September 15, 2003 -- WASHINGTON - Al Qaeda has launched a sophisticated Internet campaign to recruit an army of murderers to travel to Iraq to wreak havoc on U.S. and coalition forces.
A terrorism research group which monitors al Qaeda's Internet communications has provided The Post with chilling details of the high-tech recruitment drive in which potential fighters are bombarded with religious decrees and anti-U.S. propaganda as well as training manuals on how to be a terrorist.
Willing recruits are also being given specific instructions on how to go to Iraq through a maze of secret chat rooms.
In one particularly graphic exchange in a secret al Qaeda chat room on Sept. 3, an unknown Islamic fanatic, with the user name "Redemption Is Close," writes:
"Brothers, how do I go to Iraq for Jihad? Are there any army camps and is there someone who commands there?"
Four days later he gets a reply from a mystery man with the user name "Merciless Terrorist."
"Dear Brother, the road is wide open for you - there are many groups, go look for someone you trust, join him, he will be the protector of the Iraqi regions and with the help of Allah you will become one of the Mujahidin."
"Redemption is Close" then presses for more specific information on how he can become a jihad fighter in Iraq.
"Merciless Terrorist" sends him a propaganda video and instructs him to download software called Pal Talk, which enables users to communicate with each other by voice on the Internet. That will lead him to an impossible-to-monitor "talking chat room," where he can get details on how to sign up for jihad in Iraq.
Terror experts say recruits are then directed to sympathetic mosques or Islamic centers, where they are screened and passed on to al Qaeda recruiters.
The frightening Internet traffic was monitored and translated by the SITE Institute, a counter-terrorism group that consults with the government as well as some families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks in their $1 trillion lawsuit against the network of banks and charities funding al Qaeda.
Rita Katz, SITE Institute's director and author of the recent book "Terrorist Hunter," told The Post that the exchanges are proof that Osama bin Laden believes that Iraq is now the epicenter of his holy war against the United States and that his terror network is actively organizing a campaign of violence designed to drive out U.S. forces.
"Al Qaeda's use of the Internet is amazing. We know from past cases - from captured al Qaeda fighters who say they joined up through the Internet - that this is one of the principal ways they recruit fighters and suicide bombers," she said.
"They are spending a lot of money and resources right now on Iraq. They see it as the new Afghanistan," Katz said, referring to the effort in the 1980s against Soviet invaders, a campaign that spawned the birth of al Qaeda.
Many analysts believe that these foreign fighters were behind the recent suicide bombings.