Inspire (magazine)

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Inspire magazine cover.PNG
EditorUnknown; former editor Samir Khan[1]
First issueJune 2010

Inspire is an English-language online magazine published by the organization al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The magazine is one of the many ways AQAP uses the Internet to reach its audience. Numerous international and domestic extremists motivated by radical interpretations of Islam have been influenced by the magazine and, in some cases, used its bomb-making instructions in their attempts to carry out attacks.[2] The magazine is an important brand-building tool, not just of AQAP, but of all al-Qaeda branches, franchises and affiliates.[3]


The magazine is aimed at young British and American readers and provided translated messages from Osama bin Laden. The first issue appeared in July 2010.[4][5] Various articles in the second issue encouraged terror attacks on U.S. soil, suggesting that followers open fire at a Washington, D.C. restaurant or use a pickup truck to "mow down" pedestrians.[6]

The October 2010 issue included an article penned by Samir Khan, in which he wrote, "I am proud to be a traitor to America".[7] Samir Khan was killed on 30 September 2011, in the U.S. targeted killing Predator drone attack in Yemen.[8]


The magazine's aim is to inform and persuade a committed audience by distributing internal communications called "auto-propaganda" to strengthen morale, reduce dissent, or justify and legitimize an attack or controversial doctrine. It was also used to target an uncommitted audience to eventually win sympathy and support. Therefore, AQAP has the ability to represent themselves and their actions exactly as they wish. The controlled message is unfettered from the scrutiny of the local and international media.[9]

Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution described the magazine as "clearly intended for the aspiring jihadist in the U.S. or U.K. who may be the next Fort Hood murderer or Times Square bomber".[10] It was described by Michelle Shephard, author of Guantanamo's Child, and a reporter for the Toronto Star, as being an extension of the online Arabic magazine Sada al-Malahim (Echo of the Battle).[11]

The magazine was thought to be the work of Anwar al-Awlaki, an English-speaking cleric and al-Qaeda leader based in Yemen. Awlaki was on the United States' "kill or capture list".[12][13][14][15] An editorial by al-Awlaki, entitled May Our Souls Be Sacrificed For You appeared in the first issue.[16] In the article, al-Awlaki called for attacks against all those who had slandered the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, including all Western targets.[17]

The magazine stated that its title came from a verse in the Qur'an, "Inspire the believers to fight"[18] and described itself as "A special gift to the Islamic Nation".[11] The magazine was first "discovered" online by the SITE Institute. When the first issue of the magazine was initially released, a technical error prevented most of the magazine's pages from loading properly.[15]

The magazine encouraged its readers to submit their own material for publication: "We also call upon and encourage our readers to contribute by sending their articles, comments and suggestions to us."[16] The magazine's production users were able to use multiple third-party sources (photos, videos, etc.) to create content with ease. The use of mass media was also capable of doctoring content. The separation of form and content of the media and then the ability to "mash" content together with little effort had the ability to create persuasive presentations that would catch the attention of the intended audience.[19]

This sort of crowd-sourcing has been influential in motivating extremists. Mohamad Osman Muhammed, for example, who was implicated in a plot to bomb the Portland Christmas tree lighting ceremony in 2010, had previously been published in a different English-language magazine called Jihad Recollections.[20]

Common themes

Defensive jihad

Declarations were made for Muslims to rise in defense of their Muhammad, families, justice, and the umma. AQAP propagated the U.S. bombing of Yemen and categorically targeting women and children. Thus they used this alleged targeting as justification of Omar al-Faruq's attack as retaliation. "Al-Qaeda says that violence is just retribution for Western injustices and that Islam authorizes this position."[21]

Call to individual jihad

The articles inside Inspire were used to incite rage against non-believers and the West. The Recruiting pitch was based on the conspiracy theories and through the ideology of defensive jihad. The periodical explained what to expect in jihad and the theory of open front jihad and individual jihad. The arguments presented explained the difficulty of an open front engagement with American forces and the difficulty of traveling overseas to conduct jihad. Therefore, the solution for Muslims was individual obligatory (fard'ayn) jihad to attack while the Islamic nation was strategically weak.

[S]pontatenous [sic] operations performed by individuals and cells here and there over the whole world, without connections between them, have put the local and international intelligence apparatus in a state of confusion, as arresting the members of aborted cells does not influence the operational activities of others who are not connected with them.[22]

"Open source jihad"

Inspire promoted "open source jihad". This shifted away from al-Qaeda's traditional terrorist attacks to simple attacks by individuals using common items for weapons. The Summer 2010 issue advised making a pressure cooker bomb using everyday materials ("How to make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom").

