Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Arabs Prime Targets for Jihadis

If the Gaza war has increased the popular appeal of Jihadi groups in Palestine and elsewhere in the Middle East and many analysts believe, than Arab countries even more than the United States and Israel could be their primary target. Norwegian Middle East scholar and expert on militant Islam Thomas Hegghammer notes that the front page Gaza coverage in most recent issue of Sada al-Malahim (SM), the magazine of Al Qaida in Yemen, barely mentions Israel and the United States. Instead, it lashes out Arab governments and clerics for having aided Israel's siege of Gaza by repressing militant Islamist groups. "[The rulers] incriminated anyone who merely thinks about liberating the holy sites, which can only be liberated by toppling these governments," Hegghammer quotes Sada al-Malahim as saying. Hegghammer says the magazine is echoing the distinction drawn by Ayman al- Zawahiri, Al Qaida's number two, who has argued that Arab governments were near enemies that needed to be confronted first before the Islamists take on the far enemy, the United States. Yet, a text accompanying the magazine quotes Al Qaida Yemen's emir, Abu Bashr, as referring to the far enemy by saying: "We are preparing to open training camps to send you [Palestinians] a generation of reinforcements."

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