Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1229, (15 -21 January 2015)
Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Issue 1229, (15 -21 January 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Beyond Charlie

The militant attacks witnessed last week in Paris suggest that the internal struggle within the global jihadist movement intends to make Europe its theatre, writes Mohamed Salmawy

Al-Ahram Weekly

So intense has our focus been on the details of the terrorist attack carried out against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo by Islamist extremists that it has distracted us from the conflict that has erupted within the global Islamic jihadist movement between affiliates of Al-Qaeda and affiliates of the Islamic State (IS).

A number of foreign research centres have been monitoring this conflict, which they regard as an important development as it may signal the beginning of the splintering and fracturing of international jihadism.

The Washington-based Brookings Institution points to three statements issued simultaneously by three Al-Qaeda affiliates: Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Al-Nusra Front in Syria. The statements were first posted on their websites in December, and they all condemn IS. The longest is that issued by AQIM, at 96 pages. The group vehemently lashes out at IS and its claims to legitimacy.

IS responded with a counterattack against Al-Qaeda. In a statement entitled “The Qaeda of Waziristan”, it harshly criticised not only Al-Qaeda and Mullah Omar but also, and unprecedentedly, Osama Bin Laden for not having striven to revive the Islamic caliphate.

The clash between the two jihadist organisations has evolved into an ideological conflict between rival wings in the international jihadist movement. At present, the clash is mainly about the leadership of that movement and, specifically, the apparent rivalry over who should be the successor to Bin Laden: Mohamed Al-Zawahri, the current leader of Al-Qaeda, or Abu Bakr Baghdad, the leader of Daesh (the Islamic State, in Arabic).

However, this internal conflict could develop into a form of competition over waging terrorist operations, especially ones carried out in Europe, such as the recent attacks in Paris. There is no question that an organisation was behind the attacks as the assault against the offices of Charlie Hebdo was followed by the taking of hostages in Porte de Vincennes.

The perpetrator threatened to kill the hostages if the Kouachi brothers were killed, but French security forces killed the gunman, just as they eliminated the brothers who were responsible for the massacre at Charlie Hebdo.

 Many analysts who have been following developments involving Al-Qaeda and Daesh expect that Europe will become an arena for the competition between them. Each is striving to prove to its own followers and the followers of its rival organisation that it has the greatest power to harm the “heretic” countries in the West.

The attack against the offices of Charlie Hebdo may be the opening move in an internal power struggle within the international jihadist movement.

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