The Sunni Jihadi movement has since its emergence in the early 1960s been fraught with internal tensions in the form of competitive dynamics, discursive contestation and fratricide. Despite largely sharing the same religious foundation and political ideology, individuals and groups time and again engage in intra‑ and inter‑group criticism which occasionally escalates to more serious conflict with detrimental effects for the broader Jihadi movement. The ongoing conflict between al‑Qaida and the Islamic State is undoubtedly the most critical episode of intra‑Jihadi conflict, but comparable conflict dynamics are not unprecedented. This report provides an introduction to and overview of the most noteworthy historical examples of contestation and outright conflict between Sunni Jihadists with the aim of illustrating the diverse nature of such internecine struggles. It helps contextualise the conflict between al‑Qaida and the Islamic State by showing that similar dynamics have previously occurred – on a smaller scale – and by charting how the sources of contestation and conflict have varied over the years.
This report was written by Tore Refslund Hamming.