MSA Intel

The Yemen-based al Qaeda affiliate, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), released its 12th edition of the English-language magazine Inspire. This issue is titled, “Shattered, A Story About Change,” with the cover story focusing on how America’s role as a superpower has essentially been “shattered” in the post-9/11 world. Most of the past editions have included an “Open Source Jihad” section that provides detailed tactical information and instructions for jihadists to use for training purposes. This particular issue focuses on “car bombs in America,” with six pages of instructions for building a car bomb and another two pages suggesting targets. There are also several common themes in the 12th edition seen throughout publications of Inspire, including the ever-present goal of inspiring Western individuals to conduct attacks wherever they live.

Car Bombs & Targeting Preferences

Inspire magazine has always been alarming to those in the security industry, particularly as it often includes tactical instructions on preferred methods of attack. After the Boston Marathon bombers allegedly built explosive devices utilizing instructions from Inspire, the “Open Source Jihad” section may receive the greatest attention and cause the most concern. This particular issue features detailed instructions on how to build a car bomb using a simple mix of fuel (propane, hydrogen, methane or acetylene) and an oxidizer (oxygen), and ignition utilizing simple electronics. Other materials include a barometer, a nut and pipe, six decorative lamps (Christmas lights), a match, epoxy, tissue, battery and wire. The “AQ Chef” explains the general idea is to mix two gases in one sealed container that would explode “as soon as a flame emitted from a torch comes in contact with the gas.” A key point is that this device can be built using easily accessible materials, which AQAP advises should be bought at different shops.

The instructions are bordered with tips for the bomb-maker, including how to achieve “maximum carnage” by packing the car bomb with up to 100,000 pieces of shrapnel. Additionally, the AQ Chef advises that this type of device is best used to kill individuals, “not to destroy buildings.” Therefore, attackers are urged to target dense crowds. This shows an emphasis on achieving maximum casualties. Other tips include instructions on how to avoid raising suspicions, indicating a focus on security precautions to limit law enforcement interdiction. Additional tips include:

  • Prepare the bomb “a few hours before the operation,” to limit the opportunity of being discovered by security forces

  • Buy a car without any exchange of formal paperwork

  • Wear a disguise during the operation (“add some clothes on you,” “use a mask”)

  • Where to find information to build a timed device (Inspire, first and ninth editions)

  • Where to find information to build a remotely detonated device (Inspire, eighth edition)

Inspire magazine often focuses on the U.S., the UK and France as its preferred targets in the West, as well as other “crusader countries.” All three are mentioned again in this issue, with Washington D.C. and New York City named as top targets within the U.S. Several other areas of the country are listed along with reasons why they would be desirable targets, including Chicago (iconic sites such as Sears Tower, Chicago Board of Trade), northern Virginia (Arlington, Alexandria), and Los Angeles. Internationally, AQAP lists specific targets in the UK (soccer stadiums, horse races, tennis tournaments, the Savoy Hotel in London) and France (train stations, Bastille Day Military Parade, the French Riviera, the Louvre museum in Paris). Preferred times of attack include election seasons (presidential and congressional), as well as Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. The majority of the sites listed can be described as soft targets. Individuals are told to target entrances as cars cannot get into most of these types of locations.


Common Themes

  • The 11th edition of Inspire seemed to focus on how it is America’s fault that it is targeted with attacks. That theme carried over to the newest issue. Both articles mentioned below aim to point out why America will continue to be targeted by lone wolf jihadists or al Qaeda affiliates.

    • In an article titled, “Iman [Faith] Defeats Arrogance,” the author claims that Americans are consistently adding fuel to the fire through their “foolish policies.” Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine and Yemen are listed as examples of where the American military or militaries supported by the U.S. are occupying Muslim lands. “Crimes” committed in these areas “increase the Muslims’ urge to confront American imperialism.”

    • The cover story, “Shattered, A Story About Change,” focuses on how America has been weakened in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks and is no longer the superpower it once was. AQAP argues that throughout the past 12 years, the U.S. has lost the support of the international community and exhausted its own military and economy, mainly due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, AQAP says that a large-scale attack is no longer necessary to raise fear in the U.S. as evidenced by the Boston Marathon bombings, which were carried out by a “19-year-old man” (Dhzokhar Tsarnaev). The U.S. has also been affected by mass shootings, which AQAP claims is a civil “policy-related” problem, again placing blame on America for why it is targeted with attacks.

