August 16, 2013

Jihadists view crisis in Egypt as an opportunity

The call to arms could hurt the U.S. goal of replacing radical voices with democratic ones.

By ERNESTO LONDONO The Washington Post

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"The righteousness must be achieved by cutting the head of those who corrupt and not reason with them," it said in a statement included in a SITE Intelligence report that compiled jihadist reaction.

The Somalia-based al-Qaida affiliate, Shabaab al-Mujahideen Movement, echoed that view.

"It's time to remove those rose-tinted spectacles and see the world as accurately as it is: change comes by the bullet alone; NOT the ballot," the group said in a statement.

Militant leaders had ambivalent reactions toward the Arab Spring when millions took to the street in early 2011 seeking to overthrow autocratic leaders. Some embraced the movement but warned reform-minded Arabs that democracy would never take root while others suggested that hard-line groups use the expanding freedoms to proselytize and gain followers.

Al-Qaida's top leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, an Egyptian physician, was among those who was dismissive of the prospect of democracy in the region. On Aug. 2, he said Egyptians would have been wiser to embrace a push for an Islamic state after autocratic president Hosni Mubarak's ouster.

Syria has become a magnet for jihadists seeking to establish a new Islamic state, or caliphate. The conflict there has spawned new groups and helped resurrect others, principally al-Qaida in Iraq.

Their prominent role in Syria -- and the threat posed by affiliated cells in Africa -- suggest efforts by the United States to throttle the appeal of al-Qaida in the Muslim world are faltering, said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University.

"Events over the past year show that we have not been terribly successful," he said. "The al-Qaida brand is stronger than it's ever been."


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