Abu Mus’Ab Al-Suri’s Teachings on Fourth-Generation Warfare, Individual Jihad and Future of Al-Qaeda

On July 1, 2010, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released the first edition of its English-language online magazine Inspire. The magazine, a slickly produced propaganda document, represents an effort to engage the English-language world and to recruit English-speaking Muslims to join the cause of jihad.

Inspire’s primary message to its readers is that they too can be part of Al-Qaeda and its mission, but from the comfort of their own home. Instead of traveling thousands of miles to join the jihad, the reader need only turn on their computer and visit websites to receive training – i.e. viewing videos and listening to sermons of their favorite leaders, and learning to handle weapons, explosives and even planning attacks. For example, a Q&A section in the most recent edition of Inspire includes an unnamed Muslim living in the West asking for guidance regarding the best way to join jihad and reach the jihad fronts. The magazine’s answer to him, and to all readers, is: “[B]ased on your ability, you choose the target [in your home area]. Your pool of targets is large, so make sure to think of all of the available options. An example of something local, easy, and effective is attacking an army recruiting center, nightclub, highway, or busy shopping mall.”

Five issues of Inspire have now been released. They include multiple article series focusing on different aspects of jihad of vital interest to Al-Qaeda recruits and potentials recruits. One series, “The Jihad Experience,” by Abu Mus’ab Al-Suri, has appeared in four of the magazine’s issues, and Inspire No. 5 offers a preview of the next chapter, to be published in the upcoming Inspire No. 6.

Abu Mus’ab Al-Suri – General Background
Abu Mus’ab Al-Suri, 53, is one of Al-Qaeda’s most prominent ideologues and strategists. Born Mustafa bin ‘Abd Al-Qader Setmariam Nassar, he has multiple aliases, among them ‘Umar ‘Abd Al-Hakim. As a member of the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, he was exiled from Syria in 1982 after the clash between the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and president Hafez Al-Assad.

His past in the ranks of the jihad includes close ties to Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to name a few. At various times, he has been affiliated with, or officially a member of, the Muslim Brotherhood, the GIA (Armed Islamic Group of Algeria), the Taliban, and Al-Qaeda.

Al-Suri is also known as a trailblazer in jihadist media. In 1997, he was a founder of the media company called the Islamic Conflict Studies Bureau. Al-Suri and the Islamic Conflict Studies Bureau are believed to be responsible for delivering Al-Qaeda videotapes to foreign news media. He is also known for having arranged multiple interviews for Osama bin Laden with the Western media while he resided in Britain. He was an editor of Al-Ansar magazine, which promoted the insurgency in Algeria and was aligned with the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria, and, according to his wife, Helena Moreno, had “worked in the Taliban Ministry of Information as a consultant.”

The U.S. National Counterterrorism Center’s 2011 calendar lists Al-Suri as an “Al-Qaeda propagandist and trainer, indicted in Spain for his role in the Madrid train bombings in 2004, and [who] was arrested in Pakistan.”

Al-Suri – A Model for Followers of Al-Qaeda in the West
For numerous reasons, Al-Suri can be seen as a model for jihadists in the West. First, as a fair-skinned, blue-eyed redhead, it is easy for him to blend in to European or American surroundings (in fact, one of his aliases is El Rubio – “the blond one” in Spanish). He has Spanish citizenship, and his wife, Helena Moreno, is a Spanish convert to Islam. Al-Suri has lived in several Western countries and understands Western culture. He was involved with Da’wa – Islamic outreach to non-Muslims in an attempt to convert them – and his wife has described him as someone “who wanted to build bridges and open dialogue with non-Muslims.”

Al-Suri’s Blueprint for the Next Generation of Al-Qaeda
From 2001, when the U.S. put a bounty on him, until his capture in 2005, Al-Suri wrote prolifically, including thousands of pages detailing his philosophy for a post 9/11 world. In 2004, he published online the 1,600-page “The Global Islamic Resistance Call,” which laid the foundations for the current generation of followers of Al-Qaeda in the West who would be willing to engage in jihadi activities without leaving their home countries, and with little or no contact with the organization. His book provided steps to launch jihad without the need to attend a training camp; indeed, he was one of the first to grasp the Internet’s potential for replacing the training camp. “The Global Islamic Resistance Call” (which was republished in Inspire magazine and can be found later in this report) outlines strategies for future jihadists, with an emphasis on unorganized cells and leaderless Jihad. Portions of his lectures also showed up on the Internet and were circulated by jihadists on DVD for the past few years.

The Impact of Al-Suri’s Strategic Theory on Al-Qaeda’s Future

The assassination of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011 provided another opportunity for Al-Suri’s philosophy to gain in stature within Al-Qaeda’s ranks. The release of the June 3, 2011 official Al-Qaeda media wing Al-Sahab video titled “Do Not Rely on Others, Take [the Task] Upon Yourself,” provides further evidence that Al-Suri’s doctrine will be a part of Al-Qaeda’s future plans. In the video, Al-Qaeda Central’s leaders all focused on the topic of al-jihad al-fardi (“individual jihad”), namely, jihad operations performed by a single individual or by a small group which was one of Al-Suri’s main principles.