A new issue of al Qaeda's notorious Inspire magazine urges its readers to detonate car bombs in major U.S. cities, and claims to feature justifications for violent jihad written by two U.S.-born al Qaeda terrorists who were killed more than two years ago.
As is common in Inspire, a section near the end features instructions for explosives written by the "AQ Chef" - this time for a car bomb designed not to bring down a building, but to be "very effective" in killing individuals. The magazine puts New York City and Washington, D.C. at the top of its target list, but includes Chicago, Los Angeles and locations in England and France. It also urges the would-be perpetrators to use disguises, like perhaps a white beard around Christmas time.
Written in near-perfect English, the highly-produced magazine from al Qaeda's most dangerous branch, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), is dated "Spring 2014? and references the reported death of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Meshud, meaning portions were written at least after late October 2013.
Two pages of the magazine are devoted to U.S.-born al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, in which he allegedly answers a couple questions from Inspire readers, the first asking about the justifications for killing civilians.
"[I]f you ask me as a tactic, is targeting the civilian population of the West a good thing to do? I would say yes, because it is much more potent and powerful," the magazine says, attributing the words to Awlaki. "Soldiers are expected to die… But a civilian is not. So when you you hit the civilian you hit them where it hurts and that is what our tactics are about."
Awlaki then attempts to justify the murder of women, children and the elderly, using references to Islamic scholars who lived during Roman times, saying that it's fine as long as women and children are not specifically targeted in an attack.
An American counter-terrorism official told ABC News that U.S. intelligence has seen the document and it's "being analyzed," but said Awlaki's article was "another example of terrorists trying to justify themselves, but there is no justification for their actions, period."
The magazine also features an article purportedly written by Samir Khan, an American-born al Qaeda propagandist who was the original editor of Inspire. The article says Khan was drawn to al Qaeda after watching online videos of alleged atrocities committed against Palestinians by Israel.
The article says that Khan would become so emotional watching the videos that he would be brought to tears. When his mother asked him why he did that to himself, he allegedly told her, "I want to be upset [at the Israelis]. The more upset I am, the more I want to do something practical…"
Awlaki and Khan were killed together in an American drone strike in Yemen in September 2011. The magazine acknowledges their deaths, but does not explain why their words are appearing more than two years later.
The Obama administration confirmed last May it has killed four Americans in drone strikes since 2009: Awlaki, Khan, Awlaki's teenage son and Jude Mohammed, a North Carolina man who joined militants in Pakistan where he was killed.
The magazine also makes reference to the September 2013 attack on Nairobi's Westgate Mall, allegedly perpetrated by the Somali al Qaeda affiliate al Shabab. A checklist appears in the corner of that article with Kenya and Uganda checked off - possible references to the Westgate attack in Kenya and the al Shabab bombing of a Ugandan outdoor gathering in 2010. Four other African nations - Burundi, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Djibouti - have no checks beside their names.