A document captured by the United States army at Bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan

Issued on: 06/06/2012 Type: Article


1.    On May 3, 2012, one year after Osama Bin Laden was killed by an elite Navy SEAL team, the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at the United States Military Academy (West Point, NY) published 17 declassified documents captured at Bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The documents, published under the title “Letters from Abbottabad: Bin Laden Sidelined?”, were made available in complete English translation accompanied by an analysis of the information contained therein.[1]

2.    The 17 documents published constitute a very small selection from 6,000 documents captured on computers and hard drives taken from the compound where Osama Bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad. The documents, the earliest of which is dated September 2006 and the latest April 2011, include letters and draft letters written by Osama Bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders.

3.    One of the documents, apparently written in 2006, reveals correspondence between the Army of Islam, a Gaza Strip-based global jihad organization affiliated with Al-Qaeda, and the Al-Qaeda leadership. The correspondence focuses on the question of whether the Army of Islam is permitted by Islamic religious law to accept funding for its terrorist activities from other Palestinian organizations (e.g., the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Fatah) and, by implication, from such “infidel” countries as Shi’ite Iran (which, according to the Army of Islam, provides generous financial assistance to the PIJ). Al-Qaeda answered in the affirmative, i.e., that Islam permits the acceptance of money from other organizations and infidel countries for the purposes of jihad (a practice employed by the PIJ) (see Appendix I for details on the correspondence).

4.    The Army of Islam is a Gaza Strip-based Salafi-jihadist organization that has considerable operative capabilities compared to similar networks affiliated with Al-Qaeda. Established in the beginning of 2006, the organization is led by Mumtaz Dughmush, a member of an influential Gaza Strip clan. Two Army of Islam operatives took part in the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The organization is notable for its efforts to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel via the Sinai Peninsula; in addition, it conducts activities against Western and Egyptian targets reminiscent of those conducted by the global jihad. In the past, the Army of Islam was accused by the then Egyptian interior minister of responsibility for a terrorist attack against the Coptic church in Alexandria (January 2011) and the Khan el-Khalili market in Cairo (February 2009). The Army of Islam has a close relationship with Hamas, giving it ample freedom of action on the Gaza Strip scene and on the Egyptian scene (see Appendix II for details).

5.    As already mentioned, the “case study” that motivated the Army of Islam’s question to Al-Qaeda was the close relationship between the PIJ and Iran. According to one of the letters sent by the Army of Islam, the (Sunni Muslim) PIJ receives considerable financial assistance from “infidel” Shi’ite Iran for its jihadist activities, which has even led some of its operatives (“perish the thought”, the letter said) to adopt the Shi’ite school of thought. In practice, Iran does provide the PIJ with generous military and financial assistance, which has turned it into the second strongest organization in the Gaza Strip (after Hamas). In exchange for the assistance, the PIJ, not bound by the kind of constraints placed upon Hamas, is ready to promote Iran’s interests in the conflict with Israel and on the interior Palestinian scene.

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