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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Awlaki Breaks Silence In New Issue Of Inspire, Builds Links To History Of Jihad

SUMMARY: American cleric and Al Qaeda leader Anwar Awlaki today issued his first communication since November. The statement is a religious ruling allowing Muslims to steal money from non-Muslims if the proceeds are used for jihad.

Awlaki's statement was published in the latest issue of Inspire Magazine, an English-language online publication that aims to radicalize Western Muslims. The magazine also features an article from American citizen jihadist Samir Khan, who produces the magazine on behalf of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a Yemen-based branch of the terrorist network.

The magazine suggests that American Muslims blow up apartment buildings using a technique designed by September 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

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ANALYSIS: Anwar Awlaki reappeared this morning for the first time since November with the cover story of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's Inspire Magazine, Issue 4. The new issue of Inspire reaches into the past, using past jihadist precedents in ways both subtle and overt to highlight AQAP's ideological and operational linkages to major figures such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Omar Abdel Rahman and Abdullah Azzam.

The latest issue features Awlaki's "ruling on dispossessing the disbelievers' wealth," which revives at some length an argument used by Omar Abdel Rahman and other jihadist clerics in the West during the 1980s and early 1990s to justify bank robberies if the proceeds are used for jihad. The ruling -- which authorizes taking infidels' money by "force or deception" -- could also be used to justify credit card fraud and other scams.

The article is a departure from AQAP's previously announced jihad to cripple Western economies in that Awlaki is primarily concerned with whether Muslims can use funds seized from non-Muslims rather than simply waging war against their economies.

Inspire's regular feature on homemade terrorist attacks includes an interesting article that revives a scheme invented by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and assigned to American Al Qaeda member Jose Padilla -- blowing up buildings by renting an apartment and filling it with combustible gas.

An article by American Al Qaeda member Samir Khan delves into the jihadist justifications of Abdullah Azzam, the father of the modern global jihad movement. Twenty years after his death, Azzam is still one of the most influential figures in jihad.

Khan's piece reviews several of Azzam's key themes, including the defense of historically Muslim lands under attack or occupation, but also expands this idea with Omar Abdel Rahman's definition of inadequate Muslim leaders as apostates who should be considered occupiers.

Khan also cites -- in his article and elsewhere in the magazine -- injunctions against spying on Muslims, which must be a sore subject for AQAP after its UPS bombing was thwarted by a Saudi turncoat.

Interestingly, Khan dials back on takfirism, arguing that takfir (excommunication from Islam, punishable by death) is not applicable to individual sinners but only to Muslim rulers who permit major sin under their rule. Another article in Inspire, discussing recent AQAP actions against the Shi'a Houthi movement in Yemen, takes great pains to specify which sects have been targeted and to specifically exclude members of the Zaydi Shi'a sect, in an apparent effort to avoid the appearance of all-out sectarian war most famously promulgated by Abu Musab Zarqawi in Iraq.

The issue also shed some light on the operational security around Khan and Awlaki, asking readers to bundle news stories into PDFs and compressed archives and e-mail them to Inspire's editors because, "due to security reasons, we do not log on to the net frequently." It's useful to know that attachments are Inspire's best friends.

For more about American jihadists, including Awlaki and Samir Khan, check out my new book, "Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go To War In The Name Of Islam," the first comprehensive look at the phenomenon of American jihadists from the 1970s to the present. The book is scheduled to be released in April/May 2011. Pre-orders are available now. For information about review copies or for media interviews on American jihadists, contact me here.

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ISIS: The State of Terror, by Jessica Stern and J.M. BergerJessica Stern and J.M. Berger co-author the forthcoming book, "ISIS: The State of Terror," from Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins. The book, which will debut in early 2015, will examine the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, its potential fall, how it is transforming the nature of extremist movements, and how we should evaluate the threat it presents. Jessica Stern is a Harvard lecturer on terrorism and the author of the seminal text Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill. J.M. Berger is author of the definitive book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, a frequent contributor to Foreign Policy, and editor of

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Jihad Joe by J.M. BergerJihad Joe: Americans Who Go To War In The Name Of Islam, the new book by INTELWIRE's J.M. Berger, is now available in both Kindle and hardcover editions. Order today!

Jihad Joe is the first comprehensive history of the American jihadist movement, from 1979 through the present. Click here to read more about the critical acclaim Jihad Joe has earned so far, including from the New York Times, Publisher's Weekly, and many more.


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