- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The latest edition of al Qaeda’s online, English-language magazine includes an article offering an Islamic justification for extremists to steal from non-Muslims to finance their activities. Analysts say this shows that the U.S. and its allies are succeeding in drying up sources of terrorist funding.

The five-page article in Inspire magazine was written by Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-Yemeni radical cleric who is regarded by counterterrorism officials as one of al Qaeda’s most dangerous leaders because of his ability to inspire homegrown, lone-wolf extremists in Western lands.

“Rather than the Muslims financing their jihad from their own pockets, they should finance it from the pockets of their enemies,” he adds in the article, a lengthy recitation of the Islamic jurisprudential debates over “ganimah,” or war booty.

“Our jihad cannot depend wholly on donations made by Muslims,” he writes, noting “jihad around the world is in dire need of financial support.”

Although these are long-established elements of extremist ideology, and several al Qaeda operatives have financed themselves through petty crime, some scholars see the timing of the article as important.

“It is significant that he took the time and space to offer this justification now,” Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told The Washington Times. “It is even more significant because he juxtaposes [stealing funds] to donations.”

Mr. Joscelyn notes that Mr. al-Awlaki acknowledges that al Qaeda’s enemies have succeeded in slowing down the flow of donations that had helped fund its activities.

In his article, Mr. al-Awlaki draws on the concept in Islamic theology and jurisprudence of “dar al harb,” or “land of war” — those parts of the world where Muslims and nonbelievers are in a state of conflict — to argue that “Muslims are not bound by the covenants of citizenship” in Western countries.

“It is the consensus of our scholars that the property of the disbelievers in dar al harb is halal [permissible for believers to use] and is a legitimate target for the mujahedin,” Mr. al-Awlaki states.

Leading al Qaeda scholar Peter Bergen said the article does not sound a “new theme” in extremist thought and noted that many of the first generation of homegrown radicals, like would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid and would-be “dirty” bomber Jose Padilla, had a criminal past before they were recruited to al Qaeda.

“Many of those attracted to this were petty criminals in the first place,” he said.

The 67-page magazine, the fourth edition of Inspire, was published last weekend by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemen-based extremist franchise. It also contains an article urging lone-wolf extremists in the West to blow up buildings using natural gas — a plot thught to have originated almost a decade ago with Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

Analysts linked both these articles to a new emphasis on bottom-up organizing by al Qaeda, in which the terrorist network uses the Internet to radicalize young Muslims, singly or in small groups, and then incites them to commit small-group or lone-wolf attacks.

Using social media is an important part of the bottom-up strategy, and among other websites from which Inspire could be downloaded Tuesday morning was a Facebook page. By the afternoon, the page was unavailable, though the magazine was still accessible through multiple file-sharing sites on the Internet.

Facebook does not comment on decisions about individual pages, but an executive there told The Times on the condition of anonymity that the company had removed the page for violations of its terms of service.

Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said in an e-mail: “There is no place on Facebook for people who promote violence, and we devote significant resources to prevent even the rare instances when people try to misuse our service.”

Mr. Noyes said employees proactively scan the site for pages that promote violence “using sophisticated tools and lists from the State and Treasury Departments” and pass information about them to the authorities.

• Shaun Waterman can be reached at 123@example.com.

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