Conflating Terror with Arson – An Incendiary Trail

The Age recycled and then withdrew an unsourced story “Islam group urges forest fire jihad” which it previously published on 7 September, 2008, quoting those ubiquitous, unnamed US intelligence sources.

The 5 Pillar blog named the story at the time as propaganda.

The Age journalist, Josh Gordon, apparently scavenged his material from an outfit called World Tribune, who published the story on January 15, 2008. The World Tribune in turn sourced it from their brother operation, a subscription site called

Since this site is subscription only I won’t follow that trail further, but note that their mainstay reporter is Bill Gertz, who is also an adviser on the World Tribune and writes for those bastions of journalistic excellence, the Washington Times, owned by the World Unification Church, and Murdoch’s Foxnews. Gertz has never completed a degree in journalism.

The Geostrategic teaser headlines give one an idea of the sensational thrills which lie in store for the intrepid subscriber – “Commission: Iran nuke program could be replicated throughout region”, “Rape case spotlights U.S., Algerian counter-insurgency ties” and the Backgrounder “Iran opening ‘offices and a lot of fronts’ throughout Latin America”, wherein we find those canny unnamed US intelligence officials quoted once again.

“U.S. intelligence officials believe the Iranian subversive activity is aimed at preparing to create a network of terrorists and other groups that could be called on to attack the United States and U.S. interests in the Western Hemisphere in response to any future U.S. strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.”

Perhaps these unnamed ‘intelligence officials’ feel it’s time for another Venezuelan coup attempt?

Here’s some unconscious irony – Robert Gates says ““They’re [Iran] opening a lot of offices and a lot of fronts, behind which they interfere in what is going on in some of these countries.”

According to Ben McGrath at The New Yorker, The World Tribune is associated, like the Washington Times with the World Unification Church.

Its editor and publisher, Robert Morton, is an assistant managing editor at the Washington Times and a former “corporate editor” for News World Communications, the Times’ owner and the publishing arm of the Unification Church, led by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. (Morton and his wife, Choon Boon, are themselves followers of the Reverend Moon.)

Among the World Tribune’s other recent half-ignored scoops are that Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for last month’s blackout and that a North Korean defector stressed, during a meeting in July with White House officials, the need for a preëmptive military strike against Kim Jong Il.

Morton said last week via e-mail that he founded the site as an experiment, back in 1998, while serving as a media fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank.

World more fairly qualifies as something between a newspaper and a rumor-mongering blog. Call it “blews.” In this sense, it is part of a loose network of mostly conservative sites—WorldNetDaily, Dr. Koontz’s National Security Message Board, debka File (produced by a pair of Jerusalem-based journalists thought to have moles in Israeli intelligence)—whose dispatches sometimes serve as the journalistic equivalent of trial balloons: a story may not be based on knowable facts, but it nevertheless may occasionally turn out to be right. (Much of the time, of course, it more closely resembles a Bat Boy update in the Weekly World News.)

The Age reports that US intelligence channels identified the jihad website earlier in 2008, whereas the World Tribune says the information was posted on the net in November 07.

A terrorist website was discovered recently that carried a posting that called for “Forest Jihad.” The posting was listed on the Internet on Nov. 26 and reported in U.S. intelligence channels last week.

According to both Age and World Tribune stories Abu Mus’ab al-Suri, who has vanished after apparently being rendered by the US to Syria since his capture in Quetta sometime between October and December 2005, said sulphuric acid and petrol should be used to start forest fires.

He is wanted in Spain for the 1985 El Descanso bombing and (as a witness)[2][4] in connection with the 2004 Madrid train bombings, and wanted in Syria[4].

Nasar [al-Suri] was initially mentioned by British media as a possible suspected planner in the 2005 transport bombings in London. Subsequent investigations have not revealed any evidence of his role in the terrorist attacks.

Al-Suri published his 1604 page masterwork on jihadist theory and strategy “The Call for a Global Islamic Resistance” in December 2004. In it he “strongly cautions against operations in which many ordinary Muslims, or non-hostile non-muslims, are killed”.

According to Spencer Ackerman, (whose article is flawed in that he seems not to have noticed Al Suri’s ideological falling out with Al Qaeda in 1998), Al Qaeda [or for al-Suri, Islamic Resistance] would go viral.

