Friday, July 23, 2010

Interview with Virginia Wannabe Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen Recruit Zachary Chesser, "Abu Talhah al-Amriki"

Zachary Chesser, a 20-year old Northern Virginia resident and college drop-out, was arrested this week for allegedly providing material support and attempting to join Somalia's largest insurgent group, Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Movement of Warrior-Youth; Al-Shabaab), a group whose leaders endorse the transnational militant ideology of Al-Qa'ida Central (AQC). He is better known by his nom de guerre, Abu Talhah al-Amriki ("The American"), using the name of a prominent companion of the Prophet Muhammad, and is a member of Revolution Muslim, a small group of extremist American Muslims, mostly converts. Chesser briefly attended my alma mater, George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

I had a back-and-forth with Mr. Chesser in the "Comments" section of a post on colleague Aaron Zelin's blog HERE. I also highly recommend reading the latter's Q&A with Chesser, which Aaron was kind enough to allow me to contribute to. The full interview may be read at his blog HERE.

In my back-and-forth with him, I found him to be, at times, surprisingly talkative and even introspective, much more so than other cyber jihadi-takfiris that I've conversed with (see an earlier post, "Conversations with a Cyber Jihadi"). However, he also rejected any interpretation, political or religious, that was at odds with his ideology. I am in the midst of studying for a major exam but hope, in the near future, to write a post about one of his last major pieces of writing, a strategic "analysis" of the transnational jihadi-takfiri movement and how to enable its growth.

Chesser was a frequent contributor to English-language sections on transnational jihadi-takfiri web forums as well as to Revolution Muslim and other jihadi-takfiri web sites. This aspect of his cyber jihadi-takfiri activism has been highlighted in many of the media reports on his arrest, though they were well-known to many of those analysts and scholars who regularly patrol the web sites and Internet forums used by transnational jihadi-takfiris.

An affidavit from an FBI agent who interviewed Chesser can be read HERE.

The press release from the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia can be read HERE.

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