How to Mow Down Innocents With Pickup Trucks, and Other Quick Tips From the New Issue of al Qaeda’s Magazine
The cover of the second issue of Inspire, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s English-language magazine
In the second issue of its publication Inspire, released Oct. 12, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula once again attempts to draw in Western, English-speaking recruits. The publication again reveals the group’s devotion to more cellular, grassroots and unsophisticated operational activity, a far cry from the more top-down, complicated attacks formerly favored by al Qaeda.
Al-Malahim media, the propaganda wing of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), released the second edition of Inspire, its online English-language jihad magazine, to a number of jihadist web forums Oct. 12. The 74-page publication, released to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the attack on the USS Cole, mirrored the first with its slick editing and calls for jihad against the West.
In this second issue of Inspire, AQAP expands on its vision for the future of the jihadist struggle. This vision is heavily reliant on unsophisticated, practical grassroots terror attacks that emphasize innovative planning. AQAP’s continued ability to publish such jihadist writings and operational advice in a slick, English-language product serves to emphasize the changing complexion of the jihadist threat, highlighting how AQAP has assumed a more prominent leadership role on both the physical and ideological battlefields.
As with the first issue, a number of well-known wanted militants affiliated with AQAP and the al Qaeda core contributed pieces, including Anwar al-Awlaki, Samir Khan and Adam Gadahn, all American citizens, as well as al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri and the Syrian jihadist strategist Abu Musab al-Suri. The articles penned by Gaadahn, al-Zawahiri, al-Suri and bin Laden were older. The appearance of an article bearing Khan’s byline stood out because many analysts, including those at STRATFOR, believe that Inspire is most likely his handiwork, though he was not given credit for either edition of the magazine.
The magazine also carries an explanation and photos of the “Operation in Abyan,” a reference to the military assault on the group in Loder in Yemen’s southern Abyan province in August. At the beginning of the articles, the authors indirectly appeal to the Yemeni soldiers fighting in the south, saying they are acting as agents of America and therefore traitors to Islam. The militants also reference the CIA’s assessment of AQAP that the group has become the most dangerous of the al Qaeda regional franchises, adding “this is just the beginning. You haven’t seen anything yet.”
The second edition of Inspire also demonstrates AQAP’s continued focus on simple attacks and “grassroots” jihad, also made quite clear in the jihadist publication Echo of Battle and the first edition of Inspire released in July 2010. Indeed, the second edition of the magazine quite clearly continues to separate the group’s terrorist and military theology from al Qaeda’s original operational model that involved more complex, sensational strikes directed by top-tier al Qaeda leadership.
To demonstrate this, they provide an article from al-Suri, the Syrian jihadist strategist and military theorist constantly cited by jihadists for his theories on individual and/or cell terrorism. Citing al-Suri’s guidance on “The School of Individual Jihad and Small Cells,” the authors strongly focus on the importance of individual operations and initiatives that have been successful throughout Islamic history. “It is no longer possible to operate by the methods of the old model, through the ‘secret-regional hierarchical’ organizations, especially after the September 11th events and the onset of the American campaigns, where the great majority of the existing secret organizations were destroyed, and the conditions made it impossible and futile to establish other secret organizations after the model.” According to the magazine, these “Lone Wolf” acts have led to military, security, political and educational “successes” for the jihad, in that they have forced target states to amend their security protocols and induce panic in their countries. They also claim such operatives are impossible for intelligence agencies in the West to stop.
In the second edition of the feature on “Open Source Jihad,” described as a “resource manual for those who loathe the tyrants,” they include advice on simple attacks and security techniques. Yahya Ibrahim, a militant who penned an article in the first edition of Inspire and who shares the same name with a radical Canadian-born Muslim scholar, authored an article entitled “The Ultimate Mowing Machine.” This article, which featured a photo of a four-wheel pickup truck, recommends that those seeking to conduct individual, simple attacks weld thick blades to the front of a truck and drive it into a crowd. Ibrahim goes on to suggest that the militants carry firearms with them to finish the job and that they should consider it a “martyrdom operation,” as it would be very difficult to escape after such an attack.
Ibrahim also notes that in addition to the option of mowing down civilians with a high-powered pickup truck, militants can and should choose the “firearm option” used by Nidal Hassan in his October 2009 attack at a Texas Army base and by Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad in his June 2009 armed assault against a military recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark. This is possibly the first mention of Muhammad by AQAP, lending credence to his admission that he acted on behalf of the Yemeni al Qaeda node. For this, Ibrahim claims, one should: “Choose the best location. A random hit at a crowded restaurant in Washington, D.C., at lunch hour for example might end up knocking out a few government employees. Targeting such employees is paramount and the location would also give the operation additional media attention.” Moreover, Ibrahim claims the “shooting option” has many advantages because no one else is involved, which “eliminates the chances of the Feds catching wind of what’s going on.” Plus, it “demands the least preparation. All you need is the weapon, ammunition, and site surveillance.”
Ibrahim also briefly mentions that those with chemistry backgrounds should construct weapons of mass destruction, including poisonous gasses such as nerve agents and biological agents like Clostridium botulinum to create botulinum toxin. Those with less experience, he said, should choose poisons like ricin or cyanide.
Ibrahim sums up AQAP’s attack methodology by saying that the best operation is “to come up with an innovative idea that the authorities have not yet turned their attention to, and that leads to maximum casualties or – equally important – maximum economic losses.” Of all of these methods, the “shooting option” has proved the most lethal, and frequently has gone undetected until it was too late. As the article’s author rightly characterizes, firearm attacks are relatively easy to conduct, as they demand little training or materiel. If a militant is disciplined enough to exercise extreme silence about his operation and acts alone, the chances of the attack being caught in the planning stages decrease considerably.
In another intriguing article in this edition of Inspire, this one entitled “The New Mardin Declaration,” al-Awlaki attacked a fatwa issued last March by a group of international Islamic scholars condemning jihadist ideology. After a conference in Mardin, Turkey, the scholars attacked the views espoused by well-known Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyyah around AD 1300 on the obligation to expel invaders in Muslim lands. Al-Awlaki’s response underscores the sensitivity that jihadists have to assaults conducted against their theology on what STRATFOR refers to as the ideological battlefield. Successes on this front could translate into more recruits willing to do AQAP’s bidding in their Western country of origin.
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