Thursday, August 02, 2007

Al Qaeda in Gaza

This is the first article I've seen showing direct linkage between Al-Qaeda and Gaza, as well as Hamas' probable relationship with AQ. From Omedia:

The Gaza Strip as a Hothouse for Al Qaeda

Ismail Haniyeh is trying to con the West when he says Hamas is not aiding Al Qaeda
Jonathan Dahoah-Halevi (7/30/2007)

The Gaza Strip under Hamas rule has turned into a hothouse for Palestinian terror organizations and a base for an Al Qaeda offshoot that goes by the name of "the Army of Islam." Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, like other Hamas leaders, is trying to deceive the Western media by repeatedly denying Hamas is assisting Al Qaeda, either directly or indirectly. "There is no Al Qaeda in the Gaza Strip and talk of Gaza becoming a foothold for Al Qaeda invites international hostilities," Haniyeh told Reuters (July 15, 2007).

Haniyeh’s comments are diametrically opposed to the current reality in the Gaza Strip. The Hamas movement is well aware of the growing power of the Al Qaeda offshoot and is troubled by the fact that quite a few in the Hamas military arm and even in its leadership have begun to embrace the global outlook of Al Qaeda. Assumption of responsibility for attacks against Israel were published even prior to the unilateral disengagement by Israel from the Gaza Strip (August 2005) and furthermore the the Army of Islam even takes open pride in taking orders from the leadership of Al Qaeda abroad.

In an interview on the Ilaf website (July 17, 2007), Abu Ashour, the right-hand man of Army of Islam leader Mamtuz Doghmush, said the organization "embraces the principles in which Al Qaeda believes" and supports the establishment of an Islamic state in Gaza and the liberation of Palestine. He noted Al Qaeda sends money to finance the activity of the Army of Islam, as well as conveying directives for action. Ashour believes "the decision to kidnap Alan Johnston was made by Al Qaeda 'on the outside' and the decision to release him also arrived from 'outside' in order to avoid bloodshed."

Abu Ashour also revealed the Army of Islam was established in the Gaza Strip 30 years ago. "At first the Afghans arrived in order to spread religious awareness," he said, referring to Arab fighters who had fought in Afghanistan. "All the Afghans belonged to Al Qaeda and we called them by their noms de guerre. We established the popular resistance committees due to the corruption in Fatah...later on Mamtuz Doghmush established the Army of Islam due to disputes among the committee heads."

One of those very same “Afghan” fighters is Kattab al-Maqdesi, whose real name is Ahmed al-Mazloum, a resident of the Al-Darej neighborhood in Gaza. He studied Islamic law in Pakistan, spent time in Afghanistan, attended 40 of Osama bin Laden's lectures and then returned to the Gaza Strip to continue jihad against Israel. He took part in the terrorist attack at the Karni Crossing in January 2005 (a joint attack by Hamas, the Resistance Committees and a faction of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades) and in the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit (a joint attack by Hamas, the Resistance Committees and the Army of Islam). Likewise he was part of the group that executed Moussa Arafat, the commander of the military intelligence apparatus in the Gaza Strip (over 2000). Today al-Maqdisi serves as a spokesperson of the Army of Islam and is one of the organization's senior leaders.

The ties between Hamas and the Army of Islam are apparent in the agreement between the two organizations, which led to the liberation of kidnapped British journalist Alan Johnston. In recompense for the Army of Islam’s agreement to liberate Johnston, the Hamas movement transferred to the Army of Islam (this according to a source close to the Army of Islam as quoted in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on July 5, 2007) $5 million and more than a million Kalashnikov bullets, and the Army of Islam received recognition from Hamas as a legitimate jihad organization. Furthermore it was agreed that neither organization would disclose joint operations they had carried out in the past.

The validity attached to this Hamas policy was well expressed by Moussa Abu Marzouk, the deputy of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, in a conversation with a journalist from Al-Hayat following his meeting with Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad in Damascus (July 19, 2007). "When Hamas came to power," noted Abu Marzouk, "the entire PA became a fighting authority in the sense that the fighters [mukawaymun] were no longer subject to arrest or liquidation, for Hamas had made the resistance [i.e. armed struggle] legitimate." In other words Abu Marzouk confirms that the Gaza Strip has become a hothouse for global Islamic terror. The Army of Islam, an offshoot of Al Qaeda in the Gaza Strip, enjoys freedom of action under Hamas rule.

This article was prepared in collaboration with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs