Recent threats to Twitter's top executives made by a pro-Islamic State (IS) jihadi media group are the latest developments of a long-lingering threat: jihadism on social media.
The murder of twenty-one Christians in Libya by an affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) has brought the sad decline of that country back to international attention. A few months ago, I noted that the ongoing collapse of Libya was not random chaos, nor was it just the result of “militancy” or a lack of governance; rather there was purposeful action by al-Qaeda (AQ)-linked groups pushing the country in a direction that favors violent extremism.
The Shabaab al-Mujahideen Movement, al-Qaeda's branch in Somalia, released a documentary-style video on the September 2013 raid at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, and threatened that "Westgate was just the beginning, and with all hopes of peace forever dashed, Kenya's darkest hour is yet to come."
The Islamic State (IS) has received dozens of official pledges from in Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Indonesia, and several other countries. Perhaps the most interesting—not to mention alarming—of its pledges has been from former Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and tribal leaders in the “Khorasan,” an old name for the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.
The Western powers, many of which concerned with the threat of Boko Haram, are watching the path towards the Nigerian federal elections very closely. The U.S. and Britain both expressed dismay with the February 9 decision by President Goodluck Jonathan and his ruling Peoples' Democratic Party to delay the scheduled election from February 14 to March 28.
The Islamic State (IS) released a video showing the beheading the 21 Egyptian Christians it kidnapped in Libya in January 2015. The video showed fighters beheading the prisoners in line on the beach and, after statements from the fighter, showed red-stained waves crashing into the beach.
There is a great deal of recent news from Syria, most of it bad. But first, the one bright spot: Kobani, a large city on the border with Turkey that has been under siege by the Islamic State (IS) for several months, has been liberated. A combination of U.S. airstrikes and Kurdish boots on the ground forced IS forces to abandon their attempt to take the city, although not before murdering hundreds (if not thousands) and forcing hundreds of thousands of Syrian Kurds to flee into Turkey.
The speculation that Craig Hicks, who killed three Muslim college students in Chapel Hill, NC on February 10, 2015, may have done so out of anti-religious motivation highlights the dangerous but under-examined threat of domestic terrorism.
Take away the media group watermarks, and mute the spoken anti-Western propaganda, and the Islamic State's (IS) most recent video featuring John Cantlie might look more like a VICE News story: a brave, skinny jean-wearing journalist documenting a rubble-covered warzone. The video, titled "From Inside Aleppo," marks yet another step in one of history's most bizarre climbs to superstardom. In a matter of months, Cantlie, whom IS had originally intended to be a conduit into Western discourse, has surprised both himself and his captors by becoming a champion of the jihadist movement.
The Islamic State’s (IS) decision to burn alive the captured Jordanian pilot, Mu’adh al-Kasasibah, has sent shock waves around the world. In addition to the sheer brutality of the act, the decision by IS to distribute a video of their atrocity, and the fact that ordinary people in Raqqa—including children—were forced to watch his death, are all causes for horror and condemnation. Even some radical clerics—like Salman al-‘Awdah—have reacted with disgust and argued that burning people alive is forbidden by Islamic law (Shariah).
In regard to the fight against terror, much of the world's attention is currently centered on the Middle Eastern region, and deservedly so. However, the West would be remiss to forget that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its militant Islamic allies, Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA) and Ansar Dine, an AQIM-aligned jihadist group, controlled over half of the sovereign territory of Mali prior to French intervention. This two-year mission by France and accompanying nations may provide a promising alternative to anti-terror approaches of recent decades.
Just a few months ago, President Obama could point to Yemen as a positive example of U.S. counter-terrorism policy. The resignation last week of Yemen’s President, Prime Minister, and cabinet has, however, thrown the future of the country, and U.S. counter-terrorism (CT) policy, into disarray.
Islamic State (IS)-linked Twitter accounts distributed a new video of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto Jogo, wherein he indicated that it would be his final message, and unless the Jordanian government frees Sajida al-Rishawi within 24 hours, he and captive Jordanian pilot Mu'adh al-Kasasibah will be executed.
