This image taken from the the Arabic-language al-Shamouk jihadist website shows promotional material for an animated cartoon an al-Qaida affiliate says it plans to roll out aimed at recruiting children into the terror network.
As a masked mujahideen finishes off the victim fallen flat on the back with a rifle, his eye glares a sinister white. It's not out of a bad horror movie, but from an upcoming jihadist propaganda—for kids.
The media wing of al-Qaeda plans to boost its recruiting with jihadist anime. London's Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremist group, reported that a user named ”Abu al-Layth al-Yammani” posted the teaser art on the terrorist forum Shumukh. The user wrote in Arabic that he was putting finishing touches on the film. The released art features jihadist ninjas, looking rather youthful, shooting guns and plotting terrorism. Its caption reads: "Cartoon films for supporters of Qaida Jihad in the Arabia Peninsula, coming soon"
According to Wired's Danger Room blog, the film is a classic moral story, from the jihadist's viewpoint. The Prophet (the good guy) followers crush the western rulers (the bad guys). The plot includes "the heroic deeds of the mujahids" which are “incursions, clashes, and assassinations.” The blog quotes al-Yammani (or al-Yemen) saying it's "missionary work for us to raise our children and youth in the blessed life in the shade of the sharia of Islam."
A number of major media websites and blogs believe that a Yemen-based extremist group could have funded the production and its progress, but the information seems difficult to verify, since sources on the jihadist website are password protected.
So how concerned should we be about al-Qaeda's savvy new PR tactics? Noman Benotman, an analyst at Quilliam, says not so much.
“I think it could backfire. Families will be angry that al-Qaida is directing this at their children,” Benotman, the former jihadist and Osama-man turned anti-terrorism activist, told the AP. Other facors include the demon glare being too scary for children.
What's more, Wired suspects that the cartoon could be a rip-off of an already existing film, as the jihadists have a history of simply photoshopping faces on existing video games and claiming them as their own.