Al-Qaida attacks around the world have increased dramatically over the past few months. Now NBC News has obtained new evidence of what al-Qaida is thinking, in the form of what appears to be a planning memo written by an al-Qaida militant that specifies which Americans and others to target in Iraq and worldwide.
Amid the deadliest string of terror attacks worldwide since 9/11, what appears to be a new al-Qaida message obtained by NBC News lays out in chilling detail a priority list of human targets for terrorists.
Titled “Targets Inside Cities,” the lengthy document extols what it calls “military diplomacy ... written with blood and decorated with body parts” and lists preferred targets in the following order of importance:
“This document is a playlist, if you will, of the future attacks we can expect to see from al-Qaida,” said terrorism expert Ben Venzke of IntelCenter.
The message is signed by Abdulaziz Al-Mukrin, leader of al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia, and appears in an Internet magazine well known to al-Qaida operatives and militants.
The document seems to suggest going after not just economic and religious targets, but individuals — bankers, businessmen, diplomats, rabbis, missionaries, tourists, even Muslim scholars who “cooperate with the enemy.”
It also tells terrorist cells worldwide “to turn the land of the infidels into hell" and provides detailed instructions on how to use “dead drops” to avoid face-to-face contact that might help police connect various cells.
According to former National Security Council counterterrorism official Steven Simon, “It shows how vigorous the jihad [holy war] is, and it shows that there’s an appetite for this kind of guidance on the part of would-be jihadists.”
What’s more, the document boasts about previous violence works, noting that the Madrid bombings, which killed 191 last month, toppled the Spanish government and led to a decision to remove all Spanish troops from Iraq.
“Al-Qaida learned that it was able to carry out an operation that would have an immediate political impact and change the position of a country,” Venzke said.
Again and again, the message preaches that beyond eliminating immediate targets, these attacks achieve dual goals: “spreading fear in enemy lines ... and lifting the morale of the Islamic nation.”
Lisa Myers is NBC News’ senior investigative correspondent