All quiet on al Qaeda's English front
March 8th, 2012
03:04 AM ET

All quiet on al Qaeda's English front

By Adam Levine

It appears that al Qaeda's English-language outreach efforts have nearly disappeared.

IntelCenter's Ben Venzke, who keeps stats on jihadi videos, notes that the media arm of al Qaeda central, As-Sahab, has not released an English-language video since 2010.

English-language versions of al Qaeda videos started around 2000 and were either subtitled, voiceovers or transcripts, according to Venzke. The person behind most of these is believed to be American Adam Gadahn.

"It was a key way for al Qaeda to deliver its message to both a Western audience and a larger percentage of its non-Arabic-speaking followers," Venzke observes.

But in 2011 and thus far in 2012, there have been no English-releases, according to Venzke. That is a significant drop off from 11 in 2009 (which represented 12% of the terror group's releases that year) and nine in 2009 (8% of that year's releases), according to Venzke's data.

The drop coincides with a slower pace of releases overall. Al Qaeda's media arm put out 109 videos in 2010, but less than half of that output last year, according to IntelCenter data. The pace does seem to be picking up a bit with 21 so far this year.

Arabic is the most prominent language for al Qaeda releases and Venzke notes that while English versions have disappeared, editions in Urdu, which is spoken in Pakistan, are far more prominent.

CNN's own records note an Adam Gadahn video released in June of 2011 in which Gadahn, who is on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list, called on Muslim Americans to buy weapons from gun shows and carry out lone-wolf attacks.

But Venzke said he didn't count that one because while Gadahn appears in the video and speaks in English, As-Sahab did not release the entire video with English subtitles or voiceovers.

"It's more incidental that Gadahn is speaking English there then a focused decision to make it available in English," Venzke explains.

Still, even with that quasi-English video in 2011, the drop-off is notable and comes at a time when U.S. intelligence officials are describing al Qaeda central as diminished and on the run. Its leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has managed to get out some videos, including a recent one urging opposition to Syrian President Basher al-Assad. Still, the absence of Gadahn is significant.

Venzke posits a few possible reasons for the sudden disappearance.

"The reasons for this are likely representative of a shift in messaging focus as well as a resource management decision to allow the proliferation of support groups producing translations to shoulder more of the burden," he wrote. "It also could point to a loss of capability or operational difficulties facing the elements of the organization that had been performing the work from 2000 to 2010."

The drop off is "significant," observed terror analyst Peter Bergen, who has published numerous books on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. The prominence of Urdu videos suggests al Qaeda is narrowing its focus, says Bergen.

"I guess that is a good thing for the West and a bad thing for Pakistan," Bergen said in an interview. But he doubted al Qaeda has completely given up on reaching out to the West.

Another reason for the change could be the focus of Zawahiri on trying to tap into the Arab unrest. Bergen observed that to date Zawahiri's efforts have not resonated.

Zawahiri, said CNN terror analyst Paul Cruickshank, has always been more focused on the Arab world, and the goal of creating an Islamist theocratic order there, than his predecessor Osama bin Laden.

Zawahiri "has spied an opportunity in the political turmoil sweeping several Arab countries, and appears to have made building up al Qaeda's operations and restoring its popularity in the region his central priority," Cruickshank said. "The upshot of this is the large majority of his statements in the last year have responded to the events of the Arab Spring and have targeted at an Arab audience."

Cruickshank said that one video in June 2011 is not insignificant as its message was clearly focused at Westerners.

Al Qaeda's media arm may also not be producing as much English-language content because it doesn't need to, noted Cruickshank.

"The producers of As-Sahab videos have presumably become aware that much of its content is translated or subtitled into English and other Western languages by sympathizers living in the West, so some of the reduction in directly produced English language videos may be a simple question of outsourcing," Cruickshank noted.

The decline coincides with another al Qaeda group's loss of key English-speaking capabilities. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based in Yemen, which American counterterrorism officials consider the most active terror cell plotting against the United States, lost its two biggest English-speaking assets in one day. American-Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, whose English videos were popular in jihadi forums and whose outreach allegedly helped inspire, among others, alleged Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan, was killed in a 2011 U.S. strike. In a lucky stroke for the U.S., the strike also killed Samir Khan, who published the English-langue Inspire magazine.

