JANUARY 5 Nigeria ... Gunmen burst into a church killing at least five people in a co-ordinated campaign against the country’s Christians. Photo: Reuters
Lone jihadists have been directed to follow a new code of etiquette when launching terrorist attacks, according to the latest edition of the al-Qaeda-affiliated online magazine, Inspire.
The winter 2012 edition of the magazine reveals the publishers are so concerned about their "reputation" that they have advised against the bombing of any places of worship, particularly churches and synagogues.
The 62-page publication, which The Sun-Herald has obtained, also warns against targeting women and children, especially in places where they might gather without men.
FEBRUARY 23 Iraq ... Suspected al-Qaeda militants unleash a wave of terror across 12 cities, killing at least 60 people in attacks on buildings including a primary school. Photo: AP
The Sun-Herald revealed last week that Australia had been named as a specific target for pyro-terrorism in the online terrorism and bomb-making magazine. The Federal Attorney General, Nicola Roxon, had condemned the publication but said there was no imminent threat against Australia.
One of the articles, titled "The Jihadi Experiences", warns against "harming civilians who are citizens of countries that have no relation with the conflict even if they are non-Muslim".
"This must be done in order to maintain the reputation of the Resistance in the different spheres of public opinion," the article says.
MARCH 21 France ... Mohammed Merah, an al-Qaeda fanatic, murdered seven people including a rabbi and three of his students. He died after being shot in the head when police stormed his apartment. Photo: AFP
The shift in ideology espoused for individual jihads is a major departure from attacks which have been launched against churches, synagogues, schools and mosques across the world.
Terrorism experts say the change is due to a backlash by moderate Muslims against the violence.
Clive Williams, an adjunct professor at Macquarie University's Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism, said the shift depicted in Inspire echoed the sentiments of the Osama bin Laden letters, released earlier this month.
APRIL 9 Nigeria ... A car bomb killed at least 38 people when it was detonated on a busy road leading to a church. Hundreds of worshippers celebrating Easter escaped with minor injuries. Photo: Reuters
"The whole point of those letters was to warn that the business of targeting other Muslims is not the way to be going," Professor Williams said.
"He [Osama bin Laden] wanted them to focus on the United States. This is also acknowledging that most attacks in the future will be carried out by individuals."
The article encourages jihadis to practise terrorism in "his land" rather than incurring the cost and hardship of travelling, migrating, or moving to where "direct jihad" is possible. It lists politicians, media personalities and television centres as top targets. Economic targets included stock exchanges, airports, harbours, roads, power and gas installations, military bases and barracks, especially American bases in Europe and centralised computer centres. Other targets were where "Jews gather", but avoiding synagogues, and offices of institutions such as NATO and the European Union.
Professor Williams said al-Qaeda had "dumped on" a major network in the past, which was why they had started their own media arm.