An Online Terrorist Training Manual – Part One: Creating a Terrorist Cell

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 5 Issue: 13

Jihadis continue to pursue terror training and knowledge exchange with fellow jihadis through Internet forums. Often, the jihadi forum participants post short, though significant, details pertinent to terror conduct drawn from real life experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. Recently, a forum participant posted six training episodes comprised of the basic knowledge needed by a novice jihadi to become a full-fledged terrorist (, March 15). The episodes begin with two basics lessons on “How to set up a terrorist cell.” Four more episodes followed, over a week, on sniper attacks, assassination techniques, attacking and looting government centers, and conducting massive terror strikes. Terrorism Focus will cover all six episodes of this important training manual, beginning with this issue and continuing over the next two weeks.

Posted by an Islamist forum participant nicknamed “Shamil al-Baghdadi,” the first of the training lessons is entitled, “Do you want to form a terror cell?” and is directed at setting up a terrorist cell behind enemy lines under tight security conditions. The cell, says al-Baghdadi, should commence with one, strong, monotheistic and valorous man as the nucleus. This individual should meet the following conditions:

• He must be a strong adherent of the Sunni ideology and well educated in the history of jihad.

• He should be experienced in—at the very least—light weapons such as pistols and rifles because these are available in nearly any society.

• He should be trained in secure communications through the Internet and mobile devices.

• He should be tolerant and display perseverance in religious preaching and teaching.

• He should maintain a good cover and not be on any security watch lists in order to allow free mobility.

Upon meeting these conditions, the terror cell organizer should present his proposition to friends who are trustworthy, brave and not mundane. “Don’t trust anyone from the Muslim Brotherhood’s party for, even if he agrees at the beginning, he will become your biggest catastrophe,” says al-Baghdadi. If all recruitment efforts fail, the jihadi must not abort the mission, but should rather continue on his own as a one-man cell. If the organizer is successful in recruiting at least two jihadis, al-Baghdadi instructs the cell to start a fitness program, preferably including the martial art of Taekwondo, followed by fundraising endeavors to procure light and semi-automatic weapons. Interestingly, al-Baghdadi warns recruits not to rob banks to secure funds because such operations need extensive planning and over 30 men. Instead, the cell must rob a small target such as the bill collection center for water and electrical utilities, or Shiite and Christian businesses, making sure the victims do not know that the robbers are Islamists. To secure big weapons for massive terror attacks, the cell must first make an assault on rural checkpoints or small security stations while avoiding killing people, since homicide cases are pursued relentlessly by the authorities, as opposed to simple felonies. Avoiding homicides makes it easier to deny the terror intentions of the cell if captured.

A scenario for an assault on a police station is outlined in this context. The preferable number of weapons to be procured for the small cell is 10 to 20 AK-47’s, 15 to 20 pistols, 20 sets of handcuffs, three to five PK machine guns and, if available, three to five rocket-propelled grenades. Planning for quality terrorist attacks commences by selecting soft, yet significant targets such as tourists—keeping in mind not to take hostages at this stage. “I propose you start with those that have blood on their hands torturing and suppressing Muslims like high-ranking intelligence officers, the governor or any foreign official,” says al-Baghdadi. At the end of lesson one, al-Baghdadi advises videotaping the assassination of tourists or senior officials, releasing the footage together with a communiqué announcing the name of the terror cell. Al-Baghdadi ends lesson one by saying, “Brothers, this is not prattling. The collapse of tyrant governments from the Gulf to the ocean has started. The news of jihadis is making them sway even before they hit them. Don’t miss the opportunity to contribute in the destruction of one state and the establishment of another”—a tacit direction to hit Arab governments, or the “near enemy” as they are termed in al-Qaeda’s literature. A forum member nicknamed “Gharib Fi Ardeh” adds to al-Baghdadi’s posting by highlighting the different circumstances in certain countries and the importance of adapting these techniques accordingly.

The second training lesson deals with the definition and merits of solo jihadist operations and assassinations. Solo jihad is defined as the perpetration of assassinations, abductions and storming and killing the enemy without the individual being associated with any terrorist group or political party. Solo jihad, according to al-Baghdadi, enjoys a greater margin of safety and secrecy depending on the jihadi’s wit, fitness and field experience. Special care should also be taken to overcome the negative characteristics of any new recruit by demonstrating a strong resolve, reassuring and convincing reluctant but willing jihadis to work within a small cell rather than with al-Qaeda.

Al-Baghdadi dedicates a whole section of the second lesson to assassinations, deeming this a very effective technique in guerrilla warfare. The lesson outlines different methods of assassination, including booby-trapping cars or the use of chemical poisons on door knobs or steering wheels. “Assassinations should be planned professionally. In the next episode we will discuss plans to assassinate senior and junior officials.”

Although the first two training lessons often contain very basic instructions that may be less significant for experienced jihadis, they provide essential training for novices. Without a fundamental background, willing jihadis might make mistakes leading to their arrest even before conducting any terror operations.