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The portion of the Encyclopedia of Jihad dealing with encryption.

Text of al-Qaeda's Cypher Manual

Page 1: al-Qaeda's Cypher Manual

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Page 2: al-Qaeda's Cypher Manual


Encyclopedia of Jihad, Security and Intelligence Volume, (pp. 1049-1059)t


Included in the science of secret commrmication is the topic secret writins:

writing by use of secret ink or ciphers2. kr this study we will explain the meaning of

enciphering, and some other terms that are connected to the topic.

Ciphers is the operation of replacing letters or numbers in such a way that they are

replaced with other lettels that are not the originals, with the intention of concealing,

camouflaging, and hiding the real mer.:ring. This is agreed upon by all of the sides that

are concemed with this enciphering, and especially betwee,n the branches of


Enciphering3: Transforming the plain text into secret writing.

Al-Code (the Code) or The Secret Messaee: - This is a group of letters or words that

represent otler words or topics. For example, I say, "I am starting a business," The

meaning of this phrase is, with rcspect to the other patties, "I am declaring JITIAD; and I

am starting it."

Wtitine with Ciohers: The art of se,nding messages in a method that conceals its true

meaning from everyone but its recipient.

The procedure of writing by means of ciphers, symbols, and riddles and delivery is

composed of a number of basic elements (numerous aspects and standards).

1 - sender 2 - rcceiver 3 - enciphereda message

I The document appearc to be an imprecise trauslafion fronr a second language into Arabic. Underscorirrgand arrolvs have been added to this document to facilitate its reading.t The Arabic nornshfrah [:IFR? in SATTS] is equally translated into the terms "ciphers" or "enciphering"based on its use in the original document.3 Thc verbal noun tasffrft:FlR] could bE translated "encrypting" or "encoding" but is gencrally ransiated

"enciphering" for the sake ofconsistency.


Page 3: al-Qaeda's Cypher Manual



4 - a common system on the basis of which it operates and the security rules adhered to

by our security sources.

5 - a secure means of h'ansrritting.

These elements are strongly linked together. But if one element fails in its task theu tire

entire operation (of secret communications) tails. On one hand, the information spills out.

On the other, the information is cut offfrom the other party. For a fwther explanation see

Figtne l, which shows the elements' association with respect to each other.

The best means of conveying information is to oombine it rvith obvious meanings

so the one who comes across it does not understand it. Secret writing, also named the

science of concealment, encompasses two methods:

Ciphers and Codes: In the system of ciphers the messages change according to fixed

formulas that make solving thern difficult, except for those who know the formulas.

The systern of codes uses a series of codes and words that represent the words of

the text in such a way that understanding the message becomes impossible without being

acquainted with the codebook and its table. Now, how do we learn the steps of

enciphering a message, and what are the steps? The answer: There are important rules

that must be known first in writing oiphers.

There is a thing in the enciphered message called the solution key: - This is a

number or a code that is agreed upon in advance and is found in the

enciphered message. Naturally, this is to increase the complexity of the

enciphered message. It can be said that the enciphered message relies on a

number of factors in order to increase the complexity: (1) a solution key and

4 Tlre past particrple mush{far [M:FR] can also be tanslated as "encrypted" or "encoded." See footuote 3.


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@1 the text, the most direc! clear fomr of the message. The mcaning of this is

clarified inside ofthis study.

Now we take in detail what is memt by the cipher key in a clear way.

The Cipher Kev; It is the path that the reseiver of the code follows in order to arrive at

the breaking down the message's code and oipher. Occasionally the key has an unspecific

goal. It is a communication to the receiver that we are the ones who sent the message and

no one else but us; because it is possible for an organizatiotr to penehate into the systems

and begin inlerference operations with messages-its goal is to fragment the system.

Definitely here, inside of the secret communication is a specific key or, we can call it if

wished, the secret word.


Diplomats and sailors prefer using encodeds symbols because they are stationed at

one place.

