Archive for the ‘online jihad’ category

Jihadi Twitter Activism – Introduction

April 27, 2013

The posting with all links is available on the jihadica blog

Ali Fisher and I have recently exchanged thoughts and data regarding the increasing Jihadi use of Twitter. By taking an interdisciplinary approach of social-media analysis and cluster network assessment, we decided to start a series on Jihadica on the parts of the overall jihadi, primarily Arabic language propaganda resonating among the audiences online. We plan on delivering updates on the subject as we move along and kick-off the series with an overall introduction to the theme.

In future posts in the series, we will highlight and decipher some of the core content most often shared on Twitter, allowing conclusions to be drawn about the parts of jihadist propaganda which resonate with a wider audience (and hence shared over and over again).

Introducing the theme

The recent essay by Abu Sa‘d al-‘Amili on the state of global online jihad (discussed here) lamented a general decline in participation in jihadi online forums. Furthermore, al-‘Amili issued a “Call (nida’) to the Soldiers of the Jihadi Media” demanding that they “return to their frontiers (thughur)” elevating their status. Al-‘Amili himself is one of the high-profile clerics, a “prolific “Internet Shaykh” (Lia) on the forums, but is also quite active on twitter (@al3aamili).

Two interrelated causes identified by Abu Sa‘d al-‘Amili were the periods when forums were offline and the migration of users to social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. This is exacerbated by the movement of “major [jihadi] writers and analysts” (kibar al-kuttab wa-l-muhallilin) from the forums to social media platforms. This has perhaps increased the momentum of members of tier-one jihad forums to expand onto twitter while twitter as a massive communication relay has become the basis for a new generation of sympathizers, posing another intersection. Twitter is a further medium of choice to (re-) disseminate propaganda material in general and is a platform where activists, sympathizers, and actual fighters upload audiovisual and other types into the jihadi hub.

Jihadists have aggressively expanded the use of twitter, in addition to Facebook and YouTube, especially since the outbreak of violence in Syria. During 2011 members of Jihadist forums issued media-strategies and advisory to fellow members prior, as for example is stated in this posting here of the al-Ansar forum. The posting, initiated by the member Istishhadiyya is basically a very elemental guide, comprehensive and for beginners, highlighting the effective and fast communication capability. The same posting was copy-and-pasted by Shumukh member Basha’ir shortly afterwards. A handbook, compiled by Twitter user @osamh ended up on the jihadi forums to further underline the importance of Twitter as well as its difference to Facebook, where jihadists already have a strong presence.

It took a while for jihadi activism to fully unravel on Twitter, and they have maintained a cohesive as well as detailed presence on this social media platform since the Syrian conflict turned violent in 2012.

Twitter, and as such social media in general, is in the meantime an integral part of jihadists’ media endeavors on the Internet, with the majority of jihadi forums having their official account advertised for on the main pages of the forums.

The role of the media activists, or in jihadist speak the “media mujahid” has since the death of Osama bin Laden in May of 2011 been promoted, highlighted and approved. AQ related documents have made this role model prominent. The role model of the “media martyr” any “media mujahid” can be become, is backed by the call to take the fight on a greater level on al channels online issued by al-Fajr in their response of the killing of bin Laden:

“The Internet is a battlefield for jihad, a place for missionary work, a field of confronting the enemies of God. It is upon any individual to consider himself as a media-mujahid, dedicating himself, his wealth and his time for God.” (Analysis here, Arabic original here)

At first, the strategies to promote Twitter among members of jihadi forums failed to develop substantial traction, but this changed drastically during 2012. When jihadists in and outside of Syria started to use and incorporate twitter as a medium to disseminate and re-post al-Qa’ida and other propaganda material.

Twitter activism and jihadi supporters

At first Syrian non-violent activists used, and continue to use, twitter as a medium to document human rights abuse and war crimes of the Assad regime, but jihadists quickly adapted that content and the platform for their propaganda.

Social-media smart and professional jihadists adopted this treasure grove for their propaganda. By rebranding and reframing the content created by civil society activists, jihadi propaganda used these grievances to support a key jihadist self-perception; the obligation to respond by force to defend and protect the Sunnites in Syria.

