A U.S. intelligence official confirms to Fox News that analysts are poring over what appears to be the last edition of the jihadist magazine Inspire from American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki -- as well as his cohort, Pakistani-American Samir Khan -- before they were killed in a CIA drone strike last September.
The two men, described as the architects of a digital jihad which leverages social networking, had promised a new edition just days before their deaths in Yemen when their black Toyota truck was hit so many times by missiles that the metal melted onto the asphalt.
The purported eighth edition of Inspire, which is in English to target a western audience, was obtained by the Middle East Media Research Institute, or Memri, from the al-Fida website -- which was recently hit along with several other jihadi web forums in an unexplained cyber-attack. It was not immediately known whether a connection exists between the downed websites and efforts to keep the promised editions offline. A ninth edition also posted on the al-Fida website referred to al-Awlaki and Khan in the past tense, suggesting they were already dead when the magazine was finalized.
While still working to assess the authenticity of the editions, a U.S. intelligence official said the counterterrorism community is less concerned with "religious rants" and more concerned with calls to launch direct attacks on soft targets. A previous edition called on followers to emulate the alleged shooter at Fort Hood in November 2009.
In keeping with early articles that instructed readers how to "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom," Memri says the new Inspire includes items on "Training with the Handgun" and "Remote Control Detonation."
In an article by al-Awlaki, the first American targeted for death by the CIA, the New Mexico-born cleric pushes the false narrative that the U.S. is at war with Islam. He claims the use of "explosives ... firearms ... poisons or chemical and biological weapons against population centers is allowed and is strongly recommended due to its great effect on the enemy." Al-Awlaki's American life was profiled in the Fox News special, "The American Terrorist."
While the review is ongoing, the U.S. official said it would be highly unusual for Al Qaeda to produce a fake message, or in this case, a bogus edition of the web magazine.
Fox News Chief Intelligence Correspondent Catherine Herridge's bestselling book "The Next Wave: On the Hunt for al Qaeda's American Recruits" draws on her reporting for Fox News into al-Awlaki and his new generation of recruits -- al Qaeda 2.0. It is the first book to full investigate al-Awlaki's American life, his connections to the hijackers, and how the cleric double crossed the FBI after Sept. 11.
Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.