New Bin Laden Letter?
Muhammad al-Shafi`i reports in Asharq al-Awsat today that the newspaper has acquired a copy of a letter purported to be from Usama Bin Laden and signed by him via an Islamic institute in Pakistan. The letter is a call by Bin Laden for an end to factionalism among (hardline) Muslims, especially those of the jihadi (holy war) tendency, who, he says, have fallen to fighting with one another rather than against the common foe. The letter gives Koranic and other justifications for such unity and the need to band together against a threat to Islam.
The letter is the first written document in which Bin Laden identifies himself with the jihadi tendency explicitly (though that should have been clear from the videotape found in Afghanistan last year where he was boasting about helping plan September 11).
The article also notes that a couple of books with an al-Qaeda orientation have appeared, including one entitled “The New Crusades” which is dedicated to the US Congress on the flyleaf. (That dedication is chilling since Bin al-Shibh says the Capitol was an al-Qaida target on 9/11).
This document shows that either Bin Laden is still alive and attempting to gain leadership over the jihadi tendency, or that someone else is trying to do so in his name. The jihadis include the Egyptian al-Jihad al-Islami and the still-militant faction of the Islamic Grouping; as well as Pakistani groups such as Soldiers of the Companions of the Prophet and Harakat al-Mujahidin.
It may well be that with the accession to political power of the Jami`at Ulama-yi Islam and the Jama`at-i Islami in the Northwest Frontier of Pakistan, new civil leaders of the jihadi tendency are emerging, focused especially on Kashmir, which have dissociated themselves from al-Qaida in order to avoid the Pakistani government manhunt. The abandonment of violence by a major faction of the Islamic Grouping is also disturbing to the remnants of al-Qaida.