March 21, 2013
By Scott Stewart
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula released the 10th edition of its English-language magazine, Inspire, on March 1. After discussing its contents with our analytical team, initially I decided not to write about it. I concluded that Inspire 10 conformed closely to the previous nine editions and that our analysis of the magazine, from its inception to its re-emergence after the death of editor Samir Khan, was more than adequate.
Since making that decision, however, I have been very surprised at how the media and other analysts have received the magazine. Some have overhyped the magazine even as others have downplayed -- even ridiculed -- its content. I have heard others say the magazine revealed nothing about al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. All these reactions are misguided. So in response, I've endeavored to provide a more balanced assessment that can be placed in a more appropriate perspective.
A Balanced Assessment
I am certainly not among those who want to sensationalize the threat the magazine poses. Inspire 10 is not going to launch the grassroots jihadist apocalypse al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula seeks to foment any more successfully than the magazine's previous nine editions. The fact that a photograph of Austin, Texas, appears in the magazine does not mean that the city is somehow being secretly targeted for attack by jihadist sleeper cells.
But laughing at the magazine or dismissing it as irrelevant would be imprudent. The magazine has in fact inspired several terrorist plots. In some cases, the connections to the magazine have been obvious, as in cases where plotters have attempted to assemble improvised explosive devices using instructions provided in Inspire magazine's first edition. This happened in July 2011, when U.S. Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo was arrested as he attempted to assemble explosive devices he planned to use in an attack against a restaurant in Killeen, Texas, that was popular with soldiers from nearby Fort Hood.
In November 2011, the New York Police Department arrested Jose Pimentel, also known as Muhammad Yusuf, a 27-year-old Dominican-American. Pimentel was arrested at an apartment in Manhattan as he was allegedly constructing homemade improvised explosive devices, again following the instructions provided in Inspire.
Other cases have not been as blatant as those involving Abdo and Pimentel. However, they have involved individuals who were radicalized or motivated by Inspire. As recently as March 15, three men in the United Kingdom pleaded guilty to terrorism charges related to attending terrorism training camps in Pakistan. The men allegedly were motivated by Inspire. They had discussed attack ideas from the magazine, and the wife of one of the men was convicted in December 2012 on charges of possessing two digital copies of the magazine on a memory card.
- There are several other recent and notable cases connected to Inspire magazine.
- On Nov. 29, 2012, two brothers from Florida, Raees Alam Qazi and Sheheryar Alam Qazi, were arrested and charged with plotting attacks in New York. Prosecutors noted that the pair had been motivated by Inspire magazine.
- On Oct. 17, 2012, Bangladeshi national Quazi Nafis was arrested as part of an FBI sting operation after he attempted to detonate a vehicle bomb outside New York's Federal Reserve Bank. Nafis reportedly was an avid reader of Inspire magazine.
- On Sept. 15, 2012, Adel Daoud, another avid Inspire reader, was arrested after he parked a Jeep Cherokee outside a Chicago bar and attempted to detonate the bomb he thought it contained. His was also an FBI sting operation.
- On April 25, 2012, four men were arrested in the British town of Luton and charged with plotting attacks against a British army base. The four were also charged with downloading and possessing six editions of Inspire magazine. They pleaded guilty March 1, 2013.