with Salah Sh'hadeh, then- commander of the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, who was assassinated by Israel on July 23, 2002.

The interview was a very matter-of-fact look into the running of a suicide bombing operation. Some of the interview included:

Q: "How do you choose who will carry out a martyrdom operation?"

Sh'hadeh: "The choice is made according to four criteria: First, devout religious observance. Second, we verify that the young man complies with his parents' wishes and is loved by his family, and that his martyrdom will not [adversely] affect family life-that is, he is not the head of the family and he has siblings, as we will not take an only child. Third, his ability to carry out the task assigned [to] him, and to understand its gravity; and fourth, his martyrdom should encourage others to carry out martyrdom operations and encourage Jihad in the hearts of people. We always prefer unmarried [men]. It is the regional leadership of the military apparatus of the Hamas movement that proposes his candidacy, and then decides whether to accept him."

Q: "How do you account for the stream of youths [coming] to join the ranks of perpetrators of martyrdom operations? And does this attest to [mental] health or to escape from the frustration and disappointment among the Palestinians?"

Sh'hadeh: "The stream of youths [who seek to] attain martyrdom shows [mental] health and the awareness of Palestinian society, and is not a mistake or an escape from a situation of despair or frustration. Many people come to Jihad, and they are willing to lay down their souls-which is the most precious thing a man has. There is a vast difference between someone who sacrifices money or an offering and someone who sacrifices his soul for the sake of Allah to bring happiness to the nation, and to remove its torment and distress. Nevertheless, we cannot provide everyone with a martyrdom operation because the targets are limited and the enemy positions we want to reach are highly fortified. If some of the youths do not follow the military apparatus's instructions, and [set out on operations on their own] without being linked officially to this apparatus, this proves that the [entire] nation has become a nation of Jihad on the threshold of liberation, and that it rejects humiliation and submission."

Q: "How does the military apparatus choose a target?"

Sh'hadeh: "We have surveillance groups whose role is to monitor Israeli and settler patrols and the movement of the enemy on the border. We utilize every breach we find in the enemy's security fence. Afterwards we define the target and the nature of the assault on it, whether it is a settlement, a military post, a military vehicle, or anything else. The target is filmed, and then [the video] is shown to a committee appointed by the General Staff of the Military Operations. After the target is approved, the martyrdom operation's perpetrator is trained.... Then the operation is ready to go, after a group of experts approves the plan and determines the factors for its success or failure."

Q: "How much does a martyrdom operation cost?"

Sh'hadeh: "The cost of an operation varies.... Attack operations with automatic weapons cost the price of the weapon, which hold at least 250 rounds, and of the ammunition, and the price of about 10 hand grenades. But some of the operations cost much more and include transporting [the perpetrator]...buying a car, and bribing Jewish collaborators. There are operations that cost a great deal-between $3,500-$50,000, in accordance with the target."

Q: "What are the obstacles that the Al-Qassam Brigades face?"

Sh'hadeh: "The most significant obstacles are the scarcity of good-quality weapons, such as anti-aircraft and long-range missiles. Another significant obstacle is the haze obscuring the political position of the National [Palestinian] Authority. This causes confusion in the military wing [because] it does not set a [clear] position regarding the military operations-that is, whether it is for them or against them. Is it an authority for national liberation, or an authority for autonomy? This matter confuses many Jihad fighters.

"In addition, weapons prices have been raised by the bloodsucker arms dealers, so the price of an M-16 has reached $5,000, and each of its bullets now costs $1.50, and a Kalashnikov costs $2,000, and each of its bullets costs $4. The military apparatus has managed to meet the challenge of weapons scarcities by collecting donations from people who love supporting the path of Jihad for the sake of Allah. Similarly, the movement has succeeded in manufacturing some of the intermediate weaponry, thus reducing costs. The cost of a rocket [made by the movement] is less than 1 percent of its cost if we had to buy it."

