Last Updated (Friday, 19 October 2012 15:23)
Zachary Chesser, a young, Virginia-based jihadist activist who uses the name “Abu Talhah al-Amriki,” was arrested on July 21, 2010, following an attempt to travel to Somalia to join the Shabaab al-Mujahideen, a designated terrorist organization. Cheser previously gained media attention when he threatened the South Park creators in April over the show's depiction of the Prophet Muhammad. According to an FBI affidavit, Chesser managed to make contact with facilitators on online jihadist forums who provided advice on how he could successfully travel to Somalia.
A convert to Islam, Chesser operated several websites containing propaganda supporting al-Qaeda, the mujahideen, and the jihadist movement. In addition to promoting material from Usama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, he distributed speeches and lectures by the English-speaking jihadist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Furthermore, Chesser created his own propaganda, publishing numerous videos to his YouTube channel and posting blog entries advocating for the jihadist cause.
Reposting many of Anwar al-Awlaki's blog entries, Chesser described his blog, called “The Mujahid Blog,” as being “primarily devoted to spreading knowledge regarding Jihad and the Mujahideen in keeping with the laws of whatever country in which it is being published. It is not intended to encourage any specific acts of violence. Rather, it is only intended to encourage general and ambiguous acts of violence. So, to this I say, 'Go Fight Jihad!'”
On the blog, Chesser praised the March 2010 Moscow metro bombings carried out by women, writing, “we call upon Allah by His Beautiful Names and Perfect Attributes to accept the martyrdom of our two sisters who performed the martyrdom operation in Moscow on monday. May He help our brothers and sisters from Al-Qaqaz in freeing themselves of the oppressive puppet of the kremlin.”
He also operated the “AlQuranWaAlAhadeeth” YouTube channel, where he uploaded more than 100 videos, posting material from al-Qaeda as well as his own original propaganda. In one video he produced, titled “Are You a Lion or a Mouse?” he wrote, “So, will you be a lion of Allah or a mouse of Shaytaan?...How are you going to enter Jannah [heaven] ????????? “JIHAD!!!” Chesser also operated another blog, “YouTube Jihad,” where he collected and categorized a variety of jihadist content available on YouTube.
Chesser became an active member of Revolution Muslim, a radical organization based in New York City. On the group's website, Chesser appeared in front of the White House in a recording made in March 2010, reading a petition to Barack Obama calling on him to “end the war of terror.” Chesser says, “We invite you to Islam and want to inform you that if you become a Muslim you will be safe and Allah will double your reward, but if you reject this invitation to Islam you will be committing a sin by misguiding your subjects and admirers and Allah will humiliate you for warring against His (elevated above all is He) intimate trustees.”
As recently as late June, Chesser posted a 25-page English-language document offering strategies to spread jihadist thought amongst current and future generations of Muslims, and published it on jihadist forums on June 28, 2010. The document is titled, “Raising al-Qaa’ida: A Look into the Long Term Obligations of the Global Jihad Movement.” He argues in the essay that Muslims in general are unfamiliar with jihad and feel the concept is strange and taboo. As such, jihadist supporters must spread jihadist thought so that it becomes “normal” and is treated as a “regular act of worship” like prayer and charity. Chesser offered several suggestions for this purpose, targeting demographics including women, children, young adults, the sinful, the intellectually-challenged, and what he termed the “mustache only generation.”
Also in June, Chesser posted his twelfth essay in a series titled, “Counter Counter Terrorism.” The essay itself was called, “Actually Leaving for Jihad.” In it, he concluded:
|“Prepare for leaving by keeping a low profile (I know I am not one to talk, but having experienced the downside of not doing this I can say assuredly that I was stupid)."|
|“Make yourself blend in with your opposition. In Pakistan having a long beard might not harm you. However, it has been mentioned from a reliable source that it is no longer possible to cross into Somalia with a beard or anything Islamic. These things are less important than jihaad, so remember that. You cannot bring books, cds, or anything like that. Also, you should purchase a new hard drive and get rid of your old one if you want to take your laptop."|
|“Purchase 'harmless' things that could be useful. Some things are not suspicious at all, but are useful when you set out. An example of this would be tablets to purify your water."|
Following the news of the arrest of Colleen Rose (Jihad Jane) in March 2010, Chesser is another example of an individual without a traditional connection to Islam who has become radicalized and engaged in actively supporting the jihadist movement. Their cases again remind that the jihadist ideology attracts individuals from across all races and religions. Furthermore, Chesser's fervent contribution to supporting the jihadist cause reveals how much a single individual can do with the capabilities the internet affords.