Operation Cupcake Derails al-Qaeda

Al-Qaeda's plans to recruit terrorists via a new English-language magazine have been disrupted by the British intelligence agency MI6, which replaced bomb-making instructions on the website with recipes for cupcakes, UK newspaper the Daily Telegraph reported on Friday.

Anthony-Masterson | Stone | Getty Images

Hackers from MI6 and the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) broke into an al-Qaeda site for the Inspire magazine to stop would-be terrorists from downloading instructions to “Make a bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom” by “The AQ Chef”.

They were reportedly confronted with a list of recipes for “The Best Cupcakes in America” published by the Ellen DeGeneres chat show.

A spokesperson for the UK Foreign Office, which handles queries about MI6, declined to comment on the report.

The webpage includes recipes from Ohio-based Main Street Cupcakes, Cupcake in Charleston, and Carmel Apple Cupcake from Lilly Jane's Cupcakes in Idaho, which includes the instruction: “Please, forget about that diet right now and just enjoy.”

The original al-Qaeda magazine showed readers how to make a lethal pipe bomb using sugar, match heads and a miniature lightbulb, the Telegraph said.

It also featured articles by Osama bin Laden, his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri and a piece called “What to expect in Jihad”, which were also removed by the cyber attack.

According to the paper, British and US intelligence planned separate attacks on the website after learning that the magazine was about to be issued in June last year.

The US operation, backed by General Keith Alexander, the head of US Cyber Command, was blocked by the CIA over concerns that it would expose sources and methods and disrupt an important source of intelligence, according to a report in America.

As part of the cyber-war against terror, both the US and UK have both developed a variety of cyber-weapons such as computer viruses.

Al-Qaeda reissued the magazine two weeks later and has produced four further editions.

An unnamed source told the Telegraph that British intelligence was continuing to target online outlets publishing Inspire magazine because it is viewed as such a powerful propaganda tool.

It was “clearly intended for the aspiring jihadist in the US or UK who may be the next Fort Hood murderer or Times Square bomber,” Bruce Reidel, a former CIA analyst told the Telegraph?, when the magazine’s existence first emerged.

Inspire is produced by prominent al-Qaeda figure Anwar al-Awlaki, and Samir Khan from North Carolina.

Both men are thought to be in Yemen at the moment.