Jihadists and jihadist supporters not aligned with the Islamic State (IS) condemned a recent speech by IS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-'Adnani, released on January 26, as further dividing the global jihadist movement. Along with a renewed call for lone-wolf attacks, the speech, entitled, "Say, 'Die in Your Rage!'," touted the recent pledges of various group leaders from Khorasan, the Afghanistan/Pakistan region:
The Islamic State's (IS) January 20 release of "A Message to the Government and People of Japan," a video demanding a ransom from the Japanese government for the lives of two Japanese citizens, has raised many questions—perhaps the most prevalent of which being, Why Japan?
2014 saw a number of developments further solidifying jihadi attempts to expand their battles to include fronts in Southeast Asia. Jihadi media organizations have continued their efforts to develop content in languages spoken in the region, while al-Qaeda (AQ) even announced the establishment of an official regional wing dedicated to the region.
The question of who was behind the Charlie Hebdo attack appears to have been settled with an explicit claim of responsibility by Nasr bin Ali al-Ansi, a key leader in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). There is a good deal of evidence that supports al-Ansi’s claim.
Christopher Lee Cornell, the 20 year old Cincinnati man also using the online persona "Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah" on social media, was arrested by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force on January 14, 2015 for allegedly planning to plant pipe bombs at the U.S. Capitol and then open fire on those nearby.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) January 14 release of a video claiming responsibility for the deadly attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris provides not only confirmation of its involvement, but also insight into the group’s methods of operation.
A pro-Islamic State (IS) hacking group calling itself the "CyberCaliphate" claimed hacking the Twitter and YouTube accounts of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), posting on them IS videos and alleged documents it stolen from networks and personal devices.
An Islamic State (IS)-linked Twitter account released a video showing Paris gunman Amedy Coulibaly pledging allegiance to the Islamic State (IS), displaying his weapons, and claiming a connection to Cherif and Said Kouachi, the Charlie Hebdo attackers, on January 11, 2014.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a speech from one of its top Shariah officials, Harith bin Ghazi al-Nadhari, speaking on the attack at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France, and threatening France with more operations if it does not stop "fighting" Islam and its symbols, and Muslims.
Following the January 7 armed attack on staff members of the French satirical news publication, Charlie Hebdo, French media sources have quoted a witness report that one of the shooters stated, "Tell the media that this is al-Qaeda in the Yemen," in reference to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Based on the long history of incitements against the newspaper by al-Qaeda (AQ) and AQAP, this account should not be dismissed.
The reported January 7, 2014 attack by three unidentified gunmen on the office of "Charlie Hebdo," a French satirical newspaper known for publishing material mocking radical Islamists, has triggered widespread celebration across the online jihadist community—particularly on Twitter.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released the 13th issue of its English magazine "Inspire," wherein it restated that its goal to assist in the “Jihad on America" and provided such information as a detailed manual to make a hidden bomb and a list of specified economic targets.
We always hear about the overwhelming social media campaigns by the Islamic State (IS), and how they flood the internet with gruesome images of beheadings, threats, military achievements, and victories. But what about al-Qaeda (AQ) fighters and supporters? After all, geographically speaking, they include a much larger array of areas and groups, from AQ in Afghanistan, Shabaab al-Mujahideen in Somalia, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Algeria, and al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS).
Over the past few weeks, the insurgent threat from al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s (AQ) affiliate in Syria has grown, even as actions by the Iraqi government, Kurdish forces, and tribal fighters have significantly reduced the territory controlled by the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq. The result is that the two fighting groups seem to be changing places in the size and scope of the military threat they present to the region. Meanwhile, the announcement by IS members that the group has built a “dirty bomb” and smuggled it into Europe creates the possibility that IS now presents as great a terrorist danger as the “imminent threat” posed by AQ’s Khorasan Group.