The Fall 2010 issue encouraged using one's car to "mow down" people in crowded places ("The ultimate mowing machine"). The Winter 2010 issue discussed how to blow up buildings. These provided individuals with simple ideas for terror attacks, without direct ties to al-Qaeda or its affiliates. It had become too great a threat to travel abroad and receive training in al-Qaeda training camps, and direct contact with al-Qaeda members endangered the member and the aspiring terrorist. Therefore AQAP's "open source jihad" promoted attacks without the support of a physical community. Marc Sageman, a leading expert in the field, described this phenomenon as "leaderless Jihad".[23] While he considered this threat as "self-limiting" and one that would quickly die out, the difficulties in stopping the lone wolf attackers were great.

"Open source jihad" emerged as a necessary tactic as al-Qaeda leadership steadily vanished in the ten years since 9/11. With leaders either dead or in jail, al-Qaeda had to consider new ways to attack its enemies.[24] Al-Qaeda first splintered into "franchises" by country or region, then further degenerated into solo operators, mostly of dubious capabilities.[25] Inspire became an important al-Qaeda brand tool for recruiting, informing, and motivating these open source jihadis.


Some scholars, such as Thomas Hegghammer (of the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment) and Jarret Brachman, argued that the magazine was an unexceptional example of jihadist online literature and did not deserve the media attention it received.[26][27] Hegghammer wrote that "there is nothing particularly new or uniquely worrying" about the magazine's content, and its connection to AQAP is likely weak: "Without signals intelligence it is extremely difficult to determine the precise nature of the link between the editors and the AQAP leadership. Judging from the amount of recycled material in Inspire, I would be surprised if the AQAP connection is very strong."[26]

While the SITE Institute and at least one senior U.S. government official described Inspire as authentic, there was some speculation on jihadist websites and elsewhere that the magazine, due to its low quality, may have been a hoax.[28] This theory was advocated, in particular, by Max Fisher, a writer for The Atlantic.[29] Fisher listed five reasons to suspect the publication was a hoax.[29] According to Fisher, the portable document format (PDF) file that contained the first issue also contained a computer virus. Fisher noted that the magazine contained an article by Abu Mu'sab al-Suri, noting that al-Suri had been imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay since 2005, and that whether he was actually tied to al-Qaeda remained unclear. The article attributed to al-Suri was the beginning of a series that appeared in the next 5 issues of Inspire. These excerpts were all copied from a translation of Abu Musab al-Suri's "The Global Islamic Resistance Call" which was published in a 2008 biography of him.[30]

Peter Bergen, the national security analyst for CNN, describing it as "a slick Web-based publication, heavy on photographs and graphics that, unusually for a jihadist organ, is written in colloquial English", on 31 March 2011 discussed the column of Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a leader of AQAP, in its fifth issue.[31]


Inspire is a unique terrorist publication in that it is very specific in the audience in which it targets instead of publishing general ideological arguments to all Muslims. Studies in terrorism[32][33] have noted that most Islamic terrorist attacks on the West are perpetrated by well-educated men living in the West, with an average age of 26 years.[32] AQAP also is aware of this, and Inspire magazine targets this demographic.

One example is in the use of imagery and text in the operations of Abyan in the Fall 2010 edition. The images are of operations directed against Yemeni troops at checkpoints, base ambushes, explosions, and "cleaning the streets" (killing the enemy). The photos show images of actions performed by the mujahid against the murtad. The captions tell a story of victory for the holy warriors with few casualties. The images and text portray a story of invincibility and defeat of Yemen's Special Forces.


