A caution against a rush to judgment. Al-Qaeda, after all, claimed responsibility for the Summer 2003 blackouts in the U.S. I don’t think this analysis is conclusive, as so much of it is based on how the message claiming credit differs linguistically from other Al-Qaeda messages. That could be explained simply by a difference of authorship within the organization. Still, the involvement of Al-Qaeda has not been conclusively proven. This just in from MEMRI:
On March 12, 2004, the pro-Saddam pro-bin Laden London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi(1) published the alleged statement by the Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades of Al-Qa’ida, in which the brigades claimed to be responsible for the March 11, 2004 bombings in Madrid.
It should be noted that the Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades claimed responsibility for the August 2003 blackout in the U.S. (which was a large-scale technical failure), calling it “Operation Quick Lightning in the Land of the Tyrant of This Generation.”(2)
The following is the translation of the statement, followed by commentary:
Text of the Statement
[The statement begins with the following three Qur’anic verses:]
“When you punish, punish them in the way they have punished you.” (Qur’an 16:126)
“Kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from where they have driven you out; for internal strife [Fitna] is worse than killing.” (Qur’an 2:191)
“Whoever attacks you, attack him in the same way that he attacked you, and trust Allah and know that Allah is with those who put their trust [in Him].” (Qur’an 2:194).
“The Trains of Death Operation
“In their last statement, of March 2, 2004 [on the bombings in Karbala and Baghdad] the Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades promised that they were preparing for their upcoming operations, and behold, they are fulfilling their promise.
“The Death Brigades penetrated into the European Crusader heartland, and struck a painful blow at one of the foundations of the Crusader coalition. This is part of a settling of old accounts with Crusader Spain, the ally of the U.S., in its war against Islam…
“Where is America, Aznar? Who will protect you? Who will protect Britain? Who will protect Japan, Italy, and other agents? By striking at the Italian forces in Nasiriyya [Iraq], we sent you and America’s agents a warning, demanding that you quit the coalition against Islam, but you did not get the message…
“Now we say it clearly, hoping that you [Aznar] will understand it this time. We at the Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades are not sorry for the deaths of so-called civilians. Are they permitted to kill our children, our women, our elderly, and our youth in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, and Kashmir, and we are forbidden from killing them? Allah, may he be praised, said: ‘Whoever attacks you, attack him in the same way that he attacked you’ [Qur’an 2:194].
“Take your hands off us! Release our prisoners! Get out of our lands! Then we will leave you alone.
“The peoples of America’s allies must pressure their government to withdraw immediately from their alliance with America [in its fight] against terror (Islam)… And if you renounce [fighting us], we too will stop fighting you.
“We say to you that the Death-Smoke Squad will reach you soon, and then you will see [i.e. count] your dead by the thousands, Allah willing, and this is a warning.
“In another operation, the Al-Quds Army Brigades struck the Jewish Masonic temple in Istanbul, and this was the main Masonic temple, and three of the greatest Masons were killed… Had it not been for the technical failure, all the Masons would have been killed. But for reasons of divine wisdom, only three were killed. Allah be praised.
“We announce to the Bilal [I]bn Rabah Squad(3) that headquarters has approved [its] proposal. When the emissary arrives, the work will begin. We announce to the Abu Ali Al-Harithi Squad(4) that headquarters has decided that Yemen will be the third swamp(5) [in which] America the Tyrant of This Generation [will sink], in order to discipline the [Yemeni] government which is collaborating [with the U.S.] and that has abandoned Islam and now ranks second to [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf. Therefore, all the squads must be placed on alert, so that the operation will begin at 4515 S.B… [sic]. Do not forget to strike to the death; do not forget Abu Ali Al-Harithi; do not forget Sheikh Abd Al-Qader Abd Al-‘Aziz (Al-Sayyed, Imam Al-Sharif), the great sage who was arrested three months after the September  events, and was extradited by Yemen to Egypt.
“We say to those who killed the clerics of the Muslim Sunnis in Iraq to stop, or else… and we promise the Muslims in the world that the strike of the Winds of Black Death (the anticipated strike on America) is now in its last phase [of preparation]. [It is] 90% [complete], Allah willing… Soon (when it suits the Jihad warriors), the believers [i.e. Muslims] will rejoice at Allah’s victory.
“A warning to the nations: Keep away from the civilian and military institutions of Crusader America and its allies. Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar. Islam is coming, reinforcing [the Muslims] and humiliating [the infidels].
“The Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades (Al-Qa’ida), Thursday, the 20th of Muharram, 1425, which is March 11, 2004.
The text of this statement includes linguistic usages and concepts that are incompatible with or alien to authentic Al-Qa’ida writings by Osama bin Laden, Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and others. The following are some examples, in order of appearance:
* Following the Qur’an verses is the title “The Trains of Death Operation.” This is uncommon in bin Laden’s writing. Also, it is noteworthy that the phrase “Trains of Death” is not reiterated in the text as the name of the operation.
* “Settling old accounts,” both as a linguistic form and as a concept, is alien to authentic Al-Qa’ida writings.
* The use of the concept of “agents” is taken from the vocabulary of nationalist ideology, while bin Laden and his followers relate to their enemies primarily as infidels.
* The phrase “but you did not get the message” is not one used by bin Laden, who does not cast his operations in the light of “messages,” rather, as acts in and of themselves to further the goals of Al-Qa’ida for the sake of Allah. Thus, it follows that:
* The concept of conditionality, as in the statement “And if you renounce [fighting us], we too will stop fighting you” is not a bin Laden concept.
* The term “The Tyrant of the Generation” was used in the previous statement of alleged responsibility by the Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades, for the August 2003 U.S. blackout – which was caused by a large-scale technical failure.
* In authentic Al-Qa’ida writings, the September 11 attacks are not referred to as “events” but as “raids” (the early Islamic term ghazwah).
* The announcement of an operation to begin at “4515 S.B.” or reference to an operation that is “90% completed” is alien to bin Laden’s scholarly Islamist style.
Thus, this statement does not seem to be an authentic Al-Qa’ida document.(6)
* Yigal Carmon is President of MEMRI
(1) Al-Quds Al-Arabi’s editor, Abd Al-Bari ‘Atwan, who has in the past interviewed Osama bin Laden, has also praised him. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 319, December 21, 2001, ‘Terror in America Retrospective: A bin Laden Special on Al-Jazeera Two Months Before September 11,’ http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP31901 .
(2) See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 553, August 19, 2003, ‘Al-Qa’ida Claims Responsibility for Last Week’s Blackout,’ http://www.memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP55303 .
(3) One of the early companions of the Prophet Muhammad, an Ethiopian who remained loyal to the Prophet despite being tortured.
(4) Ali Al-Harithi was an Al-Qa’ida operative eliminated in a targeted killing in Yemen.
(5) That is, after Afghanistan and Iraq.
(6) See MEMRI’s Inquiry and Analysis 156, December 30, 2003, ‘Assessing Islamist Web Site Reports Of Imminent Terror Attacks In The U.S.’ http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=ia&ID=IA15603 .