Source: The National, by David Sapsted
LONDON - An online al Qa'eda magazine produced in the Arabian Peninsula provided bomb-making instructions for nine terrorism suspects planning attacks in Britain, security sources in London said yesterday.
The nine men, all of Bangladeshi origin and aged between 19 and 28, appeared in court earlier this week charged with conspiring to cause explosions in the UK.
A security source told The National yesterday that printouts of articles from an online English-language magazine called Inspire, produced in Yemen by al Qa'eda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), had been found in one of the men's homes when a dozen suspects were arrested last week in raids in London, Cardiff and Stoke. Three of the men were later released without charge.
"One of the articles was entitled 'How to make a pipe bomb in the kitchen of your mom'," said a security source on condition of anonymity.
"We believe these devices were intended for specific individuals, although there is also evidence of a wider plot to bomb London landmarks."
Individuals allegedly targeted by the suspects included Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, and prominent Christian and Jewish clerics.
Anwar al Awlaki, the Yemeni preacher whose teachings champion violent jihad against the West, was named in court as the inspiration behind the plot, which is also believed to have included bomb targets such as Big Ben, the US Embassy and Westminster Cathedral.
The role of the online magazine, written in colloquial English and believed to be edited by Samir Khan, a Saudi-born US citizen raised in New York and Canada, is worrying security experts on both sides of the Atlantic.
"It's almost like a bit of a training manual that's being delivered via the internet right to the doorstep of whomever in the UK or United States or Canada or wherever in the western world," William Gaches, a former intelligence official in the Bush administration, told Fox News.
Three editions of Inspire have appeared so far and they resist the heavy theology of most Arabic-language, jihadist websites, according to Mathieu Guidere, a lecturer on terrorism at the University of Geneva.
The fact that the suspects being held in London were much more likely to be familiar with English than Arabic was "proof that the magazine works", Mr Guidere told The Washington Post.
In his recent book The New Terrorists, Mr Guidere underlined the increasing role being played by websites.
"Generally," he wrote, "the only link with the terrorist organisation is virtual. Thanks to the internet, the sympathiser radicalises all by himself and learns how to make bombs at home."
The AQAP leader, Nasir al Wahishi, 32, a Yemeni who became Osama bin Laden's personal secretary in Afghanistan while still a teenager, is said to be the driving force behind Inspire, as well as Sada al Malahem ("Echo of the Epics"), an Arab-language digital magazine.
"These reflect the strategy of urging a large internet audience to sustain jihad through small, autonomous and 'easy' attacks to soft targets," Pepe Escobar, a terrorism analyst, wrote in Asia Times.
"Nasir is in charge of the web while two of his commanders take care of the military front."
The nine men under arrest in Britain will appear in court on January 14 charged with conspiring to cause explosions "of a nature likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property in the UK" between November 6 and December 21.
Charges faced by the nine specifically accuse them of "downloading, researching, obtaining and discussing materials and methods; researching, discussing, carrying out reconnaissance on, and agreeing potential targets; travelling to and attending meetings; igniting and testing incendiary material".