  • Issue 1, released July 2010, provided bomb-making directions.[34]
  • Issue 2, released October 2010, called for attacks on the U.S.[35]
  • Issue 3, released November 2010, called for explosive devices to be put on U.S. bound aircraft.[36]
  • Issue 4, released January 2011, continued to call for attacks on the U.S.[37]
  • Issue 5, released March 2011, focused on the "Arab Spring."[38]
  • Issue 6, released July 2011, focused on the death of Osama bin Laden.[39]
  • Issue 7, released September 2011, focused on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.[40]
  • Issue 8, released May 2012, renewed calls for attacks on the U.S.[41]
  • Issue 9, also released May 2012, emphasized suicide missions.[42]
  • Issue 10, released March 2013, called for Lone Wolf attacks on the U.S.[43]
  • Issue 11, released May 2013, celebrated the Boston Marathon bombing.[44]
  • Issue 12, released March 2014, called for car bomb attacks in U.S. cities.[45]
  • Issue 13, released December 2014, included instructions for making a "hidden bomb" that could evade airport security checks, and tips as to which airlines should be targeted.[citation needed]
  • Issue 14, released September 2015, included information on assassination operations, converting black people in America to their cause, and a military analysis of the Charlie Hebdo shooting.
  • Issue 15, released May 2016, focused on "professional assassinations"
  • Issue 16, released November 2016, covered pressure cooker bombs, the attack on the USS Cole, and the September 2016 New York and New Jersey bombings.[46]
  • Issue 17, released August 2017, provided instructions on train derailment operations.[47]


Al-Shamika (the high, elevated (feminine)) was a new fashion and lifestyle magazine for Muslim women and suicide bombers published online by al-Qaeda.[48][49]


United Kingdom

Possession of Inspire without reasonable excuse has been successfully prosecuted under Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000.[50] Several people have been arrested and jailed for possessing the magazine, and copies have also been found in the possession of British terrorism suspects. One of the Operation Guava plotter's "key" assets were copies of Inspire.[51] Mohammed Abu Hasnath, 19, of east London, was arrested in October 2011 and sentenced in May 2012 to 14 months in jail for possessing several editions of Inspire.[52]

On 6 December 2012, Ruksana Begum, 22, of Islington, north London was sentenced to one year in prison after two editions of Inspire were found on a micro SD card in her phone following an anti-terrorist raid in June of that year. Her brothers, Gurukanth Desai and Abdul Miah were sentenced to 12 and 16 years imprisonment respectively in February 2012 after pleading guilty to a plot to blow up the London Stock Exchange. Passing sentence, Mr Justice Fulford stated that Begum "is of good behaviour and a good Muslim" and there was nothing to suggest she was involved in terrorist activity.[53] He accepted that she gathered the material in an attempt to explore and understand the charges her brothers faced. After taking into account time spent on remand, Begum would be released in one month, after serving half her sentence.[54]


On 16 April 2013, an Australian man from Melbourne was arrested for possessing and collecting editions of the magazine on a USB drive.[55]

United States

The magazine is not banned or necessarily illegal. In May 2013, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom told students during an event at Wichita State University that authorities monitor extremist groups' websites, including Inspire.[56]

Operation Cupcake

Circa June 2010,[57] an MI6 and GCHQ cyberwarfare operation[58][59] replaced Make a bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom by The AQ Chef with a web page of recipes for The Best Cupcakes in America written by Dulcy Israel, a staff editor[60][61] at Entertainment Weekly,[62] produced by Main Street Cupcakes,[63] Hudson, Ohio, and published by The Ellen DeGeneres Show. MI6 and GCHQ also removed articles by Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and an article, What to expect in Jihad.[64][65] Al-Qaeda reissued the magazine two weeks later.[65][66][67][68][69]

