A young North Carolina man who has moved to Yemen appears to be the editor-in-chief of a flashy new Al Qaeda magazine that features bomb-making instructions and an article by Usama bin Laden, U.S. officials said Monday.
Samir Khan, a 24-year-old American citizen who left the country last October, is believed to be the top editor of Inspire, a newly launched online magazine that seeks to recruit members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – the notorious terror group's Yemeni branch that is linked to the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound U.S. flight last Christmas.
The 67-page online publication, written in colloquial English and launched last month, features flashy graphics and punchy headlines like "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom,” as well an article on global warming said to be written by Bin Laden.
Anwar Al-Awlaki, an America-born cleric linked to several attacks on the U.S., including the Foot Hood massacre and the failed Times Square car bomb plot, has held a prominent role with the site and was thought to be its key proponent. Al-Awlaki, designated by the U.S. Treasury Department on Friday as a key leader in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, recently posted an article on the site titled “May Our Souls be Sacrificed for You,” in which he called for the Seattle cartoonist who launched "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" to be executed.
But intelligence sources told Fox News on Monday that they believe Khan, a web-savvy Charlotte, N.C., man who reportedly moved to Yemen to study Arabic, may be the mastermind behind the site – which some in the intelligence community are calling Al Qaeda's most ambitious terrorist recruitment tool to date.
Intelligence analysts say Khan represents a new generation of computer-savvy radicals whose online tactics have become increasingly influential in recruiting violent jihadists abroad and promoting acts of terrorism within the U.S.
"Khan’s capabilities of publishing things fairly quickly and his web savviness elevates him in Al Qaeda’s PR media arm,” said David Draper, director of strategic operations for NEFA, a U.S. terror-watch group. “The launch of this English magazine is extraordinarily important.”
Khan first gained attention in 2007 when intelligence officials began monitoring his militant Islamic blog, "Inshallahshaheed” ("A martyr soon if God wills") from his parents’ home in Charlotte, N.C. Citing free speech laws, U.S. officials never charged him with a crime, arguing that Khan’s website never crossed the line from inflammatory rhetoric to violence.
Khan was born in Saudi Arabia and moved to Queens, N.Y., when he was 7. FoxNews.com profiled Khan in 2008, traveling to Charlotte to interview him about his website, which called for the death of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and featured blood-drenched videos of U.S. troops injured in combat. Khan declined to comment, saying only that the messages on his blog “represent Muslims.”
In a later e-mail sent to FoxNews.com, Khan lashed out at the "arrogance" of the media, saying it should focus instead on converting to Islam. "When you go down in to the earth six feet deep, nothing will matter except what Religion you died upon," he wrote.
Draper and other terrorism analysts say Khan’s new role with the Al Qaeda website gives U.S. officials ample evidence to charge him with aiding a terrorist organization.
Under the Patriot Act, he said, U.S. authorities “have enough to charge him with providing material support."
"You do not have the right to aid and abet a terrorist organization in the United States,” added Neil Livingstone, chairman and CEO of ExecutiveAction LLC, a security consultancy based in Washington. “You can agree with Al Qaeda’s ends and means, but the moment that you start recruiting or sending messages, you’ve run afoul of the law."
Fox News' Catherine Herridge and Justin Fishel contributed to this report