Homeland Security

Al-Shabaab Complains About 'Fake News,' Anonymous Sourcing

Hundreds of newly trained Al-Shabaab fighters perform military exercises south of Mogadishu, Somalia, in 2011. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

Al-Shabaab issued a lengthy slam against a report that the group decried as fake news, laying out a Sharia case against using anonymous sourcing and trying to shore up their defense with a list of terror leaders who think they’re great.

The terror group is taking issue with “Why My Wife and I Left Shabab in Somalia,” a twopart Skype interview featuring two Europeans, unnamed and with their faces covered and voices altered, who described life with the terror group and their imprisonment upon attempting to flee Al-Shabaab. The interviews were posted by New Yorker Bilal Abdul Kareem, who runs a video channel called On the Ground News.

Shabaab expresses “dismay” that the lengthy interviews were “nothing more than unsubstantiated allegations and sweeping statements that sought to delegitimize the Mujahideen of East Africa by portraying them as an oppressive band of crooks and criminals,” and accused “brother Bilal” of deviation from “the expected journalistic integrity and Islamic etiquettes required from a Muslim reporter.”

In a document penned earlier this month by Abu Muhammad Al-Muhajir — he says he came from another country and has fought with Al-Shabaab for nearly a decade — and distributed online by al-Qaeda’s Global Islamic Media Front, the group then lays out what they believe to be those journalistic standards.

GIMF regularly releases propaganda for al-Qaeda and its affiliates that taps into the current news cycle, including mocking Ambassador Nikki Haley’s comment that she wears high heels to kick wrongdoers at the United Nations and slamming President Obama for not doing enough to combat climate change.

“Entertaining allegations and presenting them as facts without double-checking their veracity is something unjustified, both from a Shari’ah as well as from a journalistic perspective,” the document states, accusing the video site of giving the couple “a platform to spread a one-sided, gloomy depiction of the Jihad in East Africa.”

Al-Shabaab’s second piece of advice says it’s against Islamic law to use anonymous or obscured sourcing.

“Of course, one might argue that hiding their identities was done out of concern for their safety. The rules, however, are binding considering the harmful effects of accepting disparaging testimonies from anonymous sources,” Al-Muhajir writes.

“For argument’s sake, even if the identities of these individuals were known to the reporter, then that still would not justify accepting their version of events to be true without verifying them, for that would be great injustice and bias,” the document continues. “Furthermore, it is imperative to ask ourselves, is the disparagement of these two unknown individuals enough to discredit an established Jihadi organization that has been recognized, recommended and respected by the senior leadership of all the Jihadi groups worldwide?”

“This is a group that has been praised by the likes of Shaikh Osama ibn Laden, Shaikh Abu Basir Nasir Al-Wuhayshi, Shaikh Abu Umar al-Baghdadi, Shaikh Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, Shaikh Abu Yahya Al-Libi, Shaikh Anwar Al-Awlaki, Shaikh Mustafa Abu Yazid, Shaikh Ayman Ad-Dhawahiri and others. Is it therefore logical or acceptable from a Shari’ah standpoint, for brother Bilal to cast away the praise and recommendations of such revered Islamic leaders based on the accusations of two anonymous individuals?”

Al-Muhajir also questioned whether the couple were “coerced by the apostate intelligence agencies” after leaving Al-Shabaab and whether they were part of a “new media strategy” against jihadists.

“Taking into consideration the gravity of the allegations and the damaging consequences they may cause, it would have been befitting for brother Bilal to carefully scrutinize the profile of Abdurahman ‘Doe’ and Saffiyah ‘Doe’ to know whether these anonymous individuals were trustworthy sources of information before disseminating their narratives to the world as facts,” the document adds.

Later on, the author admits that Al-Shabaab, as in “every Jihadi arena,” acknowledges “mistakes which have occurred and will continue to occur because error is something innate in human nature,” but insists mistakes — “if we were to hypothetically say that innocent people were killed during some of [Al-Shabaab’s] military operations” — don’t “render their Jihad illegitimate.”

The group claims that the couple were detained because the terror organization was trying to find a safe route by which they could go home. Al-Muhajir then complains that the couple didn’t talk about crimes against Muslims by “Crusaders” during their hourlong interview, “as if the couples’ personal dilemma is more important than the greater struggle” of jihad.

“In Islam, there is absolutely no room for entertaining unfounded accusations and merely claiming that ‘everyone knows’ will never hold water in the court of Shari’ah,” adds the rebuttal.

“…Your ‘journalism’ is acting as a tool for defamation, misrepresenting the truth, trivializing the entire struggle and reducing the Jihad to such simplicity as ‘he said’, and ‘she said’. Fear Allah, Akhi, and do not be carried away with disseminating slander in the form of ‘journalism’, thereby inadvertently preventing the Muslims from the path of Allah.”