Due to the effect and success of the Syrian based Jihadi groups, other jihadi groups as well as the main forums are adopting the twitter activism, advertising official forum accounts on the main pages with users within the forums using twitter hashtags (#) or references to twitter users (for example: @al_nukhba). A list of “The most important jihadi and support sites for jihad and the mujahideen on Twitter” was recently posted on the Shumukh al-Islam forum, allowing users to identify key accounts they might wish to follow.

Individual sympathizers and all those feeling inclined to contribute to the media jihad re-disseminate authoritative files of al-Qa’ida on twitter on a larger scale. Now all major jihadi media departments, part of militant networks, have their own channels on Twitter, linking to content from the jihadi forums and other social media platforms, primarily YouTube, Facebook, and pictures in general.

Twitter has turned into a primary hub for the distribution of jihadi agitprop files. These Jihadi information sharing networks using Twitter coexist, autonomously, with the classical forums. These networks carry, for example, samples of the wide range of jihadi propaganda files, in some cases placed first on Twitter, posted via mobile phones from the front lines. As a brief overview, a few samples consisting of:


  • martyrs in general and martyrdom operatives (istishhadiyyun) announced and identified by their hashtag and Twitter account;
  • calls for donations with phone numbers and social media contact information; taking care of the orphans of the martyrs among other civil elements;
  • general material of incitement, and the impact of online attained propaganda files used offline are popular and gain plenty of traction,

What are they sharing?

In addition to disseminating their own propaganda, jihadi media activists repurpose content from social movements and non-jihadi groups for their own purposes, framing the non-jihadi actions or demonstrations as part of the global militant struggle. This has created another ‘grey area’ where analysts have to carefully monitor and decipher such content. The forum administrators and media-activists also are starting to incorporate and misuse Twitter for their purposes, in coordinated attempts to virtually infiltrate legitimate social movements by using the same hash tags and a similar rhetoric to create ideological cohesion – and placing extremist views and files in that virtual sphere while claiming to fight on the ground for the sake of the people.

To analyze jihadi media networks, their sympathizers and followers we have used a combined approach focused on a unique interdisciplinary analysis of the data acquired by technical means and the subsequent and immediate analytical process of its content.

Using these methods we have asked a range of questions, how have jihadi propagandists been able to gain traction and a foothold online? How do they disseminate propaganda content to a global, multilingual audience and what resonates most with that audience? What are the networks through which their content flows and what are the different roles users play within these networks? Ultimately do the different jihadi twitter accounts reach a range of different communities, or is it a small densely interconnected echo chamber?


Jabha al-Nusra – a New Jihadi Group in Syria

January 25, 2012

Announced a couple of days ago, as an important and urgent message without providing further information, users already ‘hoped’ a new jihadi group would be announced. Their hopes are being held up high, as of today Syria ‘officially’ has a jihadi group of its own, with, as it is en vogue for years and years to come, its own media outlet. The media outlet, al-Manarah al-Bayda, something like the white lighthouse, the beacon of light/hope in contrast to Hizbullah’s al-Manarah channel, perhaps, addresses the “people of Sham” for this is a “historic event”

We shall what the video reveals, so far the content provided shows the usual rhetoric and ideology that we know of. The focus on Sham (greater Syria) is not really new, but now, since the Arab Spring is increasingly being hijacked by Islamists and fighting ones in Libya and Syria, the jihadist media is daring enough to openly claim such language from inside.

AQIM issues statement kidnapping 5 EU citizens

December 12, 2011

In a statement just published on the usual jihadist online fora, AQIM via its al-Andalus media department claims the kidnapping of 5 Europeans and the displacement inside of Mali.
Interestingly, and most threatening for the hostages, is the claim that two Frenchmen among the kidnapped are “French spies”. The statement was published today, 12.12., but is dated to 7.12.
Two operations are claimed, first “in the east of Mali, the mujahideen were able to kidnap two men of the French intelligence”. The names, in Arabic transliteration, are provided with the claim of having conducted the kidnapping on November 24, 2011.
The second operation, on November 25, 2011, in Timbuktu led to the taking of the three other EU citizens whose nationalities are not disclosed in the statement.
In a third note, AQIM denies any attempt of kidnapping foreigners in Algeria at this time.

