Al Qaeda trying to regain primacy as Daesh loses ground -NATO

Members of Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front carry their weapons as they move toward their positions during an offensive to take control of the northwestern city of Ariha from forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar Assad, in Idlib province May 28, 2015. (Reuters)
Updated 04 September 2018
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Al Qaeda trying to regain primacy as Daesh loses ground -NATO

JERUSALEM: Al Qaeda is trying to regain its primacy over international militancy as Daesh loses ground, a senior NATO official said on Tuesday, seeing a potentially increased risk to the West from the groups’ rivalry.
But Arndt von Loringhoven, the alliance’s assistant secretary general for intelligence and security, said Daesh retained some personnel strength despite its combat losses, including fresh recruits among women and children.
“Daesh-Daesh weakening has provided Al-Qaeda with an opportunity to attempt to regain its former status,” Von Loringhoven told a security conference hosted by Israel’s IDC Herzliya college.
“While ISIL-Daesh has occupied the world’s attention for the last four-five year, Al-Qaeda has been quietly rebuilding its global networks and capabilities,” he said, citing activity in Kashmir, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and North Africa.
“Rather like ISIL-Daesh, Al-Qaeda’s strategic aim is to regain leadership of like-minded militants and extremists. The competition for legitimacy, affiliates and recruits among the two major global extremist groups potentially increases the terrorism threat to NATO and our partners.”
Al Qaeda carried out the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, prompting US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. US forces killed Al-Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden, in a Pakistani hideout in 2011. Soon after, Daesh, which is guided by a similarly extremist form of Sunni Islam, arose.
Daesh’s fiefdoms in Syria and Iraq have been largely dismantled in recent years by offensives launched by Damascus and Baghdad with the backing of various foreign coalitions.
Von Loringhoven said NATO estimated that Daesh’s peak strength of around 39,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq had been halved to between 18,000 and 20,000, most of them dispersed around the two countries and “gone underground.”
“A very worrisome trend is the group’s concerted effort to use propaganda to radicalize women and minors, who have emerged as a new target for recruitment relatively recently,” he said.
“This trend may have led to increased involvement of women and minors in the planning and execution of a number of attacks, including in NATO countries,” he said.
Citing the arrest in June of a Tunisian man suspected of planning a ricin attack Germany, von Loringhoven said militants could increasingly try to turn to homemade chemical or biological arms or attacks using commercially available drones.


Muslims pray in banned area of Al-Aqsa for first time since 2003

The worshippers forced their way into the area ahead of Friday prayer. (Reuters)
Updated 6 min 56 sec ago
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Muslims pray in banned area of Al-Aqsa for first time since 2003

  • The worshippers chanted religious and national slogans and mounted the flag of Palestine to show their delight at the reopening of the area

AMMAN: For the first time since 2003, Muslim worshippers broke an Israeli ban and offered Friday prayers in the Bab Al-Rahmeh prayer hall, which is part of the Haram Al-Sharif/Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Hundreds of Palestinian worshippers entered the Bab Al-Rahmeh area inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday for the first time since the area was closed to Muslim worship by Israeli authorities.

The worshippers, led by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein and other religious leaders, forced their way into the area ahead of the weekly Friday prayer, defying the Israeli ban.

The worshippers chanted religious and national slogans and mounted the flag of Palestine to show their delight at the reopening of the area, which has only been open during the past 16 years to Jewish fanatics during provocative visits to the Muslim holy place, the third holiest site in Islam, according to the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa.

Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the former mufti and now a member of the newly constituted Islamic Waqf Council in Jerusalem, delivered a short sermon in which he reiterated that “the Haram Al-Sharif is all 144 dunums of land, including the mosques, prayer halls, courtyard musuems and schools within it.” Sabri said that Muslims will not allow anyone to diminish Muslim rights in the entire mosque area.

The Friday prayer at Bab Al-Rahmeh went off peacefully in part because of an Israeli decision late on Thursday not to make any further escalations, a reliable source in Jerusalem told Arab News.

Khaleel Assali, a member of the new council who participated in the prayer at Bab Al-Rahmeh, told Arab News that the mood was peaceful and upbeat. “It was a beautiful thing to be able to reclaim part of our religious site that we were barred from using for so many years.”

The deputy head of the PLO’s Fatah movement, Mahmoud Alloul, praised the unprecedented action by the popular movement in Jerusalem. 

In a statement published on the Wafa website, Alloul called on Palestinians to stay steadfast in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa and Bab Al-Rahmeh and to “continue to stand up to the occupiers and their repeated incursions in Al-Aqsa courtyards.”

Mohammad Ishtieh, a senior Fatah leader who is expected to be the next Palestinian prime minister, issued a statement saying that what happened in Jerusalem today proves beyond a shadow of doubt that all actions and decisions aimed at Judaization of Jerusalem have failed as a result of the steadfastness of our people in our eternal capital. Ishtieh praised the defenders of Jerusalem who screamed for justice and who again forced the Israeli occupiers to back down.

Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) and a new member of the Jordanian-appointed Waqf Council, told Arab News that all parties participated and share this success. “Everyone participated and every party should get credit for this success. Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa unite us.”

The popular protests that led to the breakup of the 16-year-old Israeli ban began on Feb. 13 when the newly constituted empowered and expanded 18-member Waqf Council decided to hold a symbolic prayer at the barred Bab Al-Rahmeh site. The Israelis responded by placing heavy chains at the gate and making arrests. 

After four days of arrests, Israel allowed the removal of the chains but would not go as far as allowing Muslim worshippers to enter. On Wednesday the Waqf Council called on worshippers to pray at the Bab Al-Rahmeh site. All five daily prayers were held outside the barred prayer hall. A confrontation was expected Friday, but the insistence of the worshippers on reclaiming their site led to the Israelis backing down, Jerusalem sources told Arab News.