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January 13, 2015

New ISIS Threat Campaign Capitalizes on Paris Attacks

Image from Twitter campaign

Image from Twitter campaign

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has launched a new campaign on Twitter calling for additional homegrown attacks in Western countries in the aftermath of the attacks in Paris last week that killed 17.

The campaign, advertised with the hashtag #FightforHim was especially prominent on Twitter on Sunday, when both official ISIS accounts and multiple supporter accounts Tweeted images featuring messages to Muslims “living in the West” and quotes by Anwar al-Awlaki advocating “the duty of killing those who insult our Prophet Muhammad.”

Awlaki was an American propagandist for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He was killed in a drone strike in 2011 but his writings and sayings continue to be a motivational force for extremists, including the Kouachi brothers, who are believed to have been two of the three individuals who attacked the Charlie Hebdo offices last week, and Amedy Coulibaly, believed to be one of the two individuals behind last week’s hostage incident in a kosher grocery store in Paris.

At the same time, ISIS supporters are also continuing a campaign of hacking Jewish institutional websites and, increasingly, sites that are affiliated with governments, military institutions, and other organizations, replacing the original text on the site with anti-Semitic and pro-terrorist messages. Monday afternoon, ISIS supporters claimed responsibility for hacking the social media accounts affiliated with U.S. Central Command.

One of the Tweets from the #FightforHim campaign features a red banner image with the quote, “You are a Muslim? Living in the West? Being a city wolf is your task! For you are the only ones to do so! You are already ’citizens’, and no doubt you are the suitable ones to be chosen for such a task. You are sharing the same land with them! The same busses and trains, the same neighborhoods!”

Several Tweets also featured what appeared to be pages ready for insertion into an English-language propaganda magazine that quoted Anwar al-Awlaki narrating a story about a “Jewish leader and…very eloquent poet” who wrote poems that spoke out against Muhammad, after which he was killed. In the story, Muhammad stated, “I am the Prophet of mercy and I am the prophet of war” and “he has harmed us and he has defamed us with his poetry, and none of you (Jews) would do this except we would deal with him with the sword!”

Image from Twitter campaign showing Anwar al-Awlaki

Image from Twitter campaign showing Anwar al-Awlaki

The three pages that make up this story are titled Charlie, referencing the magazine. In its subject matter, the story also can be read as supporting attacks on Jews more broadly.

These images and others were Tweeted directly from multiple individual Twitter accounts. This may indicate that they were part of a coordinated campaign run through the Dawn of Glad Tidings app, a Twitter application that allows ISIS to Tweet directly onto users’ pages, thus rapidly and widely disseminating propaganda and enabling effective hashtag campaigns. Some of the images were Tweeted from between 80 and 100 accounts in minutes.

The campaign was supplemented by an essay written by an ISIS supporter that urged attacks in Western countries and provided suggestions for carrying them out.

The essay cites Inspire magazine, Anwar al-Awlaki, Osama bin Laden and ISIS as sources for inspiration and lists multiple cities, states, and countries that can be attacked, including multiple locations in the U.S.

“Until life in Norway, Florida, Montreal, Finland, Lisbon, Luxembourg and Canberra becomes…a land that burns, a sky that rains rockets, and cities through which wolves walk, the lions of jihad, and where breaths are conceal (sic) until they taste our severity” it states. The essay later threatens additional attacks including San Francisco, Belgium, London, Madrid, Sydney, Russia, Boston, Dallas, Virginia and Amsterdam with explosive devices, booby traps and poison.

This essay was picked up and circulated by official ISIS media outlets following its posting on Justpate.it, an online publishing site regularly used by terrorist supporters to quickly and anonymously post text and images online.

Although the #fightforHim hashtag is new, calls by terrorist groups for homegrown attacks have a lengthy history. In the past year, ISIS, Al Qaeda, AQAP and Al Shabaab have all called for such attacks. In the wake of the attacks in France, additional groups including the Pakistani Taliban, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Al Mourabitoun have also called for copycat attacks.

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February 8, 2012

Boko Haram’s Capabilities Pose Threat Outside Nigeria

In the latest demonstration of its evolving capabilities, Boko Haram, a militant group seeking to create an Islamic state in Nigeria, claimed responsibility on Tuesday for carrying out a suicide car bombing at the Nigerian military headquarters in the north-central city of Kaduna and another bombing at a nearby airbase.
The tactic employed at the military headquarters – a suicide bomber dressed as a member of the military – may demonstrate the continuing influence of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Al Shabaab, Al Qaeda’s affiliates in North Africa and Somalia, on the group’s operational capabilities. AQIM and Al Shabaab’s growing ties to Boko Haram also raises the specter that the group may seek to emulate their strategy of undertaking international attacks targeting Western interests.
Although the group has not carried out attacks outside Nigeria, Boka Haram has expressed intent to expand its targets globally, including the United States. Following its August 2011 bombing of a United Nations building in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, multiple Boko Haram leaders cited opposition to Western powers as the driving factor behind the attack. In a March 2010 interview with Western media, a man claiming to be a Boko Haram spokesman identified the U.S. as “the number one target for its oppression and aggression against Muslim nations… and its blind support to Israel.”

The threat posed by Boko Haram has not gone unnoticed. General Carter Ham, commanding officer of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), has indicated that he believes Boko Haram poses a threat to the United States and U.S. interests. In November 2011, Congress held a hearing on the threat posed by the group “to the U.S. Homeland.”  West African nations have also held regional security summits concerning Boko Haram’s ability to act beyond Nigeria’s borders, concentrating on its links to other terrorist organizations.

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