January 22, 2004 # WASHINGTON – The large number of Muslim deaths caused by al Qaeda terrorist attacks in Iraq has created p.r. problems for Osama bin Laden, who now appears to be having second thoughts about his holy war against coalition forces there, The Post has learned.
New articles in al Qaeda’s biweekly Internet magazine Sawt al-Jihad, or “Voice of Jihad,” are urging al Qaeda supporters to stay out of Baghdad and concentrate on hitting U.S. military targets in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, according to terrorist expert Rita Katz, whose SITE Institute monitors al Qaeda propaganda on the Internet.
“My instructions to the people of the peninsula [Saudi Arabia], young as old, men as women, is to fight Americans in their homes and the people of Yemen should fight the Americans in their bases, battleships and their consulates,” wrote an al Qaeda propagandist named Muhammad bin al-Salim in an article titled “Do Not Go To Iraq.”
It appears to represent a shift in tactics by bin Laden, who last October reportedly cut back on the material support he gives Taliban renegades in Afghanistan in order to take the fight to coalition forces in post-Saddam Iraq.
Katz and government counter-terror experts believe al Qaeda’s campaign inside Iraq has backfired politically on bin Laden and there is growing evidence that the fanatic legion of “foreign fighters” may no longer be welcome in most quarters of Iraq.
“It’s clear that the killing of a lot of Muslims in Iraq is something al Qaeda now wants to avoid,” Katz said.