Posts video of al-Nusra cleric days after Treasury Dept. designates him terrorist.
Sofian Zakkout, the founder and President of the American Muslim Association of North America (AMANA), is known for using social media to promote white supremacist and former KKK leader David Duke and the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas, but recently he has moved in a more extreme direction – with support for al-Qaeda.
In March 2016, South Florida Muslim leader Sofian Abdelaziz Zakkout posted onto his Facebook page a graphic containing the images of several deceased terrorist leaders. It included different well-known Hamas figures, such as Hamas co-founders Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, former head of the Hamas Al-Qassam Brigades Saleh Shahade, Hamas commander Nizar Rayan, and Hamas bomb maker Yahya Ayyash.
For Zakkout to post such a graphic was not out of the ordinary. Indeed, Zakkout has posted innumerable images depicting operatives from Hamas, whether they be leaders from the group or masked Hamas militants brandishing rocket launchers. However, this particular graphic didn’t just have individuals from Hamas on it. It also had numerous people associated with al-Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden, bin Laden’s mentor Abdullah Azzam, al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and Chechen terror leaders Shamil Basayev and Ibn al-Khattab.
This was a precursor for things to come, as Zakkout has been recently embracing al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, the al-Nusra Front.
Jabhat al-Nusra Front, a.k.a. Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, is one of the more prominent jihadist groups fighting in Syria to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who is being supported by Iran and Russia. Al-Nusra claimed responsibility for the widely publicized December 12th assassination of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov in Ankara, Turkey perpetrated by Turkish gunman Mevlut Mert Altintas.
Last month, on November 21st, Zakkout posted onto Facebook a video of a speech made by now-deceased al-Nusra leader Abdullah al-Muhaysini. Before he was killed, al-Muhaysini, a Saudi cleric, worked to bring al-Qaeda and ISIS together in Syria. Members of al-Nusra, ISIS, Free Syrian Army (FSA), and other organizations engaged in the civil war against Assad have been known to join forces with rival terror outfits. Over the video, Zakkout wrote in Arabic, “Allahu Akbar, God is great and thank God.”
Zakkout’s posting came merely eleven days after the US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Muhaysini and three of his al-Nusra colleagues “foreign terrorists.” Al-Nusra, itself, was named to the State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) in May 2014.
On December 6th, Zakkout placed on his Facebook page a video of an al-Nusra gang in Southwest Aleppo holding Syrian troops, whom they had captured in August, prisoner. One of the captives, who was noticeably wounded and covered in blood, looked barely alive, if not dead, and had to be propped up by one of the Nusra gunmen during a group video take. Over this video, Zakkout exclaimed, “Nice!”
On December 14th, Zakkout posted a video from the Army of Conquest, Jaish al-Fatah, a joint command center of Islamist Syrian rebel factions participating in the war against Assad. It has been reported that 90% of Army of Conquest militants are from al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, both directly connected to al-Qaeda. Ahrar al-Sham was co-founded by top al-Qaeda operative Abu Khaled al-Suri and has been heavily influenced by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The video was an Army of Conquest open message to Iran and Hezbollah, who have been fighting alongside Assad and against the Army of Conquest – essentially terrorist versus terrorist – in the Syrian Civil War. Just as in the previous two, Zakkout offered praise for the video.
This year, was not the first time Sofian Zakkout has been involved in the promotion of elements of al-Qaeda.
In 2003, Zakkout’s group AMANA contained a link on its official website to qoqaz.com, ‘Jihad in Chechnya,’ a then-fundraising and recruiting site for al-Qaeda. The site was produced by Azzam Publications, named for Abdullah Azzam (mentioned above). From 2003 to 2005, AMANA contained a link on its website to the official site for the al-Haramain Foundation, a now-defunct group then-based in Saudi Arabia that was designated a terrorist organization by the US government for its personal association with Osama bin Laden and its financing of al-Qaeda.
Sofian Zakkout and his group’s embrace of al-Qaeda and entities associated with it should have those inside and outside the Muslim community extremely concerned and should illicit unanimous condemnation.
Zakkout has long posed a threat to the general public and national security. His latest outrages in support of an al-Qaeda affiliate should be the catalyst for law enforcement to launch an investigation into his activities. This should, no doubt, lead to the complete shutdown of him and his organization’s operation.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report