Terror 2.0: Fighting the PR war

User-friendly articles inspire in al Qaeda’s new magazine.

Think Osama bin Laden was media-savvy? Just look at Anwar al-Awlaki. The 40-year-old imam wears traditional Muslim garb; but unlike bin Laden, he’s fluent in English. And in his YouTube sermons, he effortlessly mixes Islamic doctrine with colloquial references to U.S. pop culture.

In fact, al-Awlaki is American. Born in New Mexico, he attended college in Colorado, received a master’s degree in California and started doctoral studies in Washington, DC. He’s also the public face of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al Qaeda’s most powerful franchise. His sermons on everything from marriage to paradise get up to 100,000 views. (Typical comment: “This Sheikh is awesome!!!”) Thanks to his success on YouTube, al-Awlaki is now considered a top candidate to be al Qaeda’s next leader.

“Al-Awlaki is a paradox,” notes Dr. Sajjan Gohel, international security director at the Asia-Pacific Foundation, a London think tank. “He was arrested twice in the United States for soliciting prostitutes, but he has developed a reputation as bin Laden’s successor. He’s dangerous because he understands the Western mindset and is skilled at using modern media.”

Welcome to al Qaeda 2.0. AQAP and other jihadist groups now create videos and online chat rooms; they make sleek media productions on the Internet. Last year, for example, AQAP launched Inspire, a glossy English-language publication. The online magazine features catchy headlines, lots of photos, quotes by American celebrities and articles such as “Mujaheddin for beginners” and “Make a bomb in your mom’s kitchen.” It’s edited by Samir Khan, a young former New Yorker.

“He’s a very smooth, irreverent young guy, and a good graphic designer,” notes Scott Stewart, a vice president at intelligence firm Stratfor who worked on the investigation of al Qaeda’s 2000 attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 Americans. “The new al Qaeda is trying to reach younger people by appearing cool and hip.”

Earlier this year, AQAP launched Shamikha, an online magazine for women. Its niche: beauty tips mixed with articles with titles like: “How to marry a jihadist.”

Al Qaeda’s new generation of leaders have also studied Jack Welch-style management techniques.

“They’ve built up an impressive archive of self-studies and strategic analysis reports, available on jihadist Web forums, where members offer and advise on how to improve the terror organization’s success,” notes James Forest, former director of terrorism studies at the United States Military Academy. “Their much-used book, ‘Management of Savagery,’ argues that future al Qaeda leaders must correct organizational problems and create better propaganda.”

The new Afghanistan

YEMEN – Since 2004, when the U.K. expelled him, Anwar al-Awlaki has lived in Yemen. That’s where al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is based.

“AQAP has eclipsed the core al Qaeda,” says Dr. Sajjan Gohel of the the Asia-Pacific Foundation. “Today the core al Qaeda is an Egyptian-Libyan group with power struggles. Their finances are drying up and the U.S. has slowly been killing off its leaders. AQAP doesn’t have that problem.”

AQAP’s mostly Yemeni and Saudi members and can operate freely in Yemen, which has replaced Afghanistan as a terrorist haven. “Terrorism is very cheap and easy when you’re based in Yemen,” says Scott Stewart, a former CIA investigator. 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Marshals, cops arrest fugitive after shootout in Queens

Federal authorities arrested a fugitive hiding out in Queens after he shot at U.S. Marshals and officers with the New York City Police Department.

Breaking: National

Peter Theo Curtis: American released by Syrian militants…

An American writer freed this week from two years in the captivity of insurgents in Syria spoke briefly outside his family's Cambridge home Wednesday of…

News

Rock legend Neil Young files for divorce after…

The legendary Canadian rocker Neil Young has filed for divorce from his wife of 36 years.

Local

FDNY debuts new fire simulator for blazes at…

The New York City Fire Department christened its newest, state-of-the-art, custom-built simulator at its training academy on Randall's Island Tuesday.

Movies

Review: 'The Last of Robin Hood' is a…

Dakota Fanning plays Errol Flynn's (Kevin Kline) teenage gal pal in "The Last of Robin Hood," which takes a scandal and makes it dully empathetic.

Movies

Review: The uneven 'Life of Crime' mostly gets…

Elmore Leonard's "The Switch" becomes the new indie crime dramedy "Life of Crime," with Jennifer Aniston as a kidnapped woman whose husband won't pay up.

Movies

Review: Pierce Brosnan gets a cut-rate Bond knockoff…

Pierce Brosnan tries to reclaim his glory days with the spy thriller "The November Man" but instead gets a sad DTV-style ripoff with lame action.

Music

Tiesto headlines Made in America

Electronic music legend Tiesto is ready to get in touch with his inner Rocky at the Jay Z-curated Budweiser Made in America festival this weekend…

College

When are 2014 college football playoffs? (Schedule, date,…

When and where are 2014 college football playoffs? A look at the schedule, date, TV, time for the semi-finals at championship game.

NFL

Dimitri Patterson suspended only for rest of preseason…

Dimitri Patterson ended up getting just a slap on the wrist.

Sports

Eugenie Bouchard excited for 'rowdy' fans at US…

Eugenie Bouchard is sure to endear herself to New York's tennis faithful as she tries to win her first grand slam title across the next two weeks.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: Angels and A's still at…

MLB Power Rankings: Angels and A's still at top, Nationals climb

Career

Stop eating lunch at your desk

What are you doing for lunch today? If you are like most workers, you'll be eating at your desk - which isn't much of a…

Parenting

Lure your baby to sleep with Maroon 5…

These new renditions of "Moves Like Jagger" and "Payphone" are Maroon 5 like you've never heard them before.

Wellbeing

Who is having the most orgasms?

  Single lesbians report having orgasms more often than heterosexual women but both gay and straight men still come out on top of the climax…

Home

Jonathan Adler shares his tips for a great…

Jonathan Adler took a break from boogie boarding at his beach house to tell us how to keep that Labor Day party festive.