Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) declared its support for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and implicitly criticized the leadership of the al-Qaeda network and its branches because the latter didn’t openly declare their support for ISIS. It is noteworthy that AQIM defended ISIS against the parties claiming that ISIS members are Kharijites.
In a videotape broadcast by al-Qaeda in the Maghreb and Trans-Saharan regions last week, the leader of the group, who is known as Sheikh Abdullah Othman al-Assimi, spoke on behalf of the organization to offer support for the jihadists in ISIS in Iraq. In the recording, Assimi, who is also a judge within the group, said, “My group wants to build friendly ties with ISIS. You are dearer to us than our tribe and family, and you will always have our support.”
Assimi, whose real name is unknown, further said, “We are still waiting for al-Qaeda branches across the world to reveal their stance and declare their support for you.” By that, he was indirectly calling on the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, to clarify his stance from the armed Jamaa al-Islamiya, which imposed itself as a new player on the political and security scenes in Iraq. The French newspaper Le Monde made a reference to the videotape yesterday [July 1] and noted its content has raised the concerns of the Algerian authorities, without giving any other details.
According to Assimi, the AQIM’s support for ISIS came in response to the call of ISIS spokesman Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani for al-Qaeda branches to issue an official statement refuting all those accusing ISIS members of being Kharijites.
In another implicit reference to the leadership of the al-Qaeda network, Assimi said, “After the silence of the people concerned, we wanted to show our stance for the sake of justice so that the ISIS jihadists know that we will not fail them. We tell all Muslims that we have seen justice in the ISIS approach and they are among the most obedient of God’s people and the most dedicated to the prophet.”
There was no indication in the video that AQIM wants to support ISIS with men and arms. Rather, it wants to offer moral support. Yet the video gave the impression of an organizational rift between AQIM and the network led by Zawahri, which will persist as long as there is no communication between the organization and the branch on an important jihadist outfit like ISIS and its actions in Iraq.
Assimi lives in the mountains and forests of Boumerdes and Tizi-Ouzou [in Algeria]. He further praised ISIS members, saying, “This approach applied Sharia on the ground and the organization remapped the Islamic caliphate, supported the oppressed and removed tyrants. The best thing that the jihadists did was apply Sharia, and they are the farthest from Kharijites. Only the ignorant, envious or spiteful accuse them of this. Whoever insulted them this way must repent.”
Assimi also congratulated “the Iraqi emir of believers, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Qurashi, for his great conquests in Mosul, Samaraa and other regions.” Baghdadi’s real name is Awwad Ibrahim Ali Badri al-Samarrai and he was declared emir of the organization. He is wanted by the US administration [with a reward] of $3 million. Assimi told ISIS that the date for the establishment of the caliphate is near. He said he is addressing the group in his capacity as a soldier from the Islamic Maghreb, the land of “patient Algeria.”