Al-Qaeda In The Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) Booklet Highlights Objectives, Principles; Promises Continued Attacks On U.S. And Its Interests Worldwide In Effort To Cause Exhaustion, Isolationism, Collapse

September 28, 2021

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On September 26, 2021, Al-Malahem, the media arm of the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), released a booklet highlighting the organization's objectives and principles and acknowledging its affiliation with the Taliban, saying it aims to continue waging war against the U.S. in order to exhaust and ultimately push it toward isolation or collapse.

According to AQAP, the booklet, titled: "AQAP, Identification, Objectives, Project, Principles, and Policies" was written in response to "the smear campaign by various means against the mujahideen and their ideology," and the accusations leveled against them that they are foreign agents or extremists. These accusations, it claimed, are made "in order to disconnect the ummah from its mujahideen sons, so that they stop their aid and support  and enable the enemies to target them and attempt to destroy them." The booklet is also intended to address "the distortion [perpetrated] by some of the movements who claim to be Islamic, [who] believe in extremism, oppression, and injustice, and [who] seek to tarnish and excommunicate the mujahideen[.] [Another objective of the booklet is] to respond to many questions about AQAP, whether from new members or outsiders, about the group, its objectives, project, ideology, principles, and policies."

AQAP identified itself as a "group from the ummah of Prophet Muhamad, who united around the [concept] of waging jihad for the sake of Allah, and to drive out the aggressor enemies, the Jews, the Christians, and their agents from Muslim countries, prepare for jihad, encourage others to take part in it, and seek to reestablish the Islamic Caliphate, implement the shari'a of Allah on his earth..." AQAP traced its founding back to the jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the establishment of Al-Qaeda by Osama bin Laden, the war against the U.S. and the "Zionist-Crusader alliance, the September 11 attacks and the merger of the Al-Qaeda branch in Yemen and the Al-Qaeda branch in Saudi Arabia to create AQAP in 2009.

Denying  affiliation to any government, AQAP said it is "totally independent from tyrannical states and governments that don't apply the shari'a of Allah," but acknowledged that it is a branch of Al-Qaeda, and that Al-Qaeda is "connected to the Islamic Emirate of the Taliban."   

Highlighting its position regarding takfir, or the practice of deeming a person professing Islam to be an unbeliever, AQAP maintained that in principle, people who live in Muslim countries are considered Muslims unless proven otherwise. As for those who believe in Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other religions, as well as those who have left Islam, such as atheists, AQAP noted that it deems them unbelievers.

Summarizing its objectives, AQAP mentioned that it aims to "establish and implement Allah's shari'a on earth, fighting against all forms of polytheism, innovation, and sin, defending the issues of the ummah, the oppressed ones, and the mujahideen." Other objectives include "liberating Muslim countries, restoring their sacred places from any attackers of the Zionist-Crusader alliance led by the U.S. and others, expelling the polytheists, the Jews and the Christians from the Arabian Peninsula, removing tyrannical states and treasonous regimes, standing against the Shi'ites' project, supporting Muslim nations in their revolutions against tyrannical regimes, restoring stolen Muslim resources... freeing imprisoned Muslims, and taking part in establishing the Islamic Caliphate... founding the basis of the Aden-Abyan army[2]."

AQAP then stressed that it believes that all Muslims should support jihad and the mujahideen, either by joining them to wage physical jihad, supporting jihad financially by collecting donations and alms for the mujahideen, calling on people and encouraging them to wage jihad, providing refuge for the mujahideen, defending them and equipping the mujahideen with weapons, funding and means of transportation. Other means of support listed in the booklet included providing medical treatment to wounded fighters; sponsoring the families of fighters and prisoners; refusing to participate in the efforts of enemies and governments against the mujahideen; hindering the enemies' effort against the mujahideen; teaching children to love jihad, the mujahideen, and martyrdom; informing the mujahideen about spies and the locations of Jews and Christians; issuing fatwas to support and encourage jihad; training and preparing to join the mujahideen when possible; and boycotting U.S., French and Israeli products.

The booklet also stressed that AQAP views the liberation of Palestine and the sacred places of Islam as part of the "essential issues facing the ummah, around which the global conflict revolves];] therefore, AQAP seeks to mobilize the ummah around this issue and place it among its core objectives as its most noble intention and as the key to its conflict."

