Tenth issue of al Qaeda's Inspire solves a mystery
CNN — AQAP, al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen, on Thursday released a tenth issue of its glossy online English language magazine Inspire.
Dated "Spring 2013" and compiled after French forces moved against jihadists in Mali in January, the magazine contains a familiar litany of propaganda articles railing against the West (with "crusader" France the latest target) mixed with how-to advice on launching terrorist attacks in the West, all illustrated with colorful graphics and catchy titles.
But the new issue also cleared up a mystery that has long puzzled counterterrorism analysts.
In late 2011, several weeks after a U.S. drone strike killed the magazine's original creative forces -- American militants Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan -- a new English speaker called Abu Yazeed began to appear in AQAP's videos. His face was partly in shadow, but one could make out glasses and a full beard. He spoke with an accent.
At the time, counterterrorism analysts had no idea who he was.
But the latest issue of Inspire lifted the veil in an obituary piece revealing that Abu Yazeed had been killed while fighting in southern Yemen.
It described Abu Yazeed al Qatari as a Yemeni in his early 20s from "a respectable family" who spent much of his life in Qatar.
It said that several years ago, Abu Yazeed had traveled to the UK to earn a degree in a subject he was "passionate" about -- science -- but he quickly grew disillusioned with the "hypocrisy of the West" and abandoned his studies to go back to Yemen to join up with jihadists.
It was a trajectory that was similar to that of Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the Nigerian "underwear bomber" who tried to blow up a plane coming into Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. AbdulMutallab had attended a top London university before travelling to Yemen and establishing contact with al-Awlaki.
"As (Abu Yazeed) had a wide knowledge of the language and customs of the West, he quickly came to the Inspire team and became great friends with Samir Khan and Sheikh Anwar (al-Awlaki), even spending time camping with them in the deserts," the Inspire obituary stated.
It said that some time later, Abu Yazeed "had a burning desire to see some action" and joined al Qaeda fighters on the front lines in Yemen's Abyan province.
"He was quickly spotted for his skills and leadership talent and was given the position of supervisor at an Abyan training camp," the magazine stated. It said that after al-Awlaki and Khan were killed in September 2011, Abu Yazeed returned to work on the ninth Inspire magazine -- released in the spring of 2012 -- in which he wrote Khan's eulogy.
In that article, he revealed that Samir Khan, who had cut his teeth editing a Jihadist blog in North Carolina before traveling to Yemen, had trained him in media techniques.
"During his company, he taught me everything he knew about presentation of certain material, special designing for the magazines, how to work in certain visual design programs. He taught me how to use the best from my skills," Abu Yazeed wrote.
After this stint with Inspire magazine, Abu Yazeed returned to fighting and was killed by a Yemeni army tank projectile in Zinjibar, Inspire said.
The fact that Inspire is producing new issues shows that the group has a number of other English speakers still working on its propaganda output.
Besides the obituary of Abu Yazeed, the 10th issue of Inspire included a Q&A with an al Qaeda consultant who advised followers in the West to try to assassinate former top Western leaders if they judged it too difficult to break through the tight security around current leaders.
The magazine also provided an illustrated guide to torching cars and creating road traffic accidents in the West.
And it included a target list of Western intellectuals it deemed to have insulted Islam and a letter by Omar Abdel Rahman -- the so-called blind sheikh -- it said had been smuggled from his U.S. prison. CNN cannot independently confirm the authenticity of the letter.
"If they kill me, which they will ... take revenge on them for me in the most severest and violent of manners!" the letter stated.