As for intelligeirce people and the army, they prefer using cipher becawe they are

constantly moving and do not have the time to work throug! lvrittng special books of


Now to the types of cipher, or the methotls of enciphering messages.

Twes of Ciphors:

The Chart's6 Cipher: We vvill clari$r this in its place.

s tbtct.t Th" acfiral word found herc ahdathiaris [AIIDACIAT] is comrnonly translated "coordinates"; but in thiscontcxt the term chart or table is more accurate.


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The Cipher of Books, Newspapers, andMagazines include a number of methods. Among

them is assembling the ietters found in a magazine according to apreviously agreed upon


The Cipher of Symbols andTerms: And this also we clarifu in its place.

To use cipher in aprosperous and successful way one must fulfill and accomplish the


The requirement that two copies exist

The requirement of defining beforehand the identity of the sender and the


The requireme.nt of appointing the time and date beforehand for the

communication, and an alternate date and time.

Begin the message by defining the sender's identity and the identity of the one to

whom it is sent.

That the message be short and understandable.

The necessity that there be an agreeme,nt beforehand between the sender and the

one to whom it is sent.

Changing the tables'7 key after five or six communications.

Conceal any trace of the key and the message after its solution and

comprehension are guaranteed.









' Ibtd.


Page 6: al-Qaeda's Cypher Manual




Also to understand that there are two systems in enciphering, or tlat it includes two

systens upon rvhich it depends in enciphering messages.

The First: It is the System of Tlansp_osine.

The Second: It is the System of Substihrtion.

As for the method of the System of Transposing now we clarifu it as follows: First of all

there is a difference between transposing of the letter from one place to another and

substituting one letter for another. I mean that the esse,ntial nature of the method of

transposing is changing the locations of the letters, and its conventional definition is as


It is: - Shifting the ciphers. This operation includes reorganizing the leters or changing

their sequence in the open message without making changes to the essence of the letter

itself. This example is provided to you for clarification, for example: "l want to write

"ABW ANS :HID" [which means 'Abu Anas is a marfy'."]

In this example we ire using the method of geometric forms to distribute the letters. If

you noticed the sentEnce, it is composed of three words. The first word is composed of

three letters, the second word likewise, and the third is composed of four letters. Now

follow the numbered steps to increase clarification:

fthis portion of text was illegible]

We distribute the letters along the heads of the fbrms B






Page 7: al-Qaeda's Cypher Manual

WSD,t /t it/\ /\ / \*_J *J *J


4 - Now we take from the figures the higlest horizontal level (--


3 - Now we rotate the letters one rotation to the right [forus to the left]. Therefore it

becomes as follows

> Or we write all of the Ietters fouad on this level. It is as follows: (W S D).

We also write it together with the bottom level. It is (A B A N I H I).

5 - To increase the complcxity of the message we insert some nurnbErs and take down the

number of letters in each word as follows: the first word 3 letters; and the second 3 letters; and

the third 4 laten. We add with each number the number ( 6 ). tt is as follows:


+6 +6 +6

9 9 9 [sic]

Thefinalformofthemessage is((WSD) ABAN: Htt9 9 10ll.Now, afterthe final

form of the message, we must nention that the receiver knows this metlod also.

The role of the receiver is as follows:

1 - The first step the receiver does is to take the numbers and subtract the solution k"y ( 6 I

from them. The number is (9 9 10 ). the result of the subtraction = ( 3 3 4 i. Oo tl"


Page 8: al-Qaeda's Cypher Manual



basis of this result he draws the nunber of figures. The receiver is able to know the

number of words from the number of letters found in the parenthesis (W S D).

Now we draw the agreed upon figures. The agreernent is as follows:

We selectthe number of points of tre triangle on the basis of the number of letters inside

of the first word. For example it means the word (ABW) ["Abu" or "fa*rer"]8 has 3

letters. Therefore, we select a triangle having 3 points, and so on.) The beginner

distributes the letters from the first parentlresis.

