Forum Activity Over Three Years

Aaron has posted some hard-won data about activity on the top-ten Jihadi forums that he’s collected over the last three years.  He hasn’t used the name of the forums, so it’s difficult for me to draw my own conclusions, but Aaron’s interpretation of the data fits what I’ve seen: It’s probably too early to say anything conclusive, but my feeling is that the jihadis are getting more resilient, and are recovering better and more quickly than they did in ’07. The recovery he’s talking about is not the recreation of lost forums–which turns out to be harder than most people imagined–but rather the migration from the top-tier forums to the second-tier forums, which I observed some months ago.

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Forum Closure News

The Christian Science Monitor and The Guardian have very informative pieces on the forum closures.  They also have excellent taste in opiners.  One of them, Aaron, has links to the recent public discussions among us fora followers who are trying to figure out what’s going on.  (Is it me, or are most of Aaron’s comments on the subject delphic?)  

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Influence of Jihadi Forums

Rob at Arabic Media Shack has, as always, an informed take on the forum closures.  I have a slightly different take that I’ll share after a summary of his argument. Rob concedes that the closures are a big deal (doesn’t say why), but he’s skeptical that they are influential in the Middle East for the following reasons: Access:   There is not much internet access in the ME compared to the West.  Also, local censors can easily block the forums. Interest:  Most Middle Easterners don’t think that much about Bin Laden or al-Qaeda. Coverage:  If the forums were important, mainstream Arabic newspapers would have written more about them. Rob ends his post by suggesting that influence should be measured by how many people in the region actually watch or read al-Qaeda material. On the issue of access, Rob is right: connectivity in the Middle East is much less than in

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Two Important Sites Back Up

Faloja, one of the second-tier sites that was closed down two weeks ago, is back up.  In announcing its return, the administrators acknowledged that it had fallen victim to the same wave of closures that shut down the top-tier sites in September.  It also announced that several of these sites will be back online shortly. Even more significant is the return of Tawhed.ws.  For those of you who have browsed the Atlas before, you know that this is the main online library of Jihadi literature.  Although a static site, it was shut down in June when the first wave of attacks was launched on the top-tier discussion forums.  Prior to that, you could only access it through a proxy if you live in the U.S. (although now it seems that a proxy is not necessary). Tawhed.ws is affiliated with Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, Zarqawi’s spiritual mentor who was in a Jordanian prison until

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More on Online Recruitment

Tim has a nice summary of a recent conversation between him, me, and Aaron about online recruitment.  Tim and I agree and I think Aaron does too, but he wants more rigorous metrics.  Fair enough. Aaron observes that there are three things involved with radicalization: Motivation (I’m willing to fight) Association (I want people to fight alongside, both to steel my resolve and to help me carry out attacks) Opportunity (I need places and means for carrying out an attack) (Tim glosses these as Psychological, Social, and Organizational factors, which is helpful.) Aaron goes on to say: When we see so-called Internet jihadis who become active in real-world plots, they frequently come from the ranks of the forum activists, the guys who are more than just part of the Allahu Akbar chorus. It is through their online associations and the opportunities that the Internet provides that they are able to

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The Noose Tightens: Second-Tier Forums Down, Call for Information Ops on U.S. Forums

It has been almost a month since the top-tier Jihadi forums were taken down (with the exception of Hesbah–suspicious).  Now the second-tier forums have been taken down: Faloja, al-Ma`arik al-Salafiyya, and Shura.  Shumukh is hanging on and that’s where most of the hand wringing is happening at the moment.  Some are accusing the Shia of shutting down the forums in retaliation for their websites being hacked; others believe the U.S. is behind it. One member of the latter group, al-Hizbar al-Ansari (The Ansari Lion), proposes that American forums be “raided” in retaliation.   He suggests that Jihadis sign up on highly-trafficked forums and post disturbing images of U.S. dead in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This, he believes, will demoralize the enemy.  To get the ball rolling, Hizbar says he signed up for one of them under the name “osama bin laden” and posted a picture of an American woman with a burned

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Jihadi Media Pioneer Drowns, Friend Explains How They Met Online

The Sumud Squadron announced last week that one of its founding members, Abu al-Haytham al-Shamali, had drowned.  According to the statement, Abu al-Haytham had established a number of media brigades and squadrons, including the Ghuraba Brigade and the Sumud Squadron.  He was also known on the forums for his postings on security and propaganda.  The statement gives the following as his online aliases: مخابرات المجاهد on Ekhlaas, Hesbah, Shumukh, and others عيون المجاهد on Faloja أبو عاصم المغربي when meeting with hadith scholars عالي الهمة on the Alukah forum أبو الهيثم النقشبندي on the Ana Muslim forum al-monsif as a supervisor on the Shamal Room forum On Faloja, a member posted a letter from Faris al-Khafa’ (Knight of Secrecy), who claims to know Abu al-Haytham personally.  Faris says that he met Abu al-Haytham on the forums and did not realize initially that they were from the same country.  Abu al-Haytham

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Cyber attack and Ineptitude Delay Release of al-Qaeda 9/11 Video

Major Jihadi forums have been down for almost a week now, which ruined al-Qaeda’s release of its 9/11 anniversary video.  The video is now out, but those who prepared it for distribution included the wrong password and it probably won’t be until tomorrow that the problem is corrected.  Even when it finally sees the light of day, viewing it will be very anticlimactic. My hat off to whomever succeeded in removing Ekhlaas, et al.   The usual suspects (the good Doctor and the Haganaut) have denied involvement and I believe them.  Still, whoever did it knew what they were doing, beyond technical proficiency–they targeted the right forums at the right time.  As a gauge of the attack’s effectiveness, look at how many days it’s taken to get the message out and how clumsily it’s been distributed.   If these attacks continue, al-Qaeda will have to find other means of distribution or stop

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