By Thomas Jocelyn
Earlier this week, Mohammed al Zawahiri, the younger brother of al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, began posting to his own Facebook page. Several members of his al Qaeda-linked clique in Egypt were already using Facebook to push their message, and the younger Zawahiri already had his own Twitter feed. But now Mohammed al Zawahiri has his own Facebook page, too.
The small number of postings that have been published thus far are consistent with his work elsewhere. One post contains a biography of Mohammed al Zawahiri that was posted on another website. That biography highlights, among other details, the Zawahiris’ disagreements with Sayyid Imam al Sharif (a.k.a. Dr. Fadl), who wrote a scathing rebuke of al Qaeda’s approach to waging jihad. Mohammed al Zawahiri was one of several Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) leaders who signed a letter rebutting Sharif’s 2007 critique. Al Zawahiri and his pro-al Qaeda allies were imprisoned at the time.
Three video clips posted on his Facebook page show Mohammed al Zawahiri encouraging would-be jihadists to support: the mujahideen in Mali (who are, of course, led by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its allies), the Al Nusrah Front in Syria (which is under the command and control of al Qaeda in Iraq) and the Islamic State of Iraq (which is al Qaeda in Iraq).
Another video clip shows Mohammed al Zawahiri sitting alongside Murjan Salim. The pair worked together in Ayman al Zawahiri’s EIJ, with the younger Zawahiri reportedly serving at one point as the head of the EIJ’s military committee, as well as a member of the EIJ’s elite Shura (consultative) council. Salim, meanwhile, reportedly served as the head of the EIJ’s sharia and media committees.
The video that shows Mohammed al Zawahiri and Salim sitting next to each other was produced by Al Faruq media, an Egyptian jihadist propaganda outfit that is openly pro-al Qaeda. Also shown in the video are Ahmed Ashush, who heads Ansar al Sharia Egypt, and Sheikh Adel Shehato, who has since been arrested by Egyptian authorities and charged with being a leader of the so-called Nasr City cell. That cell has multiple ties to al Qaeda. Both Shehato and Ashush were senior EIJ figures and remain openly pro-al Qaeda. Clips from the same Al Faruq video were included in Ayman al Zawahiri’s Oct. 24, 2012 video.
One of the more interesting aspects of post-Arab Spring Egypt is the degree to which al Qaeda-types openly debate the merits of the terrorist organization’s ideology and practices. Dr. Ragheb Elsergany, who runs Islam Story, has criticized al Qaeda’s belief system in a video that can be found online. Mohammed al Zawahiri has responded to Elsergany in a 12-part video series that is linked to on his new Facebook page. Zawahiri defends various aspects of al Qaeda operations, including the use of violence against the US.
In this vein, Mohammed al Zawahiri also linked to a video that juxtaposes Elsergany’s teachings with the arguments of al Qaeda’s leaders: Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, and…Mohammed al Zawahiri. Such a grouping is telling.
Other current postings on Zawahiri’s Facebook page include a link to a piece criticizing the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia for trying to dissuade jihadist recruits from fighting abroad, as well as a video criticizing Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi for not allowing a number of detainees out of jail.