“I was searching for a method which the enemy has no way of aborting,” al-Suri explains in “The Call,” “even when he understands the method and its procedures, and arrests two-thirds of his operators.”

Rather than reestablish a loose network of terrorist cells with the remnants of a command-and-control structure, al-Suri urged aspiring terrorists to simply murder people in the organization’s name. One could become a member of Al Qaeda by “a system of action, not a centralized, secret organization for action.”

In a sense, by associating bushfires with Al Qaeda, the Age and World Tribune are assisting Al-Suri’s strategy.

Further, as Lawrence Wright says in The New Yorker on September 11, 2008:

The goal, he writes, is “to bring about the largest number of human and material casualties possible for America and its allies.” He specifically targets Jews, “Westerners in general,” the members of the NATO alliance, Russia, China, atheists, pagans, and hypocrites, as well as “any type of external enemy.”

Again, Al-Suri is quoted warning about targeting innocents:

Suri urges his readers to reject their own repressive governments and to rise up against Western occupation and Zionism. Although the leaders of Al Qaeda have long excused the slaughter of innocents, and many of its attacks have been directed at other Muslims, Suri specifically cautions against harming other Muslims, women and children who may be nonbelievers, and other noncombatants.

Not having read his book I am unable to confirm that al-Suri mentioned using sulphuric acid and petrol to start forest fires, as claimed in the World Tribune and Age, however none of the reviews I’ve come across of his book mention this, and such an act would seem to be in contradiction with his thoughts about innocents expressed above.

After searching several Google layers deep, I still have not found any sign of Abu Thar Al-Kuwaiti or the Al-Ikhlas Islamic Network which are mentioned in the Age and World Tribune – it would be appreciated if anyone reading this who can read Arabic can confirm the existence of these nefarious entities.

Why would such a badly sourced story which appeared in January 08 in the World Tribune about something allegedly posted on the net on November 07, 2007 be dredged up months later by the Age, then again in another 3 months?

Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the Federal Government remained “vigilant against such threats”, warning that anyone caught lighting a fire as a weapon of terror would feel the wrath of anti-terror laws.

Did McClelland base his comments on the September story in the Age?

Today in the Financial Times, McClelland seems to have toned down his rhetoric:

Kevin Rudd, prime minister, said he was outraged that many of the fires had been lit deliberately. “There’s no words to describe it, other than it’s mass murder,” he said.

Robert McClelland, Australia’s attorney-general, warned that arsonists could face murder charges if they were caught.

“Anyone who lights fires deliberately, with reckless disregard for the safety of their fellow Australians, in our view establishes the requisite criminal intent that would sustain a charge of murder,” he said.

Although arson is a factor in the bushfires that hit Australia in most years, evidence has been mounting that the proportion of those being lit deliberately has been increasing.

The Victorian Country Fire Authority said it believed a number had been deliberately relit by firebugs, as Australians call arsonists, after being -extinguished or made safe by firefighters.

According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, about half of all the country’s bushfires are started deliberately or prompt strong suspicions of arson.

UPDATE 6/9/16

According to WP, Al-Suri is still locked up in a Syrian prison.

AQ leader Zawahiri said in 2014 that Al-Suri was still in jail.

‘Zawahiri says he knew Abu Khalid al Suri “from the days of the jihad against the Russians” and he knew al Suri “until his capture in Pakistan” approximately a decade ago. Abu Khalid al Suri “was a colleague of the professor of the mujahideen, Sheikh Abu Musab al Suri, may Allah release him very soon, Allah willing.”

Abu Musab al Suri is a major jihadist ideologue whose teachings continue to influence al Qaeda’s thinking. The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, openly follows Abu Musab al Suri’s teachings. There are conflicting reports concerning his status in Syria, with some accounts saying he has been freed from Assad’s prisons.

However, Zawahiri’s message is the third instance in which senior al Qaeda leaders have used the phrase “may Allah release him” in reference to Abu Musab al Suri. This is a strong indication that he remains imprisoned.’

UPDATE 18/11/13

Was al-Suri released in Syria in February 2012? Did Assad release him and thousands of other jihadis as honeytraps or to function as propaganda “look at us, we’re killing terrorists”, or to annoy the Americans, or all of these?

