If a document that's making its way around the internet turns out to be authentic, the international terrorist group al Qaeda has found a new way to get its message to would-be jihadists: an English-language "magazine" called Inspire. Here's a quick briefing on the organization's latest propaganda tool:
A magazine? Doesn't al Qaeda know the publishing industry is doomed?
Perhaps wary of the fate of Newsweek, al Qaeda is reportedly launching Inspire as an online-only publication. According to The Atlantic, initial attempts to post the publication on several jihadist websites on June 30 failed. (See sample layouts here.)
What does it contain?
"Think of Inspire as a lifestyle rag for the conspiracy-minded takfiri," says Spencer Ackerman in Wired. The first issue includes an article by Osama Bin Laden on "how to save the earth"; a "message to the people of Yemen" from Ayman al-Zawahari, al Qaeda's second-in-command; and a feature on how to "make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom."
Who's the target audience?
It is "clearly intended for the aspiring jihadist in the U.S. or U.K. who may be the next Fort Hood murderer or Times Square bomber," says Bruce Reidel, a former CIA officer quoted by the AP. Experts speculate that the launch is an attempt to broaden al Qaeda's success in recruiting "homegrown terrorists" in the U.S.
Who exactly is behind it?
It is thought to be the work of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a Yemen-based branch. Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born radical cleric who's been linked to the Fort Hood shooter, is reportedly behind some of the writings. A quote of his ("May our souls be sacrificed for you!") graces the front page.
Is it legitimate?
Though U.S. officials have said it appears authentic, several arguments point to "no," says Max Fisher at The Atlantic: al Qaeda's "extremely secretive" leadership would be unlikely to publish their writings in so open a manner; AQAP's command of English is typically more accomplished; the "author" of one essay has been imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay since 2005; and jihadist forums have barely acknowledged its existence. Also, the logo on its front cover is incorrect.
So who wrote it then?
Fisher suspects "mischievous, if knowledgeable, pranksters in the U.S." and theorizes that the original PDF contained a computer virus which may have been a deliberate attempt to infect jihadist online forums.