Al Qaeda reduced to trumpeting rival ISIS’ terror attacks in online magazine
Perhaps out of jealously, al Qaeda is out with a special edition of its online magazine Inspire with stories devoted to a terrorist attack carried out by a rival the Bastille Day truck massacre in Nice, France.
Inspire is published by al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a group dedicated to attacking the U.S. homeland.
The Islamic State, another Salafist jihad group, claimed responsibility for the Nice carnage, in which Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel plowed a refrigerated truck at high speed through a dense crowd of revelers July 14, killing 84.
Inspire lauded Bouhlel for using a truck rather than explosives, the acquisition of which might have caught the attention of French security agencies.
“I think AQAP is jealous they haven’t been able to succeed in a while and that ISIS has gotten all the attention lately in the media,” said Steven Stalinsky, executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute, which distributed the edition.
The Islamic State is also known as ISIS and ISIL.
Two weeks before the attack, a French Islamic State fighter posted a video on the app Telegram urging his countrymen to “get a truck” and use it as a weapon, which Bouhlel did.
The English-language Inspire stories are aimed at explaining to other radicals in the West how the mission was accomplished and how they, too, can kill in the same way and meet Allah.
AQAP has been somewhat dormant in recent years while the Islamic State is mounting and inspiring bloody attacks around the world, including in Europe and the United States.
AQAP also issued a special Inspire edition after the nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida, in June. The killer told police he had pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s reclusive spiritual and operational leader.
“The quality and production value of the magazine, which is only four pages, also shows a diminished Inspire magazine,” Mr. Stalinsky said.
A French prosecutor in Paris said Thursday that Bouhlel, rather than being a loner misfit, had been plotting the massacre for months and had five accomplices, who will be formally charged, the BBC reported. One of them studied and videotaped Bouhlel’s planned route.
Bouhlel began texting people linked to terrorism after the Islamic State carried out the massacre at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January 2015.
The prosecutor’s disclosure dispels reports in U.S. news media that Bouhlel was distraught over marital problems, took out his frustration on people watching fireworks and had no ties to terrorism.
Inspire magazine said the best decision Bouhlel made was to avoid trying to acquire explosives and possibly tip off security agencies.
“Focusing their precautionary measures and plans on the expected type of means used in previous operations, then came [Bouhlel] with a new weapon, a weapon originally used by civilians,” AQAP said. “This enabled him not to attract any attention when acquiring it, moving with it or even during execution. And among the important things in selecting the type of weapon for this operation is its simplicity, easy to use.”
Inspire also applauded Bouhlel for choosing Nice and the French Riviera, icons for international tourism, and for choosing Bastille Day, when the area would be the most crowded. Together, they gave Bouhlel a “wide range of targets,” the magazine said.
The French government suspected an attack that day but focused on Paris, which the Islamic State had struck before and where other planned attacks were foiled.
“The most important point in selecting the place of the operation is that he achieved the surprise factor,” Inspire said. “The security organs knew that there was an imminent attack but never expected it to be in Nice.”
AQAP tries to create bombs that can evade detection, with an eye on placing them on airliners.
But the George W. Bush and Obama administrations have directed a long air war against AQAP leaders and training camps via drone strikes with bombs and Hellfire missiles.
In March, the Pentagon discarded the secret nature of the war and announced that it had bombed a training camp and killed dozens of AQAP fighters in Yemen’s Hadramat’s provincial capital of Mukalla. The terrorist group controls the area, capitalizing on the Yemeni civil war and the fall of a U.S.-backed government.
The Islamic State overshadowed AQAP again last year when it executed what was supposed to be al Qaeda’s specialty.
The Islamic State said it hid a bomb in a soda can on Russian Metrojet Flight 9268, which exploded over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 onboard. The terrorist group published a photo of the bomb type.
AQAP had succeeded in sneaking a shoe bomb and an underwear bomb onto two U.S. commercial fights. Both bombs failed to detonate, and the would-be suicide bombers were prosecuted and imprisoned.