But at the end of the last year, a mysterious English speaker emerged in an AQAP video honoring al-Awlaki. In the December video, a man identified as Abu Yazeed, appears twice in the video. He is in shadow, peering off camera, and is wearing glasses and has a full beard. He is wearing what appears to be a black-and-white turban. He is identified as "Brother: Abu Yazeed."

In the video, Abu Yazeed speaks with an accent. He criticizes the U.S. for targeting Muslims as it fights terrorism. But it is unclear if Yazeed will continue to have a role. He has not appeared in a video since then and U.S. intelligence officials dismissed him a not being significant recruiting force.

Also there is the potential, with the recent announced "merger" of al Qaeda with Somalia's Al-Shabaab that more English-speaking videos could be on the horizon. There are a number of Somali-Americans who are believed to be running with the terror group.

Some U.S. officials believe that Alabama native Omar Hamammi, who has risen up the military hierarchy of the militant al-Shabaab, is making a play to fill the shoes of al-Awlaki as the al Qaeda network's most influential English voice, said Paul Cruickshank.

Hamammi appeared in several Al-Shabaab videos in 2011 and it is possible that now that the group is formally part of al Qaeda, he will become an even more prominent spokesman for al Qaeda's cause, said Cruickshank.

While Hammami does not have al-Awlaki's religious credentials, his fighting exploits give him significant credibility with pro-al Qaeda radicals in the Western world, Cruickshank explained.

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Filed under: Adam Gadahn • Al Qaeda • Al-Shabaab • Al-Zawahiri • Anwar al-Awlaki • Pakistan • Terrorism
soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Mike

    There is a reaon most of these muslims are virgins......what woman would want to get down with a beard like that?

    March 9, 2012 at 8:34 am | Reply
  2. AAAAAAAAADAD

    DEATH TO LEAGUE OF LEGENDS AKA LOL

    March 8, 2012 at 10:07 pm | Reply
    • Wtf

      Troll

      March 8, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Reply
    • Alex

      NOOoooooooo. I just opened it when I read your comment. :'(

      March 9, 2012 at 3:15 am | Reply
  3. Osama Be Dead

    Al who?

    The real and present danger is going to originate from Syria and Iran.

    A joint plot to use terrorist cells and Islamic proxies to massacre Europeans, Americans, and Israelis among others.

    Bio-terrorism will be their weapon of choice.

    The time for talking and speculating has passed... Only time will prove it now.

    Seeing is believing.... They've already fired a warning shot.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Reply
    • tom

      You are an Israeli troll – nobody is fooled.

      Fight your own battles and leave us alone.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Reply
  4. In Fact

    1. The penal codes that people object to in the Sharia are in the Bible as well.
    2. Vote for Ron Paul! He is the only one who can save this country. Otherwise we are doomed!
    3. There are “Muslim-extremists” paid to falsely portray Islam as if we are fools and we believe what they say.
    4. There are “Muslim-liberal-extremists” paid to falsely portray Islam to the extent that it no longer is Islam but some messed up liberal stuff.
    5. No thank you, my forefathers were not apes and monkeys. And living cells did not magically evolve from lifeless gaseous matter.
    6. Muslims are getting beat up because they have left Islam and Sharia. But more the hate, lies and oppression there is against them, the more they will become stronger and come back to Islam.
    7. Sharia laws are laws of our Creator, Whose land we walk on, Whose air we breathe every second of our lives.
    8. The best act for Satan and his children is to take away the life of a human baby.
    9. Kuffar have made a firm intention to disbelieve. So if you give them a life of eternity, they will still disbelieve. This explains torment in hell forever.
    10. 9-11 was clearly an inside job.
    11. Honor killing is a complete falsehood. Idiots who associate this with Islam are proving them to be a bunch of morons.
    12. Injustice and peace cannot co-exist.
    13. Jesus never said I am God or worship me. He came to get rid of idolatry but Christians made him an idol and hence Christianity is pretty much a pagan religion.
    14. Filthy freemasons make money off of wars by selling and buying weapons, oil etc.
    15. Filthy freemasons make money off of objectifying women, abusing and exploiting human emotions of love and hate, greed, envy, jealousy, pride.
    16. Islam is the only religion that connects human beings to God and requires believers to purify their hearts and control their desires.
    17. Moses, Jesus, Muhammad were Prophets of God.
    18. Jews hate Muslims because the last Prophet of God did not come to the children of Israel, but to the descendents of Ishmael. But in reality they hate God – The Mighty and The Praiseworthy.
    19. In Hebrew and Aramaic, the name of God is Alaha/Eloh/Ilah. In Arabic the name of God is Allah. Be careful when you curse your own Creator.
    20. People don’t like to get their toes stepped on AND WE ARE DROPPING 1000-POUND BOMBS ON INNOCENT PEOPLE in the Muslims countries. They love their children, parents and families just like we do. They are not leaving us alone so easily.
    21. Be honest and sincere in your pursuit of the truth.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Reply
    • yesyouare

      Freak!

