WASHINGTON—Intelligence officials said Tuesday that al-Qaeda is recruiting a new generation of suicide bombers with assurances that martyrs will be rewarded in the afterlife with a halfway decent job, benefits, and a 401(k) plan.
While al-Qaeda has long reached out to disenfranchised young men with guarantees of a heaven filled with sensual delights, sources said new enticements such as a 40-hour work week and a $37,000 starting salary with annual cost of living adjustments, make blowing one's self up in a crowded marketplace significantly more appealing to the many chronically unemployed individuals in the Muslim world.
Sources confirmed that suicide bombers are also being promised a lavish otherworldly paradise where braces for their children are covered up to $2,000 or 80 percent of the total cost by dental insurance.
"The strategy is to make these young men believe that the rewards of heaven outweigh the prospects of life on Earth," senior intelligence official Nathan Lowell said. "So you can imagine how effective it would be to promise an individ≠ual living in squalor that Allah will provide a glorious hereafter, one with gainful employment, room for advancement, and a nice little tuition reimbursement policy."
"By 2014, we believe al-Qaeda's new approach will be drawing hundreds of thousands of young men willing to annihilate themselves for the glory of God if it helps them get health coverage," Lowell added.
Al-Qaeda has also reportedly told recruits that the bombers responsible for last month's suicide strike in a Baghdad bazaar were immediately transported to a "nice little two- bedroom setup" in the afterlife where they are already making enough money programming computers part-time to eventually be able to open their own catering business.
"Thus far the martyrdom initiative has been very successful," security analyst David Ellsbury said. "Many are showing up at radical madrassas eager to learn more information about heaven's pension program."
"The promise of a decent parking spot alone lures about 10 potential suicide attackers per month," Ellsbury continued.
A recently authenticated video broadcast on Al Jazeera last Thursday shows Osama bin Laden at a table in an undisclosed location explaining the afterworld's generous paid time-off policy, which he said permits "all lions of jihad who exalt Islam with their blood" to cash in a certain number of unused vacation days at the end of each year if they so choose.
Later in the video, bin Laden exalts Allah's willingness to help pay for a portion of all afterlife gym memberships, which bin Laden called a "pretty good deal."
Ahmad Ali, who is among the 35 percent of unemployed citizens in Yemen, told reporters that he was reluctant to consider the offer made by the al-Qaeda representative in his hometown, but said he might have no other choice if he wanted to get ahead.
"Honestly, blowing myself up looks like the best way for me to earn a steady paycheck right now," said Ali, 32, a former taxi driver who has not worked in almost three years and who has never earned more than $2 a day. "I just want a chance to have a decent job and maybe own a house with a lawn. And I think stuffing a bunch of explosives in the trunk of my cab and murdering a group of police cadets is probably the best way to go about it."
"I'm really not crazy about killing myself and a bunch of other people," Ali added. "But if it means a job with flextime that allows me to work from home one day a week, I can't pass that up. I've got kids to think about."