LONDON (Reuters) - A new jihadi magazine set up by militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan has appealed to Muslims around the world to come up with technology to hack into or manipulate drones, describing this as one of their most important priorities.
The first issue of the English-language online magazine, called “Azan”, was published on May 5, the SITE intelligence monitoring group said. It compared Azan to “Inspire” magazine, set up by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
In what appeared to be an acknowledgement of the effectiveness of U.S. drone strikes, the magazine said these were affecting the war in the Waziristan tribal areas of Pakistan - where al Qaeda is based along with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Afghan Taliban fighters.
Devoting a section of the 80-page issue to drones, it said these represented a challenge to the Muslim community, or Ummah.
“With the death of so many Muslim assets, this is one of the utmost important issues that the Ummah must unite and come up with an answer to,” said the magazine, which opens with excerpts from speeches from Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar and late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
“Any opinions, thoughts, ideas and practical implementations to defeat this drone technology must be communicated to us as early as possible because these would aid the Ummah greatly in its war against the Crusader-Zionist enemy.”
Western officials say drone strikes have been highly effective in disrupting the activities of al Qaeda and its allies in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan. Critics object to the secrecy of the drone program, question its legality and raise concerns about civilian casualties.
Pakistan - which in late 2011 ordered the CIA to leave the remote Shamsi air base in western Pakistan which it used for drones - condemns drone strikes. It has repeatedly denied cooperating with the United States in identifying targets.
Azan magazine accused the Pakistan Army of continuing to work with the United States - going as far as to suggest it had set up new secret bases in Pakistan to replace Shamsi. Given intense hostility to drones in Pakistan, this would be very difficult to do without detection.
“Azan” covers many areas where al Qaeda is active, from Syria to Mali, and celebrates Afghanistan as the base for the start of global jihad. Its focus, however, is on Pakistan.
One section is devoted to criticizing Malala Yousufzai, the schoolgirl who survived being shot by the Pakistani Taliban last year after she spoke out for her right to an education.
Another segment attacks the Pakistan Army for turning its back on traditional enemy India to fight in the tribal areas. Laced with references that have a strong resonance in Pakistan, it appeals to young soldiers to turn away from the military.
The army has been accused of fighting militants who attack Pakistan while tolerating those who focus on Afghanistan. “Azan”, however, says it considers the entire state apparatus - from the army to police to intelligence agencies - as the enemy.
The alleged evils of democracy also get their own section - echoing comments made by the Pakistani Taliban in recent weeks. They have carried out a string of attacks, mainly on liberal, secular-leaning parties - ahead of an election on May 11.
Editing by Mark Heinrich