Articles Salafi

And Here We Go Again (by Dr. Douglas Weeks)

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Waking up this morning to yet another terrorist attack, this time in Brussels, the recurring theme of what can be done to stop attacks like this from occurring is again raised. Before completing the first of a handful of live interviews which I have now been asked to do today, I watched the media raise this question to numerous other ‘experts’ with the common response that perimeters around airports must be expanded, that more police are needed, that the sharing of intelligence between intelligence agencies across Europe must be expanded, and that intelligence agencies must increase the sharing of intelligence with their respective police forces. Fifteen years on from 9/11, the resonance of the same recurring themes remains apparently unresolved.

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Jemaah Islamiyah (Analysis by Danjel L. Bout)

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

Group Name: Jemaah Islamiyah

Principal ideology: Salifi Jihadist

Area of Operation: Indonesia, Malaysia, Southern Philippines

Affiliated groups: Jamaah Anshurat Tauhid (JAT), Abu Sayyaf, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)

Principal enemy: Indonesian Government

Tactics: Following the decimation of the organization’s leadership, JI senior leadership has focused on religious outreach. Several splinter groups oppose this shift in tactics and remain committed to violent attacks.


Executive Summary

The goal of Jemaah Islamiah (JI) is to create a Southeast Asian pan-Islamic State incorporating Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, and portions of the Philippines and Thailand[1].

Historical Review

The antecedent of JI was an Indonesian Muslim militia that emerged in 1942 known as Darul Islam/Tentara Islam Indonesia (DI).[2] DI had its roots in Islamic resistance groups attempting to gain Indonesian independence from the Dutch Colonial government. Following Indonesia’s independence DI attempted to proclaim West Java as an independent Islamic State, but was crushed by the military of the fledgling Indonesian government. The first appearance of the name Jemaah Islamiyah can be traced back to the 1970’s, where it was used to describe proponents of Sharia law in Indonesia. In the 1980s Abu Bakar Bashir, an influential Islamic cleric that had fled Indonesia to avoid incarceration, gathered together exiled Indonesian Muslims and brought JI into being. In the late 1990s shifts in the political environment led to Bashir returning to Indonesia and heralded an increasingly violent operational philosophy. The apex of these violent attacks was the 2002 bombings in Bali, which resulted in 202 casualties.

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Understanding the threat of Jemaah Islamiyah (Analysis by John Payne)

Friday, February 19th, 2016

Group Name: Jemaah Islamiyah

Principal Ideology: Islam

Area of Operation: Southeast Asia

Leadership: Abu Bakar Ba’asyir and Abdullah Sungkar

Affiliated Groups: Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MIILF), Darul Islam (DI), Dewan Da’wah Islamiyah Indonesia (DDII) and Al-Qaeda (AQ)

Principal enemy: Westerners and Muslims who do not follow Wahhabi Islamic practices.

Tactics: Original tactics included guerrilla-style bombings, assassinations, and terror tactics in their AOO.


Jemaah Islamiyah (JI or “Islamic community”) is a terrorist organization that has set itself apart from other radical Islamic Southeast Asian groups through its transnational and global aspirations. JI has strong ties to regional entities such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Darul Islam (DI), Dewan Da’wah Islamiyah Indonesia (DDII) and has also united itself with Al-Qaeda (AQ) and its affiliated groups worldwide. Through these relationships JI has become the largest and most dangerous terrorist organization in Southeast Asia.[1] Southeast Asia presents unique challenges for those trying to carry out the war on terror and gives JI an ideal recruiting and operating landscape because of the areas geography. The region in which JI operates is comprised of eleven countries (Burma, Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, The Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam), and over 17,000 islands. JI’s ability to hide in, recruit from, and train in this region has been empowered by the existence of porous maritime borders. The relatively short distances that separate these nations make JI’s ability to conduct transnational terrorism a reality.

