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Monday, December 14, 2009

As-Sahab: The College Years

A new "video" from Ayman Al Zawahiri came out today from Al Qaeda's As-Sahab production arm, just a day after a video release from American Al Qaeda Adam Gadahn. Aside from the message (more on this later), what's interesting here is that the video is actually an audio message with still photos and some rather basic graphics, and no subtitles.

This is similar to Osama bin Laden's messages of the last few years. However, Zawahiri has traditionally been able to provide full video -- and often video of a rather high quality. Gadahn's video from this weekend was true video, but of extremely low quality and low production values -- probably recorded from a webcam.

The Zawahiri release adds weight to previous observations around the CT community that As-Sahab (which is basically Gadahn) is on the ropes.

While this downgrade could be financially driven, it's most likely to be drone-driven. If As-Sahab (Adam and Ayman) are on the move, it makes sense they would be working with lower quality material -- it takes a lot less time to edit and upload audio and webcam video than the high-end stuff that As-Sahab used to produce.

So this could signal one of the following:

  • lack of electicity,
  • lack of Internet access,
  • lack of courier (i.e. drone killed the guy who was supposed to carry the video to Peshawar on a thumb drive), or
  • adequate Internet/courier access but great concern about security (i.e., they aren't where they are supposed to be, which is somewhere along the Af-Pak border).

    Any of these considerations could be temporary or permanent. Will the new As-Sahab be like the new Scrubs -- an obvious and disappointing downgrade that should have been canceled last year?

    And more importantly, are the days of fancy studios and Al Qaeda-logo coffee mugs finally finished?


    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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