Al-Qaeda’s Growing Online Offensive

Early this year, a religious radical calling himself Abu Hamza had a question for the deputy leader of al-Qaeda regarding the Egyptian secret police. “Are they committing unbelief?” he tapped on his keyboard. “And is it permissible to kill them?”A few weeks later, an answer came from a man with a $25 million bounty on his head, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Killing the police is justified, Zawahiri replied, because they are “infidels, each and every one of them.”The exchange was part of the latest propaganda coup orchestrated by al-Qaeda: an online chat between Zawahiri — one of the world’s most wanted fugitives — and hundreds of curious people around the globe. After announcing in a Web forum in December that he would entertain questions on virtually any topic, Zawahiri received 1,888 written queries from journalists and the public. He patiently answered about one-fifth of them, even hostile postings that condemned al-Qaeda for harming innocents and perverting Islam.

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