While many al Qaeda websites are still shut down by an unexplained week-long blackout, a glitzy graphic promising that al Qaeda would be "coming soon again" to New York City appeared on other jihadi on-line forums.
Set against a Manhattan skyline at sunset, the graphic says, "Al Qaeda – Coming Soon Again in New York. " It initially appeared on a site classified by NYPD intelligence as a Category 1 website, meaning one heavily used by jihadis, and was apparently placed there by a regular poster of visual materials.
New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said during a briefing Tuesday that the NYPD was "very much concerned" about the origin of the message, but it was not tied to a specific threat. "There's nothing operational about this but obviously it's cause for concern and it reminds us that New York is very much on their minds," said Kelly. He also called the graphic, apparently meant to mimic a Hollywood movie poster, a reminder that New York remains a top terror target.
"Until we learn more about their origins, we take all threats against the city seriously," said Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne. "The NYPD Intelligence Division's cyber unit is investigating the origin and significance of the graphic." Browne said the NYPD believes the individual who posted the image might be Egyptian.
In a statement, the FBI said its "Joint Terrorism Task Force is aware of the posting and investigating its authenticity and origin," but also noted there was "no specific or credible threat to New York at this time."
Many of the top jihadi and al Qaeda websites have been dark for more than a week. No government or group has taken responsibility for the outage, which is the longest blackout the sites have suffered in many years. Shumukh al-Islam, one of the most prominent sites, went dark almost two weeks ago, and was apparently shut down again after briefly flickering to life.
The British government apparently hacked the website of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in 2010. U.S. officials did not respond to a request for comment about the source of the current blackout. Forum users and administrators, however, blamed the "enemies" of jihad.
A representative of one of the forums published a message stating, "As the crusader war continues on Islam and its people, the media arena is witnessing a vicious attack by the cross and its helpers on the jihadi media castles.
"Allah-willing," vowed one forum poster, "they will return soon stronger and a bigger thorn in the throats of the enemies and tyrants."
"The forums will return," promised another. "We are in a media battle with the enemies of Allah and Allah will deter their grudge...and the forums shall remain, because even of Shumukh is gone, a thousand other Shumukhs will be born..."