American Editor Brings U.S. Savvy To Jihad Outreach Samir Khan, a former North Carolinian, is believed to be behind an al-Qaida English-language magazine released this summer with snazzy articles and headlines. The magazine sparked a frenzy of activity among counterterrorism officials in Washington because it seemed so American.
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American Editor Brings U.S. Savvy To Jihad Outreach

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American Editor Brings U.S. Savvy To Jihad Outreach

American Editor Brings U.S. Savvy To Jihad Outreach

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NPR N: terrorists who are essentially made in America. They're either U.S. citizens or long-time residents.


Today we hear about a young man from North Carolina named Samir Khan. He's writing for al-Qaida's new online magazine out of Yemen.

: In the latest issue, which came out just yesterday, Khan writes the cover story entitled, quote, "I Am Proud to Be a Traitor to America." NPR's Dina Temple-Raston tracks Khan's road from America to al-Qaida.-

DINA TEMPLE: Unidentified Man: Where Charlotte comes to talk.



KEITH LARSON: Samir Khan, Charlotte's very own...

TEMPLE: That's radio talk show host Keith Larson of WBT in Charlotte. And the magazine was such a hot topic because the man behind it was a local Charlotte resident, a 24-year-old named Samir Khan.

LARSON: This website magazine, Internet recruiting glorifying thing for al- Qaida, is run by - and it's funny to read the, you know, network or wire stories - a former North Carolina man who moved to Yemen - but it turns out it's Samir Khan. U.S. officials say it is for real and they're concerned about it.

TEMPLE: So I went to see the house where the family lived.


TEMPLE: Tradition View Drive is a side street in a relatively new subdivision off I-85. All the houses have two and three-car garages with columns bookending front doors and lawn services that turn each yard into a neatly manicured expanse of green.


TEMPLE: In his parents' basement here, Samir Khan created one of the most popular al-Qaida websites on the Internet. It got thousands of hits a day. He called it InshallahShaheed, or a martyr if it's God's will, and it appeared in late 2003. Samir Khan railed against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

SAMIR KHAN: The American occupiers, they're disbelievers, and every disbeliever will go to hellfire according to the book of Allah.

TEMPLE: That's Khan during an interview with the New York Times three years ago.

KHAN: I know that this is something that America would never want to admit. They would never want to admit that they are being crushed.

TEMPLE: Friends remember Khan as a teenager who was awkward, shy and spoke with a stammer. They also recall someone who arrived in Charlotte already radicalized.

ADAM AZAD: I remember we went to eat at this place called Wolfman Pizza. He was sort of talking to me about his ideas on some things.

TEMPLE: That's Adam Azad. He met Samir Khan when he moved to North Carolina.

AZAD: I thought he was a little over-zealous.

TEMPLE: Overzealous because he kept asking questions about the local mosque. He got mad when Azad told him the sermons didn't dwell on politics, American wars overseas, or the fate of Islam.

AZAD: He was kind of critical. Like, why don't they talk more about injustices that are going on around the world and stuff like that?

TEMPLE: Azad was a bit older than Khan and tried to counsel him.

AZAD: I remember the exact thing I said to him: I said, you know, Samir, in this world you cannot just take a hard and cold stance on everything.

TEMPLE: And what his response to that?

AZAD: He was quiet. I mean, I can tell that he wasn't very receptive to what I was saying.

TEMPLE: People who knew Samir Khan said in retrospect it was clear that he arrived in North Carolina with a plan for how he wanted to spread his radical message. Within weeks of moving to Charlotte, Khan hired a local lawyer. He wanted the lawyer to tell him about the First Amendment. How far could he go on a website without running afoul of the law? And the lawyer laid out what to do in a memo. Basically he could say anything he wanted as long as he didn't incite violence. And intelligence officials say he followed that advice.

ALI KHAN: For him to take shade under the Constitution or to go to a disbelieving lawyer and ask for his help kind of contradicts the entire struggle inside the ideological worldview that he claims to live by.

TEMPLE: Norman Ali Khan was a teacher at a mosque in New York City. Samir Khan was his student. He was surprised that Khan thought to go to a lawyer.

KAHN: It is a pretty savvy move, and I don't think it's one that he thought of himself. I wouldn't be convinced of that. I think it took some convincing for him to do that.

TEMPLE: So you think someone else put him up to it?

KAHN: That's what I think. I don't think that he did that himself.

TEMPLE: Jibril Hough was one of the people in North Carolina who tried to counsel Samir Khan.

JIBRIL HOUGH: In Islam, we're told to support our brothers, whether they're right or wrong - and how do you support them if they are wrong? Well, you hold their hand or you try to correct them if they're wrong.

TEMPLE: They gathered at Jibril Hough's house and invited Samir and his father to join them. They sat in a circle and talked for hours about what they saw as Samir's fundamental misunderstanding of the religion. And they tried to get him to talk to them.

HOUGH: He mostly just listened. I think at one time during the conversation he tried to give some kind of justification for killing innocent people, but it was a very short rebuttal. And that's why it kind of gave me the idea that we were making progress, because he wasn't giving us a lot of argument.

TEMPLE: Dina Temple-Raston, NPR News.

: And we continue our reporting this week on terror suspects made in America. Tomorrow on MORNING EDITION, we'll look at a group that may have guided Samir Khan on his path of radicalization.

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