The U.S. Senate's report on the CIA's post-9/11 interrogation tactics, which included graphic accounts of torture, has ignited an overwhelming response from the online jihadist community, with many calling for retaliation against the U.S. and promoting jihad.
The Islamic State (IS) released a video from a Canadian fighter identified as "Abu Anwar al-Canadi" calling upon his fellow Muslim countrymen to carry out lone-wolf attacks and take Martin 'Ahmad' Rouleau as an example, who travel to join the ranks of the group.
On December 3, 2014, SITE Intelligence Group released a video from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), showing a hostage identifying as a British-American citizen named Luke Somers, calmly but sincerely pleading for his life. Before Somers’s plea, AQAP official Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi discusses American foreign policy in Muslim countries, including Yemen, and claims that Somers will suffer an “inevitable fate” if the U.S. does not meet the group’s demands (not specified in the video) in three days.
The U.S. is currently in its third month of its strategy to "disrupt and eliminate" the Islamic State. President Obama proclaimed from the outset that the United States would not commit ground troops to the conflict, but would instead conduct a calculated bombing campaign against the Islamic State (IS) and both train and arm designated rebel groups fighting against IS. Currently, the U.S. strategy is revealing some weaknesses.
"The only way to achieve results," a Japanese leftwing terrorist explained in 1972, "is to shock the world right down to its socks." More than four decades later, with the beheading of three Americans in a matter of months, there can be little doubt that the Islamic State (IS) has indeed achieved that result.
Following news that an individual attacked the Mexican consulate and Austin Police headquarters, white supremacist forum members distanced themselves from the attacks.
As the fighting continues in Syria and Iraq, much discussion has fallen upon the military response to the Islamic State (IS) and the Western bombing campaign and training efforts. What tends to be overlooked by the media, however, is the unique composition of the forces that make up the Islamic State (IS).
Jihadists and jihadist supporters online have launched a barrage of recruitment messages following a grand jury's decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for his killing of Michael Brown, an 18 year-old black male, in Ferguson, Missouri. Using the hashtag "#FergusonDecision," users characterized the decision as the result of America's racism while claiming jihad and revolution to be fitting responses.
The decision by the U.S. government to double the number of American forces in Iraq suggests that the current strategy against the extremists is not working. The U.S. has carried out numerous airstrikes and is lending support to the Kurds, moderate Syrian rebels, the Iraqi government, and anti-Islamic State (IS) tribal forces, but this has not stopped IS or al-Qaeda’s (AQ) affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (JN or al-Nusra Front), helped the situation in Syria or Iraq, or ended the threat to the homeland. The persistence of these challenges in the face of U.S. action might require a reconsideration of the level of effort necessary to prevent further atrocities and stop the extremists.
Three French fighters in the Islamic State (IS) urged the Muslims among their fellow countrymen to travel to Iraq or Syria to join the group, and told those unable to do so to carry out lone-wolf attacks in France, suggesting to poison food and water and to drive over victims.
After a gap of almost six weeks, the Islamic State (IS) released a video yesterday showing, along with the brutal simultaneous beheading of almost two dozen Syrian pilots, the head of American citizen Peter Kassig after it was severed from his body. Standing above his head was the British executor, known as "Jihad John," who killed other American and British citizens, challenging the US to send ground troops into Iraq and Syria.
The Islamic State's (IS) November 16, 2014 video release claiming the killing of American citizen Peter Kassig (also known as Abdul Rahman Kassig)—who was reportedly a practicing Muslim—has triggered dispute among jihadists and jihadist supporters regarding the permissibility of his killing. Such arguments on social media have pertained to both Kassig's sincerity as a Muslim as well as the truthfulness of reports claiming him to be one.
The Islamic State (IS) released a video showing the head of American citizen Peter Kassig after it was severed from his body, with the British executor who killed other American and British citizens challenging the U.S. to send ground troops into Iraq and Syria.