See also


  1. ^ Goodman, J. David (30 September 2011). American Who Waged 'Media Jihad' Is Said to Be Killed in Awlaki Strike. New York Times
  2. ^ “Inspire Magazine: A Staple Of Domestic Terror” Archived 25 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine Anti-Defamation League, 22 April 2013
  3. ^ "The al-Qaeda Brand Died Last week". Forbes. 6 September 2011. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
  4. ^ "Al-Qaida launches English-language e-zine". United Press International. Archived from the original on 4 July 2010. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
  5. ^ Marc Ambinder (30 June 2010). "Al Qaeda's First English Language Magazine Is Here". Atlantic magazine. Archived from the original on 3 July 2010.
  6. ^ “Al Qaeda English Magazine Calls for Terror Attacks in the U.S.” Archived 8 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine Anti-Defamation League, 13 October 2010
  7. ^ “Samir Khan: American Blogger and Al Qaeda Propagandist” Archived 8 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine Anti-Defamation League, 13 October 2010
  8. ^ "Two U.S.-Born Terrorists Killed in CIA-Led Drone Strike". Fox News. 30 September 2011. Archived from the original on 30 September 2011.
  9. ^ "The Use of the Internet by Islamic Extremists" Bruce Hoffman, May 4, 2006
  10. ^ "How to Make Bomb in Kitchen of Mom' Featured in Al Qaeda's 1st English Magazine". Fox News. 1 July 2010.
  11. ^ a b Michelle Shephard (29 June 2010). "Al Qaeda branch inspired to launch English magazine". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 4 July 2010. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
  12. ^ "'How to Make Bomb in Kitchen of Mom' Featured in Al Qaeda's 1st English Magazine". Fox News. 1 July 2010. Archived from the original on 4 July 2010. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
  13. ^ "Al Qaeda launches English language magazine". CNN. 1 July 2010. Archived from the original on 25 October 2012. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
  14. ^ Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman (1 July 2010). "Al-Qaida to launch English propaganda newspaper". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 6 July 2010. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
  15. ^ a b Richard Spencer (1 July 2010). "Al-Qaeda newspaper: Make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 4 July 2010. Retrieved 1 July 2010. Al-Qaeda has opened a new front in war on the West, launching its own English-language Internet newspaper, which features articles such as "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom"
  16. ^ a b "Terror Magazine Aims At Western Jihadists". Sky News. Archived from the original on 17 October 2012. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
  17. ^ “Al Qaeda Releases First-Ever English Terror Magazine” Archived 16 October 2010 at the Wayback Machine Anti-Defamation League, 15 July 2010
  18. ^ Qur'an 8:65
  19. ^ "Jihad 2.0", Influence Warfare Ed. James J.F. Forest (14 May 2009).
  20. ^ "Somali-American Arrested for Attempting to Bomb Oregon Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony". ADL. Archived from the original on 8 April 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  21. ^ Raymond Ibrahim, The Al Qaeda Reader, 6.
  22. ^ Abu Mus Ab Al-Suri, "The Jihadi Experience: The Open Fronts and The Individual Initiative," Inspire, (Fall 2010): 20.
  23. ^ Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Century, (Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008).
  24. ^ "The al-Qaeda Brand Died Last Week". Forbes. 6 September 2011. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
  25. ^ Daniel Freedman (26 September 2011). "Al-Qaeda's Dumbest Terrorists". Forbes. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
  26. ^ a b Hegghammer, Thomas (6 July 2010). "Un-Inspired". Jihadica.
  27. ^ Jarret Brachman (11 July 2010). "AQAP Inspire Magazine Released (in full this time)".
  28. ^ Marc Ambinder (1 July 2010). "So Is it an Inspired Parody?". Atlantic magazine. Archived from the original on 4 July 2010. Retrieved 1 July 2010. What's to make of Al Qaeda's first foray into the English-language magazine publishing business? To a lot of folks here, including our publisher, it reads almost like an Onion parody.
  29. ^ a b Max Fisher (1 July 2010). "5 Reasons to Doubt Al-Qaeda Magazine's Authenticity". Atlantic magazine. Archived from the original on 2 July 2010.
  30. ^ "Al-Qaeda Military Strategist Abu Mus'ab Al-Suri's Teachings on Fourth-Generation Warfare (4GW), Individual Jihad and the Future of Al-Qaeda". 22 June 2011. Retrieved 11 February 2012. The articles by Al-Suri in Inspire have actually been taken word for word and translated directly from Brynjar Lia's 2008 book about him, Architect of Global Jihad. In the book, Lia, a research professor at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, included an English translation of two key chapters from Al-Suri's The Global Islamic Resistance Call. All the articles are part of a series titled "The Jihadi Experiences [The Schools of Jihad]."
  31. ^ Al Qaeda responds to CNN, CNN, 31 March 2011
  32. ^ a b "A Strategy for Fighting International Islamist Terrorists" The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, July 2008, 225.).
  33. ^ "Radicalization in the West: The Home Grown Threat," New York City Policy Department (2007).
