Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, in Arabic 9 Jul 05

Text of report by Mashar al-Dhayidi entitled “Loopholes in the statement by the Al-Qa’idah of Jihad in Europe raise suspicions but do not dismiss accusations away from Al-Qa’idah” by London-based newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat on 9 July

The statement issued by a group calling itself “Al-Qa’idah of Jihad [Organization] in Europe”, in which it claimed responsibility for the London terrorist bombings that killed and wounded scores of innocent people on Thursday [7 July], has triggered various reactions. Some believed the statement and others questioned its authenticity.

The statement was posted on fundamentalist website that is friendly to and sympathetic with Al-Qa’idah. The first to report it was the fundamentalist “Fortress” website, followed by the “Renewal” website, which is affiliated to London-based Saudi fundamentalist Muhammad al-Mas’ari.

According to AFP, the Fortress website became non-operational immediately after the statement claiming responsibility for the attacks was posted on the Internet. It remained inaccessible throughout Thursday and Friday and until this report was prepared. Extremist fundamentalists groups have been using this website extensively since the 11 September 2001 attacks, but access to it has gradually declined. The website remained accessible until Thursday afternoon, when it became inaccessible after posting a statement issued by “Al-Qa’idah of Jihad in Europe” claiming responsibility for the London attacks in the name of Al-Qa’idah Organization.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat has tried to but couldn’t access the Fortress website, which was accessible before the London bombings. However, the text of the statement is available on the Renewal website, which is similar to that of the Fortress.

In terms of the British authorities’ stance vis-a-vis the authenticity of the statement, the British have not said anything so far indicating that they are fully convinced of the authenticity of the statement, although the British officials almost unanimously agree that the attacks carry the hallmarks of Al-Qa’idah. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has blamed Islamic terrorists for the four bombings in London without explaining the basis of his accusations or confirming the claim of responsibility by “Al-Qa’idah of Jihad in Europe.” In a brief statement, Blair said: We know that these individuals act in the name of Islam. Speaking from his office, to which he returned after leaving the G8 summit in Gleneagles in Scotland hours after the bombing the day before yesterday, Blair added: We also know that the vast majority of Muslims here and abroad are dignified people who value the law and despise terrorism as much as we despise it.

British Home Secretary Charles Clark yesterday said that his country takes seriously the claim of responsibility for the London attacks that was posted on an Internet website. Speaking to Sky Television about the statement released by the Al-Qa’idah-affiliated terrorist group, Clark said: We will closely look into it, but we do not rule out any alternative explanations. British Police Commissioner Ian Blair yesterday said that the attacks carry the fingerprints of Al-Qa’idah, although he added that the investigations were still at an early stage and that no arrests had been made.

Going back to the text of the statement, we find that it opens as follows:

“O nation of Islam and nation of Arabism: Rejoice, for it is time to take revenge again the British Zionist crusader government. The first striking thing about this opening phrase is that the statement addresses the nation of “Arabism”. As is known, the Islamic current, particularly the “salafi jihadist” current, does not recognize Arab nationalism nor does it bring it up in its literature. The emphasis is always placed only on the Islamic identity. Citing the Arab identity as an overall nationalist framework is frowned upon as an aspect of pre-Islamic ideology. Usamah Bin-Ladin, Abu-Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, and others have repeatedly disavowed the ideology of the Ba’th Party, which is based on a pan-Arab doctrine. The second striking observation about the statement is the reference to those who carried out the terrorist attacks in London as “heroic” mujahidin. Before that, the statement referred to the “strenuous efforts” exerted by the heroes. Such terminology is not very common in the literature of the salafi jihadist groups, which is abundant with very traditional terms that are far from modern usage. Terms such as heroic mujahidin are closer to the pan-Arab or Ba’thist terminology than to the salafi fundamentalist jargon.

The third observation relates to the name of the group. At the start of the statement came the name the “Secret Organization Group.” This was followed by the following name: “Al-Qa’idah of Jihad in Europe”, which is a confusing name that is also not common in the jargon of Al-Qa’idah or the fundamentalist radical currents. The executing groups normally take the name of a specific leading individual in the group, someone who has rendered a major service to the organization, or the name of an Islamic icon or an old Islamic battle. This is normally preceded by the word brigades, platoon, or a similar name. This makes the name of the “Secret Organization Group” uncommon, unlike the second name of “Al-Qa’idah of Jihad in Europe”, which has been previously used in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Commenting on remarks by some observers about the existence of typing and grammatical mistakes in writing the Koranic verse cited in the statement, Yusuf al-Dini, a researcher interested in fundamentalist movements, said that the existence of typing mistakes or a mistake in the Koranic verse, as was said, was explicable for two reasons. The first is that the activists involved in fundamentalist terrorist actions are normally not very knowledgeable about the correct jurisprudence or science. They are not known for their ability to write in a correct and grammatical style. The second thing, according to Al-Dini, is that the statement could have been prepared in a rush by some ignorant people without showing it first to the qualified members of the media committee or the Shari’ah committee, unlike the situation with Al-Qa’idah statements in Saudi Arabia, which are issued some time after the operation to allow for revision and corrections. However, Al-Dini noted that he had found no mistake in the Koranic verse cited at the end of the statement, which reads as follows: “If ye will aid (the cause of) Allah, He will aid you and plant your feet firmly.” This is the correct version of the verse, which reads” “O ye who believe! If ye will aid (the cause of) Allah, He will aid you and plant your feet firmly.”

It is worth noting that a group calling itself the “Abu-Hafs al-Masri Brigades” has threatened to target European countries if it failed to respond to Usamah Bin-Ladin’s earlier warning. In a statement dated 15 April 2004 entitled a forewarning and a warning, Bin-Ladin gave Europeans three months before launching a terrorist attack against them, as he put it.