      March 8, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Reply
    • Andrey

      Here you are! Just proves my point!

      March 8, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Reply
    • tom

      "Vote for Ron Paul! He is the only one who can save this country. "

      Ron Paul is a wacko. I rather vote for Rush Limbaugh than Paul and I hate Limbaugh.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Reply
    • Angela Birch

      Ron Paul zombies spreading the cult of personality.

      March 8, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Reply
    • Kris

      I'd love to hear/know the truth; however, it seems that everybody has their own version of it. I agree with some of what you say, but generalizations like "Jews hate Muslims..." is not really fair or appropriate. Each person, regardless of faith, should have the opportunity to speak for themselves. I personally don't hate anybody because hate can only add to the problem.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:56 am | Reply
    • miller

      Dude, I'm a freemason, what are you talking about? I wouldn't be associated with anything like that. Most masons I know are just smalltown people, we don't have sweet boom all to do with international-anything... Get a grip. I guess if you need someone to turn your hate against, I'm as good a target as the next guy, but what you are saying is not justified.

      March 9, 2012 at 6:03 am | Reply
    • OMG

      Fact: You need psych meds
      Life did not magically evolve from a book a bunch of evolved apes
      wrote.
      You need to cut a few eye holes out in your new head cover to get
      a closer look at reality.
      Ron Paul is just another blow hard with big ambitions and no
      brains to follow them through.
      I suspect you watch too much cable tv and meditate to Kenny G..

      March 9, 2012 at 8:02 am | Reply
    • In Fact

      @Kris
      May be I am wrong about "all jews hate muslims..." part..but what I was referring to was the root cause of the problem here. The scholars of Judaism know that Islam is the same religion that was sent down to Moses & Jesus, but they wont accept it.

      @ tom
      @ Angela Birch
      Whats wrong with Ron Paul? Have you heard him speak? Go on youtube and listen carefully what he is saying! He is the only one guy that makes sense specially on monetary and foreign policies.

      @miller
      By freemasons I mean the followers of the one-eyed anti-christ. Its a system that is being setup to rid our lives of morality, religion, God, truth etc.

      March 9, 2012 at 8:15 am | Reply
  5. adam gadahn=jew agent parasite

    mossad fail

    9/11 jew job

    www jewwatch com

    _w w w. youtube . com/watch?v=97ImPcb4keY
    Dancing jewish terrorists on 9/11 Interviewed

    _w w w . youtube . com/watch?v=7WYdAJQV100 WTC 7 – Pull It By jew Larry Silverstein

    w w w . defense . gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=2806 wolfowitz( jew) said that 9-11 was an opportunity – like it was a good event.

    In september 2000 Paul Wolfowitz( jew..) wrote in the PNAC-document that we needed a catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a New Pearl Harbor.

    w w w . defense . gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=2806

    March 8, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Reply
    • paul232

      I heard Jerry Seinfeld planned it all...

      March 8, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Reply
  6. lol pls

    by adam levine? a jew? promoting this adam gadahn jew? more al chai da jew deceit

    www . youtube . com/watch?v=GsUtvOW6SR0&skipcontrinter=1

    Fake Al Qaeda Actors EXPOSED! Adam Gadahn & Yousef al-Khattab

    made by mossad and jew terrorists like adam levine

    March 8, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Reply
  7. flyboy7588

    Give me 5 minutes with this Gadahn kid.

    March 8, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Reply
  8. Andrey

    SO?
    Why would al Qaeda need any more video releases now? They are very buisy infiltrating all around the internet. It is so much more effective! They have instigated the Arab Spring aross a whole region using that tool – no video would do that! You can find them everywhere now. Do not even have to look hard – check the Syria discussions here on CNN site!
    Jihadi videos – you must be kidding!

    March 8, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Reply
    • pfauenauge

      Well, may be they have a job for me. I am looking for work with good pay. I heard they have good benefits?

