Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has issued his first specific guidelines for jihad, urging restraint in attacking other Muslim sects and non-Muslims, and in starting conflicts in countries where jihadis might find a safe base to promote their ideas.
The document, published by the SITE monitoring service, provides a rare look at al-Qaeda’s strategy 12 years after the September 11 attacks on the United States and the nature of its global ambitions from North Africa to the Caucasus to Kashmir.
Zawahiri endorsed the right of militants to fight Russians in the Caucasus, Indians in Kashmir and the Chinese in Xinjiang. He spelled out where conflict was inevitable, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Somalia. In Pakistan, where he is believed to be hiding, Zawahiri said fighting “aims at creating a safe haven…, which can… be used as a launching pad for the struggle of establishing an Islamic system…”
“Our struggle is a long one, and jihad is in need of safe bases,” Zawahiri said in his “general guidelines for jihad” posted on jihadi forums.
While al-Qaeda’s military aim remained to weaken the US and Israel, Zawahiri stressed the importance of “dawa”, or missionary work, to spread its ideas.
“As far as targeting the proxies of America is concerned, it differs from place to place. The basic principle is to avoid entering into any conflict with them, except in the countries where confronting them becomes inevitable,” he said.
Zawahiri also called on his followers to avoid attacking other Muslim sects, and said if they were attacked, they should limit their response to those involved in fighting.
They should also leave alone Christians, Hindus and Sikhs living in Muslim lands, respect the lives of women and children and refrain from targeting enemies in mosques, markets and gatherings where they mix with Muslims they were not fighting.