In the last 24 hours, five audio messages pledging allegiance to Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi were released on behalf of jihadist groups from Libya, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, and Algeria. Among those to pledge was the Sinai-based Ansar Beit al-Maqd (also known as Ansar Jerusalem), along with unidentified collectives of fighters representing different countries and regions: “Mujahidin of the Arabian Peninsula,” “Mujahidin of Libya” and “Mujahidin of Yemen.” However, a closer look into these pledges raises questions regarding their authenticity and the underlying intentions of IS with their release.
Fighters and civilians on the ground in Syria have begun voicing condemnation upon a wave of US airstrikes on November 6 targeting the Khorasan Group. Jihadist, Islamist, and other rebel groups and supporters alike have taken to condemning the airstrikes as attacks on the Syrian people and their fight against the regime.
The recent defeats of two US-backed rebel groups in Syria—Harakat al-Hazm, the US's largest recipient of support, and the Syria Revolutionaries Front (SRF) —by al-Qaeda's (AQ) Syrian affiliate, al-Nusra Front, delivered a major blow to the US-led coalition's fight against extremists in the country. Resulting from these attacks was the surrender of weapons and checkpoints to the group. Perhaps worse than the losses themselves, however, was the ultimate victory of al-Nusra Front, who will gain not only land and weapons from the battle, but also further support among Syrians—something that the US and its allies have yet to obtain.
In the fifth episode of the Islamic State's (IS) video series "Lend Me Your Ears," British captive John Cantlie discussed his experience with fellow prisoners from America and Europe, including fighters waterboarding them, and the "uncomfortable truth" about the U.S. and Britain not negotiating for their release.
The Islamic State (IS) has begun a new offensive on the Yazidis and Kurds in Northern Iraq. While reports are still tentative, it seems that IS has launched a three-pronged incursion into areas that they were previously expelled from by Peshmerga fighters and Iraqi security forces.
Two attacks in Canada within the span of three days—one in the form of a hit-and-run by suspected jihadist Martin Rouleau on October 20 in Quebec, and another by multiple shooters (one of whom identified as a Canadian national named Michael Zehaf-Bibeau) on October 22 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa—has prompted strong reactions among the online jihadist community.
When Canadian jihadist Martin Rouleau ran down two Canadian soldiers, Patrice Vincent and another one unnamed, in a hit-and-run on October 20, the method of attack seemed uncharacteristic of a jihadist. Jihadist attack efforts have typically leaned toward use of normal weapons—namely explosives, guns, and knives. Rouleau's attack, strangely, seemed to resemble an accident more than a terrorist attack. Based off of recent jihadist propaganda releases and chatter, Roulaeu's attack style may not be as much of an anomaly as it may be the beginning of a new norm in domestic terrorism.
With the release of their third installment of the "Lend Me Your Ears" video series on October 12, 2014, featuring British captive John Cantlie, the Islamic State (IS) has underscored the adaptability and sophistication of their propaganda pipelines.
I argued in my last post that the Khorasan Group, as well as a series of developments throughout the al-Qaeda (AQ) network, suggest the return of AQ as a potentially serious threat to the United States. A number of events in South Asia, which might have been overlooked if not for the threat from the Khorasan Group, are especially illustrative of the depth of the problem that the U.S. and the world are facing in the AQ network’s resurgence.
The decision by President Obama to carry out airstrikes against the Khorasan Group (also called the Khorasan Shura) and al-Qaeda’s (AQ) affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra (or al-Nusra Front), has shifted the conversation over threats to the U.S. from the Islamic State (IS) to AQ.
On Friday, October 3, 2014, the Islamic State (IS) released three English video releases and a set of photos within hours and posted it all posted on Twitter. These four releases raise a question, though: Why did IS release so much material in one day addressed to the West.
There is no doubt that IS is, once again, attempting to deliver a message to the West: You can't beat us. We are strong despite your war against us.
