Stockholm (2)

Posted: 14th December 2010 by Thomas Hegghammer in Europe, Iraq, Suicide bombings, Sweden, U.K.

Forum readers woke up this morning to find Taimour’s picture on the top banner of Shumukh (the main jihadi forum). The banner advertises a poem by a certain “Sha’ir al-Ansar” (Poet of the Ansar) praising Taimour Abdalwahab. At first sight this might seem like the work of an accomplice, but the poet explicitly states that he did not know Taimour personally.

More interesting is the posting of a new audio message by a certain Abu Sulayman al-Nasir titled “Warning to NATO Countries Following the Stockholm Raid.” The message echoes an earlier statement by the same person issued on 20 November.

What’s interesting here is not so much the messages as the messenger, because Abu Sulayman al-Nasir is the same person who first mentioned Taimour Abdulwahhab’s name on Shumukh. This obviously raises the possibility that he has some connection to the Stockholm attack.

The problem is that the earliest public reference to Taimour’s name was made on 11 December at 10.24 pm on a non-Islamist Swedish forum, based on private pictures on the license plate of the bombing vehicle. Abu Sulayman al-Nasir’s Shumukh post mentioning Taimour’s name was published at around 6pm on 12 December, ie almost 20 hours after the name had entered the public sphere. Al-Nasir could therefore very well have found Taimour’s name on the web. 

In this connection it is worth noting that Shumukh has a LOT of readers in Sweden. Aaron recently posted traffic data for Shumukh for the month of November, according to which a full 3.6 percent of non-proxy IP addresses were based in Sweden. If you adjust for population size, this means Sweden had over 20 times as many Shumukh readers per 1000 inhabitants, and over 33 times as many readers per 1000 Muslims as the United Kingdom. This is admittedly back-of-the envelope calculations using on population data from Wikipedia, (here and here), but the proportions are striking.

As expected, the freelance jihadi media machinery has started churning out material glorifying the Stockholm bomber. In addition to the abovementioned poem, someone posted a Youtube production of Taimour’s martyrdom will, along with a cheesy photo montage with Taimour surrounded by lightning.

Mainstream media has also started digging into Taimour’s life in Luton, showing, among other things, that he was radicalised by at least 2007, when he revealed militant anti-Western views to an imam in a local mosque.

There is also a lot of interesting commentary in the blogoshpere, with Aaron at Haganah providing the most interesting information, as usual.  Anyone who doubts the radicalising influence of Youtube should take a look at Taimour’s Facebook profile, retrieved by Aaron. Taimour wallowed in jihadi Youtube videos.

On a final note, let me clarify my view on the question of Taimour’s associations, as some readers seem to have misinterpreted my earlier post. I do not believe Taimour was a pure lone wolf. What I am saying is that he was most likely either alone or helped by at most two people in the final stages of – i.e. last few weeks before - the attack. The point here is that I think the initiative for the operation came from Taimour himself; I don’t think he was instrumentalised by a large, established organization. There could be a couple of people in Sweden or in Luton who were directly involved, but I would be very surprised if Taimour took orders from AQ in Pakistan or from ISI in Iraq.

Moreover, I don’t believe Taimour radicalised in a complete vacuum; people almost never do, as I stressed in my Cadadian Senate testimony last week. Taimour, like most other homegrown militants, must have interacted with other people during his radicalization process, even if the interaction occurred mainly on the Internet or in very small social circles.

[PS: the reason I am not posting pdfs of the forum posts is that I am using a different computer this morning which doesn't allow me to print Arabic fonts to pdf. I'll post pdfs later this evening.]

  1. gudmundson says:

    Regarding the enormous Swedish webtraffic to Shumukh, the actual number of jihadi forumreaders might be a lot lower than that figure. I am partly to blame, since I sometimes link from my blog to the forum (like I did this weekend in the blogpost about Taimour).

    I guess I shouldn’t, of course, but then nobody in the Swedish press would believe my statements about the jihadi discourse. My colleagues are in a state of denial, mostly, regarding these questions, so I have to present hard evidence…

    Anyhow, with all respect to Aarons excellent work, the numbers from Sweden are exaggerated, I guess.

  2. Garbi says:

    I think just like gudmundson.

    As far as the WebTraffic of Spain 2% Shumukh, the real number could far below be to that number. In Spain there are three units of intelligence dedicated to the revision jihadista speech, in Sweden is most powerful of Europe.
    The anonymous jihadistas use “IP, Tor or others”, are not so idiot.

  3. Aaron says:

    Interesting comments and analysis all.

    About al-Nasir, I note is that he has been a Shmukh member for a reasonably long time, and that in other postings he self-identifies with aQ-Iraq. Neither point supports or discounts what he claims to know about Taimour. A video of Taimour making a last statement would be conclusive. An official statement from some bona fide aQ outfit would suffice. At the moment he still looks to me like Faisal Shahzad/Times Square (but it is very early in the investigation – I’m not wedded to that position).

    On the other hand, studies of killing behavior indicate that legitimacy is a big issue. So someone may very well have convinced Taimour that he was authorized to take this action on behalf of their organization.

    Speaking of which, can we say with certainty that “Abu Sulayman al-Nasir” on the forum is *not* the aQI leader identified as “Nasser al Din Allah Abu Suleiman”? I find it hard to ignore the similarity in the names – and if they are different, is the guy on the forum trying to create the impression that he is the aQI leader when he is not? If that was the case, I would have expected the forum to discipline him by now.

    I can probably rule in, or rule out, Gudmundson’s hypothesis, but it will take a little time. In general there is no doubt but that a certain number of innocent civilians, secret agents, and academic researchers get into the pool of collected IPs. I know for fact that the US IPs include Evan Kohlmann, SITE, and MEMRI, and the Israeli IPs include ICT, Terrogence, and a few others of that type.

    In response to Garbi, I understand your point, but will note that from experience over 9 years jihadis are a little undisciplined when it comes to tradecraft, and the various techniques and technologies they use are not 100% reliable. Overall proxy server use is very low.

    It would help if researchers and agents would all use Tor all the time, but they don’t for the same reason jihadis don’t – it slows things down, and the technologies are not entirely user-friendly.

    Returning to the back-of-the-envelope calculation – the proportion of jihadis in the resident Muslim population can vary wildly, an example being France vs. Belgium, where the former has a much larger Muslim population, but Belgium has a higher concentration of jihadis (together with adjoining areas of Netherlands and Germany).

  4. Ibn Siqilli says:

    Fascinating data.

    One small note: The ISI official’s name, I think, is Nasir li’Din Allah, a name that appears not infrequently in Islamic history (one of the ‘Abbasid caliphs took this name).

  5. gudmundson says:

    Worth noting also, is that al-Nasir threatened Sweden as early as this spring, in a statement on al-Faloja:

    http://gudmundson.blogspot.com/2010/04/nytt-terrorhot-mot-sverige-fristen-gar.html

    He seems to have a special interest in Sweden.

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  7. 49ers Jersey says:

    An official statement from some bona fide aQ outfit would suffice. At the moment he still looks to me like Faisal Shahzad/Times Square (but it is very early in the investigation – I’m not wedded to that position).

  8. A good article, I like it!