The latest edition of the English-language ISIS magazine Dabiq, released online Sept. 9, contains the predictable parade of perversions. Two men, Norwegian and Chinese nationals, are offered for sale as slaves. The destruction of ancient temples at the Palmyra archaeological site is trumpeted. Child soldiers are glorified as "lion cubs" of the "caliphate." The 9-11 attacks are hailed as the "blessed operations." But it also features an interview with Abul Mughirah al-Qahtani, identified as the "delegated leader" of the Islamic State's Libyan "province," in which he harshly criticizes several rival jihadist outfits, including Ansar al-Sharia, the Abu Salim Martyrs Brigade (ASMB), the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), and the Libyan Dawn coalition.
Ansar al Sharia is a Qaeda-linked formation notorious for its role in the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks on the US mission in Benghazi. The ASMB, based in Derna, is also Qaeda-aligned and has been engaged in fighting against ISIS forces. The LIFG waged armed resistance agianst Moammar Qaddaf'’s regime in the 1990s, and has become more prominent since his overthrow. The Libyan Dawn (Fajr Libya) is an alliance of Islamist militias that is, in turn, aligned with one of Libya's two rival governments—that based in the capital Tripoli, but not recognized by the international community.
Qahtani has particular ire for Ansar al-Sharia, viewing them as traitors. "Many of the leaders and soldiers of [Ansar al-Sharia] were from the first to pledge [bayat] in Libya to the Islamic State," Qahtani writes. And Ansar "continues to have men who wish to implement" sharia law in the manner prescribed by ISIS, Qahtani claims. But he charges that the group prefers "division to unity," as has been made "most clear in its…unity with 'revolutionary' movements linked to the apostate regime of Tarābulus [Tripoli] in some regions, as well as its acceptance in other regions of suspicious aid from filthy hands." Qahtani also criticizes the "closeness" of some Ansar al-Sharia "leaders" with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Qahtani also blasts the Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC) in Derna, describing it as controlled by the ASMB and LIFG. Qahtani confirms that ISIS forces "withdrew from the city center of Derna in the beginning of the battle," after MSC forces launched a drive against them earlier this year. Since then, the MSC has announced the "Battle of Nahrawan," targeting ISIS in that eastern region. Qahtani claims that his men "retook areas of the eastern coast side of Derna" in the "last few days."
Qahtani charges that the problems in Derna began when the ASMB deviated from the true path by providing security for Mustafa Abdul Jalil, then the chair of Libya's National Transitional Council, "when he visited [Derna] and called to democracy." After ISIS announced its expansion into Derna, Qahtani says, the "caliphate's" court "ruled" that the ASMB had "committed apostasy and called its individuals to repentance." A "number of” the ASMB's "followers and leaders repented whereas the remaining gathered together with the [LIFG] to form what they called" the MSC.
Qahtani accuses the LIFG of having fallen into disbelief "due to its participation in the Tarābulus [Tripoli] government and the democratic process under the leadership of Abdelhakim Belhadj." One of the historical LIFG leaders, Abdelhakim Belhadj is rejected by ISIS for his willingness to compromise with more moderate factions since the fall of Qaddafi.
Qahtani inveighs against the Libyan Dawn coalition, which he describes as the "military wing" of th "democratic government" of the Tripoli-based General National Congress. "These apostate forces wage war against Allah's religion by abandoning the sharia laws and replacing them with manmade laws in addition to waging war against the people of tawhīd [oneness of God], dragging them to prisons, and handing them over to the crusaders," Qahtani writes. It is for these reasons that the Islamic State "rose to repel their attacks against the Muslims and to implement the sharia, spread justice, and save the prisoners from harm." Qahtani pledges that those who oppose ISIS in Libya "will continue to be a target for our swords, which we will not hold back until they repent." (Long War Journal, Sept. 13)
Now al-Qaeda are the ‘moderates’…
It's a grim trajectory. We noted back in 2007 that old-school Islamists in North Africa (e.g. Algeria's Islamic Salvation Front) were dissing al-Qaeda as too radical. By 2012, when the jihadists took over northern Mali, al-Qaeda leadership was trying to rein them in, accusing them (rightly, hindisght reveals) of alienating the populace with their extreme brutality and planting the seeds of their own overthrow. With the emergence of ISIS, it quickly became clear that they were too radical for al-Qaeda. What's really worrying about this is that with ultra-radical forces fast gaining ground, the Qaedist elements will be perceived as "moderates" and embraced by the West. Abdelhakim Belhaj was among the forces the US backed during Libya's revolution. The US-basked Kabul government is entering into talks with the Taliban just as a formidable ISIS presence has emerged in Afghanistan. And there are signs of the "normalization" of the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front in Syria…
ISIS magazine purged from Internet?
As with Resurgence, the al-Qaeda magazine, ISIS magazine Dabiq seems to have a very well-hidden online presence. Sections are reproduced at the anti-terrorist Clarion Project, but no link for the actual magazine comes up on a Google search. Is Google intentionally supressing it at the behest of authorities, or to avoid liability? How do their jihadist readers find it? Or are they all (ironically) reading at the Clarion Project…? Can someone please explain to us how this works?