With regard to its position on Muslim tribes, AQAP stated that they have played an "important role in defending Islam and empowering it, historically and nowadays, with whatever they can provide [in terms of] weapons and men, and with their ability to mobilize." AQAP maintained that it seeks to strengthen its relationship with tribes and tribal leaders, resolve tribal disputes, and encourage them to take part in jihad and in defending the mujahideen.

Clarifying its position regarding the Taliban, AQAP said that as part of Al-Qaeda, which has sworn fealty to the Taliban, it believes that it is part of its duty to support, defend, and advise the Taliban.

AQAP maintained that its position regarding other jihadi groups is based on loyalty, saying that when possible, it will defend them and provide them with financial and military support, and that it always welcomes groups who wish to join its ranks.

Stating that it supports "oppressed nations in revolt against their oppressors," AQAP said it aims to provide guidance, by "explaining that the goal of human actions should be the establishment of monotheism by adhering to the orders of Allah, implementing His shari'a, and seeking to establish an Islamic system and an Islamic state," as well as by explaining "that this objective can only be achieved through force, fighting, and waging jihad."

After noting that it respects Islamic scholars who speak the truth, AQAP stressed that it always seeks the guidance of its religious committees before taking action, as well as the guidance of independent scholars who are not under the control of governments.

On the issue of Muslim prisoners, AQAP maintained that it seeks to free them by force, in the form of attacking prisons, prisoner exchange deals, or paying for their release when possible, as well by drawing attention to the issue and praying for them.

With regard to the group's membership, AQAP says it accepts all Muslims who "would like to fulfil the obligation of waging jihad for the sake of Allah, from all parts of the world and from all ethnicities." It noted that its members include Yemenis and foreigners from the Arabian Peninsula, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, North Africa, Somalia, East Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the U.S., and that various groups use nicknames and aliases due to "security reasons, [and in order to] protect fighters from being followed by treasonous governments."

According to the booklet, those who wish to become members of AQAP should be Muslim, older than 15 years, be sound of mind, and accept the responsibilities of membership. Members should have no disability that may prevent them from waging jihad, and must be endorsed by someone who knows them.

The relationship between AQAP and its members, the booklet explained, is based on a contract between the group's leader and its members. Members must commit to wage jihad and obey the leader. AQAP claimed that it does not make takfir on members who leave the group, nor does it justify their execution. It stated that members are not forced to carry out martyrdom or deep strike operations.

As for its financial resources, AQAP stated that it does not accept financial support from countries or governments, saying it only accepts donations from Muslim donors who aspire to support jihad. It said its financial resources consist of war spoils, ransoms, alms, and donations.

Addressing its position regarding rival groups, enemies, and its fighting strategy, AQAP said that its wages guerilla warfare, focusing as much as possible on "the Zionist-Crusader alliance, led by the U.S., the leader of unbelief." The group's fighting, it said, "is [focused] primarily on the U.S., by attacking it when possible and targeting its interests, whether economic, military or human, on U.S. soil as well as outside it, by using guerilla warfare or inciting lone jihadis to bleed [the U.S.] to a state of exhaustion, pushing it towards isolationism or collapse, or until these [Western] countries agree to pull out from Muslim countries and stop supporting the Jews and traitor rulers."

Lashing out at the U.S., AQAP described it as "the leader of unbelief" and the "head of the snake," accusing it of "controlling the international campaign against Muslims" and of being the "primary obstacle [preventing] the liberation of Palestine and Jerusalem, through its support and protection of the Jews." AQAP further accused the U.S. of supporting the tyrants who oppress Muslims, and argued that "with the collapse of the U.S. or with its isolation, these countries will vanish."

Moreover, AQAP accused the U.S. of occupying Muslim countries and carrying out airstrikes against Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya. "The U.S.," AQAP said, "seeks to terminate any Islamic project that aims to restore the glory of the ummah[;] it is the one conspiring against the entire Islamic ummah, to prevent it from flourishing or managing to establish a strong entity outside of [U.S.] control. All can agree on the unbelief of the U.S. enemy, its hostility, and its oppression of Muslims, and that the ummah can unite to confront it." With the defeat of the U.S., the booklet argued, "the biggest obstacle standing between the entire ummah and it its mujahideen, [preventing] the liberation of Palestine and the restoration of its glory, and the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate, would be removed, and its ally regimes will be toppled, one after another, and the nations will be liberated from the tyranny of oppressive rulers."

AQAP then justified carrying out attacks against Israel, on Israeli soil and against Israeli interests, saying that Israel occupies Palestine and oppresses, kills, imprisons, tortures, and destroys the homes of Muslims in Palestine. AQAP further accused Israel of conspiring against Muslims and supporting regimes and governments who stand against Muslim nations.

