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Al Qaeda to produce animated movie aimed at recruiting children | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London, Asharq Al-Awsat – According to the London-based Quilliam Foundation, an Al Qaeda affiliate is planning to produce a cartoon aimed at recruiting and radicalizing young children. The Quilliam Foundation, which describes itself a as a counter-extremism think tank, issued a statement claiming that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP], is in the “final stages of creating a cartoon movie in order to teach children the history of Al Qaeda and to inspire them to commit acts of terrorism.” Quilliam revealed that this news was announced by “Abu al-Laith al-Yemen, on the Arabic-language al-Shamouk jihadist website on Sunday.” This cartoon will reportedly be called “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” and depict “real incidents” involving the mujahedeen in the Arabian Peninsula.

According to the Quilliam, Abu al-Laith al-Yemen’s statement read “the cartoon movie ‘Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’ is a very exciting story that tells the facts about who let down the Islamic religion and the Prophet, and how the Arab leaders are agents of the West.” He added “it aims to catalyze the youth and the children to follow the steps of Islamic jihadist figures. It includes real incidents and features heroic actions by the mujahedeen in the Prophet’s peninsula.”

Abu al-Laith al-Yemen’s statement, published on the al-Shamouk jihadist website, also revealed that this cartoon would include “raids, armed engagements, and assassinations.” The statement added “this movie is a religious effort to educate our sons and youth about how to live a noble life under the shade of the Shariaa. It’s an alternative to the poison that is broadcast by other TV channels…to our children and youth.”

AQAP also provided four images from the planned “cartoon movie”, asking for feedback from other forum users. According to Quilliam, most al-Shamouk jihadist website users who responded to this request supported the idea in principle, but some complained that the images “made jihadists look like monsters.” One of the images released by AQAP show a group of young jihadists, their facial features hidden behind balaclavas, holding assault rifles whilst the leader of the group gestures with a sword. Another image shows two jihadists standing side-by-side, one of whom is firing a machine gun, whilst the other is aiming an RPG.

Responding to the AQAP announcement, Quilliam senior analyst Noman Benotman – a former leader of the jihadist Libyan Islamic Fighting group – said “whether or not this movie actually appears, this shows a significant development in Al Qaeda’s attitude to the media and recruitment.” He added “they are trying out new methods to make terrorism exciting to young people and even to children. This underlines that they now see the internet and new media as being crucial to their cause.”

However Benotman, who enjoyed close ties to Osama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and other key Al Qaeda members in Sudan in the mid-nineties, conceded that AQAP’s plan may “backfire”, stressing that “many Muslim parents will see this [cartoon] as a direct attempt by Al Qaeda to create division within families and to undermine the authority of parents.” He added “this cartoon idea may be evidence that Al Qaeda can no longer attract new followers in much of the Arab world. The Al Qaeda brand is discredited and it is not clear that gimmicks like this will be enough to save it.”

Noman Benotman concluded the Quilliam statement by saying that “civil society groups and pro-democracy movements in the Middle East should take notice of Al Qaeda’s efforts. Online cartoons can be useful in getting complex messages to a wide variety of audiences, including people who don’t read newspapers or attend political events. It may be that Muslim democrats can adopt aspects of al-Qaeda’s cartoon idea to help create a better grassroots understanding of democracy in Muslim-majority countries.”

In addition to this, the summer edition of the Al Qaeda affiliated “Inspire” English-language e-magazine has been published, which represents the first edition of the e-magazine published since the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. The e-magazine’s front page depicted an image of Osama Bin Laden’s face, whilst the main story was an article entitled “Sadness, contentment, and aspiration” which claimed that “with the martyrdom of Sheikh Osama, the Al Qaeda organization will only strengthen.”

This article was written by Samir Khan, a US citizen of Pakistani-origin who fled to the Abyan province of Yemen last year. Khan reportedly ran several jihadist websites supporting Al Qaeda and jihadist ideology, particularly targeting young American Muslims. He has never been charged with any terror-related charges in the US, although some reports claim that he was influential in recruiting members to the so-called “Minneapolis Network”, a group of Somali-Americans from the Minneapolis area who were radicalized and later traveled to Somalia to fight between 2007 and 2008. In an interview for the Inspire magazine published in 2010, Khan claimed to be “proud to be a traitor to America.”

The “Inspire” e-magazine included a report on the “martyrdom of Sheikh Osama”, which contradicts the official US report of the Al Qaeda leader’s death. The “Inspire” report claimed that Bin Laden “confronted them, his weapons against theirs [the US Navy Seal team], and his strength against theirs…his determination did not weaken, nor was he sapped of strength, rather he stood and confronted them face to face like a firm mountain, and continued to engage them in a fierce battle.” However this story goes against the official US version of events which claim that Osama Bin Laden was “unarmed” when he was killed.

Khan’s article, “Sadness, contentment, and aspirations”, begins “When I was leaving an outing trip with the mujahedeen, we came across the news. All of a sudden, the world felt a bit empty. Was it really his time? It was hard to absorb due to his iconic status of resistance against wrongdoing and American intervention.”

He added that “the news [of Osama Bin Laden’s death] brought us a mixed sentiment of sadness, contentment, and aspiration. Sadness because we lost one of the great Islamic revolutionaries – if not, the greatest revolutionary – in modern times. Contentment because we knew that he achieved what Prophet Muhammad always yearned for: martyrdom. Aspiration because we remembered our Prophet’s guarantee that jihad will resume till Judgment Day.”

Khan claimed that Bin Laden was “the hand that swung the sledgehammer of jihad against the enemies of Allah” adding that “we [will] miss him, as there has been no other mujahid leader in this century that has had the same fist in the face of immense oppression and injustice.” The article ended with Khan calling on “Allah to accept him [Bin Laden] as a martyr, and to make his name remembered in the history books as the lion who had awoken the ummah.”

The latest edition of the Al Qaeda affiliated “Inspire” e-magazine, also included a section entitled “Training with the AK”, which includes visual examples of “all of the important shooting stances that the mujahedeen adopt”, as well as instructions on making the explosive, “acetone peroxide.” In addition to this, the e-magazine featured an article by American-born radical Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki entitled “why did I choose A Qaeda”, and a section inviting readers to “send your questions to Sheikh Anwar al-Awlaki” with the magazine promising to “hold an exclusive video interview with the Sheikh [al-Awlaki], where he will answer your questions.”

The “Inspire” e-magazine’s “Letter from the Editor”, congratulated the Muslim nation on the martyrdom of Osama Bin Laden, before adding that “now Sheikh Ayman [al-Zawahiri] carries the banner. He has been at the forefront of Islamic work and will lead the organization he helped found.”