Some observations from the forums

I am treating myself to a small procrastination break to relax the brain for a little while before kicking into the next section of the pesky chapter. So I have taken a little wander through the forums. Anyway, I haven’t done a post on that for a while so I’m just going to list a few things that struck me as I read.

First, the new AQAP audio from Al Shehri, which seems to have generated the usual breathless media coverage.

Al Shehri has for the most part reiterated what AQAP *already said* in an earlier statement. And this includes the threats against the US and the naval issues, which I blogged about earlier– when numpties on the forums started taking it seriously enough to form their own little intel gathering groups on US naval capacities. As I noted then the material they are gathering is fairly rudimentary. But herein lies one of the main mistakes made when analysing this type of information. People pay attention to the rudimentary nature of the materials being collected instead of the group formation taking place. These groups do have some form of contact and that is where the danger lies. Again and again you see this happening. But back to that audio.

To my mind the potential significance of this audio is that it contains public messages for bin Laden. Again, however, this is not necessarily new. We saw a lot of this in earlier campaigns. To some extent it needs to be treated with a grain of salt and what it means is up for question.  I’ll have to make some time to consider this in a little more depth. But generally speaking AQ has a history of communicating and receiving op orders in this way (here I mean between core and franchise)  so it shouldn’t necessarily be discounted as a propaganda rant.  Between franchise and cells or groups that it has authority over (the degree of which can vary depending on which region these cells are operating in) these types of orders and communications have, in the past, been communicated via the Q&A section of magazine publications or on forums as well as via more covert means, depending on what is being discussed. Obviously not all the details end up on forums or Q&A sections of magz but there has been, in the past,  enough to get the gist of what is going on if you know who’s who. However, this is a historical example and I haven’t had the time to scour through current AQAP mags to see if this is again occurring. Having said that I mention it because it is a well established modus operandi.

Keeping with the theme of AQAP,next up we have Karim al Mejjati, his son Adam and Karim’s widow.

Karim, and Adam died in a shootout with Saudi authorities in 05 I think it was, or maybe 06. I forget. Karim was a senior AQAP figure.  Anyway, there has been another little spike in stuff about him across several forums. The last one I saw was in November last year. Anyway,  a small video montage has been made and offered up as  tribute to Karim’s widow.

What has me interested is that she is a member of and regular poster (via her intermediary) to the Al Falluja forum. And she commands a great deal of respect and attention. She’s been active again in response to the montage and other tributes. So I find this quite interesting.I’m entirely too lazy to post to all these links but if you want them let me know.

Although she doesn’t quite have the authority of Malika El Aroud whose first husband was one of the two men who killed Masoud on 9 Sept 01 and second husband reportedly took the Belgian-French group they recruited to train with AQ in Waziristan in 08.  However, she does command a great deal of respect.

Which brings me to Abu Dujana al Khorasani’s widow

She’s actually triggered a few anxious posts by a couple of jihadis. Again too lazy to post all of them, but the gist is that they wanted to know  whether they can view her, because she wasn’t fully veiled in the interview she gave,  which is doing the rounds of the forums. They were also wondering why  she didn’t observe the four months and ten days they thought a widow should lock herself away from the world after losing her husband  before she came out and gave media interviews.

But anyway, she seems well on her way to assuming a position along with these other two. I haven’t bothered to check but I bet somewhere out there she’s on one of the forums, so it will be interesting to see if she too starts becoming more active after losing her husband.

This brings me to a point in general about women on the forums.

I have found it fascinating to watch. When I first starting lurking about in 01 there were very few of them in the forums (at least who would acknowledge they were women). This has changed significantly over the years. And they are now welcomed and included on an equal level in discussions on these forums. The impact of social media I think has been quite significant in terms of pushing the role of women in jihad forward. It offers a forum where interaction is permissible whereas out say in Afghanistan the men and women could not meet and discuss these things. Of course that’s a very quick summation and the reality is a little more nuanced that this, but it is really striking that the militant salafist forums have become quite an open and accepting platform for female supporters of the jihad to join in.

Speaking of platforms and accessibility this brings me to my last observation for the day the uptake of new digital media formats

As I’ve been out and about downloading files I’ve noticed that  files are no longer just uploaded in pdf, word, chm or even SWF/Flash formats. Now things are uploaded with support for universal ebook formats like EPUB, Kindle (yes I kid you not), and this is the most fascinating one to me, Daisy. Daisy format is for talking books.

Now I haven’t tried out any of these because I learnt my lesson messing with new formats last year…  But nonetheless the uptake of new technology on the forums continues. So too does the pirating of software–especially adobe related products. I tweeted earlier today I was tempted to join in one of forums’ tutorials. They’re not bad.

So there you have it.

Obviously a lot more going on, but this is what interested me in tonight’s internet wanderings.

Ok back to thesis for me. Cheers.

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