An Online Terrorist Training Manual – Part Two: Assassinations and Robberies

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 5 Issue: 14

The last issue of Terrorism Focus discussed the first two of six terrorist training lessons posted on a pro-al-Qaeda jihadi forum (Terrorism Focus, April 1). These lessons, dealing with the creation of a terrorist cell, also briefly touched on the subject of assassination techniques. This issue will discuss the next two lessons which focus on assassination methods and procedures for raiding and looting small “enemy” installations (, March 16-18).

The author of the lessons, who gives his name as Shamil al-Baghdadi, commences the third episode by expanding on the assassination techniques he touched on in lesson two. He categorizes assassination into four types:

1. State-sponsored assassinations: These enjoy the full support of the state apparatus, such as timely intelligence not only from the state’s intelligence agencies, but also from countries signatory to international counter-terrorism agreements. State-run assassination units are highly trained in explosives, the use of poisons, communications, document forgery and the use of support and evacuation units.

2. Assassinations by “high potential” organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah—which the writer refers to as Hizballat, “the party of idols,” a name used by Sunnis to mock the Shiite movement—the Fighting Vanguard of Syria, al-Qaeda in Islamic Morocco and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam. These and many other similar organizations have considerable capabilities involving the use of automatic weapons, silencers, explosives and poisons. They also possess the ability to penetrate the enemy ranks, but compared to state-sponsored assassins, they lack high quality counterfeit identity documents, support units and good intelligence.

3. Assassinations by intermediate organizations that lack experience, like Fatah al-Islam, the Islamic Army in Palestine and Lebanon’s Asbat al-Ansar.

4. Assassinations by low capability organizations such as Jund al-Sham and individual jihadi cells.

Al-Baghdadi also prioritizes assassination targets into three types: high profile targets such as heads of state, medium-priority targets such as counter-terrorism officials and low-priority targets such as junior officers and anti-Islamists. With reference to the assassination of junior officers, al-Baghdadi describes the attempts made on a police officer in Mosul who was very aggressive in hunting and killing jihadis, as opposed to other police officers that looked the other way when they came in contact with jihadis.

The lesson continues by listing the weapons of choice in assassinations, from the most to the least successful. The preferred weapons/methods include:

• Suicide attacks using booby-trapped vehicles or explosive belts;

• Sniper attacks using Russian-made Draganov 7.62 mm sniper rifles, the Austrian-made Steyr—available in several different calibers—or the U.S.-made M16 for shorter distances;

• Different types of poisons;

• Direct attacks involving strangling, injecting air in the arteries and breaking the neck, or the use of silenced weapons, explosive postal packages, poisonous letters and booby-trapped cellular phones.

One more interesting assassination technique discussed by al-Baghdadi involves sending a booby-trapped computer hard drive to security forces with the suggestion that it contains sensitive intelligence.

The fourth lesson concerns stealing money from state institutions or Christian enterprises to fund terror operations. Al-Baghdadi’s justification for the theft of public funds is that the government is blasphemous and apostate, while Christian interests have no protection or immunity in a state ruled by an infidel sultan. In practice, al-Baghdadi suggests, jihadist plans to rob small money collection centers or money-transferring vehicles are no different from criminal plans. Both involve reconnaissance, disguise, escape routes and contingency plans in case something goes wrong. Although all forum members consented to the previous training episodes al-Baghdadi posted, not all members agreed on the lesson on robbing money. Refuting al-Baghdadi’s justification for theft, forum chatter Mujahid al-Omari posted the religious verdict on the matter with the additional comment: “I was waiting for al-Baghdadi’s reply on which religious scholar endorsed stealing money, knowing that he doesn’t have an answer to these fabrications. In order not to turn jihadis into pickpockets and burglars, I’m posting the religious verdict on stealing.”

Theft, credit card fraud and other illegal means of fundraising for terror operations are typically acceptable practices in al-Qaeda literature. In this case, however, the training on assassinations appealed to jihadi forum members, but no one commented favorably about the lesson on stealing money to fund terror operations.

Next week will conclude the look at al-Baghdadi’s terrorist training lessons, including recommended techniques for carrying out high-impact terror operations, such as attacking U.S. embassies or other American interests.