3 - The remaining letters are dishibuted according to the empty spaces in sequence from the

right to the lefte.

t The parenthesis should end here, but the author misplaces it firrther in the sent€nce at the end ofthe words

"and so on."e This is for the Arabic version; in our case from left to right.)0

-IDd.d. see diagrarn immediatelr above item 4


WSD{\ 4\ d\t\ /\ /\/l /l l.)

atsg A< N :'H I

4 - Now he rotates to the opposite of flre se.nders' rotation of the letters. lt means that he

moves the letters in the left directionr0. So the letters go back like so:


#)w N4)s s'Po

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5 - Now he writes the letters of the entire figure together. It is as follows ABW

ANS :HlD ["Abu Anis is a Martyr"].

Another example regarding the method oftransposing, on the basis of the system of geometric


For example we need to write (ANSIIB FWRA ["withdraw immediately'').

t - We count the number of letters in each word. The tirst word has 5 letters and the second

4 letters, by dropping the nunationll.

2 - We select a pentagonal form for the first word and tetagonal form .or the second word.

We distribute the letters.


3 - We shift the first cycle to the rightl2 and write the highest horizontal tevel firsl along

with adding the number 5 to the number of letters in each word like so:


ll This refers to the diacritical mark that changes the sound at tlre end ofa word to 'AN' when converting itinto its advcbial form.l12 [n our case to the left, see diagram below item 3.


N+- tBiH






Page 10: al-Qaeda's Cypher Manual


Asweagreedthereceiversubtractsthenumbers ( 10 - 5l:5 and( 9 - 5 l:4. ttris

meaus flrat flre first rvord has 5 leters and the second has 4 letters. Therefore. he draws

the geomefiic figures according to the number of letters [see the figrne below]. After this,

he dishibutes the letters, beginning with the letters of the highest level and then the

remaining letters, incrementally from right to leftr3, The last step is the oppositer4 of the

two rolations. He writes the letters of the figures - and so forth:

As.F .)'n^lrr



The Cioher's Concealment: One of the many methods is the concealment of ciphers by

tle s)4stem of ffansposing. It is the letters or words in a certain text. We understaud it as

an agreed upon method. This is not obvious, for example ( t *21.

Example 1: Take the following message (LA TSR"WA BL TM?LWA. FAEN

SIAETIKM DWN MJIE ALMDD ['Don'tbe hasty, but proceed carefully. The victory

will come to you without the arrival of help."l).

If the agreement is made between the two sides to depend on the last word of the

ssntence [the bold words of example l].

The result is: "Proceed carefully. Help will come."

The methods vary according to flre agneement.

" Ibid.

'o Or "to reverse.- This portion of the description remains unclear after consulting the final figure that was

been provided. The figure appears to be identical, with respect to the relative locations of [etters, to the

figure immediately preceding it on the previous page.


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Example 2: (ATTNI ALQ:"IR T)GIB?A HMI MwEtM? ["shivering came ro me,

_.accompanied by a painful fever."])

If we take the first letters in the words the unknown word is (A.LTHM [ffanslation:

"sh'ggle"]). This cipher is appropriate for dissemination by telephone.

lmportant comments concerning interacting through cipher:

The sender is not permitted to lflow or carry the cipher key.

Each torvn has its own cipher, and if possible each group.

As a rule expressions of optimism are used with the ciphers, like "Journey on! Allah is

watching over you all."

Conrrentions must be agree upon for writing the following:

The nunationls, is it a letter or not? The hamzat6 is it an independent symbol or is it a

letter? The "taa marbuuta"lT, is it a'tah" [.?'] or a,taa,, [.T'] ? .,A1,,, is it solar or

lunar!8? Foreign words, how do you write them - like RpG [in English] how do you write

it (R BI J [inArabic]), etc.?

Enciphering bythe System of Substitution is understood as follows:

Replace each letter with another letter or designated character or designated nunber

according to the previous agreement between the two parties concerned with the contacl

and the reception, especially (the sender + the receiver).

