The Abu Talha al Almani reality show
Banner announcing Bekkay Harrach latest release, "O Allah, I Love You (Part 1)."
Less than a day after Bekkay Harrach, alias Al Hafidh Abu Talha al Almani, appeared in a video threatening Germany with attacks, he appeared in another video posted Saturday on the militant forums associated with al Qaeda and allied movements. The video, titled "O Allah, I Love You (Part 1)," is a 29-minute-long personal narrative in German about his devotion to Islam and the ultimate sacrifice of martyrdom. It displays a photo taken from his first video in which he is masked, over a creepy loop of moving stars and rays of gradient light. The video concludes with an 11-minute recitation of Surah Az-Zumar (39) verses 53-75, which explains how on the Day of Resurrection disbelievers will be driven to Hell and the believers will be invited past the gates of Heaven. It is a call for repentance before the day of punishment. Whereas Friday's appearance targeted German non-Muslims, this latest video is directed toward a Muslim audience.
Welcome to al Qaeda's latest marketing campaign: "The Abu Talha al Almani Reality Show." Leading jihadi information operations experts Leah Farrall and Jarret Brachman suspect he won't be available for a second season.
"AQ is positioning for something and it's not just about the pesky election," Leah writes. "That's the pretext, not the driver. This is about recruits. And usually when AQ starts positioning itself for recruits things start going boom." She is not alone in this line of thinking. The Ansar al-Mujahideen Forum administrator remarked in a public post that "it is another indication to the german that the next bomber there could be in their same western suit and not in 'radical islamic' clothes."
Indeed, there is evidence that suggests al Qaeda's media wing has been preparing this narrative for months and has actually sat on a series of tapes that it is only now beginning to release publicly. Both "O Allah 1" and Friday's "Security -- a Shared Fate" were recorded months ago - July, to be precise. They feverishly posted "O Allah 1" across over 700 downloadable links between Sept. 6 and 10, an effort that rivals what they spent on advance work for the 2006 as Sahab documentary "The Manhattan Raid: Knowledge is for Acting Upon," which was released with major fanfare on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. Al Qaeda expects Harrach's personal testimony to become a long-term classic.
There is also intelligence emerging that suggests al Qaeda has developed a story arc for this campaign. This is sophisticated stuff. Momentum has been building for months since Harrach's premiere in January's as Sahab release "Rescue Plan for Germany." He made a second appearance in "Islam and the Financial Crisis" in February. The Islamic Jihad Union jumped into the act with a series of propaganda products over the Spring and Summer that featured two Moroccan brothers from Bonn, Mounir Chouka (Abu Adam) and Yassin Chouka (Abu Ibrahim). Now, with less than two weeks to go to the German election, Harrach is being positioned to become a terrorist superstar.
Friday's sensational video was not intended to kick off this phase of the campaign, however. "O Allah 1" was, and it was prepped and positioned for release well-before "Security." Al Qaeda's advertising gurus apparently decided to shake things up by rewriting the release schedule. This may explain why "Security" was released exclusively through al Fajr, which rarely releases videos under its name, and not through the normal as Sahab brand. "O Allah 1" was finished and in the bag a month before "Security" was completed and carries an old and masked photo of him. They may have thought that "O Allah 1" needed to be preceded by a better targeted and more powerful message, a message that not only delivers the required ultimatum to Germany but also shows the terrorist's face and in which he is dressed in Western garb. In other words, "Security" was a schedule mod. There may not have been enough time to push it through the internal approval process that's required for the as Sahab brand.
Nevertheless, the decision to kick-start this campaign with Friday's video paid off. Interest in "Security," both on the militant forums, as measured by activity on the posts, and in the global press, has exploded. Al-Faloja Forum members have viewed the official announcement about its release over 4,000 times (whereas the announcement for "O Allah" has been viewed 1,000 times). Google News currently registers nearly 700 German language articles published about Harrach and the tape. In addition, "Security" and the theme of Germany as "Enemy #1" have gone viral. Sympathizers have spread clips of the video on YouTube, and user-generated graphics have also begun to appear. One graphic that is now making the rounds shows a jihadi raising the al Qaeda flag over Dresden following its bombing in World War II with a quote from Harrach that states "If the German people decide in favor of continuing the war, it will hand down its own sentence."
If there is a "Part 1" there will be a "Part 2," so they have set expectations for another appearance from the sinister German. It goes without saying that major concern is growing about the series finale and, more to the point, where it is planned take place. One quote from Friday's threat has led to a lot of head scratching.
"I am telling the youth of Islam in Germany: my dear brethren in Islam, should the jihad begin in Germany, let al Qaeda do its job first. If there should be any need later and we would have to move on to the next phase, we will tell you, inshallah, what every one of you can do to participate in the jihad in Germany. The city of Kiel will remain safe irrespective of how long the conflict will last in Germany. I guarantee this with my name."
Scott Sanford over at Jihadica cites a post on the al Faloja Forum that suggests Kiel is offered protection because of an Islamic center that has recently been built in the city. If Harrach is preparing for a suicide attack, as it appears he is, then it is most likely to take place in Pakistan or Afghanistan against German interests. That's assuming, of course, that additional coordinated attacks are not in the plans inside Germany or against German interests elsewhere.