The Blog

Al Qaeda-Linked Jihadists Incited Cairo Protest

12:25 PM, Oct 26, 2012 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Rifai Ahmed Taha Musa, one of Egypt’s most notorious al Qaeda-linked terrorists, attended the U.S. embassy protest in Cairo on September 11. Musa was just one of several al Qaeda-affiliated jihadists who was present at the rally, imploring followers to punish those who produced the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims.


Musa’s al Qaeda ties were publicly recognized by the U.S. government as early as 1998. He was included as a signatory on al Qaeda’s infamous February 1998 fatwa justifying terrorist attacks against American civilians. Musa would later disavow any involvement in the fatwa, but his al Qaeda ties are well established.

In September 2000, for example, Al Jazeera aired video of Musa sitting between Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri. Musa was at the time a senior Gamaaa Islamiyya (IG) leader. The three called for Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, aka the “Blind Sheikh,” to be freed from an American prison. Rahman, the IG’s longtime spiritual leader, was convicted for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and follow-on plots against the New York City landmarks.

In the months that followed the airing of that video, the CIA gathered intelligence suggesting that Musa was directly involved in anti-American terrorist plots. The CIA was so concerned about Musa that the U.S. government complained to Syria, which then housed Musa, in late 2001 and the Syrians agreed to deport him to Egypt. Musa, who has been connected to an especially brutal terrorist attack in Egypt, remained imprisoned until the fall of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s regime.

And then there Musa was on September 11, according to a video produced by Al Faroq media, a jihadist video company located in Egypt, extolling followers to rise up in protest against a previously obscure anti-Islam film.

The Al Faroq video was first obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

“We call on Muslim youth in the world to respond in a practical way,” Musa says during the embassy protest, according to SITE's translation. “There are a billion Muslims worldwide, and if they were strong and honorable we would have defended the honor of the Prophet, Allah's peace and prayer be upon him, and America wouldn't have gotten to this way.”

Musa was not the only al Qaeda-linked jihadist to attend the U.S. embassy protest in Cairo and call on followers to exact retribution for the anti-Islam film.  

Mohammed al Zawahiri, the brother of al Qaeda’s emir Ayman al Zawahiri, admittedly helped stage the protest. He has said that he called upon members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), a designated terrorist organization that merged with al Qaeda, to protest.

Mohammed al Zawahiri has tried to distance himself from al Qaeda’s organization during interviews, but has also admitted that he adheres to al Qaeda’s ideology. According to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. intelligence officials suspect that Mohammed al Zawahiri put one of the terrorists thought to have been involved in the 9/11 Benghazi terrorist attack in touch with his brother. Mohammed al Zawahiri also denounced the anti-Islam film during the protest.

Recently freed EIJ leaders heeded Mohammed al Zawahiri’s call to protest. The Al Faroq video shows Sheikh 'Adel Shehato and Sheikh Tawfiq Al 'Afani at the embassy rally. Both are longtime EIJ officials who have openly proclaimed that they endorse al Qaeda’s ideology. According to SITE’s translation, Al ‘Afani even repeated the refrain heard from protesters: "O Obama, we are all Osama…”

Ahmed ‘Ashoush, a well-known Egyptian jihadist, has also incited protesters. The Al Faroq video does not show him attending the embassy protest, but he clearly sought to stoke anger over Innocence of Muslims. Several days after the embassy protest, ‘Ashoush issued a fatwa calling for the makers of the film to be killed.

‘Ashoush has well-known ties to al Qaeda. After his fatwa was released, the Associated Press reported that he is an "al Qaeda-linked Egyptian jihadist...who was believed close to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda's current No. 1, Ayman al Zawahiri.” A video put out by al Qaeda on September 10 includes a clip of ‘Ashoush calling Osama bin Laden a martyr. Mohammed al Zawahiri and Shehato are seen sitting next to him.

A Dangerous Terrorist

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 20 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers