Al Qaeda's scariest and most unpredictable weapon right now? The digital magazine that inspired the Boston Marathon bombers and a growing army of “lone wolf” terrorists around the world. James Bamford investigates the search for the mystery men behind Inspire—and learns that for some, the laptop is mightier than the suicide bomb.
Inside Brooklyn's federal courthouse, a curving cylinder of greenish glass and gray steel, Lawal Babafemi sat silently with his attorney at the defense table as prosecutors got ready to present their case. It was September 27, 2013, a warm Friday in New York, and Babafemi, a 33-year-old Nigerian man with a neatly trimmed goatee, was dressed casually in a blue-and-white-striped polo shirt. It's safe to say that he was the first magazine employee in the history of publishing to ever face a possible life sentence for trying to recruit writers.
Inspire, the magazine Babafemi allegedly worked for, is not your typical glossy. It's published by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and its special issue on “the Blessed Boston Bombings” contained twenty-two pages of glory and praise to Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. “They crossed their own finish line at 2:50 P.M.,” read one article in the English-language digital magazine. “The real worthy winners of the Boston Marathon were the Tsarnaev mujahideen brothers.” The issue hit its emotional crescendo on page 26 with a luminescent photo illustration of Tamerlan the martyr against a vision of heaven, a scarf tied loosely around his neck, designer sunglasses on his face, a pair of doves aloft in the sun-dappled clouds behind him.
Read more: GQ