Why Mali?

While France is the most visible enemy and threat for AQIM, the address and the demands are directed to the governments of Mali and France. The alleged French spies are just another episode in the “continued hostilities” of the respective governments “against the Muslims in the Sahel”.
French and US efforts in combating al-Qa’ida are always perceived and reproduced by the jihadist propaganda as a combined threat and a dual manifestation of the enemy.
AQIM therefore kidnapped foreigners in Mali and keeps them there to exercise pressure on r government of Mali and to punish it at the same time. Concretely, not demands, but issues of grievance prior to the kidnappings are issued:
1. The case of Muhammad al-Amin who was extradited to Mauretania;
2. The case of Abu Sa’id al-Azwadi;
3. Abu Yunus al-Mali;
4. The Mali-Mauretanian joint military operation agains the mujahideen;
5. The rebuilding of an air base inside of Mali used by France to fight the mujahideen by aerial means and measurements.

The statement concludes by the expression of grief, French participation in Afghanistan, the appeasement by Mali to the west by imprisoning and killing Muslims. “if you want the soonest release of our hostages, and to protect their lives, you must answer the legitimate demands of the mujahideen” as is addressed in particular to the government of France.

New “Fursan al-Shahada” Video about Nigeria?

November 18, 2010

In October 2010 AQIM published a video, “The Raid of al-Damus“, regarding the situation of Muslims in Algeria but also in Libya and Nigeria. The video shows revenge operations against the Algerian police and National Army soldiers, ambushed on Algeria’s remote highways. These attacks not only took place to fight the infidel regimes in the region but particularly to avenge the execution of unarmed, detained civilians by the Nigerian army. AQIM takes this as proof to further justify its deeds and military operations with sequences of Abu Yahya al-Libi and Ayman al-Zawahiri in the video.

The scenes, it seems, have been taken from Aljazeera and put in motion in the AQIM video in its propagandized surrounding. Aljazeera describes the sequence as

“Al Jazeera has obtained exclusive footage from Nigeria which shows unarmed men being shot dead. The footage was taken last year when the Nigerian government was hailing its defeat of an Islamist rebel group known as Boko Haram.” The video shows the shooting of detainees in public by the Nigerian army (2:00) which has appeared in AQIM’s video.

“Muslims annihilated in Nigeria – The Crusader army kills Muslims in cold blood”. On the bottom right the al-Andalus media logo.


Corpses of Algerian soldiers are depicted in detail. Ambushed for their service for the Crusaders as well as their participation in upholding un-Islamic regimes as well as being responsible for killing Muslims.

What has this to do with ISI and the forthcoming video “Fursan al-shahada, 8” ? While part six was all committed to self-inoculation attacks in Iraq to “support Turkistan”, this 8th edition seems to be about killing and undertaking operations in Iraq for the sake of Nigeria. Alert forum members pointed out that the picture, as it appears with the remark “soon” shows pictures of the above mentioned massacres:

Forum member “BomBer” graphically points out that these two stills are from the massacre in Nigeria. Started by a user naming himself “Mullah Abu Omar” started the thread with “Walid al-Sharqawi” responding “the brothers in charge for the publication have previously focused on various circumstances of Muslims, such as in occupied Turkistan (west China) by the communists, after the massacre [further] violating the rights of Muslims there. And in this video the focus will feature the land of the Hausa, “Nigeria”, remembering the Muslims who are being tyrannized by many different means, inciting the Muslims in “Nigeria” to carry weapons. And God knows best.”

Hijacked Islam

November 18, 2010

The self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq, also known as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), announced today the 8th film of its notorious series of the “Fursan al-shahada“. These, mostly professionally made, movies show and depict the testimonies and attacks of those carrying out self-inoculation attacks, also termed ‘suicide’ or ‘martyrdom’ operations in Iraq. The greater meaning of the Arabic term istishhadiya is of essence, whereas the individual sacrifices his life for a greater good in order for ‘Islam’ to benefit while the Mujahid attains the status of having confessed the utmost possible for God with the claim of being rewarded accordingly in the afterlife.