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The Islamic State (IS) (Analysis by David Riedman)

Friday, February 19th, 2016

Group Name: The Islamic State (IS)

Principal Ideology: Salifi Jihadist

Area of Operation: Iraq and Syria (with global unaffiliated supporters)

Leadership: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Affiliated groups: 43 affiliate or supporter groups

Principal Enemy: Iraqi and Syrian Governments, U.S. Led Military Coalition

Tactics: Insurgent, Terrorism, Pseudo Nation-State


The Islamic State (IS) led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the establishment of the new Islamic Caliphate by the group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria which was a paramilitary group of Sunni Islamists.[1] ISIS initially overthrew the Iraqi government in major northern cities and took weapons, military vehicles, and money within those cities.[2] IS currently controls large portions of northern Iraq and the Syria north of the Euphrates River.[3] While the speed that The State gained territory seemed shocking, religious group affiliations offers an explanation. IS’s supporters were initially a Sunni in-group in Iraq who felt that the former Shia Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki was not a legitimate leader due to his out-group membership and alignment with the United States. Iraq’s current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is a member of the Shia Islamic Dawa Party[4], continues to perpetuate the out-group dynamic of Iraq’s political leaders in relations to IS’s in-group supporters.

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Al-Shabaab (Analysis by Karen Sims)

Friday, February 19th, 2016

Group Name: Al-Shabaab

Principal Ideology: Salafi Jihadism, Wahhabism, and Militant Islamism

Area of Operation: Somalia

Leadership: Ahmad Umar

Affiliated Groups: Al-Qaeda

Principal Enemy: Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and the African Union Mission

Tactics: Attacks of Soft Targets, Suicide Bombings, Vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Devices, Roadside Bombs, Beheadings


Al-Shabaab (the “youth”) has been able to take significant control over central and southern Somalia. What started as a small, youth militia arm of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), a relatively moderate Islamist organization, rose to power in Somalia in early 2006. Al-Shabaab was radicalized and brought to prominence as a popular Islamist guerrilla movement as a response to Ethiopia’s entrance into Somalia in December 2006.[1] After Ethiopia entered Somalia, the more moderate voices of the ICU fled the country; however, the members of Al-Shabaab chose to stay and wage war.[2] Using hit and run attacks, improvised explosive devices, assassinations and bombings, al-Shabaab has been able to regain and maintain control over central and southern Somalia.[3] The Ethiopian occupation of Somalia fueled “the development of al-Shabaab’s ideology, recruitment, operational strategy, and partnerships, transforming the group from a small, relatively unimportant part of a more moderate Islamic movement into the most powerful and radical armed faction in the country.[4] Al-Shabaab was designated a terrorist group by the U.S. Department of State in March 2008.[5]

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Al-Shabaab (Analysis by Maggie DeBoard)

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

Group Name: Al-Shahbaab

Principal Ideology:  Wahabi-Salafist

Area of Operation: Somalia

Leadership: Ahmad Umar (aka Abu Ubaidah)

Affiliated Groups: al-Qaeda and affiliates

Principal Enemies: Christians, United States and countries with Western interests, Ethiopia and Kenya

Tactics: Insurgent, guerrilla, and terror tactics such as IEDs, Martyrdom operations, targeted killings


Al-Shabaab (The Youth) is a Somalia based Islamist non-state terrorist group that emerged as a separate extremist organization after the 2006 Ethiopian invasion of Somalia and the collapse of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU).[1] The group was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US Department of State in March 2008.[2]

Although al-Shabaab’s initial focus was on control of Somali territory and nationalism, they have expanded their ideological and military strategies to include a global jihadist movement, targeting of Western interests outside of Somalia, and adoption of al-Qaeda’s use of suicide bombing and IEDs to carry out its attacks.[3] Despite military defeats in recent years resulting in the loss of control of territory in the capitol of Mogadishu and the key port city of Kismayo, al-Shabaab remains a significant threat to East Africa and Western interests there.

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Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) (Analysis by Karrie Jefferson)

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

Group Name: Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) / Al-Qaeda in the Land of Two Rivers / Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia

Principal Ideology: Takfiri Salafi Jihadist

Area of Operation: Iraq

Leadership: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir

Affiliated Groups: Al-Qaeda Central

Principal Enemy: Jordan Monarchy, America Forces and Coalition Partners in Iraq

Tactics: Hostage beheadings, suicide bombings


Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), also known as al-Qaeda in the Land of Two Rivers or al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, was born out of a marriage of convenience between al-Qaeda Central and a group founded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 1999, known as Jamaatal-Tawhid wa-l-Jihad (JTWJ).[1] Al-Qaeda Central, led by Osama Bin Laden and his second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, had similar, but slightly conflicting goals to JTWJ initially.

