The following are some of this week's reports from the MEMRI Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM) Project, which translates and analyzes content from sources monitored around the clock, among them the most important jihadi websites and blogs. (To view these reports in full, you must be a paying member of the JTTM; for membership information, send an email to [email protected] with "Membership" in the subject line.)
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This report reviews the vast network of social media accounts that release and disseminate the message of the Islamic State (ISIS) organization, and forma central part of its outreach and recruitment mechanism. While in the past, jihadi groups published most of their materials on traditional media platforms, such as websites, forums and news agencies with which they are in contact, ISIS has pioneered the use of social media as the main means for spreading its message, and many of its supporters use this platform as well.
Production and Dissemination of Materials
ISIS oversees the issuing of its official materials, from production to distribution. The materials are produced and released by a small number of official outlets, but are propagated by a wide network of ISIS supporters making full use of the internet's capabilities, particularly freely-accessible social media platforms. ISIS takes advantage of the ethnic heterogeneity of its fighters and activists to address its supporters - and threaten its enemies - in their own tongues. For example, ISIS produces videos in which French-speaking fighters urge French-speaking sympathizers to help and/or join the organization, and also threaten the French authorities and people in French. Similar videos are also produced in German, English, Indonesian and other languages. For example, the videos showing the beheading of Western hostages, addressed directly to U.S. President Barack Obama, were all presented by a British jihadi speaking in English. The videos featuring British hostage John Cantlie are another good example of ISIS's media strategy of addressing the West in its own language and terms.
It should be stressed that, though the material is released in several languages, the message itself remains the same, regardless of the audience it is aimed at. Many materials in Western languages are produced by simply translating ISIS's Arabic materials, and original materials produced in Western languages also conform to the organization's standard rhetoric and ideals.
Most of the organization's messages and materials are produced and released by several official, centralized sources: non-Arabic materials by the media company Al-Hayat, and Arabic materials by the large media companies Al-Furqan, Al-I'tisam and Anjad, and by a network of local media companies serving the organization's various "provinces." The material is hosted on various file-sharing hosting platforms such as Archive.org or Just paste. it, and disseminated widely via a wide range of social media pages, using elaborate marketing strategies to obtain maximum visibility, such as pre-announcements of events or releases, and watermarking of images for distribution. Each release comes with a title and banner suitable for social media distribution: for instance, a recent ISIS video titled "Flames of War" as advertised days before its release with a slickly-produced Western-style trailer and banners. Many ISIS supporters remarked that the trailer reminded them of a Hollywood production.
Banner of the "Flame of War" video, released and produced by the official media company Al-Hayat
To enforce its policies and protect its interests, the organization often limits its members' access to internet resources. Members active on social media report that the organization has forbidden its fighters in Iraq to access the internet, and that some units are forbidden to use any electronic communication devices. Also, after the international coalition launched its intervention against ISIS, the organization imposed a media blackout to prevent the leaking of information that could betray the location of its fighters. The media blackout was extended to the use of any mobile devices in the city of Mosul and Kobane. ISIS considers the use of social media and other online activity while on the battlefield a tactical risk. A British ISIS fighter tweeted in October 2014 that ISIS had forbidden its members to give interviews to Western media, writing: "Producers, journalists and reporters asking for interviews, [know that] we're not allowed to interact with any media agency except our central media." The scarcity of non-ISIS news sources in the areas controlled by the organization, and ISIS's strict enforcement of its media policies, enable it to tightly monitor and control the information that filters out of Iraq and Syria.
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Today, December 21, the information office of the Islamic State's (ISIS's) Ninwa province released an eight-minute video titled "On the Line of Fire" documenting ISIS members blowing up command posts taken from Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the Al-Anbar region, and firing heavily at fleeing Peshmerga members, killing some of them.
The video also included messages by three ISIS members stressing their determination to fight and die for Allah and threatening America and President Obama.
The following report is a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.
In a four-minute video posted December 20, 2014 on the pro-ISIS jihadi forum Alplatformmedia.com, a masked and armed ISIS fighter calls on Muslims in that country to either make hijra (immigrate) to the Caliphate (i.e., the parts of Syria and Iraq controlled by ISIS) or to "blow up France" and kill unbelievers by any means: with a gun, a rock or a knife. The fighter speaks in French with a North African accent, and his statements are subtitled in Arabic. He is surrounded by several others, apparently also foreign ISIS fighters.
Below are excerpts from his statements in the video.
"I would like to address a message... to all my brothers and sisters in France, in the same manner that our sheikh [ISIS leader] Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi has called upon you to strike all the interests of the infidels in all the infidels' countries. Today I ask you the question: What have you done for the sake of your brothers and sisters? What have you done for the oppressed?"