The Islamic State (IS) released a one-minute and eleven-second video titled "Another Message to America and its Allies" on October 3, 2014 showing the beheading of British aid worker Alan Henning and introduced another hostage, Peter Edward Kassig, an American aid worker.
On the evening of March 1, 2011, Arid Uka, an Albanian Muslim living in Germany, was online looking at YouTube videos. Like many before him, he watched a jihadist video begrudging the gruesome rape of a Muslim woman by U.S. soldiers—a clip edited and posted on YouTube for jihadi propaganda purposes. Within hours of watching the video, Uka boarded a bus at Frankfurt Airport where he killed two U.S. servicemen and wounded two others with a handgun.
In the second episode of the IS' video series "Lend Me Your Ears," British captive John Cantlie spoke on the 9/11 anniversary speech delivered by U.S. President Barack Obama, focusing on the build-up to war against the IS. The 5 minute, 34 second video was produced by the IS' al-Furqan Media Foundation, and was distributed on Twitter on September 29, 2014.
On September 26, 2014, Alton Nolen attacked two women, decapitating one, at the Vaughan Foods plant in Moore, Oklahoma. In a review of Nolen's Facebook profile, which is listed under the alias "Jah'Keem Yisrael," his first post appears to have been on February 16, 2009, and his last on September 24, 2014.
In the last two days, Washington, along with various media outlets, have been reporting on the "Khurasan Group," a shadowy terrorist cell in Syria in its later stages of an attack plot against an unspecified Western target(s). It seemed to come out of nowhere; America, in launching what has been specifically branded as a war on the Islamic State (IS), claims a victorious aerial attack against a group no one has ever heard of.
The truth, however, is that virtually everyone around the world has heard about this group, more likely by its other name: al-Qaeda (AQ).
In response to U.S. airstrikes on Islamic State (IS) and al-Nusra Front-affiliated targets, jihadists flooded social media—particularly Twitter—to condemn the attacks, call for jihadist unity in the region, and issue threats toward the U.S. and allied countries.
After releasing the trailer for the video, the Islamic State (IS) issued the documentary-style production, "Flames of War: Fighting Has Just Begun," promoting its cause and highlighting some of its major operations in Syria. The 55 minute, 13 second video was produced by the group's al-Hayat Media Center, and was distributed on Twitter on September 19, 2014.
The Islamic State (IS) released the first episode in which a British captive, John Cantlie, speaks on the alleged truth about the group that is hidden by the Western media. The 3 minute, 21 second video, entitled, "Lend Me Your Ears: Messages from the British Detainee John Cantlie," was produced by the group's al-Furqan Media Foundation, and distributed on Twitter on September 18, 2014.
An American citizen, Ali Muhammad Brown, is accused of executing four men—Leroy Henderson, Dwone Anderson-Young, Ahmed Said, and Brian Tevlin—in a shooting rampage across multiple states, intended as revenge against American policy in the Middle East. In response to investigators' questions, he stated: "All these lives are taken every single day by America, by this government. So a life for a life."
The Islamic State’s (IS) September 13 release of the video “A Message to the Allies of America,” showing the execution of British aid worker David Haines, marks the group’s first official release on Twitter since it began migrating between a series of alternative social media outlets two months ago.
The Islamic State (IS) released a video of beheading its British captive David Cawthorne Haines and threatening to execute another Briton, Alan Henning.
Supporters of the Islamic State (IS) took to Twitter to respond to President Barack Obama’s speech wherein he outlined his approach for eradicating the group.
Last night, President Obama laid out a plan to take on the Islamic State (IS), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS). While there is much to applaud in this speech, there are also serious gaps and challenges in the President’s plan that endanger the success of the effort.
While most American attention has been on the threat posed by the Islamic State (IS), previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), another danger has been building over the past few months. Since early July, al-Qaeda’s (AQ) affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) or al-Nusra Front, has been quietly on the move.