      March 8, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Reply
      • Andrey

        Who knows! But just remember, that they employ for life!

        March 8, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  9. Yoda

    Yo! Get the tablecloth off your head.....!!

    March 8, 2012 at 11:52 am | Reply
  10. BigRed

    So, where is the Predator Missile strike for Adam Gadahn?

    March 8, 2012 at 11:17 am | Reply
    • Infidel

      It's coming...

      March 8, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Reply
  11. two4roughing

    How are we supposed to take these fools seriously when they steal Pizza Hut tablecloths and wrap them around their heads? What's with the 1970's era eyeglasses? Don't they have any optometrists with decent frames in Tora Bora? Finally, that beard seals it for me, apparently he can trim his mustache, but not that scraggly birds nest? No wonder they only appeal to illiterate morons living in 4th world countries!

    March 8, 2012 at 11:08 am | Reply
    • Tyler

      "OMIGODDDDD he looks differently than me!!"

      Child.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Reply
  12. Elmo2012

    No wonder there is such a high rate of unemployed Muslims in the uk – who would offer any job to anyone who looked like this.

    March 8, 2012 at 11:05 am | Reply
    • Kyle Egley

      hahahahahaha

      March 8, 2012 at 11:23 am | Reply
  13. theone

    quiet before the storm? are they prepping for another attack?

    March 8, 2012 at 10:49 am | Reply
    • csam18

      More like "quiet down, we don't want a predator missile to the forehead".

      March 8, 2012 at 11:26 am | Reply
    • AGuest9

      That was my gut reaction at first blush, but it might be deeper than that.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:32 am | Reply
    • Andrey

      You wish! They are attaking on a different front. It is a pity you can not see that – so it seems quiet to you.

      March 8, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Reply
    • pfauenauge

      You can bet on that. As always our CIA. FBI and all that jazz does't have a clue. These guys are smart. Lok they fooled America now for how many years? We send the high tech military with planes, drones and all theat stuff and they are still kicking. May be they should teach at the Military academy instead of those who know whatsis

      March 8, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Reply
      • Fred Phred

        What? They fooled who? Are you kidding? They have tried dozens of times and been successful once. Somebody needs to go back and take Statistics – 101 all over again.

        It went down like this:

        Anwar: Hey Achmed.. We fooled those dumb americans..
        Achmed: Oh yes we did, but what is that red laser dot on your forehead? And do you hear that rocket sound?

        March 8, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  14. rad666

    They need to save money to buy gas.

    March 8, 2012 at 10:24 am | Reply
    • melvinslizard

      It's a dare. The US is saying "we killed your predecessor, and now you're quiet... Where you at, Al Qaeda?" And, if there is any response, BOOM! I TRIPLE-DOG/INFIDEL DARE YOU!!!

      March 8, 2012 at 11:02 am | Reply
    • markishere

      lol :D

      March 8, 2012 at 11:03 am | Reply
  15. Fred Phred

    Yeah the normally boisterous kooks tend to get quiet when drone missles wipe out their colleagues.

    We won't hear from this guy for awhile, thankfully.

    March 8, 2012 at 10:20 am | Reply
  16. LarrymcDonnel

    That picture is Adam Sandler.

    March 8, 2012 at 10:16 am | Reply
    • markishere

      I was seriously going to post the same thing

      March 8, 2012 at 11:03 am | Reply
  17. concerneduscitizen

    Media should play a positive role in bringing peace in the world and spread the truth instead of news mixed with lies and truth and confuse the heck out of US public.
    How stupid and ignorant the CNN editor can be not having knowledge of Internet and how to use Google..... :)

    March 8, 2012 at 10:11 am | Reply
    • IAMTHEWAY

      What is the truth?

      March 8, 2012 at 10:22 am | Reply
  18. ??

    wait. I thought they proved that the picture of this article(the man), is actually a jew aka mossad, thus being financed by israeli.. and isnt even a muslim.

    March 8, 2012 at 9:45 am | Reply
    • Yakobi

      Wait, I thought they proved your tinfoil hat is leaking.

      March 8, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Reply
  19. michaelfury

    So whatever happened to Mr. Pearlman, btw?

    http://michaelfury.wordpress.com/2010/03/08/the-talented-mr-pearlman/

    March 8, 2012 at 7:20 am | Reply
    • melvinslizard

      Hopefully he is a mist of foul treason settling around a fresh bomb crater.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:05 am | Reply

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