The question has been asked: "Why do the bin laden's favor such a short barreled AK??"
We are speaking here about the snub-nosed version of the AK-74. The AKS-74U.
A weapon designed as a half-measure between an assault rifle and a sub-machine gun. A weapon originally intended to be used by armored vehicle crews, etc. For some reason, a favorite companion of the jihadi Al Qaeda villainous leadership of Osama, Zawahiri, etc.
"the AKS-74U . . . in terms of tactical deployment, bridges the gap between a submachine gun and assault rifle. It is intended for use mainly with special forces, airborne infantry, rear-echelon support units and armored vehicle crews."
A weapon, too, when displayed in the background during a visual communique from Al Qaeda leadership, functions as a signalling device of some sort? Allows operational units to know that secret messages have been forwarded to recipients, placed in a "lock box" and are now retrievable?
[this is all speculation on my part!!]
A signalling system relying upon the orientation of the AK in the image, with or without magazine! The AK is placed to either the right or left of Osama. The AK has an inserted magazine or is sans! The magazine, if inserted points to the right or left. Exact placement of the various elements has significance only discernible to the initiated? Jihadi operational units know the system and can readily determine if the message "lock box" needs to be emptied!
Secret messages sent via steganography [steg]. Secret messages embedded within an ordinary-appearing image, an image placed somewhere ["lock box"] on the Internet! Steganography, a cryptographic legacy of the Victorian era [used even before that too] long thought to be passe', outmoded, archaic and not even any longer worthy of consideration, NOW enjoying a remarkable comeback!!
"Steganography is the art and science of writing hidden messages in such a way that no-one apart from the sender and intended recipient even realizes there is a hidden message, a form of security through obscurity"
"International interest in R&D for steganography technologies and their commercialization and application has exploded in recent years. These technologies pose a potential threat to national security. Because steganography secretly embeds additional, and nearly undetectable, information content in digital products, the potential for covert dissemination of malicious software, mobile code, or information is great."
A signalling system as exemplified by the examples below:
There was even before 9/11, speculation that Al Qaeda was using the Internet to send secret communications to operatives. And in the aftermath of 9/11, such speculation became even more of a concern.
"a captured terrorist training manual, the "Technical Mujahid, a Training Manual for Jihadis" contains a section entitled 'Covert Communications and Hiding Secrets Inside Images.'"
The 9/11 commission did look into this matter - - their conclusion being - - INCONCLUSIVE!!?? NO ONE HAS A GOOD HANDLE ON THIS??!!
Go here to see an interesting and very informative presentation on steganography, courtesy of the crypto guru Elonka.
Please note too that these various steganography algorithms not only hide the message, but most allow for encryption as well. An interceptor, knowing that an image contains a hidden message, is faced with a cryptanalytic problem as well!! Algorithms that are readily available from the Internet, freeware and shareware both!!
Personally, I am fairly impressed with the entire modern steg concept. With something like 28 billion images on the Internet, 1 billion or so being viewed daily, the task of EVEN LOCATING AND EMBEDDED SECRET MESSAGE AND DECRYPTING SAME IS NEXT TO IMPOSSIBLE? Your average-everyday-jihadi has hit upon the "gold mine" of messaging that defies compromise? I fear so!