AS-SAHAB TWITTER ACCOUNT SUSPENDED
By Michael S. Smith II
The primary Twitter account used to provide updates on the releases of messages and other propaganda produced for al-Qa’ida senior leaders by al-Qa’ida’s official media organization, as-Sahab, has been suspended. Although the reason this Twitter account has been suspended is not yet clear, given the increased calls from al-Qa’ida senior leaders for their subordinates to wage jihad in the Indian Subcontinent, it may have been shut down at the request of Pakistani or Indian officials.
Days before the account was suspended, the manager(s) of as-Sahab’s Twitter account Tweeted a link to a message from American born jihadi Adam Gadahn, titled “The Pakistani Regime: The Agent of the Devil.” This message was issued shortly after al-Qa’ida announced the formation of its newest branch, al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent. This new branch is reporting directly to Afghan Taliban founding leader Mullah Omar, the so-called Emir al-Mu’minin (a title historically reserved for the Caliph). Ostensibly, so too is al-Qa’ida, as, like its founding emir Usama bin Laden, al-Qa’ida’s senior leaders have pledged bayat (fealty) to Mullah Omar.
Among the last Tweets from @_s7ab_m was an announcement of a message from Abu Dujana al-Basha, in which the al-Qa’ida official advised that al-Qa’ida is still fighting to restore the caliphate. Accordingly, al-Qa’ida’s jihad is focused on restoring the caliphate by following the steps of an Islamic path versus a path fraught with “deviation, lies, and breaking oaths and allegiances.” The latter being a reference to the approach of Islamic State leaders like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (aka Caliph Ibrahim), whose emphasis of the practice of takfir is — ironically — heavily criticized by al-Basha, who claims it is a reflection of the Islamic State’s “extremism.” (Takfir is the practice of one Muslim accusing another of turning their back on Islam; thus, in this context, having committed a sin that warrants execution. For jihadists comprising the ranks of al-Qa’ida, a leader’s refusal to impose sharia is an example of one’s turning one’s back on the faith.)
Also among the final posts from this microblogging account that had attracted more than 24,000 followers was a link to a 350-page, posthumously-arranged book by deceased al-Qa’ida ideologue Abu Yahya al-Libi. This material mostly covers a work by the 13th-14th Century Damascus-based Salafi scholar Ibn Taymiyyah titled The Political Sharia on Reforming the Ruler and the Ruled, an English-language edition of which was published by Dar al-Fiqh (UK) in 2006. Following a foreword by al-Qa’ida emir Ayman al-Zawahiri, the work is split into three parts that cover a range of issues, including the appointment of a leader and the spoils of war.
As America’s top counterterrorism official has acknowledged that al-Qa’ida is more capable of harming the US than is the Islamic State, it is noteworthy that, in recent months, more Twitter accounts used by the Islamic State’s propagandists have been suspended than have Twitter accounts used by al-Qa’ida.