It Grammar term for the diacritical mark that rnakes a noun indefinite or denotes an adverbial fuirction.16 PhonenricaUy equivalent to a letter, br.rt orthograplrically dependent upon other letter forms.

" A modified Arabic lefter '?' placed at the end of a word to indicate feminine gender functionallye-quivalent to both "ah- and'at''in diffetent contexts-r" Reference to pronunciation as "a!" or "a" plus the assimilation of the following letter.




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The method of zubstitution has degrees of complexity. We will begin with the simplest of

the methods. It is the Method of Coorrdinates (the Table Method). The following example

is among the simplest table forms. It is a very easy method and the first step in it is

drawing the table and its cells as follows:

We draw the horizontal cells (sguares) with the value that you need and arrange

the enkies (the numerals) in them.

We draw the vertical cells (squares) in the amount desired and anz.rge the enfries

(the numerals) in them.

I-ook at figure ( 1 ) (noting that there is an empty square at the beginning.)

Now between the horizontal level for the nurnbers and the vertical level for the

numbers we place the ( 28 ) letters. We place any synbols ttrat we want but with

the condition that the sender and the receiver have the same copy of the table.

Look at the figure.






1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

1 K N A R LA

2 S T B It H o

3 X C J W?

tO. Markl

4 U V I L

5 C G M?

fl,etterl R w

6 LBSR'?





Comments on the Table:


Page 13: al-Qaeda's Cypher Manual



lf I took any letter from the table, or any sigrr or symbol, then two numbers that I took

iudicate the one we took. The first number is horizoutal. The second number is

vertical. For exa:nple if we took the letter (A) we find the number ( 3 ) above ttre

letter (A); and on the horizontal level to the rightre of the letter (A) is the number ( 1

). This means that the coordinate numbers of (A) are ( 1,3 ). That is, the number of

the place where the letter A is found is in the row ( I ) and column ( 3 ). fnus Ae

numbers found at the top of the table are, in other words, the numbers of the columns

and numbers formd to the right2o of the table are the row numbers.

The second comment is that each letter, symbol, or word that is blue in color [the source

document contains no colors] is indicated by two numbers ouly, and no other, one for tle

row number and the other for the colunm number.

An example oftle use of the table: I assume that I want to write the foilowing: (BDAET

ALHRB [translation: "the war began"]).

Look at the frst word and the fust Ietbr in it, (B). Therefore I search directly in the table

for the letter (B). If I found i! I search for the column number found at the letter. Also I

search for the row number formd at the letter. lt is recorded beginning with the row

number. lf you notice the coordinates of the letter "baa" [B] are ( 2,3 1. I mean by that

the second row and the third column, because the coordinates of letter "daal" [D] are (

6,4)" [sic], the coordinates of letter (A) are ( 1,3 ), and the coordinates of letter (T) are

'n In our case left.to lbid.?l tcp' is rnissing from the sanrple table, and coordinate (6,4) is empty.





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(2,2).As for the second word, it is AL-IIARB ["the war"]. Thus the coordinates of

letter (A) are ( 103 ), the coordinates of letter (L) are (4,4 ), the coordinates of letter (J)

ue (2,5 ) [sic], the coordinates of letter (R) are ( 5,5 ; ana *t" coordinates of letter (B)


The next step is to bring together all of the numb ers {2,3 - 6,4 - I ,3 - 2,2 - 7 ,3

- 4,4.-2,5 -5,5 -2,3 1.

Now we do the step that increases the order in sequence. Remove tt,e commas and the

dashes between the nuurbens as follows: 236413221344255523. Naturallythis

operation does not hinder the receiver's action because he knows tlat each joined pair of

numbers represents one letter.

The last operation that we paform to increase complexity is to add the solution number

(the solution key) to each one of these numbers. Let it be, for example, 3 is as follows:


+33 3333333333333333

s697 46ss4677s88856

Thus the final form for the cipher is (5 69146554677 58885 61.

All that remains is for the solver to refer to this cipher. This means the receiver retraces

the steps in reverse exactly, beginning by deducting the solution number and then


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successively separates each number. He searches for these numbers in the copy that he

has, and writes that.