The individuals read out their testimony, according to the usual habit of the jihad video genre, portray their – naturally – piety and the fear of God while moving out on “the path of God” to fulfil the divine command, a holy covenant of individual duty “to elevate the word of God”, living the lives of early Muslims solely in regard of combat and military actions – neglecting all other forms of spiritual and scholarly knowledge. This is highly effective propaganda combining the rhetoric and the wording of individual Mujahideen with the written ideology of AQ global. Here the consumers of online jihad materials find their role-models (prominently: Abu Dujana al-Khurasani) and are put in touch with elements who are in the battlefields and hotspots of jihad, who tell their tales, who have witnessed war and who express in their speech their drivers that led them to the decision of undertaking self-inoculation operations. In a previous part of “Fursan al-shahada“, the istishhadiyin operatives directed their attacks in the name of “helping Turkistan”, a region in western China where the al-Hizb al-Islami al-Turkistani went on a (Arabic) propaganda material publishing rampage after ethnic tensions rose. Since then, the “Voice of Islam”, an Arabic e-zine, is published on occasion. This edition of “Fursan al-shahada
is yet another statement by ISI to show their sympathizers that they are still in place, despite the ‘beheading’ of ISI leaders in April 2010. Further, these videos intend to deliver proof and role-models to the online crowds that the jihad for justice and truth (haqq) is not interrupted and that Iraq is as much as other theatres of jihad alive and striving for the jihadists’ understanding and definition of religion while – again – promoting martyrdom.

Anyway, with the Eid al-Adha on Tuesday, mabruk 1431!, it is certainly no coincidence, that AQ in general tries to further capitalize on public Islamic events and holidays. Usually within the forums ‘gifts’ are issued to the sympathizers and followers when Ramadan dawns. This year, Khalid al-Husaynan ‘blessed’ the online ummah with a series of speeches and sermons defining and interpreting Surahs, for example, or the “fear of hypocrisy” and the like. Punctually after the Islamic new year, AQI/ISI now announces “in order to celebrate Eid al-adha” a new movie part of the series depicting the testimony (al-wasiya) of self-inoculation operatives as well as their subsequent attacks. In some cases these operatives testimonies are filmed while sitting behind the wheel of the truck/car that will bomb them into heaven. This is attained as a deed of worship and falls into line of the jihadi school of thought as expressed by Abu Jihad al-Shami (“The Vision of the Jihaadi Movement & the Strategy for the Current Stage“):

“As it is well-known to any entry-level student of the Salafi Creed, worship is a general term that includes everything that Allaah, the Exalted, loves of actions and statements, whether apparent or concealed. Therefore, servitude is not limited to prayer, charity, fasting, and pilgrimage. Rather, included under the term ‘worship’ is Jihaad in the path of Allaah, love for the sake of Allaah and enmity for the sake of Allaah, calling to Allaah, removing oppression, judging by the Shari’ah, and ordering the good and forbidding the evil.” (p6)

In the past decade, AQ and co had been quite efficient and highly industrious within the online clouds to promote, expand and thus hijack specific religious, social and particularly historic settings, seeking to manifest proof of their actions as based on the alleged righteous, true and pious creed and subsequently being by their worldly actions closer to God than other individuals. The gaps have been filled and nowadays known faces such as al-Awlaqi shock the western media when all the sudden his sermons and speeches can be retrieved in English on YouTube, facebook, Twitter and other websites in various languages. This is certainly another dangerous and alerting fact but the missionary spreading of AQ’s definitions, wordings and notions have infected the internet for a very long time and new materials (videos and writings) appear almost daily, covering more and more niches and providing an in-depth appeal by letting the Mujahideen speak, who undertake such istishhadiya operations against foreign and/or domestic enemies, attaining both: fame online as well as the shahada (according the jihadist creed). An assessment of legitimizing the two severe istishhadiya operations in 2007 in Algiers can be obtained here.

By such “surprises” and “gifts”, the global torrents of jihad further attempt to hijack public parts of Islam, expressing a violent conduct as proper and rightful celebration of public holidays while adherents of this specific ideology speak out to provide personal justifications bound to an universal understanding of fighting Satan, the apostates, the disbelievers and what have you. Gifts and “glad tidings” are disseminated via the forums and instantaneously spread online.

