Information Warfare: Seeking A Few Bad Men

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January 13, 2015: At the end of 2014 the 13th edition of Inspire magazine appeared. This is an English language online magazine directed to supporters and practitioners of Islamic terrorism and reside in the West, or anywhere there are English speaking Moslems (like Pakistan and India). This issue contained the usual collection of articles exhorting the faithful to try and kill the enemies of Islam anyway they can (like the recent massacres in Paris) along with tips on how to do that as well as guidance on how to avoid being detected and killed before you carry out this sacred mission.

Only two editions of Inspire appeared in 2014. That was partly due to the untimely deaths of several people responsible for producing Inspire. That has been a problem for a long time and  the magazine has been appearing infrequently, as in one or two issues a year. Inspire was founded in 2010 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 then-current editor of Inspire. The new editor of Inspire, Abu Yazeed and his successor were responsible for the five issues to appear since then.

Shortly after Yazeed took over he was back in combat as 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. Al Qaeda found one or more members with a good enough command of English to create more issues. While defeated in southern Yemen, al Qaeda survivors are still finding sanctuary among some Yemeni tribes living 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).

Inspire 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 (AQAP) organization that supported Inspire. Awlaqi was mainly famous for founding Inspire 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. The led to other two magazines being created to do much the same thing.

While many terrorist wannabes have been found with Inspire Magazine (possession of which is illegal in Great Britain) in their possession, 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.

By 2014 Islamic terrorists had three online English language magazines. In addition to Inspire there was Resurgence from by Somali Islamic terrorist group al Shabaab. This one was announced in March 2014 but did not appear until October. In November 2014 Al Somood from the Afghan Taliban first showed up. This one appears to be an English language version of the Urdu (a common language in Afghanistan and Pakistan) publication the Taliban have distributed since 2010. Appealing to an English speaking audience is meant to attract Moslems living in immigrant communities in the West as well as highly educated (and usually English speaking) Moslems or non-Moslem sympathizers everywhere. Resurgence and Al Somood appealed to a specific audience (Somali, Afghan and Pakistani expatriates in English speaking countries) to mainly obtain recruits for al Shabaab and the Taliban. All three of these publications attract a lot of media attention but not a lot of captured Islamic terrorists note these magazines as being an influence on them.

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. These magazines 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 online publications like this dangerous. Note that all three magazines warn their readers to be careful in using the Internet to respond to the editors.

 

 


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