Archive for Terrorist Groups

Inspire Magazine’s 10th Issue

Assessing Inspire Magazine’s 10th Edition

By Scott Stewart  [ VP of Analysis at STRATFOR ]

Republished with permission of Stratfor.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula released the 10th edition of its English-language magazine, Inspire, on March 1. After discussing its contents with our analytical team, initially I decided not to write about it. I concluded that Inspire 10 conformed closely to the previous nine editions and that our analysis of the magazine, from its inception to its re-emergence after the death of editor Samir Khan, was more than adequate.

Since making that decision, however, I have been very surprised at how the media and other analysts have received the magazine. Some have overhyped the magazine even as others have downplayed — even ridiculed — its content. I have heard others say the magazine revealed nothing about al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. All these reactions are misguided. So in response, I’ve endeavored to provide a more balanced assessment that can be placed in a more appropriate perspective.

» Continue reading “Inspire Magazine’s 10th Issue”

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America’s Far-Right Extremists

An excellent new report on violent far-right extremists, published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, is available here.

This study provides a conceptual foundation for understanding different far-right groups and then presents the empirical analysis of violent incidents to identify those perpetrating attacks and their associated trends. Through a comprehensive look at the data, this study addresses three core questions: (1) What are the main current characteristics of the violence produced by the far right? (2) What type of far-right groups are more prone than others to engage in violence? How are characteristics of particular far-right groups correlated with their tendency to engage in violence? and (3) What are the social and political factors associated with the level of far-right violence? Are there political or social conditions that foster or discourage violence?



Also of related interest, the report and data on Homegrown Terrorism Cases, 2001-2011 by the New America Foundation and Syracuse University’s Maxwell School. URL:

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New book – Crime and Terror Intersections

My newest book has just been released by Taylor and Francis. Details are available online at:

Crime and Terror Intersections

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Terrorist Group Decision-Making

Click here for free access to the recent special issue of Perspectives on Terrorism (2012, Vol. 6, No. 4-5) containing several high quality research articles on terrorist group decision-making. You can also download the entire PDF file (186 pages) at this link.

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New book: The Terrorism Lectures

Information about my new book. The Terrorism Lectures, is now available at the publisher’s website:

You can also view the new Facebook page for the book, at

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Crime & Terror Pipelines speech

Here are my remarks and slides from this morning’s speech at the TransAtlantic Dialogue meeting.


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Nigeria’s Boko Haram Attacks

My Op-Ed piece, co-authored with Vanda Felbab-Brown, is available online at the Brookings website [ Click Here ]

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Re: Boko Haram in Nigeria

Here are two recent perspectives on the increasing Boko Haram-related violence in northern Nigeria:

  1. The Economist (Jan. 14 2012 issue):
  1. an Op-Ed that I co-authored (Jan. 12 2012):

I’ve also just completed a monograph on Boko Haram, for Joint Special Operations University Press, currently under final review. Quite a terrorism hotspot these days . . .

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Terrorism in Africa

Here is a link to the recent special issue of the journal Perspectives on Terrorism, which addresses Terrorism in Africa.

Terrorism and Political Violence in Africa: Contemporary Trends in a Shifting Terrain
James J.F. Forest, Jennifer Giroux

Terrorism in Liberation Struggles: Interrogating the Engagement Tactics of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta
Ibaba Samuel Ibaba

‘Forcing the Horse to Drink or Making it Realise its Thirst’? Understanding the Enactment of Anti-Terrorism Legislation (ATL) in Nigeria
Isaac Terwase Sampson, Freedom C. Onuoha

Opportunity Costs or Costly Opportunities? The Arab Spring, Osama Bin Laden, and Al-Qaeda’s African Affiliates
Alex S. Wilner

Al-Qaeda’s Influence in Sub-Saharan Africa: Myths, Realities and Possibilities
James J.F. Forest

From Theory to Practice: Exploring the Organised Crime-Terror Nexus in Sub-Saharan Africa
Annette Hübschle

The Paradox of Terrorism, Armed Conflict and Natural Resources in Africa: an Analysis of Cabinda in Angola
Victor Ojakorotu

You can also download the entire issue (in PDF) at the following link:

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Article on State Weakness

Just published a piece in the Netherlands-based NATO journal Atlantic Perspective. Here’s a link to the issue:

Ungoverned Territories: Engaging local nongovernmental entities in U.S. security strategy

State weakness has become a prime concern for U.S. national security, and so-called ‘ungoverned territories’ are central to this concern. However, we need to differentiate between different kinds of ungoverned territories, and give special attention to zones of competing governance – places that are governed by entities other than the forces of an established nation-state – and the hierarchy of loyalties within them. This article describes key characteristics of these areas, and offers implications organized around three activities: research (more refined analysis and clarity of terms are needed), policy (improving state legitimacy may be more important than addressing weaknesses in capacity or will), and strategy (we must consider alternatives to our state-centric strategies for tackling non-state security threats).

