Former New Yorker Samir Khan Behind Graphics Of New Al Qaeda Recruiting Magazine Inspire: Officials (July 18, 2010)
A slick new Al Qaeda magazine written in English to lure U.S. jihadists may be the work of a former New Yorker with an eye for graphics – and a lust for American blood.
Intelligence officials see chilling similarities between a militant blog Samir Khan produced and the Internet-based magazine Inspire.
Khan landed on intelligence radar in 2007, when he was 21, after posting an Osama Bin Laden screed to the blog he maintained from his parents’ basement.
The blog boasted crisp graphics, an easy familiarity with American culture and attitudes, and a pipeline to hard-core rhetoric.
Fast forward to last month, when Al Qaeda put out Inspire, with the message that U.S. military action in the Arab world must be avenged.
The packaging spooked experts with its potential for recruiting Western youth. It also seemed familiar to those who track militants, like the Jawa Report blog.
“There were choices in content and how it was created that echoed what Samir Khan had done with his blog several years back,” said a federal source.
There were other clues that point to Khan.
The magazine mentioned the NYPD’s director of intelligence analysis, Mitchell Silber, and Brooklyn’s Yousef al-Khattab, a secular Jew who converted to Islam and joined a group Khan belonged to.
Khan has been in Yemen since October – and the mag was posted by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a Yemen branch with ties to American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Awlaki uses English to get his message out in the West.
If Khan is behind Inspire – with articles like “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom” – he’s joined a trend that has intelligence officials worried.
Terrorist hunters have seen an increase in militants preaching jihad in English, and a corresponding uptick in terror plots involving U.S. citizens, experts said.
“The two trends surfaced at about the same time, 18 months ago: more U.S. citizens, Americans, involved in terror plots, and more hard-core jihad Web sites sending out their messages in English,” said Silber.
The recent blitz includes:
“Part of the push is to use English to shame people into taking action: ‘You fat American, can’t you get up off the sofa and do something to help your Muslim brothers?'” said an NYPD officer who has been tracking extremism on the Internet for eight years.
Khan was born in Saudi Arabia but his family moved to Queens when he was 7 years old.
In 2007, he told the New York Times that he was a typical American kid until he turned 15 and went to a weeklong summer camp sponsored by the Islamic Organization of North America.
He stopped dressing like his pals at John Adams High School in Queens, grew tired of
IONA’s moderate tenets, and joined the more militant Islamic Thinkers Society, sources said.
His family moved to Jersey in 2000 and North Carolina in 2004, sources said. That’s when he started his blog, “Inshallahshaheed,” or “A martyr soon if God wills.”
Khan’s family in North Carolina refused to talk about him, and neighbors in his middle-class Charlotte neighborhood said they hadn’t seen him for months.
With Josh Lanier in Charlotte, N.C.