Like with Hezbollah, there is a heavy Syrian connection. According to Gary Gambill, "Since the mid-1990s, Damascus has been the operational headquarters of the Hamas military wing and a nexus for the transfer of external funds to Hamas operatives in the territories. Syria and Syrian-occupied Lebanon have become major conduits for funneling weapons and explosives to Hamas and safe havens for training hundreds of its operatives. "In addition to greatly enhancing the movement's capacity to kill, Syrian sponsorship has fueled its willingness to kill, by weakening the internal leadership of Hamas vis-à-vis the external leadership, making the group's military cells less responsive to public disaffection with the costs of terror." There are also close ties between Hamas and Iran. By its own account they receive $3 million per year from Iran. While Hamas operations have killed Americans in the territories, Hamas, like Hezbollah, says it does not target Americans. But Hamas leaders have called for jihad against U.S forces in Iraq. They do participate in the propaganda warfare against the West, attacking the United States on their official and surrogate web sites.

Like PIJ, Hamas affiliations in the United States have been under scrutiny since 9/11. Hamas ties to United Association for Studies and Research, Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, Infocom Corporation, and the Islamic Association for Palestine have been covered by numerous legal and journalistic investigative entities. The war on terror has hurt Hamas funding and America, of course, is constantly to blame for the Israeli actions in Palestine. Whether a weakened Hamas would choose to align with Al-Qaida and strike at targets within the U.S. is a matter of conjecture. That Hamas has the experience and backing to do so is fact.

Al-Qaida and The Terror Franchise

With a blizzard of words already and to-be written on Al-Qaida, including a large part of this book, we will take a very quick look at the main organization and the franchises closely associated with it; Asbat Al Ansar, Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, Harakat ul-Mujahidin, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Jemaah Islamiya, and Al-Jihad. There have been many excellent books focusing on Al-Qaida, many which are included in the recommended resources section at the end of the book.

If Hezbollah and Hamas are the "A" Team of terrorism, then Al-Qaida has become the Muslim "World Team," jihadists sent by Allah to "fight the heretics, mainly the Christians leading the United States, but also against Muslims and corrupt apostates who spend their time in brothels and violate Muslim morals."

They love the spotlight, video taping most of their events and showing a great understanding of public relations and the finer points of propaganda. Although all members would deny it, there is an arrogance and air of invincibility that has set in, almost if the members have started to believe their own propaganda and reams of stories in the press. This attitude helped win three of their superstars, Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi Binalshibh, and Khalid Sheik Mohammed a trip to solitary confinement.

As of today, their two infamous leaders remain at large. Sheik Osama bin Laden has risen to superhero status for Muslims worldwide. He has sent a veiled threat to "die a martyrs death in 2004," cynics believing this may occur before the first Tuesday in November. Ayman al-Zawahiri just returned to Pakistan from his yearlong hiatus in Iran. He has promised further spectacular attacks and tremendous suffering for the United States and other Western nations, although he published another book in 2002 that many Arab commentators said looked like a "last will and testament."

While there has been an enormous amount of success against Al-Qaida, beginning with its and the Taliban's defeat in Afghanistan, it is a mistake to assume that either the capture or death of bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, or any of their other leaders will end Al-Qaida's war against the West.

The Arab press and leaders such as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak have warned there are 1,000 bin Ladens waiting in the wings. With continuing state support from countries like Iran and Syria, wealthy patrons across the globe and a flow of jihadists eager to experience the new Islamic awakening, Al-Qaida, or one of its present or future franchises are likely to wage war for a long time to come.

Asbat al-Ansar-The Band of Partisans

Asbat al-Ansar is a Sunni Muslim extremist group based in the Palestinian refugee camp Ayn al-Hilwah, near the port town of Sidon in southern Lebanon. Comprised of about 300 militants, mostly Palestinians who operate in Lebanon, the Sunni extremist group advocates Salafism, a return to the ancient caliphate system of government under a sole leader called the Prince of Believers. The group's members believe their struggle justifies violence against civilians. For many years they seemed to operate as a Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice on steroids, blowing up un-Islamic targets like churches, bars, and casinos. With the advent of an alliance with Al-Qaida in 2000, they graduated to bigger bombs, rocket attacks, and even a failed coup attempt in Tripoli, Lebanon with fellow fanatical organization members from Takfir wal-Hijra. While the group probably poses no immediate threat to the continental United States or other Western nations, it is dangerous due to the fact that it is under no one's control. The group constitutes a huge impediment to the peace process through its workings in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya-The Islamic Group

The Islamic Group, IG, officially became a part of the Al-Qaida franchise in the 1998 Declaration of War against Jews and Crusaders.

