The attacks on his credibility come on top of other disputes that have already caused "fragmentation" within the jihadi community, Mr. Hegghammer says, adding: "I think we're seeing some kind of decline. We're past the peak.... We're at just the beginning of the decline."
The two assessments reflect a complex trend that analysts have been seeing for some time: Even as Al Qaeda has become a spent organizational force, and the wider Salafi-jihadi community has been weakened by a loss of public support and by internal disputes – in large part because of the violent excesses of Zarqawi in Iraq that killed so many Muslims – a new danger has emerged in smaller, independent, and more radical groups that are inspired by jihadi ideology and devoted to violence.
Zarqawi's "dream of a Salafi-Jihadist movement ... is coming to fruition with a new generation of militant youth," wrote Shishani in The Jamestown Foundation's "Terrorism Focus." And "though they are, in many cases, poorly trained and without direct contacts to al-Qaeda, this younger generation appears to be even more radical than their Jordanian predecessors." Another noteworthy development, this time in Egypt, was reported by Steven Brooke in this month's CTC Sentinel, published by West Point's Combating Terrorism Center.
Mr. Brooke, a Washington-based analyst, noted that while an organized jihadist movement "remains a remote possibility" for now, "a non-violent but especially stern ... brand of Salafist Islam has elbowed its way into Egypt's religious landscape."