When it debuted in 2010, Inspire, al Qaeda's English-language magazine, drew mockery—from us and others—for its seemingly laughable mission to bring modern media packaging and splashy headlines to the world of primitive holy war. It turns out that, if initial reports about the confession of Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are correct, it accomplished precisely what its proprietors hoped it would.
Wired's Spencer Ackerman called Inspire "a lifestyle rag for the conspiracy-minded takfiri, filling the inexplicably vacant media space between O: The Oprah Magazine, Popular Mechanics and the al-Qaida book Knights Under The Prophet’s Banner." But he also warned of Inspire's potential to, well, inspire violence:
[T]he apparent purpose of launching Inspire [is] getting frustrated Muslim youth to buy into al-Qaida’s holistic conspiracy theory that the crises of the modern era are attributable to a nefarious American-Jewish alliance against True Islam, and then giving them the tools to murder people.
The U.S. government was very explicit about its insistence that Inspire was dangerous, assassinating its editor and publisher, Samir Khan—an American citizen—in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen that also killed imam Anwar al-Awlaki.
Today, news broke that the sole surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect, Dzokhar Tsarnaev, has admitted to investigators that he and his brother Tamerlan learned to make pressure cooker bombs by reading Inspire, which ran a detailed feature about explosive-building in its debut issue under the headline "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom." Penned by someone calling himself The AQ Chef, the article's intro reads, in part: "If you are sincere in your intentions to serve the religion of Allah, then all what you have to do is enter your kitchen and make an explosive device that would damage the enemy if you put your trust in Allah and then use this explosive device properly."
As he recovers from a violent standoff with police, Dzhokhar has reportedly told authorities that he and Tamerlan acted alone in their attacks, spurred on by Inspire and "through watching videos," according to CNN's Jake Tapper—though Dzhokhar claims Tamerlan was the main motivator of the duo's plotting. The AP adds today that Tamerlan was assisted out toward the fringes of Islam by "a mysterious radical" known only as "Misha."
Despite Samir Khan's killing, Inspire has continued publishing. Its 10th issue, distributed in March of this year, is merely a Google search away, and national security and terrorism expert Scott Stewart wrote late last month that while he is "certainly not among those who want to sensationalize the threat the magazine poses ... dismissing it as irrelevant would be imprudent." He continued:
Despite the weakening of the al Qaeda core group and the serious blows that regional franchises such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and al Shabaab have suffered in recent months, jihadism continues to attract new adherents. And Inspire hopes to motivate and equip them to conduct attacks in the West.