IG unofficially split into two factions; one that supports a cease-fire led by Mustafa Hamza, and another led by Rifa'i Taha Musa, calling for a return to armed operations.

Taha Musa published a book in early 2001 in which he attempted to justify mass casualty terrorist attacks. Musa disappeared several months thereafter, and there are conflicting reports as to his current whereabouts. In March 2002, members of IG's historic leadership in Egypt declared use of violence misguided and renounced its future use, prompting denunciations by much of the leadership abroad.

For members still dedicated to violent jihad, the primary goal is to overthrow the Egyptian government and replace it with an Islamic state. Jihadist IG members, such as those potentially inspired by Taha Musa or Abd al-Rahman, may be interested in carrying out attacks against U.S. and Israeli interests. Various intelligence sources confirm that members of the group still plot attacks on American soil in retribution for the jailing of Shaykh Rahman. There is an earlier video of bin Laden, Zawahiri, and Musa that shows them threatening the United States with unspecified violence if Rahman is convicted.

Harakat ul-Mujahidin-Movement of the Holy Warriors

HUM is a jihadist, Muslim fundamentalist group based in Pakistan that operates primarily in Kashmir. Many members of the groups are products of the Deobandi or Ahle Hadith-influenced madrassas, schools that teach an extreme interpretation of Islam with maniacal hatred toward the West. They particularly hate the ideas of democracy and equal rights for women, and at least the latter sin should keep them from the "freedom fighter,' designation of no-nothings like filmmaker Michael Moore. HUM officially became a part of the Al-Qaida franchise in the 1998 Declaration of War Against Jews and Crusaders. They trained thousands of jihadists in camps in eastern Afghanistan before the defeat of the Taliban. They are a very well-funded group with money flowing from the entire Arab world. According to South Asian Terrorism Portal (SATP) in India, HUM was originally formed in 1985, to participate in the jihad against Soviet forces protecting the communist regime in Afghanistan. It was a formed by a group that walked out of another jihadi group, the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI). With the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, the outfit turned its attention to Jammu and Kashmir, where Pakistan-supported outfits had unleashed terrorist violence in 1988. While not a direct threat to the continental United States, the group's influence with the government and military of Pakistan raises fears of potential nuclear proliferation from the Pakistani arsenal.

Jaish-e-Mohammed-The Army of Mohammed In February 2000, Maulana Masood Azhar, former HUM leader, known to have played a role in helping Somali militants attack U.S forces so vividly portrayed in the movie Blackhawk Down, strolled into the Binori mosque in Karachi and announced the formation of JEM. Azhar announced his allegiance to bin Laden and Al-Qaida and declared war on India and America. According to Yosri Fouda, his choice of the Binori mosque was significant. The mosque, filled with hard-line Deobandi adherents was the site of a meeting of more than 300 Muslim clerics who met to declare bin Laden a great Muslim warrior whose protection was a religious duty for all Muslims. JEM is well funded with support throughout the non-Shia Muslim world. Its connections into the political and religious environments of Pakistan are immense. While the State Department report lists JEM's area of operations as Pakistan and Kashmir, the group has the funding, organization, and deep-seated hatred of the United States to compliment a strike here. They have a long list of atrocities credited to them in their short lifetime, including several attacks on churches, bus bombings, the car bomb set off outside the U.S consulate in Karachi, a grenade attack on a hospital, and the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Like HUM, the group does not appear to present a threat to the continental United States, but Western intelligence officials still worry about collusion between these groups and Pakistani military or political figures sympathetic to the jihad. Particularly when these figures might be able to aid in some sort of nuclear proliferation whether from weapons or materials. It is also prudent to note that most terrorist leaders and operatives have lived and trained in Pakistan. While President Musharaff has done a very good job on cracking down on the extremists, the entire madrassas infrastructure continues to crank out thousands of West-hating terrorists every year.

