With ISIS in decline as a result of United States and allied counterterrorism operations, Al-Qa’ida is intensifying its propaganda campaigns and strengthening its messaging with the goal of inspiring new attacks. In 2017, Al-Qa’ida produced over 500 pieces of propaganda, an increase of approximately 30 percent from the previous year.
According to a UN report, Hamza bin Laden—the son of Usama bin Laden—is increasingly featured in propaganda, demonstrating al-Qa’ida’s effort to recruit a larger pool of supporters and inspire individuals abroad. In May 2017, Hamza encouraged supporters to “Prepare diligently to inflict crippling losses on those who have disbelieved.”
In September 2018, on the anniversary of September 11, al-Qa’ida leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, restated his commitment to fight the United States in an audio recording labeling the United States as “the number one enemy of Muslims…” Since January 2018, Zawahiri has released 14 similar recordings criticizing the United States and the US Embassy move to Jerusalem.
The al-Qa’ida Network’s targeted propaganda continues to inspire homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) to conduct operations in the United States.
In June 2018, Ohio resident Demetrius Pitts was arrested for providing material support to al-Qa’ida and planning to bomb Cleveland on the Fourth of July. Authorities discovered on Pitts’ Facebook, his desire to join al-Qa’ida overseas and upon his return stage attack in the US.
In January 2018, authorities arrested Tnuza Jamal Hassan for setting fires to St. Catherine University buildings, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, acts she said were carried out to retaliate for US-military engagements overseas. Authorities discovered several editions of “terrorist propaganda” on Hassan’s phone and schematics of university buildings. Previously, Hassan attempted to travel to Afghanistan to join al-Qa’ida and elicited her university roommates to accompany her.