Al Qaeda has grown weak. It is nothing more than a pursued leadership, a disintegrated entity and an ideology struggling to survive on the internet.
This has been repeated over the past few years. However, a couple of incidents that took place recently have opened the world’s eyes to an alarming resurrection of Al Qaeda in several places around the world including Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan and the US. Perhaps the most absurd attack of all was the suicide bombing that targeted a volleyball court in Pakistan.
What awakened Al Qaeda in such a vicious manner?
Was Al Qaeda dormant in the first place?
Specialists, politicians and media figures are now trying to answer these unnerving questions. What concerns us in this article is the renewed interest in the internet as a means for spreading terrorism, especially after unearthing a link between Omar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, the young Nigerian who almost blew up an American airliner bound for Detroit, and Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al Awlaqi, who is suspected of having links to three of the 9/11 hijackers and to Malik Nadal Hassan, the US army Major who killed 13 of his fellow troops at a US military base a few weeks ago.
At one point when Al Qaeda’s activities on the ground dwindled for logistic, financial and operational reasons, the internet remained its only stage for vital interaction. Furthermore, a lot of material that did not find its way to- or was blocked by-traditional media managed to find plenty of space on the internet and so Al Qaeda’s online collection increased dramatically. Any web user would come across books, journals, poems, detailed events and video clips of terrorist operations all posted on the net.
On Jihadist sites, people can read a complete body of works compiled over the years of operations carried out by Al Qaeda in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Lebanon, Yemen and other places. These works have built up a large and extensive archive that is being circulated and downloaded using interactive technology. The archive is being presented as eye-catching, cross-border material or a collection of heroic deeds spearheaded by faithful believers. Samples of such terrorist operations are being narrated in a beckoning style that appeals to certain segments that are impressed by such stories.
It is true that Al Qaeda has become part of the divisions and score-settling bloodbaths in Yemen and Iraq. However, this does not absolve the international community of its responsibility [not to allow] the rampant spread of Al Qaeda’s ideology through the internet, all the way from Indonesia to the United States.
Some might say that if it weren’t for the internet, Al Qaeda would not exist. This statement, though it requires some scrutiny, is correct in a way. The internet enabled Al Qaeda to survive despite its fall.
While Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al Zawaheri were lying low and were completely unable to administer anything, Al Qaeda forums were busy providing those wandering aimlessly with what the leadership of the organization had failed to supply in terms of ideas, plans, methods of operation, and training, particularly where the making of explosives was concerned.
Today Al Qaeda is back, thanks to the unlimited time and space the internet has provided. It is not enough to search through cyber space to try and understand how Al Qaeda operates. It is imperative that we first recognize the enormity of our divisions and internal rifts that continue to aggravate and nourish Al Qaeda.