Jessica Hagstrom

The tenth edition of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) English-language Inspire magazine was released on jihadist forums last week. The latest issue serves as a follow-up to the simultaneous release of the eighth and ninth editions in May 2012. Although drone strikes continue to target militants in Yemen, AQAP has yet again proven its ability to produce the magazine without key figures like the group’s late chief of external operations, Anwar al-Awlaki, and the magazine’s primary editor, Samir Khan. Holding true to the purpose of the magazine, this edition aims to inspire Western extremists to conduct their own attacks and to show the resiliency of the al Qaeda franchise.

Emphasis on Lone-Wolf Attacks

  • AQAP continues to emphasize lone-wolf attacks. In this particular issue, there is what is described as a “Lone-Mujahid” advertisement (pictured to the right).  Notice the image of a red AK-47 rifle on the individual, pictured in a non-descript, major city.  What is not pictured here is the message that accompanies the ad: “So fight in the cause of Allah, you are not held responsible except for yourself. And inspire the believers.” This advertisement is urging individuals to take initiative by waging attacks wherever they live. Successful, individual attacks could provide inspiration for future such attacks.
  • A recurring segment of the magazine is the “Inspire Responses” portion where readers’ questions are answered by AQAP members. Among the featured questions are, “Is the idea of individual jihad that effective? How does a small operation affect powerful states?” In response, AQAP states that the performance of individual jihad is very easy and that “Every Muslim in the enemy’s land can carry it out.” Other points made in the response include:
  • The list of potential targets for lone-wolf attacks are endless. The article specifically mentions hotels and commercial buildings. This highlights the preference for softer targets that we have seen in past editions.
  • AQAP continuously focuses on the economic impact that attacks can have on Western countries. The group dubbed the 2010 cargo bomb plot as “Operation Hemorrhage” in the third edition of Inspire, meaning that the failed attack was relatively cheap, but has led the U.S. to spend millions of dollars on updated security measures. Keeping with this theme, AQAP states in this issue that lone-wolf attacks make it difficult “for the enemy to provide security for its wide range of targets.”
  • The article calls on individuals in the U.S., UK, France, Denmark, Norway and Italy to wage lone-wolf attacks.

Tactical Guidance

  • “Open Source Jihad” is a recurring segment featured in all previous editions of Inspire which provides tactical guidance for individuals to utilize for at-home training purposes. Past versions of this section include “How to Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom” and the “Training with an AK” series. This particular edition focuses on torching parked vehicles and causing road accidents. In revenge for the burning of the Quran, AQAP is calling on operatives to use fire to attack the West. The ninth issue of Inspire focused on setting fire to forests and houses. This version outlines how to utilize gasoline, with explicit instructions on how to conceal the fuel, to set fire to parked cars. Operatives are advised to torch vehicles during ceremonies or large gatherings.
  • The second portion outlines instructions from the “AQ Chef” on how to cause road accidents. In this type of attack, AQAP says 40 liters of lubricative oil are needed to be poured onto a highway right before a bend or sharp corner. “A car driving around a curve is exposed to a centrifugal force which makes the vehicle slide outwards.” This is intended to cause the car to crash or overturn. Another idea is to place tire-bursters, or thick nails, on the roads to cause tires on a vehicle to burst. “While a vehicle is at a high speed, it will lose control.” AQAP utilized an image of New York City in this segment, which is consistent with past editions and highlights the city as a desirable target.

Additional Highlights

  • One of the most prominent articles in this issue of the magazine comes from American-born Adam Gadahn who is a high-profile operative with al Qaeda core based in Pakistan. Gadahn urges Western governments, particularly the U.S., to stop interfering in the political upheavals in the Arab world. He also calls on jihadists, or mujahideen, around the world to “make it our priority… to focus on direct engagement at home and abroad with America and its NATO partners, particularly France and Britain.” This is once again a direct call for attacks against U.S., French and British interests that we saw in both the eighth and ninth editions of the magazine. This featured article also showcases that al Qaeda core is communicating with its regional affiliates.
  • Another featured article allegedly comes from Omar Abdel Rahman, or the Blind Sheikh, who is currently serving a life sentence at the Butner Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, North Carolina. In the article, the Blind Sheikh attempts to appeal to sympathizers by speaking of the poor jail conditions and his fears that the U.S. government is going to kill him. He also makes a call for jihadists to carry out attacks: “If they kill me… take revenge upon them for me in the most severest and violent of manners.”

The MSA Research and Intelligence Team has been following the Inspire release and AQAP closely, and has identified the following implications.

  • With the tenth edition of Inspire magazine, AQAP assures its followers and supporters that they are still capable of producing the propaganda.

  • This edition reveals a new tactic that focuses on the destruction of vehicles and sabotaging roadways, showcasing AQAP’s need to innovate new strategies in order to motivate extremists, find success, and keep the enemy (the West) on its toes.

  • Eager for a successful attack against the West, the group continues to urge individuals to wage lone-wolf attacks that are easy to conduct and are difficult to deter or detect.
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(Image Credit: Inspire 10th Edition)

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