On November 10 the latest issue of al-Qaeda’s online journal Mu’askar al-Battar (no. 22) was posted on al-Ma’sada, a jihadist internet forum (www.alm2sda.net – section “Jihadi Cells’ [Muntada al-Khalaya al-Jihadiyya]). Outside the standard on-going features on weaponry – in this issue specializing on the use of revolvers in close combat, and a detailed chapter on the Apache helicopter – the themes of the issue focus on bin Laden’s address to the U.S., the latest audio tape released by al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia and the progress of the struggle for Fallujah.
The editor highlights bin Laden’s audio address threatening the United States with financial ruin through attrition, and the evidence that “the mujahideen have finally forced Bush to have recourse to an emergency budget in order to continue the fight in Afghanistan and Iraq, which indicates the success of the plan to exhaust [them] to the point of bankruptcy, God willing”. (al-Battar p.19).
The editor notes with satisfaction the reaction of the world’s press, from al-Quds al-Arabi’s description of al-Qaeda as having restored its ranks, and of bin Laden as “a political genius” putting his deep knowledge of political events “to the service of issues affecting his nation”. Or Jason Burke’s description in the UK daily the Guardian of bin Laden as “one of the greatest masters of propaganda in history” who is “fighting to defend his faith, culture and Islamic society against the western campaign waged against Muslims”. The editor also quotes the San Jose Mercury in its description of how “American and Saudi intelligence were struck and paralyzed” by the tape, and Newsweek’s description by a U.S. official of the “psychological shock” caused by the appearance of bin Laden on the television screens, highlighting the failure to locate him. al-Battar also publishes its take on the casualties suffered by the coalition in Iraq. Since the beginning of Ramadan, the losses amount to 6,700 coalition soldiers, 550 pieces of equipment destroyed or crippled and 27 aircraft including an F16. (al-Battar pp.19-21).
The Chapter on Istikhbarat (Intelligence Gathering) provides some interesting notes on how to accumulate intelligence on a potential target. It prioritizes them thus: 1) the media, from which 70 per cent of information may be derived; 2) telephone interception, which accounts for 25 per cent; and 3) human intelligence (espionage) which provides three to four percent of intelligence material. “On arriving at a new zone”, the text explains, “the following method should be observed: obtain the local telephone directory, tourist maps and newspapers, change your outward guise, avoid places where you may be exposed to danger, familiarize yourself with the local standards of security, culture, society, ethics and services.” (al-Battar pp.36-37).