“Soon, with the permission of God – 8”

Khalid al-Husaynan’s sermon on the 9th surah of the Quran – a gift during the holy month of Ramadan (published in August 2010).

Anwar al-Awlaqi – shooting star of AQAP and the online AQ spheres

November 8, 2010

Notorious Anwar al-Awlaqi, the US-born Yemeni ideologue that has in the last year or so been pushed and used by AQAP’s Yemen wing, has a new video, released online today. The video, the “filmed speech” is entitled “to make it known and clear to mankind, and not to hide it” and is a short part taken from the Quran 3:187. The full part, according to the translation of Yusuf Ali is as follows:

“And remember Allah took a covenant from the People of the Book, to make it known and clear to mankind, and not to hide it; but they threw it away behind their backs, and purchased with it some miserable gain! And vile was the bargain they made!”


As usual, the video is available for download in various sizes, with 1.1 gb being the maximum. While I frequently promised to publish more on my blog, I yet issue another promise and will blog something in the coming days when I have had the time to consume al-Awlaqi’s speech/sermon.

The video is in Arabic with the call “to spread this video everywhere and to translate it into English.”


Food for thought – article by N. Prucha

May 18, 2010


While the internet is the center of attention for the jihadists as well as the contemporary gaming industry, the article aims to provide the reader with a controversial comparison: both groups are heavily active on the Internet, using similar modes, such as forums, blogs, YouTube, websites and social networks (facebook) and both groups consist of a young generation, that came up with computers. The IT-fluency or the digital nativity of both groups has set a similar modus operandi on how both groups operate with and on the internet to promote their individual advertisement or propaganda. Similar to the gaming industry, the jihadists encourage and disseminate also ‘user generated contents’ that has led to an increase of jihadist propaganda and ideological challenges. Similar patterns can be found among fans and followers of the gaming industry.

The comparison of both groups has the intention to show the reader how smart, professional and technical able the internet is being exploited by contemporary terror groups such as al-Qa’ida, while its ideology has been subsequently extended and widely incorporated in various videos and pictures over the recent years.

This article does not analyze jihadist propaganda and ideology but rather intends to serve to show how jihadists have established themselves quite well on the internet in order to attract their hive of likeminded siblings. This allows, in the authors opinion, to draw a comparison to a group that dwells on the internet to promote products and attract potential users as well, the Gaming Industry. As jihadists favor the internet, favored products and possibilities set by the Gaming Industry have entered the jihadist online spheres as well.

A PDF version (with the endnotes) of the article is available for download here:

Information on the (German) book of Nico Prucha “The Voice of Jihad – Sawt al-Jihad – al-Qa’ida’s first online Magazine”:

Internet Ventures: Online Jihad and the Gaming Industry as Cultural Sub-Groups in Comparison on the World Wide Web

Nico Prucha

“Do not send a spy where a schoolboy can go” – Robert David Steele

“Raids on forums and blogs – today it’s your websites and tomorrow it’s your soil and territory, o servant of the cross! Call to every brother who has a blog and who has expertise of blogs to participate with us in this blessed raid” – ‘Umar ‘Abd al-Hakim

The intention of this article is simply to provide the reader with some observations of the internet by the author. The internet in its full spectrum is being used by many groups and organizations of all kind using various social networking platforms or other elements of the contemporary internet. However, two groups are henceforth in a practical stance compared. Both who are in great parts exclusively using the internet and who are not only both highly dependent on the World Wide Web, but are also in parts results of this specific fast changing and influential development: The Gaming Industry (GI) and al-Qaeda (AQ). What once was confined to a selected few, so-called computer freaks, a technical and intellectual avant-garde in the early to late nineties, who had as much as the technical capacities as well as personal abilities to use, shape and alter the internet, is in the meantime a common thing for the majority and part of everyday life.

