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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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January 7, 2015

Paris Shooting Amid Increased Calls For Homegrown Attacks

Screenshot of an ISIS video encouraging attacks in France

Screenshot of an ISIS video encouraging attacks in France

The attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that left twelve people dead comes at a time when terrorist groups are increasingly encouraging their supporters in the West to carry out attacks in their home countries.

While no one has taken responsibility for the attack thus far and the perpetrators are still at large, online terror supporters have already claimed the attack as a victory for their cause.  Charlie Hebdo has been the focus of terror threats since 2006 for their satirical depictions of Muhammad and of Muslim countries.

While it is still not clear whether this attack was inspired by outside forces, it is notable that some terrorist groups have consistently encouraged followers to orchestrate attacks in their home countries rather than traveling abroad since at least 2010, perhaps most notably with the release of the first issue of Inspire, an English language magazine produced by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Similarly, a 2011 video released by Al Qaeda’s Central organization featured American Al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn urging supporters in the U.S. to purchase guns and undertake shooting sprees.

In 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Al Shabaab (the Al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia), which had previously encouraged their adherents in the West to join them abroad, began advocating individual attacks in the West as equally valuable.

In addition, terrorist groups have been claiming credit for such “freelance terrorism,”  including lone wolf-style attacks. Both ISIS and AQAP, for example, wrote about and to some extent claimed credit for attacks in New York, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Canada and Australia.

The following is sampling of calls for homegrown attacks in 2014, including those in the U.S. and France:

December 2014: An ISIS video calling for French Muslims to either travel to Iraq and Syria or undertake attacks at home stated, “Operate within France. Terrorize them and do not allow them to sleep due to fear and horror. There are weapons and cars available and targets ready to be hit. Even poison is available, so poison the water and food of at least one of the enemies of Allah. Kill them and spit in their faces and run over them with your cars.” This video has been recirculated by terror supporters on social media in the aftermath of the January 7 attack.

Image from Inspire 13

Image from Inspire 13

December 2014: The 6th issue of ISIS’s English-language magazine Dabiq praised individual attacks on various Western countries including the U.S., Canada, Australia and France, stating, “There will be others who follow the examples set by Man Haron Monis and Numan Haider in Australia, Martin Couture-Rouleau and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau in Canada, Zale Thompson in America, and Bertrand Nzohabonayo in France, and all that the West will be able to do is to anxiously await the next round of slaughter.”

December 2014: The 13th issue of AQAP’s Inspire magazine called for attacks on American, French and British airlines and assassinations of prominent Western financial leaders.  Quotes included, “The Lions of Allah who are all over the globe – some call them lone wolves – should know that they are the West’s worst night­mare,” and, “It’s not nec­es­sary to do what Mohammed Atta (of the 9/11 attack) did, it’s enough to do what Nidal Hasan (the Ft. Hood shooter) did.”

December 2014: An ISIS video featured a Canadian recruit addressing people in Canada who threatened the Canadian people and called upon Canadian Muslims to carry out attacks, stating, “You either pack your bags or you prepare your explosive devices. You either purchase your airline ticket or you sharpen your knife.”

November 2014: An ISIS video titled “What are you waiting for,” released in French with English and Arabic subtitles, called for attacks on France and featured various French members of ISIS calling on their compatriots to attack France or travel to Syria. One specifically stated, “I send a message to my brothers and sisters that live in the land of Kufr (apostasy) – France. If you are unable to come to Sham (Syria) or Iraq… operate within France. Terrorize them and do not allow them to sleep due to fear and horror. There are weapons and cars available and targets ready to be hit. Even poison is available….”

October 2014: The 4th issue of ISIS’s Dabiq magazine included the text of a speech released in September (see below) that called for attacks on the West. It also included an image of individuals in business suits walking on a sidewalk with the caption “Crusader ‘Civilians.’”

Image from Dabiq 4

Image from Dabiq 4

September 2014: ISIS released a text version of a speech by Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the group’s primary spokesman calling for attacks in theWest. Initially released in English, French and Hebrew, this was the first significant instance where ISIS incited home-grown attacks rather than encouraging travel to Iraq and Syria. Excerpts from the speech include: “If you can kill a dis­be­liev­ing Amer­i­can or Euro­pean – espe­cially the…French – or an Aus­tralian, or a Canadian…kill him in any man­ner or way how­ever it may be. Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s ver­dict. Kill the dis­be­liever whether he is civil­ian or military….”

August 2014: A special edition AQAP English-language magazine titled “Pales­tine: Betrayal of the Guilty Con­science” attempted to harness anti-Israel sentiment to call for attacks against the U.S. and the U.K. The magazine reprinted instructions for building pressure-cooker bombs and car bombs from previous issues of Inspire. Quotes included, “We tell the Muslims in America and Europe: There is a better choice and easier one to give support to your ummah (the Muslim community). That is individual work inside the West such as the operations of Nidal Hassan (the Ft. Hood shooter) and Faisal Shazad (attempted Times Square bomber).”