A very important commert assume that you established the solution number as 8, and

you want to add it to each ofthe previous nurnbers. l,et us take for example the first

number. lt is ( 2 ); thus ( 8+2-70 ). When the result of the addition comes out with zero

[sic.] (meaning more than one cell) it is preferred that you write zero, which indicates that

the number is 1 10 ). Therefore when the solver of the message sees ( 0 ) he knows that

it is ( 10 ) and subtacts the solution number from t 10 I tsic.l. T:ris is so that the solver

does not make a mistake in the higher numbers or the result of the additional operation.

Now we take the opposite example: Presune that you are the solver of the message and

that it came to you in this form 4424324532 ). The solutiou uumber agreed upon at

this time is ( 1 ). Consequently the steps are simply, firs! we deduct ( 1 ) from each

number as follows:

4424324s32-11 I 1t 11111

33.t3.2r.34.21Second, we take each number one at a time and search for them in the table. For example

the firstnumberis ( 3.3 ) [seechartonpage 1l]. Itmeansthethirdrow,thirdcolumn.

Therefore it is the letter (J). The number 1 1.3 I is the letter (A). The number ( 3.1 ) tsicl

is the letler (S). The number t3.4 I is the letter (W). The number ( 2.1) is the letter (S).

He joins the letters and the result is the word (JASWS ["spy"])



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Another mcthod for using the table is (by the sptem of fransmitting - the alphabetical

[sequence] search method).

The method is as follows: we make a regular table with cells but according to the nunber

of ietters of the words desired to be chosen. The operating principle of tltis table is to take

the first row of the table and fill the empty spaces found rvith the solution word (the key

word). The row that is directly undorneath it has the solution number. We have the lower

squares left over. Therefore we write our secret message directly in lhem frorn the riglrt to

tlre lef2. Each square takes one letter. To increase the clarity, fbllow the fbllowing steps:

We draw the table and create for example tle key word (XI-AH ALDIN [Sa]lah

al-Din or Saladin, a Medieval Muslim hero]. We write these lettets in the first row.

We give to each letter of the letters of the key word a number, with the condition that a

repeated letter is given the following number. Notice the repeated lettsr (A) in the

solutiou word, how the frst (A) hkes the number 1 I ; ana tfre second (A) takes the

number ( 2 ), beginning from (A to I) according to the alphabetical sequence.

We decide what we want to write. For example, we want to send tlre following message:

(ANTYR T"LIMATI\A IWM ALIlvf'? OMS? SBTBR ["wait for ou inshuctions Friday

5 September"]) Now we write the message from the right to left, square by square (see

the figure.)

2 In our case from teft to tigltt.






Page 17: al-Qaeda's Cypher Manual


5 6 I 3 2 7 4 9 8

A N T Y R T tl L I

M A T N A I w M A

L J M ? o M S ?



4 - Look over table wetl. You will observe that each number has a column below it rvith

letters in it. If I now took each number and the letters below it the form is as follows (take

flre numbers in order-) :



5 - Now we write the letter groups without numbers:

(TTMT _ RA?B - YN'M _ ..wM - NAJB _ TloR - I,A? - LMS). This is the frnal fonn

for tle cipher.

With regard to the solver, he has the solution nunrber and solution word" which changes

at each agreed upon period. He nothing more to do than to rctum the original numbers to

the groups according to the sequence. He rearranges them in the table and reads the

message in the regular form.



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The method of enciphering letters with lefters [sic.]:

The method of enciphering the symbols with the letter [sic.], where the numbers are

substitrled (the numerical coordinates with tbe alphabetical coordinatesfl]' The

dimensions of this table are 4 columns aud 7 rows. See the figure'

Notice that these are the letter coordinates. Now the empty space we fiIl with the ( 28 I

alphabetical letters. There is no condition on the sequence'










A B .I D


B H Y o

J B S a


? J G B V

w c x U L

N ,) w I

Page 19: al-Qaeda's Cypher Manual


Now we take apractical example on the basis of the table. For example, we wanr to

encipher the word ( AIZR ["be cautious"] )

I- We take the letter ( A ). We obselve the table and find that is the result of the

intersection of the letters (A and J ) frefer to table on the previous page].

