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Information Warfare: Inspired Inspiration
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March 10, 2013: On February 28th the tenth issue of the al Qaeda English language online magazine Inspire appeared. The last issue appeared nine months ago, and the delay was caused by the untimely deaths of several people responsible for producing Inspire. Last May 2nd the 9th issue of Inspire Magazine showed up on the Internet. Inspire was founded by al Qaeda propagandist and recruiter Anwar al Awlaqi, who was killed in Yemen by an American UAV in late 2011. The same attack killed the editor of Inspire. The new editor of Inspire, Abu Yazeed, was responsible for issue 9, but shortly after that issue was completed the Yemeni army, and southern tribes hostile to al Qaeda, launched a major attack on the thousands of al Qaeda gunmen in southern Yemen. Over the next few months al Qaeda lost this battle, and a large number of its men, including Abu Yazeed. Apparently al Qaeda has found one or more members with a good enough command of English to create issue ten. While defeated in southern Yemen, al Qaeda survivors are still finding sanctuary among some tribes in remote areas. It’s also quite possible that production of Inspire has moved to another area, possibly the West (where many Moslems with pro-terrorist attitudes live).

Founding editor al Awlaqi was noted mainly for being American born and an active recruiter of terrorists world-wide, especially in the West. Al Awlaqi was not in the senior leadership that actually ran the al Qaeda in Arabia organization. Awlaqi was mainly famous for founding Inspire in 2010, as part of his efforts to recruit more terrorists from among Moslems who were already in the West. Awlaqi used the Internet heavily to recruit Moslems outside the Middle East, and especially in the West, to participate in "personal jihad" (terror attacks planned and carried out by one person or a few people). Inspire Magazine provided practical information, for those who could read English, on how to do that.

All issues of Inspire give wannabe Islamic terrorists guidance on what the main targets should be (according to senior al Qaeda leadership) and practical advice on how to carry out attacks. Issue 10 advised going after prominent people, like retired politicians or those deemed to have insulted Islam, and kill them. Several articles provide more practical advice on various terrorist techniques.

In the year before his death, Awlaqi was under growing pressure from the Yemeni government and American missile armed UAVs hunting for him. Although Awlaqi only needed an Internet connection to gather material for Inspire Magazine, and to publish it (by posting the PDF file to pro-Islamic terror web sites), he was not able to keep publishing the magazine on a timely basis. His followers found a new editor soon after the death of al Awlaqi. Abu Yazeed’s first, and only, issue of Inspire was filled with praise for Awlaqi and al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. This was a "celebration" of the first anniversary of bin Laden’s death at the hands of American commandoes.

While many terrorist wannabes have been caught with Inspire Magazine (possession of which is illegal in Great Britain), no successful terror attacks have been traced to it. That's probably because there are already a lot of Islamic terrorist "how to" documents out on the Internet, most of them written in Arabic or Urdu (the most common language in Pakistan). There has always been some material in English, if only because a lot has been written about terrorism in English. This has become the common language of knowledge in general, with technical material from many other languages translated into English. Until recently, few books were translated into Arabic (or even published in Arabic), so many Arabs interested in learning anything beyond religion learned English first.

What English speaking terrorist wannabes still lack is practical experience on how to go about being an Islamic terrorist. Those most attracted to this sort of thing tend to be the less successful socially and economically. Simple and direct instructions are needed, along with ideological justification for Islamic terrorism. Inspire Magazine provides both, although the propaganda tends to be rough going for those not accustomed to deep thinking. The advice on carrying out violence is easier to understand, and that's what makes Inspire Magazine dangerous.

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