Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- In an audio recording posted on a “jihadi” website, Yusuf al-Ayiri the al-Qaeda ideologist and media coordinator who was killed in a security manhunt in Hayil (northern Saudi Arabia) in 2003, gives “new recruits” a lecture on tactics of structuring terror groups in the form of cells or “clusters”.
Al-Ayiri explained that both subtypes share the quality of being able to multiply and split into more than one group and cluster, all with separate leadership and unknown to the other cells. Each is headed by an “Amir” who is nominated to lead a limited number of individuals in his cell. This was the organizational pattern adopted by groups hunted down by Saudi authorities, according to the statement of the Interior Ministry which announced on 27April the uncovering of the largest terrorist plot in the Kingdom. The statement said seven separate cells were busted with a total of 172 members from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. They were united ideologically but split organizationally.
In the recording–its exact date is not known– al-Ayiri explains that the key point is to protect the secrecy of the cells in case some are exposed and their members arrested. Each cell has no knowledge about the other dispersed cells that can then begin to change their movements and their locations as soon as an announcement is made about the exposure of one of those groups. Al-Ayiri exhorted the youth listening to his lessons to preserve the secrecy of the personal data of the Amir who makes the recruitments and limit themselves to questions about details of the plan and assignments, without enquiring about family, children or private contact numbers.
In one of his recorded lessons al-Ayiri affirmed that the successive divisions will eventually lead to multiplication of the number of cells that still remain unknown to one another though they share the same ideology. He recommended that the liaison person between the cell and the would-be recruits should be a person with more than one nationality so that he could change his residence and identity when one of the cell members is arrested. Al-Ayiri interrupted the lesson several times, once to admonish a student for showing signs of drowsiness, asking him to stand up, and another to nod his approval to another student who asked to have a cup of tea.
Al-Ayiri explained in the recording that the tactic provides for splitting each cell or cluster into four groups and that this was a factor of strength. But he added it was necessary to limit each cell to a small number of members and not allow it to swell. He said the most important requirements in leaders were experience, actual practice, knowledge, and firmness, plus the ability to define the objective clearly. Next to the leadership in importance are the reconnaissance groups, which al-Ayiri divided into two branches: general and special. The task of the first is to search for the right target or study the sites that are proposed by the leadership, gathering all information they can about the number of individuals and the security locations at the emergency entrances and exits. The leadership studies the results of the reconnaissance but may also request filmed proof. This is followed by the leadership laying the attack plan and the objective of the operation. Subsequently the “preparedness” group begins to bring in supplies and forged papers and to transfer weapons on the basis of the information gathered on the target and its location.