II- We take the letter ( H ). We observe the table and find that is the result of the

intersection of the letters ( B and A )

V - We take the letter ( Z ). W e observe the table and find that is the result of the

intersection ofthe letters ( D and J).

VffI - We take the letter ( R ). We observe the table and find that is the result of the

intersection ofthe letters ( A and D ).

The e,ntire result is ( A J ) ( B A ) ( D J) ( A D ). The second form is ( AJBADJAD ). The

solver has a copy of this table. He comes to ( A J ) and takes their intersection. lt is the

letter ( A ), and so on with the remainder.

Exa:nple 2 : we want to write the word ( URIQ ["rcute"]). (U:W I) (R=A D) (I= D)


The cipher is ( WJAD;DJD )

Other methods of substituting letter by letter:

Cipher as slow as a Mousez3: This means that alphabetical letters are distributed in the

shape of a rectangular form. This table is fixed. This table can begin with the agreed

upon key word at the top of the table.


tt This is a "Fast Cipher."


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Study the table very well before you read the steps of the operation (frgure 4). |f you

noticed the key word, it is ( M"AWI? ["a howling dog"]), located at the top of the table'

The remaiuing squares have the letters of the alphabetic being distributed just as you

want and according to the agreement.

[Note that B and T are entered twice, while K and L arc missing-]

The first method of the table is: using the horizontal rows. But how are the rows used?

The first of these usages is:

Substinrte each real letter with the letter that follows it on the right fin our case


An example from the table: this example is that we want to encipher the word (

AZ?B [,,go"] ). Therefore the enciphering is as follows:


This is a singular [sic.] method.



M A w

I ? c s

U B R a

v N J


Y H G z

T F o x

Page 21: al-Qaeda's Cypher Manual


The final tbnn is ( *Gru ). Tha'e is the dual [sic.] method that enciphers each pair of the


[W] and the 'eiin' f'l is to the right2s of the 'aliph' [A].

tI - Substitute the desired real letter requested with the cipher letter precisely underneath the

real letter's position. An example is the word ( SJN flaifl ) ( S = D ) ( J : N ) ( N : V )'

Therefore the final form is ( D N V ).

An important comment:

There are letters on the right [for us left] of the chart for which there is no letter on its

righ#. How do we do this? (We take the answer as it is')

A - Substitgte the real letter with a letter along the diagonal line and in the diagonal

direction agreed upon together. So if, for example, we took the diagonal form [sic.] to the

lower left [in olr case the right] and we tookthe word ( JWAB f"answet''] ), the solution

is : ( J = J ) ( W : W ) ( A : S ) ( B : N ). Notice flrat the ( J ) does not have a diagonal

line. The solution -- we took the same letter and can change the method according to tle

agreement. The benefit of this method is that you are able to encipher an entire message!

each word enciphered by a different method than the others, or that you are able to

encipher each letter by its own method. This is very possible.

An example : enciphering words, each word by one of the previous methods.

AL:AR" RQM WAHD I Street Number 1 ]

(A :(3) (L-T) ( :- : ) (A :")( R :B)"

2o lhid.

'5 lbtd.

'o llrtd.




Page 22: al-Qaeda's Cypher Manual



( W : \tr/ ) ( A: S ) ( H: O ) (!:Q )tn

Thus thefinal form is asfollows:("T: "8 i N IL/WS OQ )

NGIC-2003-00 17 4-HT



tt This is the methoddescribed in paragraph I,imnrediatetybelowthe table on p.19. If one of the fwo Benhies in the table is the missing L, then "r.:T" can be correct by this method. The writer Ieft out the lastletter of the first rvord in this example.tE This is the method described in paragraph tr above.t'This

is tbe method described in paragraph A above.