The Imam Shamil Brigade, a previously unknown jihadi group, claimed responsibility for the April 3, 2017 St. Petersburg Metro attack, stating the perpetrator, Akbarzhon Jalilov, had carried the attack following the guidance of Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which monitors jihadi social media.
Jalilov, a native of Kyrgyzstan, is described in Imam Shamil Brigade’s statement as a "lion" and "one of the knights of Islam."
In the statement, which MEMRI said “was published exclusively by the Nouakchott News Agency on April 24, 2017, the group threatened to carry out more attacks in retaliation for Russian attacks in Syria, and stress[ed] the attack was ‘a clear message to Russia and to anyone who attacks Muslim countries’ that ‘the price of waging war on Muslim countries is high.’”
Addressing the Russian people, the statement threatened that they will "pay with their blood as the brothers in Syria, Chechnya and Libya are paying with theirs" unless "they stop their government from interfering in Muslim countries."
MEMRI said, “The group conclude[d] its statement by sending a message to the Russian government saying the attack was only the ‘beginning’ and that the government security precautions put in place after the attack would not stop them from carrying more attacks inside Russia.”
Earlier this week, Al Qaeda’s media company, Al Sahab released a 6-minute audiomessage by Al Zawahiri “focusing on Syria and urging Syrians to prepare for a long-term war against their enemies,” MEMRI said, noting, “Al Zawahiri advise[ed] the mujahideen to adopt a strategy of guerrilla warfare rather than focusing on holding territory in order to ‘wear down’ their enemies and cause them to ‘bleed to death.’ Al Zawahiri also urge[ed] the mujahideen to present the jihad in Syria as a matter concerning the entire ummah to avoid it being looked upon as merely a nationalistic or geographically-bound issue.”
Following are excerpts from Al Zawahiri’s message based on the original English transcript provided by Al Sahab:
"… My dear Muslim brothers … To begin with, I would like to tell our beloved people in Shaam [Syria]…that your wounds are the wounds of the entire Ummah, and your pain is the pain of the entire Ummah. You are in our prayers at every moment, and we wish to sacrifice our souls for you. If anything stands in our way, it is the fact that we are engaged in fighting the same Crusader enemy which you are up against, though on a different front.
"Our Muslim Ummah in Shaam, the land of Ribaat [Garrison] and Jihad: Know that the only reason you are being targeted is that you want Islam to rule over the land of Shaam, and the International Satanic Alliance will never accept this, and it will spare no effort to stop this Islamic tide.
"Our dear people in Shaam: You must therefore prepare yourselves for a protracted war against the Crusaders and their Rafidhi [Shi’ite] and Nusairi [Syrian regime] allies. So remain steadfast, for verily victory comes with patience, ease with hardship, deliverance with affliction, and know that victory is often just a matter of timely perseverance …
"You are those who have taken up the path of Jihad in the way of Allah to raise the flag of Islam and Jihad on the land of Shaam, and to liberate it from oppression, tyranny and corruption. So do not backtrack. Know no wavering or compromise. Die honorably, but never accept a life of humiliation. Unite and close your ranks with your Muslim brothers and Mujahideen not just in Shaam, but the entire world, for it is a single Crusader campaign being waged against Muslims the world over.
"Our brothers in Shaam: Watch out for the progeny of Abu Righal, who wish to deceive you into buying the myth that only if you were to change your Jihad to an exclusively nationalist Syrian struggle, the leading international criminals would be pleased with you, for this goes against what the Quran has clearly explained: ‘Never will the Jews, nor the Christians be pleased with you, until you follow their creed’ [Koran 2:120].
"My people and my brothers in Shaam: I would like to offer here a few words of advice as a reminder to you and myself.
"First: We must constantly review our actions, and retract ourselves from everything which is capable of hindering victory. For we can never be better than the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him), who were denied victory when they disobeyed. Critical reassessment and correction of mistakes is the first step in the path to victory.
"Second: In my humble opinion, the strategy for Jihad in Shaam must focus on a guerilla war aimed at wearing down the enemy and bleeding it to death. This has been the weapon of choice of the oppressed against arrogant transgressors in every age. Do not occupy yourselves with holding on to territory, instead focus on destroying the morale of your enemy. Take the enemy to the point of abysmal despair by inflicting unrelenting blows and unbearable losses on its forces.
"Third: The cause of Shaam is the cause of the entire Ummah. We must not present it as merely a cause of the people of Shaam, and then further narrow it down to a cause of Syrians alone, for this is precisely the enemy’s plan and his much sought after objective. The enemy seeks to transform the Jihad in Shaam from a cause of the Muslim Ummah to an exclusively nationalist Syrian cause, then turn the nationalist cause to an issue of specific regions and localities, and finally reduce this to an issue of a few cities, villages and neighborhoods.
"It is incumbent upon us to confront this evil strategy by declaring that the Jihad in Shaam is the Jihad of the Muslim Ummah aimed at establishing the rule of Allah in the land of Allah. This must coincide with encouraging the entire Ummah to participate in the Jihad of Shaam with its sons, wealth, efforts and energies …
"We must not submit therefore to the dictations of the leading criminals, who seek to intimidate us with accusations of ‘terrorism’ and ‘extremism.’ These are the same forces that did not even spare Muhammad Morsi, in spite of the fact that he had given them all they had asked for …"