By Paul Cruickshank
A purported new issue of an English-language al Qaeda magazine linked to the Boston terrorist attacks was posted on an al Qaeda web forum earlier this week, but its content beyond its cover page was scrambled, suggesting the possibility the forum was hacked by Western intelligence agencies.
The magazine, produced by al Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate - al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which regularly includes how-to instructions for followers to carry out terrorist attacks in the West - has received significant scrutiny in recent weeks.
Investigators believe that Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev accessed Inspire magazine, and the material had instructions on bomb-making, a law enforcement official told CNN earlier this month.
According to analysts, the explosive devices the Boston bombers built had striking similarities to a bomb recipe in the first issue of the magazine - "How to build a bomb in your Mom's kitchen" - that has been downloaded by militants in multiple Islamist terrorist plots on both sides of the Atlantic.
By Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister
He was born and raised in the United States, and killed by the United States. And now from beyond the grave he inspires a new generation of would-be terrorists to attack the United States.
Militant cleric Anwar al-Awlaki continues to speak through sermons posted online, and U.S. officials are investigating whether his words may have influenced Boston bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
A U.S. government official told CNN's Jake Tapper on Tuesday that "the preachings of Anwar al-Awlaki were likely to have been among the videos they watched." A U.S. government source had previously told CNN that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had claimed the brothers had no connection to overseas Islamist terrorist groups and were radicalized through the Internet.
Al-Awlaki lived in Colorado, California and Virginia before leaving the United States in 2002. At one point he met two of the men who would be among the 9/11 hijackers, an encounter later investigated by the FBI. There is no evidence that al-Awlaki knew of their plans.
By Paul Cruickshank
He didn't look like a hardened terrorist. A short, meek man with a neatly cropped beard and glasses, Moez Garsallaoui was shy and courteous. He served me and a CNN crew sweet Moroccan tea and north African cakes in the living room of the pinewood Swiss chalet he shared with his Belgian-Moroccan wife.
That was in 2006. Fast forward to the present: A posting on the Shumukh al-Islam Jihadist forum Monday said Garsallaoui had been killed in "a cowardly, treacherous raid" somewhere in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. He was 44.
In the intervening six years, he had become a jihadist of some standing, and may have influenced the young Frenchman who carried out a string of shootings in southwest France earlier this year.
"We received the painful news about the killing of another hero of the heroes of this Ummah, and one of its best," the posting by a militant calling himself Abu al-Laith al-Waziri stated, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group.
By Paul Cruickshank and Nic Robertson
Three suspected terrorists have been arrested in southern Spain in "one of the biggest operations against al Qaeda in Spain," Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said Thursday.
Two of the group members were arrested Wednesday and the third Thursday, he said.
The Interior Ministry said the men were "ready to act in Spain and Europe." One of the men is Turkish, and the other two are believed to be of Russian-Chechen origin. They were detained in Cadiz and Almuradiel - 260 miles away - and had gathered enough explosives to "blow up a bus," according to police sources. Two of them were on a bus traveling to France when they were apprehended, and Diaz said they "resisted fiercely." The third was held in Cadiz.
In past months, dozens of convicted terrorists have been released in the UK, including onto the same London streets. Seldom since 9/11 has al Qaeda, though weakened, had such an opportunity to create carnage on the global stage. At the same time a no-holds barred fight for security is under way. It is unorthodox, but British officials say it is working, producing results which have never been seen before - and at its epicenter is a veteran Muslim cagefighter.
Over the last six months Usman Raja gave CNN's Nic Robertson and CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank exclusive access to his pioneering efforts; speaking for the first time about his work with former terrorists.
Read their phenomenal reporting:
By Tim Lister, with reporting from Paul Cruickshank
One of the leading figures in a radical Islamist group based in New York has been sentenced to more than 11 years in prison after pleading guilty to using the organization's Internet sites to conspire to solicit murder and other offenses.
Jesse Curtis Morton, 33, aka Younus Abdullah Muhammad, was co-founder of the group Revolution Muslim, which was supportive of al Qaeda's philosophy. The group was the focus of a series of investigative reports by CNN in 2009.
Morton pleaded guilty in February. After the sentence, U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said that "Jesse Morton sought to inspire Muslims to engage in terrorism by providing doctrinal justification for violence against civilians in the name of Islam. The string of recent cases with ties to Mr. Morton demonstrates that he was very successful." FULL POST
By Paul Cruickshank
Al Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate has posted several messages on jihadist forums in a recruitment campaign directed at supporters already living in the West.
It's a further sign of what has been a consistent campaign by what U.S. officials believe is at the moment the most ambitious and threatening element of al Qaeda, to communicate and influence potential empathizers residing in the West.
One such message - in Arabic - was posted by a user indentifying itself as the military committee of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) on the Shumukh and Al-Fidaa jihadist forums, according to Flashpoint Global Partners, which monitors jihadist web content.
"Corresponding with those who yearn for martyrdom operations and the brothers who are searching to execute an operation that would cause great damage to the enemies the goal now is to activate those brothers who reside in the land of the enemy ... whether Jewish, Christian or apostates as clearly individual jihad or the so-called lone wolf has become popular," the posting stated.
By Nic Robertson, Paul Cruickshank and Jomana Karadsheh reporting from Tripoli, Libya
A senior Libyan official told CNN that the U.S. is flying surveillance missions with drones over suspected jihadist training camps in eastern Libya because of concerns over rising activity by al Qaeda and like-minded groups in the region but said that to the best of his knowledge, they had not been used to fire missiles at militant training camps in the area.
The revelation follows a failed attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi on Tuesday night, which a shadowy jihadist group claimed was to avenge the death of al Qaeda No. 2 Abu Yahya al-Libi.
The official said that one militant commander operating in Derna, Abdulbasit Azuz, had complained that a drone strike had targeted his training camp in the east of Libya. Last month, there were reports of explosions outside the Derna area in the vicinity of the camps, according to a different source. FULL POST
By Paul Cruickshank
Abu Yahya al-Libi is universally admired in jihadist circles and among the younger generation of al Qaeda leaders. Charismatic, intelligent, a religious scholar - and with the extra qualification of having escaped from U.S. custody in Afghanistan – his loss is "a cataclysmic blow" to al Qaeda, according to analysts who follow the group.
Al-Libi was the target of a U.S. drone strike this week, a U.S. official tells CNN's Barbara Starr. A U.S. official told CNN's Pam Benson that al-Libi is dead.
In recent years, al-Libi emerged as one of the terrorist network's most important clerics and propagandists, appearing in countless videos. By most accounts, he was effectively al Qaeda's deputy leader. And his Libyan nationality is important to an organization that after the elevation of Ayman al-Zawahiri as leader was vulnerable to criticism it was dominated by Egyptians. FULL POST
By Paul Cruickshank
Four men behind what officials describe as the most serious Islamist terrorist plot ever hatched in Scandinavia were convicted of the plot Monday in a courthouse in Glostrup, just outside of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Three Swedish nationals and a Tunisian resident of Sweden were found guilty of targeting Jyllands Posten, the Copenhagen-based newspaper responsible for publishing controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
The court ruled there was no doubt about their plan to attack and sentenced each of the men to 12 years in prison.
Counterterrorism officials in the United States and Scandinavia believe the plot was directed by al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan.
Authorities contend the four suspects planned a gun attack on the newspaper, to be followed by "the execution" of hostages.