Both AQ and GI are groups who deploy their advertisement, their propaganda, their promotional trailers and filmed suicide bombing clips online, within a genre-based specific cluster (Marin et al 2009) and within a characteristic framework. However, and this is the main observation and the underlying fundamental principle of this article, both groups, like many others on the so called “web 2.0”, are using same and similar means of promoting their specifically notions, ideas, products, videos and writings, with a similar effect on what users are contributing in terms of technical proficiency within a “cult” or “pop-cultural” content. This observation is certainly not surprising, but the article intends to shed some light on the value of the internet for terrorist groups, who systematically use it as a tool to disseminate propaganda, to influence, radicalize and recruit on this public medium. The dissemination and this borderless virtual indefinite free public space grants the individual followers, fans or adherents to have the exact same means and potentials of replying and becoming an interactive (counter-) part of a individual genre-based cluster. For the gaming industry, this may be by being an online “gamer” participating in and playing various electronic games. The GI can be seen as an avant-garde when it comes to promoting products (games) on the internet. The avant-gardism of the GI includes successfully promoting new and upcoming video games on all levels of the internet, reaching out to a huge crowd on a global scale.

While the crowd of jihadist followers, forum-members and participants is consuming mostly Arabic based videos, writings and other forms of propaganda, the majority can best be termed as “armchair jihadists”
who live and dwell within the online spheres of AQ and have the ultimate wish to join the real-life propagated role-model Mujahidin. The process of radicalization and its long-term aspired outcome of being recruited or at least inspired to undertake individual operations
(al-Suri 2005) is crafted in a professional and ideological comprising manner by the Senior and Junior Leadership circles of AQ. Many “armchair jihadists” adhere to the specifically determined interpretation of chosen religious concepts by the ideological authoritative circles of AQ and can see a practical and mostly military output of these definitions within AQ’s extensive library of videos (Hafez 2007).

The GI’s fans, on the other hand, the so called “gamers”, are the ones using the internet with all its options and possibilities to meet and mostly play multi-player games online. The GI could be termed as the present avant-garde of the “web 2.0”, an industry that has over the recent years subsequently designed games and gaming products that are in some parts exclusively played with others over the internet. The avant-gardism set by this particularly industry is bound to the core technical developments and foundations of the worlds hard- and in wide parts software manufacturers, that are being professionally and for pure commercial reasons exploited by the GI, with the dawn of blogs and online forums, facebook, YouTube
and Twitter, besides the “classical” websites.

Similarly, various political parties have picked up this online trend and discovered its resources. In most cases political parties are just as much active on facebook and YouTube besides having various blogs to further their cause.
US President Barack Obama’s YouTube Channel
is one of the main outlets to regularly address the nation – a cheap, quick and easy to use platform. This is also the understanding of AQ, who deploy its material as well since years according to their need to facilitate the internet by all means as strategic propaganda platform. AQ’s “Islamic State Iraq” YouTube Channel
shows in some parts its videos sniper attacks, IED or suicide operations “against the Crusader forces” in a quickly accessible format and nevertheless offers the high quality videos within its various forums to download.

“BentOsamaBenLaden’s Channel” – The YouTube Channel of the “daughter of Osama bin Laden” with the logos of the “Islamic State of Iraq” in the background

What does all of this have to do with AQ? Why compare the GI to AQ?