The group also clarified that while the U.S. and its allies are much stronger than AQAP, in terms of numbers and weaponry, this does not mean that jihad should not be waged against them, saying: "any power that can be acquired will suffice in confronting the enemies, since the Muslims have been outnumbered in the majority of their battles and raids throughout history."

After noting that its activities range all the countries in the Arabian Peninsula, as well as all locations where U.S., Israeli, and Western interests are present, whether on their own soil, or in other countries, AQAP mentioned that it allows its fighters to use different weapons, including knives, swords, rifles, heavy machine guns, rockets, cannons, explosives, IED's, mines, deep strike operations, martyrdom operations, and tanks. The use of all these weapons and of all the latest inventions, AQAP noted, should be employed according to shari'a guidelines, and after consulting high command.

AQAP claimed that it does not approve of the practice of beheading enemies, and that it only allows execution by poison after receiving permission from the group's leadership and examining the issue from all sides, "because it would be difficult to control and could cause harm to Muslims."

In terms of its position regarding "deviant groups" such as Shi'ites and Sufis, AQAP maintained that it will not engage in fighting against them, unless they attack Sunni Muslims, and in that case, the fight would be limited to those who took part in the attack, while targeting their families in their homes, places of worship, and annual religious events will be avoided.

In the event that Muslims are used by the enemies as human shields, AQAP said it will only allow attacks in very limited cases, to be decided upon by the general commander and the group's religious committee. AQAP also claimed that in principle, it does not permit the targeting of its enemies in mosques, markets, funerals, restaurants, hotels, and gatherings where they may intermingle with Muslims.

Highlighting its position regarding the governments of Muslim countries, AQAP said that they "lack legitimacy, are followers of the U.S. and act as its agents." These countries oppress their citizens, do not implement shari'a law, and are in alliance with the "enemies of Allah," supporting them against Muslims, it claimed. Therefore, AQAP believes that people should rebel against them, and fight against them when possible.

Addressing the armies of Muslims countries, AQAP stated that it believes that they were created to protect oppressive regimes, and as such, should be fought against, saying: "In principle, AQAP prefers not to be involved in fighting against these armies, and prefers to focus on fight the U.S. enemy. However, some of these armies have initiated attacks and involved themselves in the fighting, turning themselves into shields protecting the U.S., thus pushing AQAP to defend itself and reciprocate."

Regarding the Houthis and their project in Yemen, AQAP maintained that fighting against them is a religious duty, due to the Houthis' alliance with Iran, "which aspires to spread Shi'ism in Yemen and the entire Arabian Peninsula," as well as carry out attacks against Sunni Muslims in Yemen, displace them, destroy their homes and mosques, kill and imprison them, and enact man-made laws instead of Allah's shari'a.

Addressing its position on the Islamic State (ISIS), AQAP stated that ISIS follows the ideology of the Khawarij,[3] and stressed that "there are huge differences between AQAP and ISIS on the issues of takfir, execution, and fighting, as well as on the caliphate and imamate [leadership], how it should be declared, and how it should be governed."

AQAP also explained its position regarding enemy prisoners, saying that their fate will be decided by the group's emir or his deputy, who will determine whether they should be exchanged for Muslim prisoners, whether a ransom should be set for their release, or whether they should be executed or freed. As for those who convert to Islam while in captivity, AQAP said they will not be executed, and that the other options may apply to them. As for apostates, AQAP said, they will either be exchanged for Muslim prisoners, executed, or freed under the condition that they repent.

AQAP concluded the booklet by highlighting its primary principles, which include monotheism, waging jihad as the only means to rescue the Muslim ummah and restore its glory, adherence to the rules of shari'a as a religious duty, extending loyalty to the believers and enmity to the unbelievers, the rejection of democracy as a political system and viewing it as an act of unbelief, the role of the Quran as guidance, and the belief that victory will be attained by force. AQAP also stated that part of its duty is to defend Muslims in the Arabian Peninsula, and that it will always regulate its actions and positions according to shari'a, and does not recognize international political systems or man-made laws.

[1] An Islamic army that Salafi-jihadi groups believe, based on a prophecy by the prophet Muhammad, will emerge from Yemen.

[2] The Kharijites, or Khawarij, were an early Islamic sect which pronounced Muslims apostates for committing even minor sins. Today the term is used pejoratively by Muslims to denounce jihadi groups they view as extremist, specifically ISIS.


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