May 2014: Al Shabaab released a video that called on Muslims living abroad to either join the group in Somalia or undertake “a lone wolf mission” in their home country.

March 2014: The 12th issue of AQAP’s Inspire magazine provided instructions for making car bombs along with a list of potential targets in the U.S., U.K. and France. Statements encouraging attacks on the West include, “Whether the brother has a channel to join the brothers [abroad] or not it is better for him to perform his duty of Jihad in the West. On the battlefield, you are just another soldier, but in the West you are an army on your own.”

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December 24, 2014

13th Issue of AQAP Inspire Calls for Attacks Against U.S. Airliners

AQAP-Inspire-13-magazine-cover

Inspire 13 cover image

Update: 12/24/2013 – Following notification by the ADL, YouTube has removed the video promoting Inspire 13 from its site.

The 13th issue of Inspire, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)’s English language magazine, released on December 24, lays out a strategy for defeating the U.S. by attacking American military technology, manpower, media and economy, and encourages lone wolf attacks against commercial airplanes and financial figures.

The central feature of the magazine, entitled “The Hidden Bomb” presents step-by-step, illustrated instructions for constructing a home-made easily portable bomb inside 17cm of a plastic water bottle case.  These instructions follow previous issues of Inspire that included instructions for pressure cooker bombs and car bombs, as well as suggestions for other types of attacks such as running civilians over with cars.

This issue of Inspire suggests that the bombs be used against U.S. commercial airliners – specifically American Airlines, Delta, United or Continental, and ideally over U.S. soil. It also provides advice as to the best location on the plane and altitude at which to detonate the device.

If an attack on a U.S. airliner is not feasible, the magazine suggests attacking British companies British Airways or Easy Jet, or French companies AirFrance or AirFrance KL. A different article further clarifies the priorities of attack, stating that, “the first priority and the main focus should be on America, then the United Kingdom, then France…. This goes on with the NATO countries as per the known order.”

The guide claims that this bomb can be hidden in a part of the body not included in airport pat-downs and is undetectable by dogs, odor-detecting machines, or metal detectors. The article states that the bomb is detectable by millimeter wave scanners, but the magazine advises that “in most cases they are not used in local airports.”

Inspire 13 also encourages assassinations of American financial leaders listed as “economic personalities” such as Ben Bernanke or “wealthy entrepreneurs” such as Bill Gates. It advises that if those personalities remove their money from U.S. banks, stop investing in the U.S., and declare that they disagree with American policies, they will not be targeted.

The magazine also includes several sections highlighting the actions of Al Qaeda members and individuals that it claims undertook violent actions on behalf of the extremist cause. These include Alton Nolan of Oklahoma, Michael Zehaf Bebeau of Quebec, Martin Rouleau-Couture of Ottowa, Zale Thompson of New York and Man Haron Monis of Australia – the majority of whom seem to have undertaken attacks through some combination of personal violent tendencies and encouragement from terrorist propaganda  but have not been associated with terrorist movements.

Image from the magazine advocating lone wolf attacks

Image from the magazine advocating lone wolf attacks

“The Lions of Allah who are all over the globe – some call them lone wolves – should know that they are the West’s worst nightmare,” states one article.

In some sections, it attempts to exploit controversial issues in the U.S. as rationales for joining terrorist movements. For example, a short quote states, “If I am an Afro-American living in Ferguson – I’d rather be labeled a terrorist.” One article presented as an interview with an AQAP member states U.S. torture of Muslim prisoners as a reason to attack the U.S.

The majority of justifications presented for attacking the U.S., however, have been utilized by Al Qaeda and its affiliates since the group’s founding: Attacks should be undertaken because of alleged American support for current regimes in Muslim countries;; support for the Russian and Indian governments in their fights against terrorism; and having “surrendered to the Jews” in supporting the State of Israel.

Like other issues of Inspire, it also attempts to draw readers in by asking provocative questions and making the attack sound simple. “It’s not necessary to do what Mohammed Atta (of the 9/11 attack) did,” notes a poem in the magazine, “it’s enough to do what Nidal Hasan (of the Fort Hood shooting) did.”

Other sections of the magazine include an essay commemorating Tamerlan Tsarnaev of the Boston Marathon Bombing, quotes about Inspire by American academics and government officials, and a “Message for the American People Regarding the Killing of Luke Somers,” the American journalist taken hostage by AQAP and killed during a rescue mission earlier this month.

This edition of Inspire was released together with a promotional video that featured images from the magazine to the backdrop of a song in English that included the lyrics, “The battle for the hearts and minds will continue till the kuffar (apostates or disbelievers) in vice,” “Inspiring the believers to jihad has become the newest fad,” and, “America you are being watched…the mujahideen (religious fighters) are coming for you.”

Inspire is perhaps the most notorious Al Qaeda propaganda vehicle. It has played a role in the radicalization of multiple domestic extremists, including the Tsarnaev brothers (of the Boston Marathon bombing), Jose Pimentel (attempted bombing in NYC) and Abdel Daoud (attempted bombing in Chicago).

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