Despite the killing of top contributors, including one of
its leading Web magazine editors Issa Saad bin Oshan, the group
has continued to publish its two widely distributed magazines
regularly for the past year.
"It's testament to the strength of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia that
they've been able to bring out the magazines twice a month for a whole
year despite very heavy losses," said Paul Eedle, a London-based
analyst who closely follows Qaeda sites.
"This shows how a small group can continue a campaign using the
Internet. Before the days of the Internet a group would pretty much
fade from view if they were reduced in numbers like al Qaeda in Saudi
Arabia," he said.
Oshan ran Sawt al-Jihad (Voice of Holy War) -- the most important
vehicle for disseminating the group's ideas in which he detailed how
Saudis could take up the armed struggle against the United States. He
called on Muslims to evict "crusaders" from the cradle of Islam and
praised comrades fighting pro-U.S. rulers.
Another key publication is Muaskar al-Battar (Battar Camp), an al
Qaeda guerrilla manual named after a favorite sword of Prophet
Mohammad which disseminates knowledge about the use of arms and
explosives and how to kill officials and citizens of the U.S.
Oshan was killed in a raid by Saudi security forces on a hideout that
led to the discovery of the head of Paul Johnson, the American hostage
who was killed by his Qaeda captors in Saudi Arabia in June.
Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia has waged a massive manhunt,
killing or arresting some 17 of the 26 most wanted militants.
"I have been astonished by the magazines' continuity, even though
their content has suffered lately. This is one of the best media
campaigns by a terrorist group," said an analyst from a European
defense studies institute who declined to be named.
London-based Islamic activist Yasser al-Sirri said a small group of
followers may be helping publish the magazines under the control of
Saudi al Qaeda leaders. The magazines often carry interviews with
senior militants vowing to fight until death.
RECRUITING THROUGH MAGAZINES?
US authorities have tried to block access to the magazines and
other Islamist sites to curb the spread of their ideas.
But analysts say the ability of the magazines in actually mobilizing
al Qaeda sympathizers is debatable.
"It's a very big leap from reading militant texts, posting messages
and sympathizing to actually acting. I think that leap normally
requires a personal contact," Eedle said.
The defense analyst added: "The Internet may seem as a fantastic
virtual meeting place, but it cannot replace a training camp."
The magazines prompted alarm among some security experts, who say
militants were turning the Web into a virtual classroom. One posting
showed how to use a mobile phone in a bomb attack, a method used in
blasts that killed 191 on Madrid trains in March.
Israeli analyst Reuven Paz said Islamists had more success in winning
over youths than Arab nationalists or socialists.
"The Islamists create through the Internet a 'culture of the
oppressed'," said Paz, an expert on Islamist movements.
But American authorities claim the fears may be exaggerated and that
most of the material was propaganda.
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