Unlike Mr. bin Laden, the blogger was not operating from a remote location. It turns out he is a 21-year-old American named Samir Khan who produces his blog from his parents’ home in North Carolina, where he serves as a kind of Western relay station for the multimedia productions of violent Islamic groups.
In recent days, he has featured “glad tidings” from a North African militant leader whose group killed 31 Algerian troops. He posted a scholarly treatise arguing for violent jihad, translated into English. He listed hundreds of links to secret sites from which his readers could obtain the latest blood-drenched insurgent videos from Iraq.
His neatly organized site also includes a file called “United States of Losers,” which showcased a recent news broadcast about a firefight in Afghanistan with this added commentary from Mr. Khan: “You can even see an American soldier hiding during the ambush like a baby!! AllahuAkbar! AllahuAkbar!”
Mr. Khan, who was born in Saudi Arabia and grew up in Queens, is an unlikely foot soldier in what Al Qaeda calls the “Islamic jihadi media.” He has grown up in middle-class America and wrestles with his worried parents about his religious fervor. Yet he is stubborn. “I will do my best to speak the truth, and even if it annoys the disbelievers, the truth must be preached,” Mr. Khan said in an interview.
While there is nothing to suggest that Mr. Khan is operating in concert with militant leaders, or breaking any laws, he is part of a growing constellation of apparently independent media operators who are broadcasting the message of Al Qaeda and other groups, a message that is increasingly devised, translated and aimed for a Western audience.
Terrorism experts at West Point say there are as many as 100 English language sites offering militant Islamic views, with Mr. Khan’s — which claims 500 regular readers — among the more active. While their reach is difficult to assess, it is clear from a review of extremist material and interviews that militants are seeking to appeal to young American and European Muslims by playing on their anger over the war in Iraq and the image of Islam under attack.
Tedious Arabic screeds are reworked into flashy English productions. Recruitment tracts are issued in multiple languages, like a 39-page, electronic, English version of a booklet urging women to join the fight against the West.
Al Qaeda and its followers have used the Internet to communicate and rally support for years, but in the past several months the Western tilt of the message and the sophistication of the media have accelerated. So has the output. Since the beginning of the year, Al Qaeda’s media operation, Al Sahab, has issued new videotapes as often as every three days. Even more come from Iraq, where insurgents are pumping them out daily.
A four-minute version of the hourlong Qaeda video, entitled “To Black Americans,” has logged more than 1,800 views on YouTube in the four months since it was posted.
Among those who posted a link to the YouTube version was Mr. Khan, the North Carolina blogger who said he was struck by the simplicity in the messages of both Al Qaeda and Malcolm X. “They are geniuses for having the ability to mold their ideology into simple yet influential messages that can reach the grass-roots level,” he said.
Mr. Khan produces his blog anonymously, but was identified by The Times through the e-mail account he used in previous online discussions. (Pictures he had posted online helped The Times distinguish him from another, unrelated North Carolina resident, about 10 years older, who has the same name.)
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