While Bin Laden was focused on the “far enemy,” specifically on attacking the United States and the West before building the Caliphate, Zarqawi was focused on the “near enemy,” which meant ending the monarchy in Jordan and continuing on to unite the rest of the Levant.[2] What brought them together in 2004 was the JTWJ’s rise in fame. Bin Laden had requested that Zarqawi pledge baya, an oath of allegiance, to him multiple times between 2000 and 2001, but Zarqawi resisted.[3] He did not want to become ensnared in the fight between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban in Afghanistan and didn’t think Bin Laden was focused enough on jihad.[4]

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Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) (Analysis by Chris Kimrey)

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

Group Name: Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)

Principal ideology: Wahhabi/ Jihadi-Salafist

Area of Operation:  Iraq and Syria

Leadership: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Affiliated groups: Ansar al-Islam, Boko Haram, Abu Sayyaf, et al.

Principal enemy: Syrian government; al-Qaeda, al-Nusrah Front

Tactics: Insurgency, terror tactics, inspired-attacks


Executive Summary

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), formerly Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, is a collaborative patchwork of tribal factions and armed groups, emerged primarily from Islamic State in Iraq and al-Nusra Front in April 2013.[1] The common thread of the network of groups appears to be the Covenant of Medina which stipulated all Muslims “constitute one umma” and that “all believers shall rise as one man against whomsoever rebels… even though he be one of their sons.”[2],[3] The capability and ferocity of ISIS appears unmatched in the region and has allowed feverish spread of the group’s influence throughout northern Iraq and Syria. The group’s rapid growth and aggressiveness are a direct result of its development of a social identity apart from al Qaeda Central (AQC) through direct social competition. After being disenfranchised by al Qaeda, ISIS quickly sought to re-establish its relevance among its followers through a series of challenges to AQC, the most recent and direct of which—the group renamed itself simply the Islamic State consistent with its Islamic namesake ‘Daesh,’ declaring its chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as caliph and “leader for Muslims everywhere.”[4] Although some armed groups in the region have chosen to align with ISIS, Muslims outside the region are not willing to recognize the caliph as legitimate. Most recently, the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) dismissed the ISIS announcement, noting it “lacked any Islamic or realistic aspects.”[5]

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Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) (Analysis by Greg Mammana)

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

Group Name: Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)

Principal ideology: Wahhabi/ Jihadi-Salafist

Area of Operation:  Iraq and Syria

Leadership: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Affiliated groups: Ansar al-Islam, Boko Haram, Abu Sayyaf, et al.

Principal enemy: Syrian government; al-Qaeda, al-Nusrah Front

Tactics: Insurgency, terror tactics, inspired-attacks


Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, seems to have erupted into a household name overnight. The group has seen different names and leaders since 2013 when they first identified as ISIS. Prior to that they were the Iraqi division of al Qaeda called the Islamic State of Iraq, or al Qaeda in Iraq. Today it’s been known as Islamic State of the Levant (ISIL), Islamic State (IS), and DAESH, an acronym for al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham. As Sunnis, ISIS rise to power was inspired by objection to the Shi’a-led Iraqi government, claiming that they have been “persecuted by… [then] Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, starved of resources and excluded from a share of power.”[1] Prior to 2013, ISIS was a faction of al Qaeda, creating a sub-group in parts of Iraq and Syria with similar social identities as the al Qaeda main group. However, techniques for achieving goals differed between the factions, causing the al Qaeda to question ISIS’ relevance.[2]

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Boko Haram (Analysis by Randy Cotten)

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Group Name: Boko Haram

Principal ideology: Takfiri Salifi Jihadist

Area of Operation: Primarily Nigeria

Leadership: Abubakar Shekau

Affiliated groups: al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Qaeda core, al-Shabab, and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Principal enemy: Nigerian government

Tactics: Insurgent but also using terror tactics in the area of operations


Boko Haram (roughly translated as, “Western education is forbidden”) is the colloquial name for Jama’at Ahl al-Sunna li al-Da’awat wa al-Jihad (translated as, “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”), an Islamist terrorist organization based out of northern Nigeria.[1] On November 13, 2013, Boko Haram was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. Department of State following “indiscriminate attacks in Benisheikh, Nigeria in September 2013 that killed more than 160 innocent civilians”.[2] While the organization was originally established as a small, local group with ostensibly peaceful motives, it has transformed into a major threat in Nigeria with ties to other terrorist organizations including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), al-Qaeda core, and al-Shabab.[3] In March 2015, a spokesman of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) formally accepted the bay`a, or pledge of loyalty, of Boko Haram’s current leader to ISIL’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.[4]

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