Linking Al Suri to the Black Flags of Khorasan

This FP article says Al Suri was released in Feb 2012 too:

‘While not a household name like Osama bin Laden, Suri enjoys a burgeoning influence on the global jihadist movement, and particularly those based in the West. The veteran Syrian jihadist, whose real name is Mustafa bin Abd al-Qadir Sitt Maryam Nasar, is best known for his 1,600-page treatise Dawat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah al-Alamiyyah (Call of Global Islamic Resistance), which articulates a strategy of decentralized jihad, rather than one that depends on clandestine organizations. If there is an architect of the jihadists’ post-9/11 line of attack, it’s Suri. ‘

Al Suri’s methodology used to bolster NSA power?

Syrian Opposition and Al Qaeda’s Abu Musab Al Suri

What many have forgotten is that Syrian Al Suri was al-Qaeda’s operations chief in Europe and the alleged terrorist mastermind behind the July 7 London bombings and is currently unaccounted for.
He was freed from a Syrian jail by President Bashar Assad’s regime before the civil war along with his deputy, Abu Khalid, in late December 2011.Both are now on the loose.
Guess what his specialty is apart from strategy and command? He is a mechanical engineer expert in chemical warfare!

Abu Musab Al Suri: Architect of the New Al Qaeda

Suri himself insisted in his writings that he was primarily a theorist and thinker, not an executor of operations. Hoever, he is suspected of having had deep operational involvement in a variety of conflicts, and, since 2001, attacks or attempted attacks on Western states. He fought with Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, where his experiences during American air strikes contributed strongly to his reassment of proper resistance tactics. He was suspected of involvement in the March 2004 Madrid bombing attacks and has been linked in some reports to attacks in London in July 2004.British authorities reportedly suspect that he had some involvement in the 1995 Paris Metro bombings, and he has signicant ties with terrorist cells in both Europe and the Maghreb, as well as a record of support for the Algerian terrorist organization Armed Islamic Group (GIA). Some reports also link him with Abu Musab al-Zarquawi, as both men are associated with a virulent dislike of Shia Islam. However, Suri might have acquired this position because of the sectarian situation in Syria. At least one account notes that the intellectually sophisticated and articulate Suri must have had a strong ideological impact on the barely educated Zarqawi.

Suri also ran a major training camp called Al Ghuraba (“The Aliens”) in Afghanistan during 2000-2001 that trained foreign fighters for Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Also, he is reported to have assisted in Al Qaeda’s experiments with chemical weapons. Suri almost certainly trained Al Qaeda operatives who went back to Europe and created sleeper cells.

Charles Swannack, U.S. Army General

The Encyclopedia of MiddleEast Wars. The United States in the Persian Gulk, edited by Spencer C. Tucker. p 1188

Syria’s Assad accused of boosting al-Qaeda with secret oil deals

“The regime is paying al-Nusra to protect oil and gas pipelines under al-Nusra’s control in the north and east of the country, and is also allowing the transport of oil to regime-held areas,” the source said. “We are also now starting to see evidence of oil and gas facilities under ISIS control.”

The source accepted that the regime and the al-Qaeda affiliates were still hostile to each other and the relationship was opportunistic, but added that the deals confirmed that “despite Assad’s finger-pointing” his regime was to blame for the rise of al-Qaeda in Syria.

After September 11, he co-operated with the United States’ rendition programme for militant suspects; after the invasion of Iraq, he helped al-Qaeda to establish itself in Western Iraq as part of an axis of resistance to the West; then when the group turned violently against the Iraqi Shias who were backed by Assad’s key ally, Iran, he began to arrest them again.

As the uprising against his rule began, Assad switched again, releasing al-Qaeda prisoners. It happened as part of an amnesty, said one Syrian activist who was released from Sednaya prison near Damascus at the same time.

“There was no explanation for the release of the jihadis,” the activist, called Mazen, said. “I saw some of them being paraded on Syrian state television, accused of being Jabhat al-Nusra and planting car bombs. This was impossible, as they had been in prison with me at the time the regime said the bombs were planted. He was using them to promote his argument that the revolution was made of extremists.”

Other activists and former Sednaya inmates corroborated his account, and analysts have identified a number of former prisoners now at the head of militant groups, including Jabhat al-Nusra, ISIS and a third group, Ahrar al-Sham, which fought alongside Jabhat al-Nusra but has now turned against ISIS.

Zawahiri urges ‘immediate’ end to Syria Islamist fighting