ABBOTTABAD, PAKISTAN—Representatives of the Osama bin Laden Foundation announced Tuesday the winners of the 2013 Mohamed Atta Fellowship, an annually awarded scholarship and stipend that is bestowed on the 20 “most exceptionally talented young terrorists” from around the world.
The foundation, which reportedly aims to promote the ideals of strength, leadership, and Sharia law, is said to select the “best and brightest” aspiring terrorist operatives between the ages of 15 and 25, providing each with a $20,000 grant to study under experienced Islamic extremists at leading training camps, safe houses, and caves across the greater Middle East and Africa.
“By the grace of the Almighty, I’m pleased to award this year’s Atta Fellowships to the finest group of young terrorists we’ve seen in years,” said foundation president and current high-ranking al-Qaeda officer Ali Abdul-Rahman at the gala dinner honoring the recipients. “We couldn’t be more excited to help these youngsters fulfill their immense potential and watch them grow into wonderful soldiers of the Holy Prophet, and one day, God willing, martyrs.”
“Our Atta Fellows come from every corner of the world and all walks of life, but what they all share is a fervent devotion to Islamism and an unflinching commitment to crushing the enemies of the one true God, Allah,” he continued. “These bright, inspiring young faces are indeed the very future of Jihad.”
According to officials, this year’s fellowship recipients were chosen from an extensive pool of over 900 hopefuls from around the world and include up-and-coming militants from Saudi Arabia, Mali, Kuwait, Nigeria, the United States, and Oman.
To apply for the fellowship, applicants were reportedly required to write a 1,200-word personal statement describing their past experiences in terrorism, their future ambitions, and what fatwā means to them, while also including three letters of recommendation, five samples of handmade ricin, and a detailed blueprint for an attack on a major U.S. or European city that would kill at least 500 civilians.
After the initial applicant pool was whittled down, 35 finalists were reportedly flown to remote locations in Yemen for in-person interviews and advanced electrical wiring and chemistry tests, after which the bin Laden Foundation’s board of trustees selected the 20 winners.
“We look not only for talent, but also a self-starting attitude, an ability to think outside the box for ways to impose a fundamentalist caliphate across the globe, and a commitment to give back to their local extremist communities,” said Abdul-Rahman, adding that many fellows come from lower-class and underprivileged backgrounds. “For example, I was awestruck by the application of Yasin Kenadid, a 16-year-old young man from Mogadishu who built explosive vests on his own every day after school, dreaming that he might one day appear on television alongside his heroes and a blindfolded American journalist. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more advanced plot to detonate a dirty bomb outside UN headquarters from someone his age.”
“You can expect big things from these kids,” added Abdul-Rahman, smiling.
The Osama bin Laden Foundation was originally founded in 1990 by the late al-Qaeda leader with the stated goals of spreading radical Sunni principles to poor and underdeveloped regions of the world and empowering impoverished residents to lift themselves up and massacre Westerners. The fellowship program, inaugurated in 1995 and later renamed to commemorate the life of former fellow and lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, has since produced over 100 suicide bombers and dozens of other notable alumni, many of whom have been accepted into such prestigious organizations as al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and the Central Intelligence Agency.
Following bin Laden’s death in 2011, the foundation reportedly received a $500,000 endowment from the Pakistani government, allowing the expansion of the program from 10 annual fellowships to 20.
“To be able to learn from some of the same guys who worked on the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing in Nairobi and to study insurgency tactics under a legend like Ayman al-Zawahiri—it’s an unbelievable opportunity,” said 18-year-old Shahid Farooq of Kandahar, Afghanistan, speaking alongside his proud mother and father. “I can’t wait to get started. This really is a dream come true.”
“Death to all infidels!” Farooq added.
At press time, U.S. intelligence sources confirmed that the current whereabouts of all 20 Atta Fellows are unknown.