  • AQAP continues to focus on attacks that will cause a significant economic impact. This has been a recurring theme within Inspire since the “special issue” released in November 2010 in which AQAP boasted the success of its 2010 cargo bomb plot. Even though the plot was thwarted, AQAP claims it was a huge success in that it forced the U.S. to spend millions in updated security measures.

    • This exact theme is found in the article titled, “Iman [Faith] Defeats Arrogance,” in which the author explicitly states, “We have to exhaust America’s economy by provoking it to continue with its enormous spending on security. America’s weak point is its economy which is staggering from hemorrhage in military and security spending.”

  • New York City continues to be a central focus of Inspire magazine and thus a desirable terror target for individual jihad. Images of iconic city locations and streets have been featured in past editions. This particular issue uses an image of Times Square on the “Open Source Jihad” cover page. There is another advertisement like image of the city, picturing what is meant to be an explosives-laden van driving near 47th Street.  




Lone Wolf Jihad

The intent of the entire Inspire series is to motivate Western individuals to conduct their own attacks at home. This issue features several blatant calls for lone wolves to take action.

  • An advertisement is featured in the middle of the magazine, picturing an individual with a suitcase and backpack on what appears to be a Western subway train, possibly located in London. The image is accompanied with a tagline that essentially calls on individuals to take the task upon themselves to wage an attack: “Instead of just sitting, having no solution… Assemble your bomb ready for detonation.”

  • Past issues of Inspire have included examples of individuals who have carried out successful lone wolf terrorist operations. An article titled, “City Wolves,” outlines several famous lone wolves who have either carried out or attempted to conduct attacks against the U.S.; this is meant to inspire others to follow in their footsteps. These individuals include Jose Pimentel, arrested in 2011 in New York City after attempting to build pipe bombs, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad.

  • An article titled, “Sincere Advice from a Mujahid,” urges individuals living in the U.S. or Europe to conduct an attack at home. They are urged to do so on their own, without telling anyone. Individuals are also advised to search for helpful tools online at “an internet-café so the security forces can’t track you easily.” This shows more of an emphasis for lone wolves to limit suspicious communications with others.

  • Unique to the magazine, this article also encourages individuals to wage jihad overseas by joining with fighters in any conflict-ridden country. Specifically, the author names Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Algeria, Mali, Somalia, Syria, Chechnya, Dagestan, Egypt, Nigeria and Libya. This adds to existing concerns that Westerners who engage in fighting overseas may return with the ability to conduct attacks at home.

Additional Highlights

  • This issue of Inspire features musings from the late Anwar al-Awlaki, AQAP’s former chief of external operations, and the former editor of the magazine, Samir Khan. These excerpts are provided posthumously to provide further inspiration for attacks.

  • There are mentions of other al Qaeda affiliates, including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Shabaab, which may signal increased communications or coordination among the groups. The “Mujahid Notes” section says AQIM has been spreading Inspire’s “pressure cooker bomb recipe in English, Arabic and Spanish.” There is also an entire article dedicated to al-Shabaab’s efforts against the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).


With the newest edition of Inspire magazine, AQAP again solidifies itself as the most operationally active arm of al Qaeda and the most intent on carrying out a successful attack in the West. The most alarming section, “Open Source Jihad,” enables individuals to train at home without risking suspicious travel abroad. In the past, this section has included instructions on how to build bombs using easily accessible materials, how to use an AK-47 rifle or a handgun and how to cause “road accidents.” The successful use of explosive devices allegedly derived from issues of Inspire and utilized in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings has legitimized fears of the threat posed by the magazine series. The newest instructions on how to build a car bomb are particularly alarming and if carried out just right could prove damaging.

All images have been taken directly from Inspire magazine.



MSA Security's Research and Intelligence Analysis Group provides real-time intelligence on events and worldwide threats as they evolve. 

Sign Up to Receive the Latest MSA Intel

Subscribe to Blog