Jihadi Discourse On EMP Weapons

November 2, 2012

R. Green*
No. 894

The various jihadi forums contain sections titled Muntada al-‘udda wal-i’dad (“[Military] Equipment and Preparation Forum”), devoted to discussions of a wide range of weapons and tactics. This includes discussions of electronic warfare, such as ways of combating drones, spy aircraft, and satellite surveillance, and ways of disrupting power systems, etc.

In addition to these topics, members have addressed electromagnetic pulse (EMP) technology as a means of causing severe damage to the enemy. Most of the threads involve a member posting an article he has found on the subject, and others responding.

It should be stressed that EMP technology is highly advanced, and it is unlikely that anyone except for the world superpowers possesses the resources and knowledge to develop it. However, the discussion of it on jihadi forums reflects the motivation of jihadi elements to explore and make use of every possible means in their war on the West.

This report reviews some of the discussions of EMP on the jihadi websites.[1]

“The Biggest Threat To Mankind Today”

One thread was started on June 5, 2012 by an active member on the Shumoukh Al-Islam forum whose username is “3aasim” and who signs his posts “‘Asim Al-Somali.” ‘Asim, whose shaky Arabic suggests that he is indeed a non-Arab, posted an article titled  “The Electromagnetic Bomb – E-Bomb”[2] that has been circulating on Arabic websites for several years. The article   appears to draw some of its information from a 1996 paper by Australian scientist Carlo Kopp, titled “The Electromagnetic Bomb – a Weapon of Electrical Mass Destruction.”[3] It should be noted that Kopp’s article describes the means by which a Western power could theoretically use EMP as a means to conduct Information Warfare against an enemy state or a rogue regime.

The Arabic article states: “The biggest threat to mankind today is weapons that [involve] an anonymous attack on the victims from a source that is impossible or very difficult to detect – such as chemical, biological or electromagnetic weapons, specifically weapons [that involve] High Power Microwave [technology]. An electromagnetic bomb could instantly  pitch modern civilization 200 years into the past. As the American magazine Popular Mechanics pointed out, any nation or group with [even] 1940s-level technology could manufacture this bomb.[4]  The danger and effects of this bomb became apparent when the U.S. used it for the first time during the Second Gulf War. As mentioned in News-Defensemagazine, [it made use of this weapon] in the first days of the war to destroy [Iraq’s] infrastructures, [including] command centers, vital information management [centers], radars, satellite communications systems, computers and microwaves, television transmission and reception [facilities], as well as mobile phone systems.”

The article then goes on to describe tactical and technical aspects of deploying EMP weapons, as described by Kopp.

Diagram from Kopp’s article showing an electromagnetic bomb dropped from a plane

“An Outstanding Weapon”

In another post, this one a general text about electronic warfare, ‘Asim wrote: “Welcome to the world of electromagnetic warfare. To begin with, this is an outstanding weapon that produces fruitful results on the ground. Brothers, do not be afraid to produce this kind of weapon. In the books about the jihadi nuclear bomb,[5] there is a detailed section on the manufacture of electromagnetic weapons, but on a local and intermediate level. My brothers, there are important instructions for these weapons, and, Allah willing, you will find them in a [future] posting [of mine]. Some brothers have a fear and a phobia of working with these weapons. That is fine, but we shouldn’t exaggerate, [although] we must use extreme caution when working [with them]…”[6]

‘Asim also posted another scientific article on EMP, with speculations on the effects it could have on infrastructures in the targeted area, and also provided links to other articles on the topic. He concluded this post by commenting: “Manufacturing [an EMP bomb] is very easy for those who are experts. It will turn the airpower superiority of the enemies of Islam into a thing of the past”.

“The Simplicity Of The Electromagnetic Bomb And Its Low Cost… Mean That Terrorist And Criminal Gangs Might Get Hold Of It…” 

The Islamists’ interest in EMP is also evident on Fajr Al-Islam, a jihadi website that describes itself as “concerned with general matters [and with] improving skills of hacking, programming and [electronic] jihad”. A few months ago, the site’s administrator posted[7] an article that was originally published in the UAE daily Al-Khaleej.[8]  It reads: “Some call it the electronic bomb (the e-bomb)… [or else] the hidden bomb, the dark bomb, the poor man’s bomb, all of which refer to the electromagnetic bomb. They say it has not been used in any war, but no one can be certain of this, since it is a bomb that produces no sound, smoke or smell, nor does it cause any of the effects caused by other types of bombs. It is no longer a thing of imagination – it has turned into a reality, to the extent that the US has bombs of this kind mounted on missiles and UAVs…

