May 3, 2010 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 606

YouTube – The Internet's Primary and Rapidly Expanding Jihadi Base: Part II

May 3, 2010 | By Steven Stalinsky*
Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 606


On April 30, 2010, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan group created its official YouTube Page. One day later, the terrorist organization posted its first video on that page – a claim of responsibility for the attempted New York City Times Square attack. This is just the latest example showing YouTube's emergence as the Internet's primary – and rapidly expanding – jihadi base.

The following report highlights how jihadist groups worldwide are increasingly using YouTube for a multitude of purposes, including taking responsibility for terrorist attacks and posting footage of attacks for propaganda and recruiting purposes.

This report also follows up on developments set out in Part I of this series, MEMRI's "Deleting Online Jihad and the Case of Anwar Al-Awlaki" published December 30, 2009. That report noted that YouTube has become the largest clearinghouse of Al-Awlaki's online videos since his own website was taken down following the November 2009 Fort Hood shootings by his follower, Maj. Nidal Hasan.[1]

Al-Awlaki is also credited with inspiring additional attacks through his online activities, including the attempted Christmas Day 2009 airplane bombing near Detroit; would-be bomber Umar Farooq Abdulmutallab was reportedly a frequent visitor to his website. Others reportedly radicalized by Al-Awlaki’s website are the "Fort Dix Six," who in 2008 attempted to carry out a terror attack Fort Dix, New Jersey, and the London 7/7/05 bombers.

Part I: The Taliban, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Chechen Jihadists, American Al-Qaeda Sympathizers, and Other Terrorists Turn to YouTube

Over the past few months, there has been a proliferation of jihadi clips posted on YouTube – many of which correlate to major events in global jihad around the world during this period. The following are some notable examples:

1) Taliban Commander Takes Credit for Failed May 1, 2010 New York City Times Square Bombing on YouTube – And Calls for Attacking U.S. Cities

On April 30, 2010, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan group created its own YouTube page.[2] According to the page "profile," the group's location is Waziristan, Pakistan; for occupation, it states "Jihad in the path of Allah Subhanahu Wutala"; hobbies are listed as "Jihad, Caliphate, and Shariah." A day after its creation, the first video belonging to the group was posted on the site.

The video, which was announced on a major jihadi internet forum, consisted of an audio statement by Qari Hussain Mehsud claiming responsibility for the "attack on the square": "We, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, very bravely claim the responsibility for this attack in America. And we congratulate Muslims on this."

On May 2, 2010, another video, "Hakeemullah Mehsud is Alive and Healthy and Delivering News About Attacks on USA," was posted on the The Tehreek-e-Taliban YouTube page. The video featured Hakimullah Mehsud threating to attack major U.S. cities and states in the coming days and weeks.

Both Tehreek-e-Taliban videos were posted exclusively on YouTube – another significant development in its emergence as the main and rapidly expanding Jihadi base online.

2) Chechen Jihadists Claim Responsibility for Moscow Subway Bombings Directly on YouTube

Following the March 29, 2010, Moscow subway bombing by two Chechen women, Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov claimed responsibility for the attack in a video posted directly to YouTube. The video was announced on the website of the Kavkaz Center, associated with Chechen jihadist movement.

3) Kavkaz Center Claims Russian Government Made YouTube Remove Over 300 Clips Belonging to Them

On April 5, 2010, the Kavkaz Center issued a press release titled "YouTube Could Not Bear Dokku Umarov" which claimed: "On the request of Moscow, YouTube removed more than 300 clips from the Kavkaz Center, of 'inappropriate content'…"

The press release also strongly attacked YouTube for: "…being increasingly engaged in scandals removing videos, which are disliked by this or that regime in different countries…"

The statement claimed that "the total number of people who watched this video exceeded 800,000 in 4 days. This has become a kind of record for the YouTube."

As of April 3, 2010, at least one English translation of the video by the Al-Fallujah Forum was available on YouTube.

4) Jihad Jane – Over a Dozen YouTube Pages

In March 2010, the United States Department of Justice announced that an American woman, Colleen LaRose aka "Jihad Jane," had been arrested for alleged ties to Al-Qaeda. According to reports, LaRose maintained over a dozen YouTube pages devoted to violent jihad. Her activities included alleged involvement in an plot to kill Swedish cartoonish Lars Vilks, who in 2005 had drawn Islam's Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog.

5) Major Arabic-Language Jihadist Forum Launches YouTube Channel

On March 23, 2010 a major Arabic-language jihadist forum, Shabakat Al-Mujahideen Al-Iliktroniyya (The Electronic Mujahideen Forum), launched a YouTube channel.[3] The channel features videos with footage of various attacks in Iraq showing the killing of American soldiers, footage of training for Jihad, and similar content.

6) Bombay Court Case Against Islamist Using YouTube for Incitement Purposes

In an April 6, 2010 press conference, the Mumbai-based NGO Muslims Against Terrorism denounced the speeches of cleric Sheikh Meraj Rabbani. Rabbani was criticized for his calls for jihad, and his videos on YouTube were denounced as "spreading terrorism in the name of religion." Rabbani is the subject of a court case regarding accusations against a Saudi sheikh who works for Ahle Hadii, which has been described as a political party in Pakistan supporting terrorism, of "incitement against Jews, Christians, Hindus, and minority sects of Muslims." Hundreds of his videos can be viewed on YouTube.