Jemaah Islamiya-Terror in the Far East

JI is a network of Islamic radicals extending across Southeast Asia, led by Indonesian nationals, with a loose structure characterized by four territorial divisions known as mantiqis that cover peninsular Malaysia and Singapore; Java; Mindanao, Sabah, and Sulawesi; and Australia and Papua. The foot soldiers are men from the pesantrens, religious schools that teach a strict form of Islam and hatred of Christians and the United States. They are most famous internationally for the Bali nightclub bombing that killed 180 and injured more. Both their spiritual leader Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, and their Al-Qaida link and commander, Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, now reside in jails. But as many news reports in the region have pointed out, the organization still thrives. While the State Department suggests the JIS membership is unknown but believed to be less than 500, the Singapore government says the number is in the thousands. According to reporter David Isenberg in The Asia Times, "In 1995 JI decided to set up training facilities in Mindanao in the Philippines to replicate the Afghan training as closely as possible, including using many of the same instructors. Regular 'cadets' went through a six-month course including weapons training, demolition and bombing, map reading, guerrilla and infantry tactics, field engineering, leadership and self-defense. It also included a religious curriculum, providing instruction in basic law, traditions of the Prophet, proselytization and jihad." While affiliated with Al-Qaida, many in the region would disagree that JI is an Al-Qaida franchise. But with the religious schools churning out potential jihadis, training camps for those already committed, and anti-Christian and anti-western passions inflamed, JI will remain a threat, particularly to those traveling throughout the region.

Al-Jihad-The New Jihad

Shaykh Umar Abd al-Rahman, sentenced to life in prison in January 1996 for his involvement in a string of planned New York terrorist events, is Al-Jihad's most famous member.

Shaykh Rahman, Al Jihad's spiritual leader whose fiery sermons in mosques in Jersey City and Brooklyn attracted followers who were linked to the first World Trade Center attack, and a planned "Day of Terror" involving bombings of the Holland and Lincoln tunnels, United Nations headquarters, George Washington Bridge, and 26 Federal Plaza.

It officially merged with Al-Qaida in June 2001.

Al Jihad's primary goals are to overthrow the Egyptian government and replace it with an Islamic state and to attack U.S. and Israeli interests in Egypt and abroad. The Egyptian government has claimed Iran supports the group.

The Al Jihad group specializes in armed attacks against high-level Egyptian government officials. The original Jihad was responsible for the assassination in 1981 of President Anwar Sadat. Unlike al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya, which mainly targets mid- and lower-level security personnel, Coptic Christians, and Western tourists, al-Jihad appears to concentrate primarily on high-level, high-profile Egyptian government officials, including cabinet ministers. The group claimed responsibility for the attempted assassinations of Interior Minister Hassan Al-Alfi in August 1993 and Prime Minister Atef Sedky in November 1993

In June 1992, after activists of the Islamic Jihad in Egypt murdered Faraj Fodah, an author who had openly supported Israeli-Egyptian peace, a "hit list" was revealed that had been prepared by organization activists and which included the names of tens of Egyptians to be killed by the Islamic Jihad, including the Interior Minister, General Moussa; the journalist Anis Mansour; and others. Since 1993 the group has not conducted an attack inside Egypt. However there have been repeated threats to retaliate against the United States for its incarceration of Shayk Umar Abd al-Rahman and, more recently, for the arrests of its members in Albania, Azerbaijan, and the United Kingdom

Before September 11, most of the groups on the State Department's list had no meaning for the average American in the continental United States. Many Americans still believe that only Al-Qaida poses a threat-and the numbers are growing that believe Al-Qaida is in complete disarray. Unfortunately, this belief will more than likely be proven wrong in 2004, if not sooner. There are active terrorist cells within the United States and Canada plotting as you read this

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