Al Qaeda's new English-language online magazine has tips on bomb-making and encryption for beginners.
Like many new publications it has a vivid mix: news, features, celebrity opinion pieces and a smart digital-era commitment to interactivity — keeping in close touch with the readers. But for the casual browser of the internet, Al Qaeda's new English-language online magazine may prove a step or two beyond the pale.
Entitled Inspire, and designed for aspiring jihadis who cannot read Arabic, it offers tips on bomb-making and encryption for beginners as well as heavyweight Koranic commentary and crude propaganda.
Inspire appears to be the brainchild of Anwar al Awlaki, a fugitive U.S.-born radical preacher and key figure in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap), based in Yemen's remote tribal areas — and suggests a drive to recruit terrorists.
But the launch of its summer 2010 edition has so far been troubled. It advertised an article by Awlaki — “May our souls be sacrificed for you” — that failed to appear, as did all but the first three pages of the entire 67-page magazine. The rest of a PDF file posted on friendly websites showed only garbled computer code.
Other missing items, according to the contents index, included a “detailed, yet short, easy-to-read manual” entitled “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom,” wittily bylined “the AQ chef.” Another article, by “terrrorist”, was about “sending and receiving encrypted messages”. Nor was there a promised “exclusive interview” with Sheikh Abu Basir, aka Nasser Al-Wahayshi, Aqap's leader.
Outside talent should have been represented by an Osama bin Laden piece on “The Way to Save the Earth.”
Inspire's partial appearance prompted suspicion in the jihadi community. Al-Qimmah, a website linked to the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabab movement in Somalia, warned anyone who saw the magazine to delete it — without explanation.
It also alerted readers that Al-Falluja, a popular jihadi forum, had been taken over — an apparent reference to cyber—manipulation by hostile intelligence services. Inspire's problems could well have been caused by deliberate disruption such as infecting it with a virus.
Inspire looks similar to Aqap's slick Arabic-language webzine Sada al—Malahim (Echoes of Epic Battles) — and is also published by Malahim Media. It is subtitled: “Inspire the Believers.” Its authenticity could not be confirmed, but it was not being treated as a spoof by experts.
It appears to have taken on board cutting-edge thinking about the media, urging readers to submit articles, comments and suggestions. “It is our intent for this magazine to be a platform to present the important issues facing the ummah [Islamic nation] today to the wide and dispersed English-speaking Muslim readership,” its unnamed editor promised.
Inspire promotes itself as “the first magazine to be issued by the Al Qaeda organisation in the English language”, although Jihadi Recollections, published in the U.S. last year, was a polished effort.
Awlaki, famous for his online sermons and video messages to Americans — in fluent English — is an official target for assassination by the U.S. government because of his links to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian “underpants bomber” charged with an attack on a Dutch airliner over Detroit last Christmas Day, and to the Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad.
Other foreigners are said to have joined Aqap after studying Arabic in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a.
“This magazine is clearly intended for the aspiring jihadist in the U.S. or U.K. who may be the next Fort Hood murderer or Times Square bomber,” said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer now with the Brookings Institution in Washington.
Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen said: “The idea is that Aqap can reach, influence and inspire other like-minded individuals in the West. No longer do these individuals need to travel to Yemen or read Arabic in order to take instructions from Aqap. Now they can just download and read the magazine in English.” — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010