“If an electromagnetic bomb is dropped on a military area, radars, computers and weapon-control systems immediately stop working, turning all types of weapons into useless skeletons and scrap metal. After this, the military area becomes an easy target that can be destroyed with unprecedented ease. This happens because the electromagnetic bomb is a warhead [producing] very powerful electromagnetic pulses. When it explodes, it sends out bursts of electric energy, a billion watts [of energy] in a split second, paralyzing all [electronic] devices in a radius of miles…

“So far, the main impediment to using an electromagnetic bomb is the possibility that the attackers themselves could be exposed to damage when they are close to the site of the attack. This phenomenon is known in military jargon as “a double-edged sword.” Due to the extreme shortness of the waves produced by electromagnetic bombs, it is very difficult to provide defenses against them, especially since they can pass through the narrowest of cracks. Also, since the bomb’s effect is very quick, the aircraft that drops it does not have time to escape its effect after it explodes… This is the biggest problem… It is therefore inconceivable to think of using it before protection and defense measures are provided…

“The simplicity of the electromagnetic bomb and its low cost (as little as $400 for one bomb), mean that terrorist and criminal gangs might get hold of it…  and use it as an effective bargaining chip and blackmailing tool. In the area where it is deployed, the damage [to electronic devices] could be great. The electromagnetic bomb removes the factor of deterrence from wars. If one side possessed such a bomb and [planned to] use it against another, the other side would strive to obtain the same kind of bomb and use it too. [Since the bomb does not kill or cause overall devastation,] neither side would have take into consideration human and material losses, which were the deterring factor for both sides in previous wars and motivated them to seek peaceful solutions…”

“How To Make The Electromagnetic Bomb Of Which Islam’s Enemies Are Terrified”

A member of the Ansar Al-Mujahideen Arabic Forum (AMAF) who calls himself “Abu Al-Khattab7,” posted a message headed “How to Make the Electromagnetic Bomb of Which Islam’s Enemies Are Terrified.” The post contains a 2003 article titled “The Electromagnetic Bomb”, by Dr. Hazem Sakeek, a physicist at the Al-Azhar University in Gaza who runs a popular science website (hazemsakeek.com). His article[9] appears to be a summary of information from the websitewww.howstuffworks.com explaining the possibilities of using an EMP weapon.

Hazem Sakeek’s article, as posted on AMAF

Responding to this post, an AMAF member calling himself “Muhammad ‘Abd Al-Qader” wrote that attacking the electronic infrastructure of an enemy country is permissible according to Islamic law. Quoting a Hadith, he wrote: “‘According to Abu Hurayra, the Prophet said: Avoid seven mortal sins…” Associating others with Allah [polytheism]; sorcery; killing those whom Allah has forbidden to kill, unless it is done justly; usury; taking an orphan’s money; fleeing the battlefield, and firing on fortified [towns] that were granted safety’… This [EMP] weapon could wreak havoc on the enemies of Allah and Islam, but it does not kill people that Islam forbids to kill, such as children, women and non-combatants. It disrupts electronic devices and therefore can destroy the west’s civilization and technology and enable us to overcome them, Allah willing.  However, it is not a combustible weapon of mass-destruction that kills all people, destroys civilization and destroys the earth.'”[10]

*R. Green is a research fellow at MEMRI.


[3] Kopp C., “The Electromagnetic Bomb – A Weapon of Electrical Mass Destruction”, Air Chronicles, Centre for Air Doctrine Research and Education, United States Air Force, October 1996. The article is available, for example, on this website: http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/cc/apjemp.html.

[4] Kopp’s article actually says: “At the time of writing, the United States and the CIS are the only two nations with the established technology base and the depth of specific experience to design weapons based upon this technology. However, the relative simplicity of the FCG and the Vircator suggests that any nation with even a 1940s technology base, once in possession of engineering drawings and specifications for such weapons, could manufacture them.”

[5] It is unclear to what books this refers.

[8] Al-Khaleej (UAE), June 5, 2007. For the article, see: http://www.elaph.com/Web/NewsPapers/2007/6/238728.htm.

[10] A thread on the jihadi website Shumoukh Al-Islam also contains a comprehensive background article on electronic warfare, including EMP. (See: http://shamikh1.info/vb/showthread.php?t=147554). The article, posted by a member calling himself “Abu Hamza Al-Qahtani,” was originally published on an Arabic forum dedicated to military issues:http://www.arabic-military.com/t6918-topic.