E-Mail Now, and You Could Be Al-Qaida’s Next Terrorist
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/05/qaida-crowdsourcing/#more-79770Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is the terrorist group that worries American officials the most. It’s eclipsed the declining core al-Qaida organization, causing the U.S. to step up the drone campaign in Yemen targeting it, out of fear that the group will launch another strike at New York or Washington. But its plans for launching new terror attacks at those faraway targets apparently depend on recruiting ordinary slobs on the internet.
The new issue of the group’s English-language online magazine, Inspire, launches a feature called the “Convoy of Martyrs.” Complete with e-mail addresses and public encryption keys, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula seeks to recruit “lone wolf” terrorists to pull off attacks against — in order of priority — “American targets; Israeli targets; French targets; British targets; [and] apostate regimes targets in the Muslim lands [sic].”
The idea is for interested would-be jihadists to pitch al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula’s military committee on an attack. To qualify, you must be a Muslim; must possess “maturity”; and be skilled in “listening and obeying.” The terrorist group provides a public encryption key and a handful of Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail accounts where you can send your idea about who or what you’d like shoot, stab or detonate. If you’re approved, off you go to kill infidels, unencumbered by any traditional terrorist cell.
“The only connection that mujahid has is with the group leadership. In this case it will be our military committee,” the feature reads. “So, the remaining functions like directing, selecting the target, instructing, training and adopting the operation will be held by our group’s military committee and leadership. Also, the group is responsible for media coverage of the operation.”
The terrorist group evidently wants would-be recruits to think big. A posthumous piece by slain al-Qaida propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki encourages chemical or biological attacks on America, France and Britain. Concerns about the practicality of those strikes aside — professional terrorists for al-Qaida haven’t managed to pull them off — “this latest piece from al-Awlaki serves as a clear reminder that groups in the al-Qaeda orbit not only see such attacks as permissible but also of great importance,” writes analyst Ben Venzke of IntelCenter.
This is something of a departure for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Previous issues of Inspire have actually told wannabes not to travel to active jihadist battlefields or attempt to get in touch with the organization, the better to prevent the FBI or NSA from intercepting the communication. Its DIY feature, the “AQ Chef,” has provided terrorist tips like welding blades to the grill of a Ford F-150 or blowing up apartment buildings. (This issue’s installment: “It Is Of Your Freedom To Ignite A Firebomb.”) Now, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula wants to have oversight over solo terrorists.
Bold, perhaps. But recall that after trying to blow up an airliner with incendiary underwear in 2009 and mailing a bomb to the U.S. in 2010 — both failed attacks — al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula didn’t evidently try to attack the U.S. at all last year. It appears to be focused more on exploiting political unrest in Yemen while dodging a stepped-up U.S. drone campaign — a campaign that killed its top propagandist, Anwar al-Awlaki, last September. Chances are, if the organization had terrorists waiting in the wings to strike New York, Washington or LA, it wouldn’t need to roll out any Convoy of Martyrs.
Which is in turn significant. Counterterrorism officials on a conference call with reporters on Friday quickly characterized al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula as the most sophisticated and threatening offshoot of al-Qaida left standing. And it’s reduced to begging random strangers on the internet to volunteer for its most ambitious missions.