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August 20, 2014

ISIS Backs Up Threats Against U.S. With Beheading

Update – 9/3/2014: On September 2, 2014, an ISIS video was released showing the beheading of a second American journalist, Steven Sotloff, again blaming U.S. policy in Iraq. A third individual, this time a citizen of Great Britain, was threatened at the conclusion of the video.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an Al Qaeda inspired terrorist group, released an English-language video in which it depicts the beheading of a kidnapped American journalist.foley-beheading-terrorism-isis

ISIS is claiming that it murdered the journalist, James Wright Foley, because of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. The video closes with an image of another kidnapped journalist kneeling next to what appears to be the same executioner, who states “The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.”

The video is titled “A Message to America.” It marks a new approach by ISIS, making good on threats against Americans that the group only began circulating significantly this June. Such strategies have been used extensively by the terrorist group to intimidate enemies and opponents on the ground, but had not previously been employed against Westerners.

In the video, footage of President Obama announcing the airstrike campaign is followed by a statement by Foley in which he asserts U.S. actions are the cause of his death. Foley’s masked executioner then delivers an address in British-accented English in which he depicts the U.S. as an aggressor against ISIS and the Muslims who accept ISIS as a state, and says that any military action against ISIS will lead to more “bloodshed” of Americans. The executioner then beheads Foley. Afterward, the other kidnapped journalist is shown next to the executioner.

The release may improve ISIS’s recruitment capacity. ISIS broke with Al Qaeda Central in February, and the organizations compete for recruits, followers and influence. ISIS’s reputation for violent action surpassing Al Qaeda’s has already contributed to its recruitment efforts, and if this video is seen by extremists as a successful blow to the U.S. it may lead more to join ISIS.

The video was announced on Twitter and on the social media site Diaspora on August 19, and was linked from the Internet Archive website, an online “digital library” that is sometimes used by terrorist groups as a repository for online media storage.

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August 12, 2014

ISIS Renews Twitter Campaign Threatening U.S.

al-battar-isis-poster

Image tweeted by Al Battar Media

In response to U.S. engagement in Iraq, ISIS supporters have renewed threats on Twitter that Americans and the U.S. are at risk of attack. Most of the threats are being posted with the hashtag #AMessageFromISIStoUS.

Although many official ISIS media outlets have been deleted from Twitter in recent days, the Al Battar Media handle, one of ISIS’s official accounts, has been posting threats, with tweets such as “Would you like to taste the losses, pain, death and all what you tasted in Iraq again?” and “O Westerners, your governments have lost their minds, and they will let you pay the cost of their stupidity, the Islamic State is too strong, so you must yield to it, not fight it!”

An unofficial pro-ISIS account that tweets information from Al Battar media has also tweeted such messages as “Listen: All your bases in the Arabian Gulf are our targets, and you know what we’ll do with the employees!” “Targeting Iraq means targeting America and Americans in (sic) all over the world!” and “NOW we’re warning the Americans NOW our words speak After Airstrikes: We’re cutting their heads Our weapons speak!” All were tweetedwith the hashtag #AMessageFromISIStoUS.

The “Shamalmalahem Media” handle, dedicated to releasing pro-ISIS news, has been prefacing all of its tweets (regardless of subject) with the message from ISIS hashtag or the hashtag #CalamityWillBefallUS. Its tweets include descriptions and video of ISIS fighters attacking Kurdish and Iraqi forces, as well as video in which it claims ISIS snipers are “catching the American soldiers in Iraq.”

Shamalmalahem Media has also released an eightand a half minute video addressed “to the people of the united states (sic) and a message especially to the (sic) barack obama (sic)” calling for the U.S. to remember the destruction it encountered in the second Iraq war, and to expect worse should troops be sent. The video has since been removed from YouTube  as a violation of the company’s policies.

As is typical for ISIS social media campaigns, multiple ISIS supporters are also tweeting various threats with the same hashtags. A number of the supporters have specifically directed the threat against New York City, posting images of Times Square and of the falling Twin Towers along with the message “The head of ISIS Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi said: Our appointment in New York.”

This campaign is the second time that ISIS organized a Twitter campaign threatening the U.S. The first was in June when the group encouraged followers to tweet using the hashtag #CalamityWillBefallUS, to warn the U.S. against engagement in Iraq.  That hashtag has occasionally been used in the current campaign as well.

ISIS has become well known for its sophisticated use of social media even as it is increasingly blocked by social media sites.

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August 5, 2014

New ISIS Video Recruits Westerners

Following reports that between 70 and 100 Americans have travelled to fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a new video released by ISIS’s Al-Hayat media wing has allegedly featured an American calling for others to join.isis-terrorist-targets-video

The video, “Eid Greetings from the land of Khilafah,” was released on August 2 and features video of children praising the organization’s governance interspersed with video of fighters from around the world. The alleged American is a man called Abu Abdurahman al-Trinidadi who is apparently of Trinidadian origin. Other militants featured  allegedly came from Great Britain, Finland, Tunisia, Indonesia, Belgium, Morocco and South Africa. All praise ISIS and encourage Muslims from around the world to join the organization and to establish themselves in the territory it holds.

For more background on ISIS’s media savvy and recruitment of foreign fighters, see ADL’s report “Hashtag Terror: How ISIS Manipulates Social Media.”

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