On Friday, Magharebia came out with a report that has already garnered attention among those who follow jihadist militancy. The publication claims that Tunisia’s salafi jihadists have just announced their allegiance (bayat) to al-Qaeda:
Tunisian salafist jihadists announced their allegiance to al-Qaeda this week, accepting the group’s invitation to wage a holy war.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s call Sunday (March 17th) to fight Westerners, secularists, reformers and other so-called “enemies” was welcomed by Tunisian salafist jihadists, the movement’s leader Mohamed Anis Chaieb told Assabah.
This was the first time Tunisia’s salafist jihadist groups officially declared their allegiance to al-Qaeda. And the terror group’s call to arms could not have come at a more critical juncture for the still-fragile state.
This is an extraordinarily sloppily reported and misleading article that shouldn’t be taken at face value, although there is a relevant data point beneath the sensationalized presentation. The first, and most obvious, error is that Mohamed Anis Chaieb simply cannot be regarded as “the movement’s leader” in any way, shape, or form. The biggest salafi jihadist organization in Tunisia is Ansar al-Sharia Tunisia (AST), and Abu Iyad al-Tunisi is widelyrecognized as AST’s emir. Chaieb is an obscure enough figure that most analysts who follow Tunisia and the Maghreb closely have probably never heard of him. He is, in fact, affiliated with AST, as we will detail below. But it is not clear that the statement he made can be construed as speaking for AST as a whole.
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