AQAP Advises Lone Operatives To Maximize Effects Of Terror Attacks By Focusing On The Media

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June 30, 2021

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On June 29, 2021, Al-Malahem, the official media outlet of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), released Special Issue No. 6 of the AQAP English-language Inspire magazine.[1] Titled Inspire – Praise and Guide – Colorado Attack, the special issue was released in both English and Arabic versions, as were previous special issues.[2]

Referred to as Inspire Guides, these special issues comprise articles which focus on the operational aspects of past terror attacks and analyze them to learn lessons with the aim of improving the execution of future operations. The articles are published online by the Inspire editorial team as stand-alone documents.

The latest special issue of Inspire is dedicated to the March 22, 2021 shooting at a King Soopers supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, which was perpetrated by Ahmad Al-Aliwi Al-Issa. It should be noted that the last time that an Inspire Guide was published before this date was in April 2017, and that issue focused on the March 22, 2017 terror attack outside the Palace of Westminster in London, which was carried out by Khalid Masood.[3]

The latest special issue includes an operational guidance section, which offers advice to potential lone operatives. It concludes with an extensive two-page segment which highlights the importance of the media aspects related to terror attacks in the West.

The authors state that attackers should "always give out a media message for the operation [...] it multiplies the results." They write that in the past, authorities and Western media described attacks as "terrorist operations" each time "they would smell the scent of Jihad and the spirit of Islam in every Jihadi operation." However, they claim that the West has recently changed tactics due to the fact that attacks tend to encourage other attacks, and thus they attempt to conceal the motives, identity, and religion of an attacker, so as not to contribute to the "copycat" phenomenon.

The media aspect of jihadi attacks is described as multiplying the effect of the attacks and, as such, multiplying the associated divine reward, sparking "terror to the hearts of the infidels" and bringing joy and relief to "the Muslims all over the world."

The article reads: "The most important thing is to convey the Muslims' message behind this operation which is to repel the enemies' attacks and to stop their oppression of the Islamic nation and their interference in their affairs and to stop their support for the Jews."

The article stresses that delivering this message accurately to the media during a jihadi operation is critical to the mission, and that "the same amount of attention that you give to the military and security preparation" should be devoted to the message to the media.

This exhortation is followed by a list of various ways in which lone operatives can convey the message to the media, while not providing "the enemies an opportunity to kill it." The first suggestion is to live-stream the attack on social media using a body-cam, and refers to the 2019 New Zealand attacks on two mosques carried out by Brenton Tarrant: "So our enemies who killed the Muslims in New Zealand in this way would not be ahead of us."

Other advice includes contacting the media during the operation; contacting several police stations; opening social media accounts under one's real name so as to disseminate a prepared message during the operation; and yelling "Allahu Akbar" and slogans "mentioning the injustice of the Americans and the Crusader West against the Muslims and their interference in their affairs and their support for the Jews." The authors also advise would-be attackers to record themselves in video messages, or enlist someone to film them delivering a message during the operation.

Finally, the article provides a ready-made message for attackers which reads: "I did this work in response to the calls of the Muslims in Palestine and elsewhere and to take revenge from America and the West for their crimes against our Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and for the crimes against our Holy book and the Muslims, and you will not dream of security until you leave the Muslims and their affairs alone and you leave supporting the Jews. And I incite my Muslim brothers to carry out attacks against America and the West."

On its last page, the issue includes a poster condemning the U.S. for allegedly using the highly-reactive chemical element white phosphorus as a weapon in the Levant. The poster shows a red sky lit-up with flares above an urban area and reads: "American Humanity. The American bombing in the Levant with White Phosphorus banned internationally." The poster also features the Al-Malahem logo and the words: "O Aqsa [Al-Aqsa Mosque], We Are Coming."

The above poster is featured on the last page of Special Issue No. 6 of the AQAP English-language Inspire magazine.

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The Cyber & Jihad Lab monitors, tracks, translates, researches, and analyzes cyber jihad originating from the Middle East, Iran, South Asia, and North and West Africa. It innovates and experiments with possible solutions for stopping cyber jihad, advancing legislation and initiatives federally – including with Capitol Hill and attorneys-general – and on the state level, to draft and enforce measures that will serve as precedents for further action. It works with leaders in business, law enforcement, academia, and families of terror victims to craft and support efforts and solutions to combat cyber jihad, and recruits, and works with technology industry leaders to craft and support efforts and solutions.

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