Propaganda output from terror groups has had a lower-key feel so far this year in terms of volume and overt tone, but that doesn’t mean we should rest easy—much of it, after all, has focused on bringing divergent terrorist factions together into a supergroup of sorts.
Al-Qaeda’s persistent calls for unification—a troubling enough campaign in a post-caliphate world—come as a UN Security Council report notes that as ISIS “continues to transform into a terror organization with a flat hierarchy, with cells and affiliates increasingly acting autonomously,” al-Qaeda “has remained remarkably resilient” and in several regions “poses a greater threat” than ISIS.
“Some members of both organizations have been willing and able to support each other in the preparation of attacks,” added the report. “Therefore, the potential convergence of both networks, at least in some regions, is a potential new threat.” This while al-Qaeda propaganda “continues to highlight a new generation of potential leaders,” including Osama bin Laden’s son Hamza, “in an apparent attempt to project a younger image to its sympathizers.”
In a recent statement, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri urged warring jihadists to “unite and agree and gather and merge and cooperate and stack together as one rank” as “this is the basis of victory and salvation.”
Zawahiri told terrorists in a video last fall that unification against the “international Satanic alliance” on a global front was critical: “Communicate, link up with each other and extend a helping hand to your Muslim brothers in all Muslim lands. This is the surest way to victory.”
The message has been consistently woven into other al-Qaeda materials as well. Al-Nafir Bulletin, a short topical essay published by al-Qaeda’s Global Islamic Media Front, counseled jihadists to “forget your differences and put them behind your backs” while “the hearts of the mujahedin are open and their hands are extended to cooperate and collaborate while serving the religion.”