Click here for the complete article

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Thoughts on the Killing of al-Awlaki

So, Anwar al-Awlaki was targeted and reportedly killed by a drone this morning. Samir Khan, another American-born AQAP member (and allegedly the principal editor and architect behind the popular online magazine INSPIRE) may also have been killed in the attack. If this morning’s media accounts are accurate, this is a significant blow to the English-speaking segment of AQAP and the broader al-Qaida network. It’s also a good indication of the quality of intelligence we’re getting in Yemen, and how we have improved our own capabilities to find and eliminate high value targets like this.

One question that comes to mind is whether or not someone within AQAP (or AQ generally) may have had a role in this incident. Even before the demise of bin Laden earlier this year, we have been observing various AQ members trying to position themselves for power and influence within the network. From this viewpoint, it is entirely possible that someone may have seen al-Awlaki as a rival, a threat to their power within the network because of his increasing popularity, and chose to provide information about his whereabouts. Whenever we see this kind of competition for leadership of a terrorist organization, it usually coincides with an increase in violence and attacks, including the kinds of violence in which organizational rivals try to eliminate each other. Just a thought.

Overall, this is a good, symbolic victory in the long struggle against AQ. This is not really a huge hit to al-Qaida’s operational capabilities, but it is definitely important in terms of eliminating a popular source of radicalization. He was especially popular among Western jihadists because of the way he communicated the al-Qaida ideology in plain English. But it is important to remember that those messages are still out there on the Internet, and will likely be a source of inspiration for future al-Qaida wanna-bes. These could also inspire a revenge attack, as some members or supporters of the al-Qaida network will be angry that we targeted and killed a Muslim cleric who did not shoot or bomb anyone himself.

In the long run, though, al-Qaida will cease to be a threat. No terrorist organization of any kind has been around forever. Their attacks have already alienated an overwhelming majority of the Muslim world, which is al-Qaida’s primary audience. They’re constantly appealing for support, and trying to justify their actions to the Muslim world, but at the same time al-Qaida attacks over the last decade have killed 8 Muslims for every 1 non-Muslim. That kind of hypocrisy undermines their ability to sustain the movement over the long term – regardless of how charismatic their ideological messengers are or the language they speak.

– James Forest

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Nigeria’s Terrorism Problem

Nigeria’s Terrorism Problem, by Alex Thurston
Why the suicide bombing of the U.N. compound in Abuja isn’t just a lone incident — and why it could spark an ugly religious war in Africa’s most populous country.
Read more on Foreign Policy

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The Future of al-Qaida

Here’s a link to an article I wrote on May 10 for Praeger Security International. The title is “The Future of al-Qaida Without Bin Laden“.

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The Future AQ Threat

My thoughts on the future threat of al-Qaida include three kinds of potential motivations for attacking the U.S. in some major way in the coming months.
1) There is the oft-cited concern about retaliation, avenging the death of bin Laden. A group or even an individual somewhere is already thinking about this, and considering how they would “make a name for themselves” by carrying out an attack like this in the name of bin Laden.
2) There is also a real possibility that a future terrorist attack will be the product of senior individuals within al-Qaida trying to position themselves to claim the mantle of lead philosopher-warrior that is left behind by bin Laden’s death. Possible culprits include Abu Yahya al-Libi, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Adnan Shukrijuma, or even Anwar al-Awlaki.
3) Finally, I am convinced that al-Qaida members are generally going to feel increasing pressure to “do something” in the near future, for the simple reason that the absence of an AQ-attributed attack will speak volumes in terms of the network’s capabilities, or lack thereof.
We must be vigilant. A storm is coming . . .
– James Forest

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Bin Laden’s Death

Bin Laden’s Death and the Implications for Jihadism
By Scott Stewart

U.S. President Barack Obama appeared in a hastily arranged televised address the night of May 1, 2011, to inform the world that U.S. counterterrorism forces had located and killed Osama bin Laden. The operation, which reportedly happened in the early hours of May 2 local time, targeted a compound in Abbottabad, a city located some 31 miles north of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital. The nighttime raid resulted in a brief firefight that left bin Laden and several others dead. A U.S. helicopter reportedly was damaged in the raid and later destroyed by U.S. forces. Obama reported that no U.S. personnel were lost in the operation. After a brief search of the compound, the U.S. forces left with bin Laden’s body and presumably anything else that appeared to have intelligence value. From Obama’s carefully scripted speech, it would appear that the U.S. conducted the operation unilaterally with no Pakistani assistance — or even knowledge.

Read more

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