Underscoring the threat of open-source terrorism training materials circulating online for any ideology’s lone actor or group to utilize, al-Qaeda formally invited parties such as “the raiders of the Congress” in the United States to take advantage of English-language online manuals that have taught Islamist extremists to construct explosive devices and select prime targets. Writes Bridget Johnson
And declaring that it was fortuitous that the fourth plane on 9/11 didn’t reach its Washington target, the terror group stated that an “impending civil war” can better destroy the country as they simultaneously urged Protestants to assassinate President Biden for being a “provocative” Catholic in the Oval Office.
Online training and recruitment materials — dating back to the 2010 debut of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Inspire magazine that included the pressure-cooker bomb recipe used in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, to this summer’s Inspire Guide directing followers to emulate and improve upon the March supermarket mass shooting in Boulder, Colo. — are omnipresent in both secluded and high-visibility corners of the web. The same inaugural Inspire magazine issue that included the “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom” article was once posted for free download on the Barnes & Noble website, where it had been uploaded and existed for years (until 2018, when it was discovered by this author and subsequently removed by the bookseller) under the hiding-in-plain-sight title “Al-Malahem Media Foundation presents A Special Gift to the Islamic Nation The first Magazine issued by al-Qaida in the English language.”
Nowadays, social media, Telegram channels, group websites, file-sharing sites and more disseminate current and archival materials from Islamist extremist groups. English-language materials from ISIS have included tips on tactics, targets, and weapons selection; materials from al-Qaeda geared toward a western audience have also included step-by-step pictorials that offer detailed instructions to build and use various types of devices. The authors can’t account for extremist error, though — Akayed Ullah, who pledged allegiance to ISIS, used an al-Qaeda Inspire recipe to make his pipe bomb for the 2017 New York subway attack yet the device fortunately detonated improperly.
The recently released “America Burns” video from al-Qaeda begins by declaring that “corona, divisions, racism, a declining economy, and strikes by the mujahideen” are “the five cornerstones of America’s coffin,” with COVID-19 hailed as “an invisible soldier [that] penetrates the decaying American polity.” Islamist terror groups, while acknowledging the danger of the virus to their members, have generally praised COVID from the onset of the pandemic with ISIS materials encouraging followers to try intentionally spreading the virus; the al-Qaeda video focused on the effects that the pandemic has had on the country, showing people collecting food aid while hailing “unemployment in the millions, mile-long queues outside charity centers catering to the needy.” The terror group similarly praised the February winter storm that sparked the Texas power crisis, claiming that God “sent them a wind from the cyclones of hell, freezing water supplies and cutting off electricity for millions … so glory be to the avenger.”
The video rapidly shifts back and forth with its parroting of American political talking points, slamming “corporate robber barons in the Wall Street and a communist China” while showing pictures of Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Michael Bloomberg; showing video of the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 and praising “sharp divisions and the deep discord that is ever-present all the way from the top leadership to the grassroots”; and slamming congressional Democrats, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and “the liberal press that controls the American media industry” for “smears and investigations” and “collusive coverage” against former President Trump.
Al-Qaeda proceeded to discuss “the raiders of the Congress, the evangelist, the terrorist, extremist followers of the Trump cult” while showing video of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol as the terror group did in its February video “America and the Painful Seizure” that began by showing the shooting of Ashli Babbitt by an officer as she tried to climb through a door’s shattered window to breach the speaker’s lobby. “So will this be followed by the opening of a new Guantanamo for Trump’s terrorists and the invention of new spying techniques targeting Americans … perhaps things will end at the use of enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation to force Trump’s terrorists to disclose their plans for the next attack on the Congress and perhaps the White House,” the new video continued. “And maybe Biden would use his weapon of choice, drones, to assassinate ‘high-value targets’ hiding in the deserts of Texas or the beaches of Florida. These ‘HVTs’ would be none other than the supporters of Trump who terrorized the members of Congress and forced them to hide like scared rats.”
After noting that “the Department of Defense launched a background check program to sift out terrorists from the armed forces,” al-Qaeda declared that “the events of the 6th of January exposed the fragility of the democratic system,” as “the strongest fortress of democracy in the world was on the verge of falling as a result of an attack by a few thousand demonstrators.”
“The world would have witnessed a bloodbath. Pelosi, Schumer, Adam Schiff, and perhaps the traitor, the Vice President Pence, who refused to intervene to impede Biden’s victory, would have all been hanged on gallows erected in the lawns of the Congress,” the terror group said. “It was Allah’s wisdom that the fourth plane whose downing was ordered by Dick Cheney on the 11th of September did not reach its target and the Americans were left to destroy the edifice of their democracy with their own hands… this hurts them more and brings greater joy to the believers.”
Al-Qaeda, which after the Boulder shooting encouraged followers to “take advantage of the presence of weapons and their spread in America” to acquire and use them to conduct attacks, noted the “purchase of weapons spiked last year in America reaching unprecedented levels not witnessed in decades.”
“The drumbeats of an impending civil war can clearly be heard. It was a civil war that brought the mother of all evils into existence, and it shall be a civil war that marks its ultimate doom,” the video continued, noting the heavy inaugural security in D.C. “all to protect the new president from the anarchy unleashed by the former president and his supporters.”
The video then declared the 2020 summer protests to have been a conflict between “racist extremists” and “leftist radicals,” and showed a clip of Sen. Josh Hawley’s (R-Mo.) February speech to the Conservative Police Action Conference in which the senator states, “Speaking of being canceled, the last six weeks, the radical left, their corporate allies, the liberal media, have tried to cancel me, censor me, expel me, shut me down.”
“Trump implored new social media to bypass the censorship imposed on them by the big guns of the social media world who are known for their Democratic leanings. Trump’s supporters might find it useful to benefit from the mujahideen’s experience of bypassing censorship,” al-Qaeda continued. “They will find what they need in the Inspire magazine issued by the mujahideen in the Arabian Peninsula.”
The terror group then tried to stoke violence within Christianity, stating that “it is worth pointing out here that Biden is only the second Catholic president to make it to the White House” and “he insists in almost a provocative manner on putting the Pope’s picture on display on his office desk.” A picture of President Biden greeting Pope Francis is among the framed photos along the window behind the Resolute desk.
“Will Trump’s Protestant followers be amused by such a scene? Or will Biden meet the fate of his Catholic Democratic predecessor John Kennedy?” the al-Qaeda video continued. “This ladies and gentlemen is America … on the verge of collapse. In only one month we pass from America’s first… to America’s last.”
The video makes scant mention of the terror group’s calls for its own supporters to attack — such as their detailed advice after the Boulder shooting, an attack to which authorities have not ascribed a terror motive — except for vowing at the end that “mujahideen promise their nation to continue on their journey on the path of sacrifice so as to end the injustice of America that targets Islam, Muslims.”
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center.
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