UPDATE: 1/6/2010 – Al-Qa’ida has issued a statement on the forums this evening, signed by Mustafa Abu’l-Yazid on behalf of AQ General Command, and dated January 2, 2010, affirming that Abu Dujana al-Khurasani, “the famous propagandist and writer on the jihadi forums,” carried out the attack in Khost. The statement also claims that Abu Dujana left a martyrdom testament saying that he acted in revenge for the killings of Baitullah Mehsud, Salih al-Somali, ‘Abdallah Sa’id al-Libi “and their brothers.” The statement also promises the release of further information in due course. AFP has more on the release here.
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The jihadi forums are in a frenzy today over breaking news that one of their own may have been the suicide bomber that killed seven CIA employees in Khost, Afghanistan on December 30, 2009. First reported by al-Jazeera yesterday, and picked up in the Wall Street Journal today, it appears that a spokesperson of the Pakistani Taliban has claimed that the suicide bomber at Forward Operating Base Chapman was Jordanian national Hammam Khalil Abu Milal, famous in the jihadi blogosphere as Abu Dujana al-Khurasani. If true, this news is sure to galvanize the online jihadi community, and would represent the most dramatic case to date of the potential for virtual-to-actual jihadi activism.
Even before his alleged role in the Khost attack, Abu Dujana was well known to jihadis for having made the transition from keyboard to Kalashnikov earlier last year. He quickly rose to prominence – and eventually an adminstrator position – on the elite al-Hisba forum in 2007, and has long been widely regarded for a series of popular essays he wrote on the forums, especially on the course of the jihad in Iraq and in praise of al-Qa’ida in Iraq. In September of 2009, it was announced on the forums that Abu Dujana had joined the mujahidin in “Khurasan” (Afghanistan and western Pakistan), and the al-Qa’ida magazine “Vanguards of Khurasan” ran an interview with Abu Dujana about his jihadi career that same month in its fifteenth issue. Another famous cyber-jihadi and former Hisba admin, Ziad Abu Tariq, posted a glowing encomium to Abu Dujana soon thereafter. In October, a compilation of his essays was produced in high-quality pdf format and distributed on the forums, an extremely unusual mark of distinction for an e-jihadi with otherwise no religious or military credentials.
In his interview with Vanguards, Abu Dujana described himself as in his early thirties, originally from the north of the Arabian Peninsula, married and with two daughters. He charts his jihadi trajectory in a familiar manner; outraged by the violent repression of Muslims in Palestine, Iraq and Pakistan (he specifically cites the summer 2007 attack on the Red Mosque in Islamabad), Abu Dujana felt increasingly alienated from mundane existence and nurtured a violent vengefulness. “How,” he asks, “after all of this [repression], can we be expected to just carry flowers and don festive clothes? No, by God! We will carry nothing but weapons and don naught but military vests and bomb belts!” He found a community of common sentiment in the online jihadi forums, meeting virtual “brothers” whom he came to “love more than some of my own family.” He says that his early postings on the Iraq conflict were noted by the Hisba adminstrators, who encouraged him to write more and eventually invited him to become an administrator himself. Ultimately, says Abu Dujana, devoting his time to inciting and recruiting for jihad left him facing the obvious question, “how can I urge others to the battle while I sit idly by?” By autumn of 2009, Abu Dujana had answered that question, and was somewhere on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border.
All of the major forums have active threads right now on this story, though no confirmation from anything resembling an “official” source has yet been released. The Pakistani Taliban source cited by al-Jazeera – one al-Haj Ya’qub – has promised to release a video that he claims will prove Abu Dujana’s role in the attack. A number of well-informed sources, such as Abu al-Hawra, a functionary of the Falluja forum, have pointed out that Abu Dujana represented himself online as having come from the Arabian Peninsula, not Jordan, while in the same thread “al-Dusari,” a Falluja regular, writes cryptically that he has personal knowledge on which he cannot elaborate that leads him to believe that the bomber could not have been Abu Dujana. The Afghan Taliban, meanwhile, have issued claims that conflict with the Abu Dujana story. In press releases on the official Taliban-IEA website, as well as in their Arabic magazine al-Sumud, the Afghan Taliban have stated that the Khost suicide bomber was one Samiullah, a soldier in the Afghan National Army. Given the symbolic and instrumental significance of the attack, a variety of interested parties, including the Taliban-IEA, the TTP, al-Qa’ida and the Haqqani Network (Taliban-IENW) will perceive an advantage in laying claim to this jihadi “victory,” and we can reasonably expect further claims and counter-claims in the coming days.