An Online Terrorist Training Manual – Part Three: Striking U.S. Embassies

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 5 Issue: 15

This issue of Terrorism Focus will conclude the look at the terrorist training lessons of Shamil al-Baghdadi, posted on a pro-al-Qaeda website (, March 22). Episodes five and six of the training discuss the perpetration of “quality terror attacks”—high-impact, high-risk operations that include tourist abductions, sniper attacks and strikes on American embassies and other U.S. interests.

In the last training episodes, Shamil al-Baghdadi summed up the instructions he posted previously, starting with recruitment, the commencement of preliminary terror operations intended to raise funds and procuring weapons for the “quality terror attack.” This type of terror attack is intended to exasperate the enemy and should be considered the first step in a terrorist cell’s progress, keeping in mind that the cell members will be relentlessly hunted down by security forces from that point on. In hostage-taking operations, al-Baghdadi warns: “I openly tell you, if you take hostages, you will definitely think about the big ransom money you could make out of it. My advice to you is don’t make money your objective. [Some] brothers in al-Qaeda once kidnapped the nephew of devil worshipper Abdul Aziz al-Hakim [Iraqi Shiite theologian and leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq] and turned down $8 million in ransom. They killed the nephew.”

One of the “quality” terror operations al-Baghdadi teaches is kidnapping. The two most important points in abducting hostages are withdrawing from the crime scene without leaving a trace and drafting a communiqué to announce the terrorist group and its demands. Al-Baghdadi adds: “In the past, Palestinian terror organizations used to hijack Israeli airplanes when friendly airports were still available for them to land. Now, there aren’t such airports for everybody is cooperating in confronting terrorism.” Prior to abducting tourists, jihadis have to designate a safe place to hold the hostages known only to one or two jihadis. They must also stake out three vehicles to be stolen right before the onset of the operation and obtain three silenced guns. Two jihadis should be responsible for the feeding, medical care and videotaping of the hostages to announce the group’s demands. Finally, these two jihadis should be responsible for killing the hostages, preferably by slaughtering them in such a fashion as to terrify the enemy.

Al-Baghdadi briefly discusses the basics of sniper attacks and remote rocket launches. These include choosing and casing a building from which to launch the attack, renting an apartment close to the target’s building and setting up a C5K rocket launcher pointed at the target’s window. The rocket can be ignited remotely by using a remote control or cellular phone (C5K is a name commonly used in Iraq to refer to the Russian-made S5K rocket launcher. The “C” comes from the Cyrillic form of the Latin “S” stamped on the weapons).

The final episode in the online training manual describes how to perpetrate “high quality” terror attacks on U.S. interests, such as embassies, security, military, cultural and business centers. Due to the varying nature of the targets, the training instructs the jihadi to study and case each target thoroughly. In casing a U.S. embassy, the jihadi should consider all security measures implemented in the outer cordon of the embassy—usually manned by the security forces of the host country—security measures in the inner cordon, the placement of CCTV monitors and note all roads leading in and out of the embassy vicinity. Jihadis should determine beforehand the equipment, funds, and number of personnel needed to carry out the attack. Al-Baghdadi lays out his own scenario to blow up an embassy as follows:

Mission requirements

• One stolen pickup truck loaded with vegetables—as a cover—and two gasoline barrels stuffed with high explosives and armed with remotely controlled detonators;

• Two stolen motorbikes to be parked close to the target area;

• Disguise gear;

• Silenced handguns;

• Video camera.

Mission execution

After hot wiring the explosive charges, two jihadis ride in the pickup truck and drive up to the embassy entrance. One jihadi shoots the police guards at the entrance using a silenced pistol and unloads the two gasoline barrels at the entrance. About 200 meters from the embassy entrance, the jihadis stop the pickup truck, detonate the two charges and escape on the two motorbikes, each taking a preplanned and separate escape route. Meanwhile, the third jihadi videotapes the attack from a nearby secure location, with the video released later together with the terrorist cell’s communiqué of responsibility for the attack. Al-Baghdadi warns the jihadis not to remain in or come back to the area for a long time.

Although the six episodes of training revolve around typical or conventional acts of terrorism, they illustrate the eagerness of jihadis to learn and disseminate among their followers any bit of information useful in terrorist attacks. With access to all kinds of scientific research and weapons production know-how through the internet, it is only a matter of time before jihadis develop more serious terrorist tools, such as advanced execution techniques or methods to procure unconventional weapons.