  34. ^ "Al Qaeda Releases First-Ever English Terror Magazine". ADL. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  35. ^ "Al Qaeda English Magazine Calls for Terror Attacks in the U.S." ADL. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  36. ^ "Al Qaeda English Magazine Calls for Explosives on U.S.-Bound Aircraft". ADL. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  37. ^ "Al Qaeda's Inspire Magazine Publishes Calls for Attacks in the U.S." ADL. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  38. ^ "AQAP Releases Fifth Issue of Inspire Magazine". ADL. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  39. ^ "AQAP Releases Sixth Issue of Inspire Magazine". ADL. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  40. ^ "Inspire Seven Released Days Before Deaths of Awlaki and Khan". ADL. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  41. ^ "May 11, 2012 AQAP Releases Very Different Issues of Inspire". ADL. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  42. ^ "AQAP Releases Very Different Issues of Inspire". ADL. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  43. ^ "New Inspire Magazine Hits Digital Newsstands". Access ADL. ADL. Archived from the original on 22 April 2013. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  44. ^ "Latest Inspire Magazine Celebrates Boston Bombing". Access ADL. ADL. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  45. ^ "New AQAP Inspire Magazine Calls for Car Bomb Attacks in US Cities". ADL. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  46. ^ Lisa Daftari (14 November 2016). "New Al Qaeda Inspire Magazine details NY/NJ bombings, Calls for more lone-wolf attacks". The Foreign Desk.
  47. ^ "AQAP's Inspire 17 to Cover "Train Derail Operations" to Hit Transportation Sector, Western Economies". 11 August 2017.
  48. ^ The Independent: Al-Qa'ida glossy advises women to cover up and marry a martyr
  49. ^ Süddeutsche Zeitung: Für die Dschihadistin von Welt
  50. ^ "Online extremist sentenced to 12 years for soliciting murder of MPs" (Press release). West Midlands Police. 29 July 2011. Archived from the original on 21 May 2013. In addition, Ahmad admitted three counts of collecting information likely to be of use to a terrorist, including the al-Qaeda publication Inspire.
  51. ^ Pantucci, Raffaello (2015). "chapter 7". 'We Love Death as You Love Life': Britain's Suburban Terrorists. Oxford University Press. pp. 280–281. ISBN 978-1849041652. Code-named Operation Guava, the investigation was part of a long-term effort to disrupt a domestic network [...] Key among their possessions was Inspire magazine
  52. ^ "UK jails teenager for possessing al-Qaeda's online magazine". BNO News. 11 May 2012. Archived from the original on 20 May 2015. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  53. ^ "Woman jailed after al-Qaida terrorist material found on her phone". The Guardian. London. 6 December 2012. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
  54. ^ "Al-Qaeda material bride jailed". BBC. 6 December 2012. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
  55. ^ Melbourne man to face trial over Al Qaeda magazines ABC, 16 April 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  56. ^ "Man arrested bringing bomb". Daily News. New York.
  57. ^ Norton-Taylor, Richard (2 June 2011). "British intelligence used cupcake recipes to ruin al-Qaida website". the Guardian. Retrieved 14 March 2022.
  58. ^ "Media Perpetuates Myths About "Virus Attack" on Inspire Magazine". Public Intelligence. Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 14 March 2022.
  59. ^ "DoD Develops Classified List of 'Cyber Weapons'". Public Intelligence. Archived from the original on 14 August 2011. Retrieved 14 March 2022.
  60. ^ "About Scope". New York University. Retrieved 14 March 2022. Scope is the annual research magazine of New York University.
  61. ^ "About Us". New York University Alumni Magazine. Spring 2019. Retrieved 14 March 2022.
  62. ^ Carufel, Richard, ed. (2007). Top 50 U.S. Consumer Media: Beat Maps and Contact Dossier for PR Professionals (PDF). Emeryville, CA: Infocom Group – via All American Entertainment Speakers.
  63. ^ Israel, Dulcy. "The Best Cupcakes in America" (PDF). Main Street Cupcakes. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 June 2011. Retrieved 14 March 2022. SeanNock
  64. ^ Ambinder, Marc (1 July 2010). "So Is it an Inspired Parody?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 14 March 2022.
  65. ^ a b Gardham, Duncan (2 June 2011). "MI6 attacks al-Qaeda in 'Operation Cupcake'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 14 March 2022.
  66. ^ "Complete Inspire Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) Magazine". Public Intelligence. 14 July 2010. Archived from the original on 18 July 2010. Retrieved 14 March 2022.
  67. ^ "2011 - 171 CDS 11 E REV1 FIN - NATIONAL SECURITY - JOPLING REPORT". AFFAIRES CIVILES. NATO PA. Retrieved 14 March 2022. J. Wilson, "Operation Cupcake: British Spies Hack Al Qaeda's Magazine to Replace Bombs With Cupcakes
  68. ^ Wilson, Jenny (4 June 2011). "Operation Cupcake: British Spies Hack Al-Qaeda's Magazine to Replace Bombs With Cupcakes". Time. Retrieved 14 March 2022.
  69. ^ Nakashima, Ellen (31 May 2011). "List of cyber-weapons developed by Pentagon to streamline computer warfare". Washington Post. Retrieved 14 March 2022.

Further reading