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News, documents and analysis on violent extremism

Friday, January 13, 2006

Adam Gadahn (Azzam The American) Rises To Prominence In Terrorist Media

By J.M. Berger

American al Qaeda Adam Gadahn, aka Azzam the American, has joined the terrorist network's al-Sahab Media division, appearing on an al Qaeda Internet news broadcast and providing an English translation of Ayman al-Zawahiri's most recent video message.

NEW: Analysis of the 9/2 Gadahn Video

PREVIOUSLY: Gadahn Talks Of 'Demonic' Music

Gadahn, a 27-year-old California native, first became known when the FBI added his name to a list of suspects sought for questioning about possible terrorist links in May 2004 (Previous INTELWIRE report).

Since then, Gadahn -- in his role as Azzam -- was featured in two videotapes discussing al Qaeda's goals and philosophy. In a video released in late 2004, Gadahn threatened that a major attack on U.S. soil was being planned.

Since then, however, Gadahn has become a prominent member of the Sahab media production operation created by Osama bin Laden. Sahab is responsible for producing and disseminating al Qaeda video propaganda. Sahab has notably sophisticated production values and distributes material online as well as in conventional video formats.

Gadahn's first project for Sahab was providing English narration to "The 19 Martyrs," a video memorializing the September 11 attacks on America.

Since then, Gadahn has appeared as an interviewer on al Qaeda's Internet news broadcast Sawt al-Khilafa (Voice of the Caliphate), produced by the Global Islamic Media Front. Gadahn spoke only Arabic in the segment, titled "To Be Continued." Gadahn was the host of the segment.

Aisha Musa, Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at Florida International University, who translated portions of the video at the request of INTELWIRE. Although Gadahn was not identified by his name or his alias during the video, Musa said the interviewer seemed to speak Arabic with an American accent and body language.

Gadahn also has an extremely distinctive speaking voice, which could be clearly heard on his most recent release, earlier this month, where he provided an English voiceover for al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri's latest message to the U.S. In the videotaped message, Zawahiri called on President Bush to admit defeat in Iraq.

The video was released under the name of Sahab media and The prominence of this video and the Voice of the Caliphate segment strongly suggest Gadahn's star is rising in terrorist video circles.

Gadahn may be partly responsible for a noticable trend toward producing materials aimed at a Western audience, including English subtitles and translations, and Western-style graphics. The "Voice of the Caliphate" segment appears modeled on the "Voice of America" format used by the U.S. military, according to Musa.

The audio quality of the translation was substantially less than in previous releases. This may be an artifact of the encoding of the video file, or it may reflect the production being created under less than ideal circumstances. The translated edition of communique showed a still picture of Zawahiri, interspersed with footage from Iraq and elsewhere. It also featured English subtitles.

Gadahn's aliases include Abu Suhayb Al-Amriki, Abu Suhayb, Yihya Majadin Adams, Adam Pearlman and Yayah. His current whereabouts are unknown.

FBI Notice Seeking Information on Gadahn

A substantial amount of footage relating to "Azzam" is available for licensing through INTELWIRE's video services. Click here for more information.


Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



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INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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