Homeland Security

Having Long Promoted Arson Tactic, al-Qaeda Now Touts 'California Burning'

Having Long Promoted Arson Tactic, al-Qaeda Now Touts 'California Burning'
People watch a wildfire burn from a street corner Nov. 9, 2018, in West Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

With a long history of the terror group encouraging wildland arson, al-Qaeda supporters circulated a new poster through media channels highlighting “California burning.”

“They will question you about the mountains. Say: ‘My Lord will scatter them as ashes,'” says the text citing the Quran, imposed over news photos from the blazes.

The al-Qaeda propaganda comes shortly after one of the many media groups supporting ISIS operations online claimed that the deadly wildfires in northern and southern California are retribution for coalition bombings in Syria.

The image circulated online by Al-Ansar Media uses a photo of a burning building and misspelled the state “kalifornia.”

“O america, This is the punishment of bombing Muslims in Syria,” states the text. “This is Allah’s punishment for you. And in shaa Allah, you will see more fires. Praise be to Allah.”

The Camp Fire in Butte County, north of Sacramento in California’s Gold Rush country, has claimed the lives of at least 63 people, according to Cal Fire incident stats today. The blaze, which started Thursday, has destroyed 9,844 residences and 336 commercial buildings, making it the most destructive fire in the state’s history as it ripped through Paradise, Calif., at a speed of 80 acres per minute. It was 45 percent contained today at 142,000 acres. The cause is still under investigation.

The Woolsey Fire has torched 98,362 acres in Ventura and Los Angeles counties after starting on Thursday, and was 69 percent contained today. The blaze resulted in the evacuation of Malibu, reaching the Pacific Coast Highway. There have been three fatalities and 616 structures destroyed including several celebrities’ homes. The cause of this blaze is also still under investigation.

In a 2012 issue of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Inspire magazine, a tutorial by “The AQ Chef’ under the “Open Source Jihad” section — al-Qaeda’s name for lone jihadist terrorism — highlighted the damage caused by 2002 wildfires in Australia.

“In America, there are more houses built in the country sides than in the cities. It is difficult to choose a better place other than in the valleys of Montana where the population increases rapidly. In the year 2000, a fire that is considered to be the biggest in the American history flared up in one of those valleys. It spread in a space equal to that of London. The fire burnt down 70 houses as well as a hundred car. On July of the same year and in the same place, a thunderstorm lighted 78 massive blazes in just one day, most of them were deadly firestorms,” the article said, proceeding to cite other wildfires.

“We mention such examples only to show the magnitude of the destructive impact that fires or firebombs make, to then ask the question: Is it possible for us to cause a similar destructive impact using a similar weapon? The answer is: Yes, it is possible. Even in a shorter time and with much bigger destructive impact.”

Al-Qaeda proceeded to instruct jihadists on how to pick the optimum weather conditions for arson, including dryness and winds, and discussed where to set a wildfire for maximum devastation.

An extensive step-by-step pictorial then showed would-be terrorists how to make an “ember bomb” to start the conflagration, encouraging use of a timer so that the perpetrator could easily escape.

“The most important damaging result… is the spreading of terror among the targeted community,” al-Qaeda said.