After Bin Laden: Jihadist Terrorist Use of Strategic Communication to Enlarge the Community of Believers

Publication Type:

Book Chapter


The Dangerous Landscape, p.63-77 (2013)


On May 1st 2011, the spiritual leader of al-Qaeda, bin Laden, was killed in a counter terrorist operation. One year earlier, in May 1st 2010, Mr. Faisal Shahzad, a thirty year old Pakistani legal immigrant to the United States, tried to blow up a car bomb parked on Times Square, one of the busiest areas of New York City. For technical reasons, the bomb failed to properly ignite. This unsuc-cessful attack demonstrated once again the ability of the terrorist cause to re-cruit self-radicalized adherents.
In this instance, the self-radicalization happened partially due to the effec¬tive use of strategic communication. For al-Qaeda, strategic communication is a vital part of its asymmetrical war fighting campaign. Countering this threat re-quires knowledge of what motivates, feeds, and “sanctions” radical Islamist terrorists and their followers. Research and analysis of the root causes and un-derlying conditions, motivators, and enablers of terrorism—including the propaganda strategies of terrorists—are vital to shaping appropriate counter-measures to the threat from radical Islamist terrorism. The mass media, and especially the Internet, have become the key enablers and the main strategic communication assets for terrorists and have ensured them a favorable com¬munication asymmetry.