The Islamic State's phenomenal ability to entice young Western Muslims to the battlegrounds of Syria has relentlessly made headlines throughout 2014, with the activities of these fighters raising threat levels around the world. As noted recently by SITE Intelligence Group Director Rita Katz, jihadi groups in Syria go to great lengths to target propaganda at Westerners and to encourage disaffected and idealistic young Western Muslims to leave their home countries for battle.
Douglas McAuthur McCain, the American Islamic State (IS) fighter recently killed in Syria, is yet another story of an American turning to jihad in recent years. Meanwhile, officials indicated that the number of Americans who left to fight in Syria has doubled since January 2014, and while Washington and other Western countries continue to “discuss” plans on how to counter domestic, al-Qaeda (AQ) and the Islamic State (IS) have successfully brought the jihadist movement into Western homes more effectively than ever before.
In my last post I outlined the ideology that underlies the atrocities carried out in Iraq and Syria by the Islamic State (IS)—formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS). I also noted that, while welcome on humanitarian and national security grounds, the actions taken so far by the Obama administration are insufficient to guarantee the defeat of the extremists.
The Islamic State's (IS) released video showing the beheading of American photojournalist James Foley has a straight-forward purpose from an analytical standpoint: intimidation. The brutality demonstrated in the video says, "Don't mess with us." Simple. Beyond the surface level, however, there is an equally alarming element to this video: recruitment to jihad.
The fighter in the Islamic State's (IS) August 19, 2014 beheading video of James Foley has prompted intense reactions among Westerners. As the unidentified fighter's nationality was confirmed to be British, Prime Minster David Cameron cancelled his vacation to assist in what has quickly become an international investigation to identify this man. But while the execution marks a newly elevated step by IS to challenge the West, the fighter's British nationality should be of no shock.
Islamic State (IS)-supporters took to Twitter to respond to IS's release of a video showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley on August 19, 2014—collectively using the hashtags "#A_Message_to_America," based off the title of the IS video, and "#NewMessageFromISIStoUS," a modification of the recent hashtag formed in response to U.S. airstrikes, #AMessagefromISIStoUS."
The Islamic State (IS) released a video showing its beheading of an American citizen, James Wright Foley, and its threatening to execute another, Steven Joel Sotloff, if U.S.-authorized military operations against the group continue.
UPDATE: Al-Hayat Media Center and remaining Islamic State accounts on Diaspora accounts have been taken down.
Al-Hayat Media Center, the Islamic State's (IS) English media arm, released a video on August 19 showing the beheading of U.S. photojournalist James Foley, who was kidnapped in Syria in November 2012. The video, titled "A Message to America," was disseminated and promoted on Diaspora, a social media website, and also threatened to kill Steven Sotloff, another U.S. journalist held prisoner by IS since August 2013.
On August 16, 2014, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released an English-language publication calling for lone wolf jihadi attacks, targeting American, British, and Israeli interests. Among the most striking new elements in the publication, titled "Palestine: Betrayal of the Guilty Conscience," is the introduction of new attack targets for lone wolves in the United States and the United Kingdom within its reissue of AQAP's 2010 car bomb manual, "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom."
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a new English-language publication inciting for car bombs and provided a list of Western targets for jihadists to attack. The publication, entitled "Palestine: Betrayal of the Guilty Conscience" and posted on Twitter on August 16, 2014, contains Gaza-related articles from previous issues of AQAP's "Inspire Magazine" and speeches from al-Qaeda (AQ) leaders inspiring lone-wolf attacks against U.S. and global interests.
Once again, the conventional wisdom in Washington about al-Qaeda (AQ) and the broader jihadi terrorist threat has been proven wrong. The wishful thinking passing for analysis since the beginning of the year that the split within the movement resulting in the expulsion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from the AQ fold would simultaneously weaken both Core AQ and ISIS—now pretentiously re-named the Islamic State (IS)—has been dramatically disproven by the latter's lightning thrust into Iraq and seizure of the northern and western parts of the war-torn country.