Abdallah Azzam, the Palestinian cleric who led the mobilization of Arab fighters to Afghanistan in the 1980s, played a crucial role in the internationalization of the jihadi movement. Killed in mysterious circumstances in 1989 in Peshawar, Pakistan, he remains one of the most influential jihadi ideologues of all time. Here, in the first in-depth biography of Azzam, Thomas Hegghammer explains how Azzam came to play this role and why jihadism went global at this particular time. It traces Azzam’s extraordinary life journey from a West Bank village to the battlefields of Afghanistan, telling the story of a man who knew all the leading Islamists of his time and frequented presidents, CIA agents, and Cat Stevens the pop star. It is, however, also a story of displacement, exclusion, and repression that suggests that jihadism went global for fundamentally local reasons.
‘For anyone wishing to understand the story of global jihad, understanding the life and thought of Abdallah Azzam is essential. Hegghammer provides a first-rate guidebook. Meticulously researched, this reads like a Graham Greene thriller – only it’s true.’ James L. Gelvin
‘Thomas Hegghammer’s exceptional book is a detailed account of the life of Abdallah Azzam, Islamist ideologue, activist and organiser. It is a fascinating story in itself, told with forensic skill and a powerful sense of place and time. But it is also much more than this. Through this narrative of Azzam’s ideas and activities we get an unparalleled insight into the many dimensions of the world of transnational Islamism.’ Charles Tripp, author of The Power and the People: Paths of Resistance in the Middle East
‘Thomas Hegghammer’s long-awaited biography of Abdallah Azzam turns out to be more than an interesting account of his life. It is about the rise of global jihadism, an entirely new phenomenon in the 20th century. Azzam’s role cannot be fully appreciated without this valuable book.’ Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11
‘The Caravan deals with a highly sensitive and controversial subject, but it is evidence-based, meticulous and full of carefully judged distinctions – recent history at its finest.’ Ian Black, The Observer
Publisher: Cambridge University press
Hardback 718 pages £ 24.99
Published: March 2020