Conflict & Justice

Al Qaeda group plans to release animated cartoon to recruit kids


The planned cartoon does not feature depictions of Osama bin Laden.


Majid Saeedi

An al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen is planning to release an animated film cartoon aimed at recruiting young people to the militant network.

Terrorists connected to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen-based affiliate, said they were creating the cartoon to inspire children to join the jihad, a posting on an extremist website said, according to the Daily News.

The animated film, titled "Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," shows young boys dressed in battle fatigues and carrying out raids, killings and terror plots, according to the Associated Press.

The British counter-extremism think tank Quilliam said news of the movie was announced on a password-protected Arabic-language online discussion forum on Sunday by a person who called himself Abu al-Laith al-Yemen, according to Reuters.

Al-Yemen said he and others were finishing up the creation of the cartoon about the al Qaeda affiliate that would educate kids about the history of the group and inspire them to commit acts of terrorism, Quilliam said, according to Reuters:

"The cartoon movie 'Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula' (AQAP) is a very exciting story that tells the facts about who let down the Islamic religion and the Prophet, and how the Arab leaders are agents of the West and other Islamic issues," Quilliam quoted al-Yemen as saying.

Some stills from the cartoon were posted at the website, and they are inspiring some backlash, according to the Telegraph. There was strong criticism of the cartoons on Internet forums for jihadists. Users said they made the scarf-wearing fighters look too "scary" for children. In addition, it's possible that many Muslim parents will see this as an attempt by al Qaeda to cause rifts within families and to undermine parents' authority.

According to the Associated Press:

"It's a Disney-like film aimed at kids that tells stories of the Prophet, stories of holy wars and anti-Western propaganda," said Noman Benotman, a former jihadist with links to al-Qaida who is now an analyst at Quilliam. "But I think it could backfire. Families will be angry that al-Qaida is directing this at their children."

The cartoon doesn't feature any depictions of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda founder who was killed by U.S. forces, or of the current leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Benotman said the group making the cartoon said it was in its final stages and that they planned to distribute it through websites and on DVDs.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, made up of mostly Yemeni and Saudi nationals, is waging an armed campaign to topple the Yemeni government and is responsible for several attempted bombings, including a failed 2009 attempt to bring down a plane over Detroit, Reuters reported.

But it has also been active in expanding al Qaeda's use of the Internet by producing sophisticated Arabic-language propaganda and a teen magazine-style online publication called Inspire, which is an English-language product.