Al Qaeda online magazine translated into Russian

MOSCOW Wed May 18, 2011 8:45am EDT

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - An al Qaeda online magazine has been translated into Russian in what analysts said on Wednesday was an attempt to strengthen ties with insurgents aiming to carve an Islamic state out of Russia's North Caucasus.

The English-language web journal, Inspire, launched by al Qaeda's Yemeni wing last year to reach out to Muslims living in the West, stoked U.S. and European concerns with articles such as one entitled "make a bomb in your mother's kitchen."

The appearance of the Russian translation of the magazine shows the potential that the global jihadist organization sees in the insurgency in Russia's southern flank, where gun and bomb attacks are a near daily occurrence.

With a cover photo looking down the barrel of a gun, the flashy on-line journal illustrated with color photographs boasts an article on seizing the property of unbelievers. The magazine is published in slide-show format on the jihadist internet site Ansar al Mujahideen's Russian-language forum.

Nearly two decades after federal forces drove a secessionist rebel government from power in Chechnya, Moscow is fighting an uphill battle against an insurgency fueled by a mix of religion, corruption and poverty.

Analysts say popular revolts in North Africa and the Middle East have undercut some support for al Qaeda's calls for violent jihad in the Arab world. In turn, the group is turning its focus to peripheral conflicts, like the North Caucasus, where it can capitalize on local grievances to win new recruits.

"I believe that now with al Qaeda feeling that they are losing grounds in the Arab world with the popular movements, the focus on 'peripheries', including the North Caucasus will increase," said Murad Batal al-Shishani, an independent London-based analyst on Islamist insurgencies.

Russian officials say the North Caucasus insurgency depends on ideological and financial patronage from the Middle East and militant Islamist groups like al Qaeda, although analysts dispute the extent of those links.

The Russian language forum hosting Inspire was originally founded by the wing of the Islamist Caucasus Emirate active in the North Caucasus regions of Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia, according to Gordon Hahn, a senior researcher at U.S. Monterey Institute for International Studies.

Russia's top anti-terrorist agency (NAK) said last month that it had killed al Qaeda's top emissary to the North Caucasus insurgency, Khaled Yusef Mukhammed al Emirat, who it accused of channeling foreign and al Qaeda funds for the militants.

(Editing by Jon Hemming)

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