Jordanian Salafist Leader Urges Supporters to Fight Hezbollah

Article Summary
Mohammed Shalabi, a Jordanian Salafist leader, has called on his supporters to fight Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria.

The leader of the Salafist jihadist movement in Jordan expects a decisive confrontation to take place between Sunni jihadists and fighters from the Lebanese Hezbollah party in the next few days.

He stressed that fighting the Shiite party’s followers is considered “a top priority” for his fighters. Mohammed Shalabi, also known as Abu Sayyaf, told Al-Hayat that the fighters of Jabhat al-Nusra — which was placed on the list of terrorist organizations by the United Nations [United States, as translated from Al-Hayat] — “are on their way to all posts that are under the control of Hezbollah fighters,” who are loyal to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

He added, “We are waiting for them to enter Qusair to change the equation, and to inflict a heavy defeat on the partisans of ‘the party of the devil' [Hezbollah].”

Qusair — which is located in Homs governorate — has been subjected to an attack by the Syrian regime’s army, with Hezbollah’s fighters serving as backup, since May 19, 2013.

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Shalabi said, “It is a duty to carry out jihad against every attacker, especially if the attack includes killing the soul and forcibly spreading Shiism.” He added, “We explicitly call on [our supporters] to fight this party; the Sunnis and Islamists in Lebanon and Syria must target its posts and leaders.”

This is the first time Shalabi has explicitly called on [his followers] to fight Hezbollah, and to target the party’s headquarters and leaders.

Shalabi added, “What is essential is that senior Sunni scholars adopt an unwavering position towards this Iranian group [Hezbollah]. They must proclaim what is true and announce that fighting [Hezbollah] is necessary.”

“Hezbollah is the one who has stormed Sunni cities in Syria. We didn’t go to their locations, we are just defending ourselves.”

The leader acknowledged that the Lebanese party “has changed the rules of the game on the ground,” since it has “a capability to be reckoned with, and its members have street fighting experience.” Yet, he continued that Sunni fighters in Syria and those who came from Jordan and various Muslim-majority countries “have unparalleled experience; most importantly, they have faith and are in direct contact with God.”

He said, “We have credible information that a large number of Shiites arrived from Bahrain, Pakistan and other Gulf countries to fight alongside Hezbollah and the Syrian regime,” adding,t “Jabhat al-Nusra will oppose them with all its strength.” Shalabi confirmed [that his group is providing] support and backup to Jabhat al-Nusra, and pointed out that the number of Jordanian fighters [in Jabhat al-Nusra] exceeds 500, and “they are the most experienced and well-trained.”

Yet, he explained that his partisans “go to fight [in Syria] individually, not in an organized way,” and added that some of them entered Syria with the assistance of smugglers in exchange for money. Shalabi — who resides in the desert city of Maan (160 km [100 miles] south of Amman), and took part in clashes with the security forces in 2002 — said the relationship between Jordan’s Salafists and Jabhat al-Nusra “is similar to the relationship between al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia. There is no organizational relation that links us, but we have the same ideology and approach.” Shalabi spent 10 years behind bars for activities linked to Salafist jihadists, and for being accused of plotting to attack US forces in Jordan; yet it seems that he does not care about the reason behind having him under surveillance.

Salafist leaders confirmed that most of Jordan’s jihadists who are positioned at the Syrian front — the majority of whom are from the Zarqa and Rasifa provinces, followed by Amman, Jordan’s southern and central cities, and then from Jordan’s northern cities — are striving to lead influential military brigades in Jabhat al-Nusra, as many of them have already battled in Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya and Yemen.

Iyad Toubasi, also known as Abu Gelebeb, is one of the most prominent Jordanian leaders of Jabhat al-Nusra and the brother-in-law of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Undeclared official figures indicate that the number of jihadists who reside in Jordan is nearly 5,000. They work in secret, and wait for the opportunity to join Syria’s fighters, while the authorities are closely monitoring them.

Jordan has arrested dozens of Salafists in the past few months, before they made it to Syria. Some of them were recently sentenced to imprisonment by the State Security Court.

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Found in: salafists, salafist, jordan, hezbollah
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