As stated, the same means and mechanisms offered to a global and local audience by the abilities of the internet and specifically the “web 2.0” have been penetrated and exploited by AQ systematically. Since the dawn of the internet and its discovery by AQ in general, the trend to make use of the internet was subsequently and systematically exploited under the auspices of the Saudi AQ branch in 2003 (Prucha 2010), by hosting radical magazines and videos on websites. Since the internet has gained a vital importance for AQ and related. With blogs established, forums created, facebook profiles and groups set up and YouTube as a free and easy to use platform to quickly spread jihadist videos, AQ has substantially infiltrated the internet and proudly calls this the “raids on websites, blogs and forums”
and has incorporated the internet as the vital backbone for radicalization, motivation and recruitment of potential online siblings. Another important aspect for AQ and its sympathizers are the various groups, such as the Global Media Front (GIMF), or the Ansar Mailing List Newsletter, that in most parts seem to be publishing exclusively online – and exclusively via jihadist forums. Furthermore, a number of “media” and “language departments” strive to supply a growing community of online jihadists with non-Arabic material, increasingly in German next to English, Urdu, Dari, Pashto or Russian translations of videos and ideological writings. Subsequently sub-torrents adhering to the global AQ ideology deploy local messages and threats in its local language.
Just as the GI has certainly discovered the multi-lingual setting of the internet, so has AQ and seeks to speak out for and to all Muslims who show interest in their radical creed and militancy. The internet does not only enable AQ to rapidly respond to claims made by either Western media or governments, but it allows AQ to issue its “truth” as in contrast to the “lies”. The up-to-date responsive character of AQ, particularly in terms of countering statements by governments in a highly professional ideological as well as technical manner may be one of its reasons of success as a global terror group which has led to various mergers with other radical-Islamist or jihadist groups in the past. However, the lack of addressing or rapidly responding to the uproar caused by the Danish Cartoon issue has also led to open criticism of AQ. In a similar fashion controversial issues such as the legitimacy of killing fellow Muslims as a result of bombing campaigns (in Algiers, 2007) was only addressed, after members of the al-Hesbah forum openly questioned AQ’s Algerian ideologue, who had to respond (Rashid 2007). But AQ remains in great (selected) parts highly active and responsive. When the Taliban kidnapped a group of South Korean Christian missionaries in Afghanistan, it was the leadership of AQ under Abu Yahya al-Libi who defended, justified and praised the action of “our fellow Mujahidin.” Also the notion was systematically reinforced and emphasized by al-Libi that AQ and Taliban are indeed fighting together for the same cause and the identical sake (al-Libi 2007).
AQ has what the German Red Army Faction could only dream of and what was frequently emphasized in their writings and statements in the 1970s, in planning “the next steps” (ID-Verlag 1997):

Comprising propaganda for the armed struggle; explaining the masses why it is necessary and unavoidable and how it can be prepared (conspiratorial leaflets and graffiti).

AQ on a technical stance like most online active groups, including the GI, have taken up the next steps that are perhaps a logical result of the contemporary technological development. Both groups are part of what can be termed a youthful “pop-cultural movement” that draw attention on the internet by specific messages and products and both groups have a specific language, graphical symbols in a highly individual iconography limited within its culture that is confined to the individual influence zones. While the same AQ related videos from YouTube can be found within facebook, there are also specific groups that use facebook to upload, host and propagate their personally made graphics, pictures and videos. Such “user generated content”, the individually programmed “modifications” for games, is also applicable for torrents of AQ and its skillful members who “modify” in their terms and in their worldview various pictures and subsequently re-publish them in ideologically adherent but independent groups on platforms like facebook. Similarly, groups like the Lebanese Hizbullah have even published games whereas the player assumes the role of a Mujahid fighting the Israeli forces in “The People of the Border” or “Special Force 2”.

“Jihad solves everything” – on facebook

With particular “products” openly broadcast on the internet, always easy to download and install, a specific “corporate guideline” has unfolded. The used icons, names, symbols and general layouts of documents and videos provide a coherent guideline that is used and respected within both online groups. However it must be noted that the graphical violence addressed by AQ as well as the purely virtual mode of violence hosted by the GI is of great difference even if some icons and pictures may suggest a greater relationship – exploited very well by AQ for its purposes. Contrary to the fact that both groups have intersecting elements, the sympathizing online jihadists are the ones exposed to extreme forms of real violence – with a real-life ideological jihadist agenda and actual battle zones portrayed in romantic pictures – it is the jihadists who, unlike the gamers of online or multiplayer games, are propagating the various forms of shown violence within a tight radical ideology (Prucha 2010; al-Batush 2009; Bonney 2004). Gamers are consumers of a legal content. This may naturally include so-called “first person shooters” (FPS), or “killer games” and are neither exposed to real forms of violence and bloodshed and do not advise to commit such acts in real life (Williams et al 2005). Nevertheless such games have a certain reputation, despite various studies and assertions. “A longitudinal study of an online violent video game with a control group tested for changes in an aggressive cognitions and behaviors. The findings did not support the assertion that a violent game will cause substantial increases in real-world aggression” (Williams et al 2005).The majority of the consumers of the GI simply enjoy various games and genres although some controversial games have been publicly branded as having inspired or enabled real forms of crimes, such as the worldwide school shootings.

