A Recruitment Video With a Difference
He is speaking from Somalia in the name of Al Shabab, but he has an impeccable British accent and he’s appealing directly to Muslims in the UK. He wants another Woolwich-style attack. “If you can’t afford one of these,” he says, shaking an AK47 in the air, “a simple knife from B&Q will do the job.”
This is a terrorist recruitment video with a difference. Not only is it in the English language, it is completely focused on Britain. It uses British voices, and British TV news reports. It denounces well known British moderate muslims and TV commentators. It is even executed in the style of a primetime TV docco with slick edits and cool graphics. The man in front of the camera is urging the British viewer to become known as ‘a terrorist, just like me. A modern-day Lord Haw Haw, cementing Al Shabab’s reputation as an international terrorist organisation in the image of Al Qaeda.
“We haven’t seen anything like it before,” says Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, who is featured in the video as a bad guy. ‘It highlights the increasing sophistication of their media message. Its smooth, slick and extremely focused.”
One of the most notable things about the video is the way they use British TV news reports and turn them on their head. The exclusive shots obtained by ITV News shortly after the Woolwich attack showing a man with blood on his hands and a body on the ground are used repeatedly… In admiration.
The hooded Al Shabab ‘reporter’ claims that “there are many courageous young Muslims from Britain who have left their mark on the battlefields of jihad.” Of course, we already knew that, but it feels very new to see their faces and hear their names. A video montage follows featuring six ‘Londoners’ in combats and high spirits. It ends on a man they call Talha, who shouts to the camera in modern urban cockney: “Muslims of Britain, especially the people of Tower Hamlets, my city, come to jihad.” He almost kisses his teeth at the camera. Only two of them have actually been confirmed as Brits, the rest is unverifiable, but it is not an accent many could fake. Terrorism expert Rafaello Pantucci says the claims are “relatively reliable as this is one way for the group to venerate its dead.”
The recruitment drive ends on a businesslike note urging British Muslims to “use whatever you can get your hands on and follow the example of your brothers in Woolwich and Boston.” A call to unspeakable violence made all the more chilling by the civility with which it is spoken. Then, without missing a beat, a corporate plug: You, the British viewer, are politely advised “to watch our two part series on the necessity of personal jihad.”
This latest Al Shabab video comes a week after the head of MI5 warned “there are several thousand Islamist extremists here who see the British people as a legitimate target” and it will fuel concerns about the risk of homegrown lone wolf attacks. We have seen what Al Shabab was capable of in Nairobi. Does this video mean they are turning their sights on the UK?
One moderate British Muslim leader who is criticised in the video for condemning the Woolwich attacks is Mohammed Ansar. “What an appalling video designed to fuel hate on both sides,” he told me today. Is he scared by it? “Yes”. And that is the point. This video is not just aimed at Muslims in the UK it is aimed at all of us. It is in itself a form of terror.