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Nov. 4 2009 - 1:23 pm | 793 views | 0 recommendations | 15 comments

Al-Qaeda publishes a magazine. Yes, it’s scary

Al-Qaeda's magazine - heavy on violence and poor graphic design

Al-Qaeda's magazine - heavy on violence and poor on graphic design.

Terrorist organizations have to spread their ideology somehow.

Enter the strange, fascinating world of… al-Qaeda’s magazines.

For the past few years, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has published the magazines Sada al-Malahim (The Echo of Battle) and Sada al-Jihad (The Echo of Jihad).

Al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula is a branch of al-Qaeda that operates primarily in Saudi Arabia; they are the charming folks responsible for the kidnapping and murder of New Jersey helicopter engineer Paul Johnson in 2004. Johnson was executed live on camera as three men held him down and one jihadi beheaded him with a sword. Footage from that incident is shown below (NSFW).

According to intelligence experts, the group was also responsible for the 2004 massacre of American, European, South African, Sri Lankan, Indian and Filipino expats in Khobar, Saudi Arabia. However, they are also perfectly happy to work outside of Saudi; the group engineered a bombing in Qatar in 2005.

Issue 11 of Sada al-Malahim started appearing on jihadi online forums a few days back in PDF form ready-to-print. A copy may be obtained here, complete with a charming cover showing a beaker and a hand grenade. It’s a dense little bastard of a magazine, clocking in at 73 pages of text, graphics and basic-Pagemaker design. As one might expect; al-Qaeda magazines don’t include such kuffar innovations as advertising.

Now, here’s the problem. The magazine is in Arabic and I only started learning the language in the last year. My Arabic is good enough to read a street sign or to make baby conversation with the Egyptian guy at the pizzeria. It’s not good enough to read a text-dense publication.

Thankfully, Yemen-watcher blog Waq al-Waq parsed through a few of the articles:

As was expected this issues spends a lot of time focusing on ‘Abdullah ‘Asiri, the bomber who attempted to assassinate Muhammad bin Nayif. The article I read was written by Sa’id ‘Ali al-Shihri (kunya: Abu Sufayan al-Azdi) entitled (roughly) “Abu al-Khayr: The Key to Good Things.” The title is a play on the word al-Khayr, which functions as ‘Asiri’s kunya, Abu al-Khayr, and the good things to come are a removal of corrupt and un-Islamic leaders like Muhammad bin Nayif. So, according to the article, ‘Asiri’s example of assassinations is one to replicate. [...]

Second, the effort to push former Guantanamo detainees to the front is largely absent from this issue. Obviously al-Shihri is a former detainee, but the little footnote with his ISN and other information about his stay in Guantanamo is missing. This could be because two (although only one has been confirmed) former Guantanamo detainees have been killed. Al-Shihri’s brother-in-law Yusif al-Shihri and another former detainee, allegedly in the confusion that is the war in Sa’dah.

In not so many words, this means that the magazine devotes a fair amount of space to arguing internal politics within the movement and justifying the latest public statements of leaders. This is reassuring; in this, they are not so different from the thousands of non-violent political splinter groups in the west and elsewhere. But the fact remains, al-Qaeda publishes a magazine. What the hell?


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  1. collapse expand

    You laugh, but just wait until a bidding war breaks out between Jane’s Information Group and McGraw-Hill over this media property.

  2. collapse expand

    What are they paying? Do they take freelance pieces?

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    About Me

    A New York-based journalist and blogger who has spent extensive time in the Middle East and is currently working on an MA thesis in Middle Eastern Studies. My thesis focuses on the 2009 Iranian election demonstrations and their coverage in the international media.

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