Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Shehzad Tanweer video

A bit behind the news but I just watched the Shehzad Tanweer video that was released on the anniversary of the London bombings last Friday. Tanweer detonated the bomb on the tube near Aldgate station. The video is interesting in a number of respects.

Firstly, because it includes Ayman al-Zawahiri, it is being used as evidence that the Qaeda al-Jihad core who are presumed to still be hiding in the Afghanistan/Pakistan borderlands were directly involved in planning the attack. I heard one commentator on the radio – sorry, I forget who – saying that this was far more scary than if the group had been “self starters” who had not been in contact with the al-Qaeda core. I would disagree with that: if al-Qaeda was involved it suggests that if the surviving leaders are captured or killed it would lessen the risk of terrorism. A self starter group shows two things: 1) that the ideology alone of al-Qaeda is attractive enough to make some young men kill and 2) that staging a complex multi-target bombing campaign is something that can be done by “keen amateurs” with no training. This in particular is a very worrying thought. If, for example, the BBC’s Frank Gardener is right and we can take this as evidence of a 7/7–al-Qaeda core link, then it is almost reassuring that this was truly a global-terrorist plot masterminded by an evil terrorist genius (Zawahiri) rather than a bunch of underachieving Leeds lads who decided one day that they wanted to kill lots of their fellow citizens.

Having said all that – the video itself can not be taken as proof of the link. Tanweer is speaking in front of the same background as Mohammed Sidique Khan was (see photo left) in the video that was released of him in September of last year. At that time there was discussion of various issues arising from the video, such as unusually for a “martyrs testament” Khan was not armed (compare this to al-Zawahiri in the Tanweer video who is sitting next to a gun, as bin Laden always does). This led some to suggest that it could have even been filmed in the UK where access to weapons is very difficult. It isn’t certain either way but it could be that al-Sahab, al-Qaeda’s media arm, could have received the videos of Khan and Tanweer after the attacks in London and stitched them together with al-Zawahiri at a later point. The Tanweer video is very slick right down to the “Crime Watch”-style reconstruction of the explosives training the Yorkshiremen are said to have received in Qaeda al-Jihad base, but nothing in it would seem to prove that it couldn’t be a case of al-Qaeda taking credit for actions of people they didn’t know about. A story in the Telegraph from a couple of days ago has Pakistani intelligence saying they know the name of the man who connected the Yorkshiremen to al-Qaeda, but the Metropolitan police are continuing to say that they don’t know how connected they were and this was after the release on to the internet of the Tanweer video.

The other interesting thing about the video is presence of Adam Gadahn, a.k.a. Azzam the American. If I remember correctly, Azzam the American used to cover his face but since his identity became public knowledge he seems to have given up on that. It’s interesting to speculate as to whether his contribution to the video, which is somewhere between an undergrad political science presentation and a crazy-religious-man rant, just reflects him or whether it is part of a wider al-Qaeda effort to politicise their message. One of the most interesting comments made by the video’s voice over is: “The love of martyrdom for the sake of Allah was not motivated by poverty, unemployment, and emptiness, as some mercenary media outlets try to portray to us. It was motivated by the love of Allah and His messenger.” Gadahn seems to suggest much more political motivations as opposed to the this religious explanation.

I’ve always been prejudiced against heavy metal mainly for its crimes against fashion and music – but interestingly Gadahn was supposedly well into death metal before his fateful conversion to the violent Jihadi version of Islam. The two things probably aren’t connected but you never know…

23:19 update (yeah, I know I really should have better things to be doing at this time of night) There was one word that Tanweer used that I didn't know: dunya. The context he uses it in is: "Oh Muslims of Britain, you, day in and day out on your TV sets, watch and hear about the oppression of the Muslims, from the east to the west. But yet you turn a blind eye, and carry on with your lives as if you never heard anything, or as if it does not concern you. What is the matter with you that you turn back not to the religion that Allah has chosen for you? You have preferred the dunya to Allah, His messenger, and the Hereafter." As a slightly lazy researcher, I turned like so often before to the collective brilliance of British climbing community* (who tend to hang out at UKclimbing.com like teenagers at bus stop up to no good), and once again got a perfect answer within minutes: dunya is both Urdu and Arabic for "world" and in this case means the secular world. Many thanks to Masood for the help with the Urdu.

*For any fellow UKCers reading this - note I said "collective brilliance". That doesn't make you as an individual brilliant at all. ;-)

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