Setmariam’s new strategic concept was that “individual terrorism” needed to replace the hierarchically orchestrated terrorism of Al Qaeda. He explained to his class why this was necessary:
We ask the Muslim youth to be a terrorist. Why do we ask for such individual terrorism? First because secret hierarchical organizations failed to attract Muslims. The youth fear joining such an organization because if there is a mistake then the authorities will reach them. Second because we need to give the youth the chance to play a role without being part of an organization. Some youth don’t want to join an organization and don’t know how to act on their beliefs. Third due to pressure from the Jews, Crusaders and lapsed Muslim regimes.
Setmariam then launched into a critique of Al Qaeda’s hierarchical structure. He drew a diagram indicating howeasy itwas to round up a cell structure inwhich many cells are traced back to a leader (see Figure 1).“In the new stage,” Setmariam told his future recruiters, “You should form a brigade and work directly. I advise your brigade doesn’t exceed tenmembers. You shouldn’t expand or form too many. In case you are caught, they are all caught.”
Setmariam recognized that there would need to be a great amount of mobilization to achieve his vision of a mass participation jihadist movement. The “prototype” he would later state in his 2004 book was the “Palestinian Intifada but on a broader basis which includes the Islamic world, with its arm reaching the home of the American invaders and their infidel allies from every race and place.”55 To encourage such popular participation, Setmarian introduced his Al Ghuraba lecture course by saying he wanted to distribute videotapes of the couse to teach individuals how to incite Muslims to become jihadists.
“This should be done,” says Setmariam, by “highlighting Jewish-Crusader oppression of Muslims.” Also, he says that dwelling on the “degeneracy of the Western world”—“its sin, gays and lesbians”—is a good way to incite Muslims. Attacks should take place in the country of residence of jihadis. The criteria for targets, Setmariam says, are: (1) “where it hurts the enemy and costs him the most” and (2) “where it awakens Muslims and revives the spirit of Jihad and resistance.” The aim he says “is to spread a Jihadist cancer to face the bad cancer of the world order.”56
In the years since 9/11, Al Qaeda has evolved in remarkably similar lines to Setmariam’s vision. Facing an onslaught against its organized structures, the loss of its training camps, but also the opportunity of a new cause c´el`ebre in Iraq, Al Qaeda has morphed into a broader-based and looser movement. The terrorist strikes in Bali, Casablanca, Istanbul, Madrid, and London were all initiated by exactly the sort of small locally recruited cells for which Setmariam was calling. They represent a change in approach to the centrally organized attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 and the 9/11 attacks. In both these instances operatives were parachuted in from Afghan training camps to carry out the strikes.
They were also directed at targets (tourism and transport infrastructure) whose destruction would have a signicant economic “cost.” To make this new individual terrorism “orderly” Setmariam recognized in his 2004 tract that “wonderful individual initiatives” needed to be “directed” through strategic guidance, either from him or other Al Qaeda leaders and “invested” with “a state of general unity” or in other words be credited to Al Qaeda.57 Bin Laden, al Zawahiri, and Al Qaeda leaders have certainly acted according to this advice. It now appears Al Qaeda leaders had a hand in supporting the locally recruited cell that carried out the 7 July bombings in London. In other cases they have merely telegraphed their desire for attacks, for example, on European allies of the U.S. invasion on Iraq, and when they did take place, in nearly every instance, bin Laden or al Zawahari have quickly claimed credit. Setmariam is adamant that each jihadi operation, however autonomously initiated, should work to further the overall cause. In his videotaped Jihadist lectures he says:
If a Muslim is in Britain and doesn’t want to leave his job or university and go and fight Jihad on the front, what he can do is call the press agency and tell them, “I’m from the global Islamic resistance” and claim responsibility for whatever action is being done around the world.