For prior parts in this series:
This post features a statement by one Abu Abdullah, identified as the external connection/communications official for al-Qaeda, and Abd al-Rahim Atoun's response to that statement. The debate concerns Abd al-Rahim Atoun's claims in his testimony regarding communication between al-Qaeda on one side and Jabhat al-Nusra and its successors on the other.
The texts are easy to follow and there is no need for summary. I reproduce them below with translation.
Abu Abdullah's comment on Abd al-Rahim Atoun's testimony
Commenting in what came in Sheikh Atoun's article on communication
Praise be to God and prayers and peace be upon the Messenger of God and all his family and companions. As for what follows:
In the shade of sensitive events the field of al-Sham is experiencing, Sheikh Atoun issued a long contribution in the private connection rooms, and we did not pay attention to it for many reasons that there is no need to divulge here, but as for the fact he has brought it out on his public channel, we cannot be silent about it as it touches on the character and trustworthiness of the Qaedat al-Jihad apparatus.
Sheikh Atoun wrote:
'Another thing: there is a problem in the means of connection itself. As there are some correspondents who open the messages and send copies of them or keep hold of them, and these are great matters, so it is not allowed for this correspondent to open the message as he is entrusted with it, so if he opens it, he betrays the trust whoever he may be, just as it is not allowed for him to send a copy of it to one besides the one to whom it has been sent, just as he may not keep a copy of it after he knows it has arrived to its place...And this problem is long-standing and we had previously warned about it from the days of the dispute with the khawarij but it was not resolved.'
Beginning from the Exalted and Almighty's words: 'Oh you who believe, fear God and be with the truth-tellers' [Qur'an 9:119]- out of disavowal, we say and in God is success:
- The trust of messages is a greater matter and accusation of betrayal is a great matter likewise: 'Oh you who believe, do not betray God and the Messenger and do not knowingly betray your trusts' [Qur'an 8:27]. And fulfilling trust in word and deed is what I myself and my brothers advise.
- Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri- may God protect him- has been accustomed to broaden his consultation, so he sends some messages that he writes for the fronts or excerpts from them to multiple parties to seek shura [consultation], among them mashayakh in al-Sham and outside al-Sham, and indeed he even sends to some of the Ahl al-'Ilm and Shura [scholars and people of consultation] from those who have no organizational connection with the group. And the sheikh- may God protect him- indicated that so long as he does not mention that the message is private, the one to whom it has been sent may consult on it with whoso he wishes seeking truth and desiring good advice. And this is what happened with the messages that Sheikh Atoun mentioned in his message, so no violation happened as we have been accused and God is the One whose help is to be sought.
- With regards to some of these messages, the official of correspondences from the side of the brothers in Jabhat al-Nusra was informed of their arrival, but he was late in taking them and conveying them to their intended recipients, and the connections official brother in the Jabha [Jabhat al-Nusra] had notified us that he had been late in receiving [them] despite the fact that he had received notification of the sending [of them].*
- As for what concerns the messages that have been leaked since the days of the disagreement with the khawarij, I do not know of any message leaked from our side, and perhaps Sheikh Atoun remembers their leaking of the written message on the decision on the problem of Baghdadi's group, and the brothers in Jabhat al-Nusra apologized at the time for the leak, then the same thing happened with regards to the audio message on the same subject, despite my strong warning to the brothers to whom it was sent that it should not go out to media.
- The second incident is what happened with the statement of Sheikh Azzam al-Amriki (may God have mercy on him): first this is a media matter and not a work letter, but for each is his particular means of connection; second the statement wasn't leaked but it was sent for publication, and at the time of it the fitna of Baghdadi was at its height, so the supporting brothers volunteering in the assignment of distribution became divided into two groups like the rest of the fronts: a group supporting Baghdadi and a group that remained with the brothers. And the second side considered to consult us in publishing the speech, but the first side on account of its dispute decided to publish it, and covered the al-Sahab logo with another. That is, the speech was sent from al-Sahab for publication but there was no leaking, and al-Sahab clarified at the time in a statement what happened with regards to that speech.
- By God's grace and for many years we have been entrusted with connecting with all the brances and all sides and we have no betrayed trust or over-stepped our competencies, and it is regrettable that the brothers in the connection office be accused of betraying trust and among them are those whose beards have turned grey in jihad in God's path, and God is our reliance and He suffices as guardian.
Sheikh Ayman sent many months ago a message to Sheikh Jowlani that it is possible to connect with the external connections official on an almost daily basis in order to improve the speed of connection with them. From here it is becomes clear to those inquiring the reason for the speed in the arrival of a piece of information and responding to it, and despite that no message from them has reached me or any response to the Sheikh's message that is more than 7 months old.
As for the rest of what came in the essay, I leave it for those of the matter to deal with it.
Oh God, forgive us and our brothers, and take us by our hands to support Your religion and raise His banner on high. And the last of our calls is praise be to God the Lord of the Worlds.
Official of external connection
Thursday 11 Rabi' al-Awal 1439 AH
Atoun's response (published on 2 December)
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Praise be to God and prayers and peace be upon the Messenger of God, his family, companions and whoso is loyal to him. As for what follows:
The brother Abu Abdullah, the official of external connections in the Qaedat al-Jihad organization issued a statement on Thursday 11 Rabi' al-Awal 1439 AH. In my clarification on what came in his statement, I will not object to what he spoke about regarding the story of Azzam al-Amriki, may God have mercy on him, or the message of the decision, and I will limit myself to what concerns my previous words, so I say:
Dear brother, in my previous words I did not speak about you in particular but rather I said that there are problems in the means of connection, among them that a number of the brothers who were working in the realm of connection mentioned in front of us what they did from what I mentioned. I do not want to detail further.
I also spoke clearly about two things: one of them that the first message of Sheikh Zawahiri- may God protect him- that reached us following the announcement of Fatah al-Sham had reached the brother Abu Julaybib before Sheikh Jowlani- may God protect him- could inform him about it.
So tell me about this particular, and about who informed Abu Julaybib of the message, for the one who informed Abu Julaybib of the message before Sheikh Jowlani could inform him, this deed of his is called betrayal of trust in law: so who is it that did this? I do not know and have not accused you.
As for the second instance, it is the arrival of Dr. Ayman's second message after Fatah al-Sham to some of the brothers not concerned with the matter in the Deraa area, so when the brothers in Deraa inquired from us about it we mentioned to them that nothing had yet reached us, and two or three days after that the aforementioned message reached the connection official brother among us and the matter is not as you mentioned- God bless you- that the message reached him and he did not receive it.
As for the connection between Sheikh Jowlani and the external connection official: if it is with speed as you say, why was there a delay in the arrival of our message, in which we clarified the project of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, for months while the message of Sheikh Sayf reached the doctor much before that? And if the connection is quick to this degree between you and Sheikh Jowlani, is it with the same speed between you and the doctor? Or does that which reaches you quickly from the side of Sheikh Jowlani take months also to arrive from your side to the doctor (may God protect him)?
And if the connection has improved in the last seven months as you mention, all the problems that we speak about predate the last seven months: i.e. they are from the time of Fatah al-Sham. As for before Fatah al-Sham, the connection was completely cut off for years. And the elaboration to this extent suffices. And praise be to God the Lord of the Worlds.