Saturday, September 20, 2008

AQ's 911 anniversary video for 2008

I will refer to this video as 911_2008. In a nutshell, it's all sizzle and no steak. This as-Sahab production is elaborate but its contents are essentially trivial and largely predictable.

One hour, 27 minutes, and 27 seconds. English subtitles for Arabic, and Arabic subtitles for English and Farsi.

The forthcoming appearance of 911_2008 was headlined on the Ekhlass and Firdaws forums, but both of those rooms went offline prior to 11 September and neither is back in business at the time of this writing. The enemy had additional trouble (an invalid password or a corrupted file) before the video finally appeared on 19 September. To begin with, I'll sketch the video's contents.

In its production and personnel, 911_2008 is related to two earlier videos which I will call

Hazli_2008 -- from early September, about the Saudi muezzin Salim al-Hazli a.k.a. Abu Gharib al-Makki, who blew himself up at the Danish embassy in Pakistan, killing six.
See CBS News

AbuAlHasan_2008 -- the eulogy to Abu al-Hasan al-Sa'idi.

Narration in Arabic is done by the same voice in all three videos. The three share a small amount of video as well.

The Main Cast

Ayman az-Zawahiri does most of the talking. He is in the mood to accuse a wide array of Sunni regimes of apostasy and servility. Almost in passing, Zawahiri calls for jihads here, there, and everywhere, which is usual for him. And he still finds time to target Iran along with what he calls Iran's vassal "Lebanese" Hizbullah.

Mustafa Abu al-Yazid talks quite bombastically about Afghanistan and Pakistan. He says al-Qa'ida and the Taliban are inseparable and are scoring nothing but successes. He says the NATO people are rampaging around slaughtering women and children at random. He briefly and unconcernedly mentions the recent heavy Pakistani action against armed Islamist and tribal groups in Bajaur and Swat.

Abu Yahya al-Libi does a recruitment speech. He flatters the jihadist lumpen and urges them to go to Somalia and (oddly) Chechnya. Abu Yahya is al-Qa'ida's best online recruiter.

(The preceding three guys also appear in both of the aforementioned related videos.)

Sheikh Attiyatullah, a senior and long-established al-Qa'ida ideologue, makes his first appearance in an online video. His talk is of a general nature. He admits that al-Qa'ida in Iraq has had reverses but claims that they are temporary, indeed little more than a haphazard statistical fluctuation. Unlike the others, Attiyatullah has a masked "interviewer" who recites a prepared script.

Abu al-Yazid and Abu Yahya are filmed in the same room, but they do not appear side by side.


911_2008 contains excerpts of broadcasts and interviews from elsewhere on the internet, quoting chiefly

Sa'ad al-Faqih, whom I will talk about later on this blog. The video and audio excerpts of al-Faqih are copies from his own bulky online collection.

Abdullah al-Nafisi, a contrarian and eccentric Kuwaiti cleric. His material comes from interviews and a panel discussion that had appeared on Gulf television stations.

Mullah Hasan (Mulla Muhammad Hasan Rahmani) who is called here, "Personal Advisor to the Amir of the Believers" (meaning Mullah Omar), being interviewed by a familiar Pakistani freelancer. The interview is in a clean room with couches and pillows. Hasan says UBL is alive and well.


911_2008 closes with the "martyrdom" video of the Saudi 9-11 hijacker Ahmed Salah al-Ghamdi. AQ has a history of releasing such material piecemeal.
There is some previously unseen footage of Jonathan Keith Idema at work in his illegal interrogation business.
There are excerpts from a video of Abdullah Azzam, talking about Palestine. He explicitly incites massacres.
Azzam was a Palestinian, killed in 1989 in Pakistan. He speaks here of Israel as a personal "wound" forty years old. So it seems the video was made near the end of Azzam's life. The whole video of Azzam was released on the internet a few weeks ago. It must have been taken on film and only digitized at some time long after Azzam's death. Amidst the Azzam material is a snippet of old Bin Ladin audio, urging Palestinians to fight in Iraq, and saying that Jerusalem would come next.
Abdullah Azzam was a founding member of what is now called al-Qa'ida, along with Bin Ladin, Mamdouh Mahmoud Salim, and Abu Ubeida al-Banshiri, in 1988. No group has every claimed Azzam's assassination, but the suspects include Zawahiri's group of Egyptian fugitives. The subsequent "merger" of Egytian Islamic Jihad with al-Qa'ida was announced by Usama Bin Ladin.
Azzam for whatever reason has been getting lionized quite a bit on enemy websites over the last few months, which could explain why Zawahiri, in this latest video, has started applauding him too. He never used to.

Publicity-consciousness and nerdism

The video is more form than substance. Some geek spent a lot of time on it.
The video opens with Zawahiri complaining about how al-Qa'ida has been getting bad press, by which he means, as he goes on to say, that the press is contradicting al-Qa'ida's claims that they are making progress. Zawahiri also stresses the importance of the internet to al-Qa'ida.
Later, the as-Sahab geeks themselves appear in the video. Or at least, two masked guys sitting at computers are seen, while the narrator tells us about how AQ's "intelligence branch" obtained the footage of Idema interrogating somebody from Jalalabad, and some other footage having to do with Libya. Oddly, that material is overlain with a logo that says "As-Sahab Exclusive" -- a vain and curiously amateurish and un-Islamist gesture by the geeks.
One more odd detail: The person who interviews Attiyatullah says that, in sha' Allah, as-Sahab will interview him again more fully in future. I suspect that that interviewer is the top as-Sahab computer guy himself.