Part II: YouTube Becomes Anwar Al-Awlaki's Online Homepage

YouTube now hosts over 2,000 clips of Anwar Al-Awlaki's lectures and sermons, along with compilation videos supporting his jihadist philosophy. They have been viewed over three million times, and that number is growing daily. Some of these clips include Al-Awlaki calling on Muslims to wage jihad, expressing support for martyrdom attacks, encouraging the killing of American soldiers, and more.

1) Al-Awlaki's First Message Since Going into Hiding – Posted Directly on YouTube

On March 18, 2010, a new Al-Awlaki audio recording titled "To the American Muslims" was posted on YouTube. This was the first Al-Awlaki recording, audio or video, since he went into hiding months earlier; in it, Al-Awlaki said that jihad against America is an obligation for all able-bodied Muslims.

It is worth noting that this message by Al-Awlaki was posted directly on YouTube, not on the major jihadi websites which normally carry such content. Another point worth exploring is how the Al-Quran Wa AlAhadeeth YouTube channel, which belongs to the radical New York Islamist group Revolution Muslim, obtained this Al-Awlaki message.[4]

2) Al-Awlaki Followers Create Their Own YouTube Videos

Many Al-Awlaki followers have taken his most famous writings, sermons, and teachings and put them into video format on YouTube. One of these is "44 Ways to Jihad," a document penned by Al-Awlaki on January 5, 2009; it has been posted on dozens of YouTube pages.

This document and the videos made from it include a list of instructions for Muslims to follow in order to support jihad: "praying to Allah to award you with martyrdom"; "fundraise and finance for mujahideen"; "encourage others to jihad"; "preserving the secrets of mujahideen"; "follow news of jihad and spreading it to scholars and Imams"; "raising children on the love of jihad"; "joining groups that work for jihad"; and "translating jihad literature into other languages."

"44 Ways to Jihad" also calls on Muslims to support "," that is, "establishing discussion forums that offer a free, uncensored medium for posting information relating to jihad," including the following (which are also in fact methods being used by Anwar Al-Awlaki and his followers on YouTube):

· "Establishing email lists to share information [related to jihad] with interested brothers and sisters.

· "Posting or emailing jihad literature and news.

· "Setting up websites to cover specific areas of jihad, such as: mujahideen news, Muslim POWs, and jihad literature."

Another website video, titled "Sheikh Anwar Al-Awlaki Exposes the Truth" was produced by user "dcfnfb," a London-based Islamist, and posted on YouTube on February 4, 2010. In it, the words of Al-Awlaki's November 9, 2009 article praising Nidal Hasan are put to music.[5]

YouTube viewers watching this video can read Al-Awlaki's words: "Nidal Hasan is a hero. He is a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people… The fact that fighting against the U.S. army is an Islamic duty today cannot be disputed. No scholar with a grain of Islamic knowledge can defy the clear cut proofs that Muslims today the right – rather the duty – to fight against American tyranny. Nidal has killed soldiers who were about to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in order to kill Muslims… May Allah grant our brother Nidal patience, perseverance, and steadfastness, and we ask Allah to accept from his great heroic act. Ameen."

3) Toronto College Student "Martyred" in Somalia – His Blog Includes YouTube Clips of Anwar Al-Awlaki

On March 25, 2010, Canada's National Post reported that Mohamed Elmi Ibrahim, a University of Toronto student whose online name was"Shadows 15," had been killed in Somalia. According to the report, Ibrahim traveled to Somalia and joined the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabab group. Ibrahim's blog, The Gardens of Paradise, included multiple audio and videos of Al-Awlaki on YouTube.

One of these YouTube clips, "The Greatest Ummah," includes Anwar Al-Awlaki's words in praise of jihad fighters. Anwar Al-Awlaki asks what the enemies of Islam can do against the mujahid, and answers, "If they kill me, I become a shahid."

*Steven Stalinsky is the Executive Director of The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).


[1] MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 576, "Deleting Online Jihad and the Case of Anwar Al-Awlaki: Nearly Three Million Viewings of Al-Awlaki's YouTube Videos – Included Would-Be Christmas Airplane Bomber, Fort Hood Shooter, 7/7 London Bomber, and Would-Be Fort Dix Bombers" by Steven Stalinsky, December 30, 2009, Deleting Online Jihad and the Case of Anwar Al-Awlaki: Nearly Three Million Viewings of Al-Awlaki's YouTube Videos – Included Would-Be Christmas Airplane Bomber, Fort Hood Shooter, 7/7 London Bomber, and Would-Be Fort Dix Bombers.

[3] As of April 29, 2010, the YouTube page was active,

[4] A member of Revolution Muslim made headlines over the past two weeks for calling for the deaths of the creators of Comedy Central's South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, for depicting Islam's prophet Muhammad in a recent episode.

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