Breaking the language barriers: “official” AQ propaganda with Indonesian subtitles

It may be true to best describe the situation as AQ having the best of all worlds online, as they may freely use, modify or simply propagate specific ideas and concepts within a framework the contemporary jihadist see fit to further their cause. Again, the main promotional tool and platform for the armchair jihadists as well as for real-life battle-hardened leaders are the online forums, and perhaps will remain so over the coming years. Facebook, YouTube and blogs are free, easy to use
and practical add-on to spread what the RAF termed “leaflets and graffiti” to reach out for the hearts and minds of a younger generation. While the GI is of course – like other cultural circles – influenced by the current political conditions of the world, the followers of AQ have the freedom to choose what products may seem useful for their jihadist endeavors and what deserves to be banned. Gaining practical experience in military training is a divine command (Prucha 2009) according to AQ’s ideology and so it may be natural that some armchair jihadists in their fantasy world play online games. Besides the constant consummation of mostly Arabic handbooks on mines, sniper-rifles, grenades, guerilla and urban warfare tactics, some element freely roam the GI’s product scale, using whatever games and mindsets suits them. It may be logical to find that with the GI and its fans developing so called “modifications” (mods), add-ons or enhancements for already published games, to keep certain games attractive and thus popular. A great deal of such mods is purely multi-player based and have a dominating “Western forces versus Oriental looking Insurgents attitude”. For the jihadist the graphical and role-playing elements published by mostly Western GI branches in the ‘Arabic-Muslim-Insurgent’ formats are nevertheless highly appealing. Any form of warfare, at best against American or Western soldiers, may serve as a parallel to actual conflicts around the world within the Islamic countries that AQ vows to defend and ultimately liberate from its direct as well as indirect occupation. Ones violence intense fantasy world of being or becoming a real-life Mujahid may be fueled by products of the GI and the resonance one may receive by publishing professionally made pro-jihadist pictures within the forums. Besides the publications of AQ’s warfare (militarily and ideologically) concepts, armchair jihadists may exploit online what was taken by the Lebanese Army as lessons learned in the conflict with the Fatah al-Islam in the Palestinian refugee camp Nahir al-Barid in 2007 (Dagher 2009): how to operate and move according to theoretical handbooks and practical videos in a urban- and guerilla warfare like condition; understanding the enemies aspired movement and setting up concealed positions for sniper attacks or IED’s that gives any guerilla troop an advantage over a state organized hierarchical military.

One example that made its way to the jihadist spheres from the GI fan-influenced commercial output is the “mod” for Valve’s “Counterstrike” entitled “Insurgency – Modern Infantry Combat”. Here the individual player as well as the armchair jihadist can indeed get a feeling as a sniper or a loosely organized cell fighting against a troop of US soldiers. This game consists of several multi-player maps that have an Iraq like setting whereas two teams play against one another: The US Army, with different soldiers attributes (engineers, snipers, heavy machine gunner et al) versus an insurgent group that look like a gang of prime time Hollywood Mujahidin. Such imagery from the game subsequently surfaced in jihadist forums, modified by sympathizers to suit the jihadists’ mindset.

“Insurgency – Modern Infantry Warfare” – from an jihadists perspective

Another example is how a modification for “Call of Duty 4 – Modern Warfare” another shooter gained popularity within jihadist forums, whereas the player has the possibility to assumes the role of the “insurgent” and thus fights Western soldiers.

In support of the “Islamic State of Iraq”, with the logo and a religious slogan embedded, this picture was addressed by the “Media Council of the People of Tawhed” in a jihadist forum. Particularly appealing may be the detail, besides combating US troops in a Middle Eastern environment, the Mujahid is also wearing the shmakh, the classical Arabic (Bedouin) headdress, as a scarf.

While extremist use of the internet certainly must be considered as a risk factor for involvement in terrorism, it is yet unclear to what extend this may actually lead to a real output of violence. The online foundation of AQ, however, provides individual sympathizers with a fundamental and comprising ideological alternative that is also highly attached to the idealizing videos, sermons and passionate calls from AQ leadership circles. Material are found on all levels of the contemporary internet may not be surprising, however, the specifically chosen elements from products such as the GI incorporated into the jihadists’ mindset and the subsequent usage for propaganda is a further element, that may attract followers and potential sympathizers who adhere to the core worldview of AQ and terror as a divine command as well as a legitimate ‘defensive’ tool, as implied.


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