Lone-wolf tac­tics in­spire al Qaeda arm

Ye­men-based branch fo­cuses on at­tack­ing U.S. home­land

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

Al Qaeda’s most dan­ger­ous branch of­fice is fo­cus­ing more on the sin­gle-ji­had ter­ror­ist busi­ness, muscling in on op­er­a­tions ad­vo­cated by its Sunni ex­trem­ist com­peti­tor, the Is­lamic State.

Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP), head­quar­tered in Ye­men, re­cently sent out tac­ti­cal guid­ance for fol­low­ers on how to copy the car­nage in­flicted by the lone at­tacker who drove a truck into a crowd and then stabbed a se­cu­rity guard in the shadow of the Bri­tish Par­lia­ment in Lon­don.

The Ye­men branch is widely seen as al Qaeda’s most dan­ger­ous fran­chise be­cause of its fo­cus on at­tack­ing the U.S. home­land. It strives to build bombs that can be se­creted onto air­lin­ers.

And it is grow­ing in strength, lead­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to launch a Seal Team 6 ground as­sault in Jan­uary to kill AQAP’s lead­er­ship and cap­ture in­tel­li­gence, a mis­sion that led to a fierce fire­fight. The Pen­tagon later un­leashed a se­ries of airstrikes on AQAP fa­cil­i­ties, ter­ror­ists and equip­ment.

The lat­est in a new se­ries of tac­ti­cal ad­vice to ter­ror­ists comes in a pub­li­ca­tion called “In­spire Guide,” in which AQAP re­veals that it has set up a “Lone Ji­had Guide Team.”

In­spire Guide is a shorter ver­sion of AQAP’s English-lan­guage “In­spire” on­line mag­a­zine, the ter­ror world’s first sig­nif­i­cant on­line pub­li­ca­tion de­but­ing in 2010. The New Jersey Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment has taken

no­tice of the guide, say­ing “These shorter pub­li­ca­tions al­low rapid dis­sem­i­na­tion of AQAP mes­sages fol­low­ing global at­tacks.”

An­a­lysts say the pub­li­ca­tion shows al Qaeda is tak­ing a page from the Is­lamic State play­book in car­ry­ing the ji­had strug­gle to the home­lands of its West­ern ad­ver­saries, a shift ac­cel­er­ated as its ri­val’s home­land in Iraq and Syria con­tin­ues to shrink.

Said Robert Magin­nis, a re­tired Army of­fi­cer and ter­ror­ism ex­pert, “Al Qaeda took a les­son from the Is­lamic State to be­gin call­ing upon their fol­low­ers across the world to take the ji­had to the West­ern en­emy. What’s be­come clear as the fight to de­stroy the Is­lamic State con­tin­ues [is] there is op­por­tu­nity for ‘al Qaeda Cen­tral’ to re­assert it­self and re-tap fi­nanciers — which are now pulling their sup­port from the Is­lamic State.”

“Al Qaeda Cen­tral” is a ref­er­ence to its core op­er­a­tions in the Afghanistan-Pak­istan re­gion founded by Osama bin Laden. It was the tar­get of the 2001 U.S. in­va­sion to lib­er­ate Kabul from the Tal­iban.

Ye­men as nerve cen­ter

But AQAP across the Per­sian Gulf in Ye­men is start­ing to look like the real nerve cen­ter, a goal bin Laden laid out in the 1990s, view­ing the Saudi Ara­bian neigh­bor as the best spot to build a rad­i­cal Sunni Mus­lim state.

The on­line In­spire Guide cites the March 22 bridge-pedes­trian at­tack in Lon­don as the per­fect way to blend mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal ob­jec­tives into one sim­ple op­er­a­tion car­ried out by one ji­hadi, one rented SUV and two knives.

Khalid Masood killed six and in­jured 49, some of them crit­i­cally.

Scot­land Yard said it could not sup­ply a mo­tive. But ter­ror­ism ex­perts said he was clearly fol­low­ing a play­book is­sued by the Is­lamic State ter­ror group, whose fol­low­ers con­ducted sim­i­lar mass mur­der-by-ve­hi­cle in Nice, Ber­lin and, just last week, Stock­holm.

In­spire Guide praised Masood in its three-page In­spire guide and called on Mus­lims in the West — read: “Europe and the U.S.” — to du­pli­cate the Lon­don strike.

“We send our mes­sage to the lone mujahid in the West: O Mujahid, you are the head of our war and our drawn sword, so seek guid­ance in Al­lah and put your trust in Him. Then choose your tar­gets care­fully and de­ter­mine the op­ti­mum lo­ca­tion. Pre­pare the most ef­fec­tive and sim­ple means, and do not for­get the ap­pro­pri­ate time.”

In­spire praised Masood for his de­ci­sion to tar­get West­min­ster, the seat of Bri­tish gov­ern­ment, and for the tim­ing of the at­tack. The af­ter­noon high-speed plow­ing along the West­min­ster bridge hap­pened at peak af­ter­noon tourist traf­fic, and as Prime Min­is­ter Teresa May was vot­ing in­side the House of Com­mons.

“With­out a doubt, the op­er­a­tion by the lone mujahid on the Bri­tish Par­lia­ment is suc­cess­ful by ev­ery stan­dard,” In­spire said. “The ex­ecu­tor ex­celled in se­lect­ing the time and lo­ca­tion, and em­ploy­ing the rule of ‘the art of the pos­si­ble’ in choos­ing the means and weapons. At the same time, how­ever, we call on the lone mujahid not to rely on one form of means or one method, but to broaden the pos­si­bil­i­ties and in­crease the op­tions in what means and meth­ods to em­ploy.”

Mr. Magin­nis said that AQAP’s en­try into small-mar­ket ter­ror­ism also re­flects the in­tense com­pe­ti­tion for cash from wealthy Sunni fi­nanciers in the Per­sian Gulf. Al Qaeda needed to make it­self more ap­peal­ing by mim­ick­ing the Is­lamic State. Founded just a few years ago, Is­lamic State stunned the world by cap­tur­ing parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014 and then em­barked on a so­phis­ti­cated so­cial me­dia cam­paign to in­spire ji­hadis around the world.

“Al Qaeda Cen­tral re­al­ized it had to ei­ther ad­just its strat­egy or lose re­sources be­cause many for­mer fi­nanciers shifted their sup­port to the Is­lamic State,” Mr. Magin­nis said.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP), head­quar­tered in Ye­men, is seen as al Qaeda’s most dan­ger­ous off­shoot branch be­cause of its fo­cus on at­tack­ing the U.S. home­land. The group aims to cre­ate bombs that can be smug­gled onto air­planes and fos­ter lone wolf at­tack­ers such as the one that re­cently struck in Lon­don.

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