The recent wave of attacks in France in advance of the Christmas holidays have sparked many reactions and much debate on social media among jihadi fighters and supporters. While two of the attacks, in which vehicles rammed into pedestrians, have not been confirmed as jihad-related, the December 20 attack by Bertrand Nzohabonayo, aka Bilal, a 20-year-old French citizen, involved his entering a police station shouting "Allahu Akbar" and stabbing three policemen before being shot to death. Nzohabonayo's Facebook page suggests that he may have acted on the orders issued by Islamic State (ISIS) spokesman Sheikh Abu Muhammad Al-'Adnani.
On December 22, 2014, an American fighting for the Al-Qaeda-affiliate group Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen in Somalia, who uses a Twitter alias, tweeted that an American who was a personal acquaintance of his was reported killed in the fighting for the strategic Syrian border town of Kobane.
On December 22, 2014, a Twitter account, which is affiliated with the Islamic State (ISIS), published a document explaining to mujahideen how to prevent bombings by spy planes that pinpoint their locations using their mobile phones. The document was written by "Al-Mukhtar Al-Muqafi."
The Islamic State (ISIS) issued a statement banning its fighters from using "any electronic device or communication methods" that include GPS services.
On December 24, 2014, operatives in the Islamic State's (ISIS) Al-Raqqa province announced that they managed to shoot down a Jordanian F-16 airplane and capture its pilot. Photos of ISIS fighters leading the pilot were distributed online. Jordan is participating the bombings carried out in Syria by the international coalition against ISIS.
In recent weeks there have been increasing tension and violence between the Liwa Shuhada Al-Yarmouk (Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade) jihad group in southern Syria and Al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, Jabhat Al-Nusra (JN). The tension between them arose on the backdrop of reports that Al-Yarmouk members have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS), and following ISIS's own declaration that it means to expand to this region - which apparently caused JN to fear losing its hegemony in the area.
On December 21, 2014, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released the first installment in a video series focusing on security awareness. The video, titled "Combating Spy Airplanes," focuses on the camera system used in drones, and ways to combat it.
The video is 16:14 long, and was released on the AQAP-affiliated Twitter account.
The video mentions the daytime and infrared camera systems that are used in drones.
The video notes how the infrared system works, detecting changes in surface temperature. The changes are then rendered to a black and white image. The video therefore suggests for the mujahideen to find ways to hide their body heat. In that regard, it offers a homemade insulating cover that is made especially for that purpose. The video also demonstrates the steps and materials needed to build one.
In a message posted on the Twitter page of its media wing Al-Malahem, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) takes responsibility for the December 18, 2014 firing of Katyusha rockets at a natural gas plant belonging to the French petroleum company TOTAL in the Yemeni port city of Balhaf.
Al-Qaeda In Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) In Statement On Peshawar School Attack: 'We TOTALLY DISASSOCIATE Ourselves From This Act'; 'Children Killed In Drone Attacks Are Also Muslims And Innocents Torn Apart By American & Pakistani Bombs'
Below is the text of the statement issued by Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) clarifying its stance on the December 16, 2014 terror attack on an army public school in Peshawar in which 132 children and 10 adults were killed by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan:
"On This Tragic Incident, Our Hearts Are Deeply Saddened; There Is No Doubt About The Oppression Of Pakistan Army And That Its Crimes Have Exceeded All Limits"
"Our hearts are in grief over the killing of innocent children."
Islamic Movement Of Uzbekistan [IMU] Justifies Peshawar School Massacre Of Children Based On Precedents Set By Prophet Muhammad, Warns Of More Attacks On Schools; Says: '[IMU] Recognizes The Martyrdom Operation...As Justified And Defensive One'
Below is the text of a statement released by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) justifying and rejoicing at the December 16, 2014 Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terror attack against an army public school in Peshawar in which 132 children and 10 adults died:
"[Pakistani Soldiers] Have Been Carrying Out Tremendous Crimes Such As Killing The Wives And Children Of Muslims, Imprisoning, Raping, And Disgracing Their Honor And Selling Them To The Kufr [Unbelief] Governments"
"All praises belong to our Lord, Allah Subhanaha Wa Taala; peace and blessings be upon His messenger Muhammad! As follows: 'O you who believe! Al-Qisas (the Law of equality) is prescribed for you in case of murder: the free for the free, the slave for the slave, and the female for the female.' Chapter Baqara, Verse No. 178."
Following are excerpts from an Afghan media report which reveals that at least 10 Uzbek women have joined militants in Afghanistan's northern Sar-i-Pul province and are assisting them in making magnetic bombs:
"Acting Governor [of Sar-i-Pul] Abdul Jabbar Haqbin confirmed the claim. He said the women had joined militants in the Salarzai village of Kohistanat district a month back. Besides making magnetic bombs, he said, the Uzbek women had been participating in insurgent activities against the government and security forces in the area.
"Haqbin said directives had been issued to security forces to intensify efforts at arresting the foreign women. Police spokesman Mohammad Kazim said the Uzbek women had been trained in making magnetic bombs in Pakistan. They are said to be training other women in the district.
"A clean-up operation has been launched in the district to eliminate foreign militants and dismantle their safe havens. Mohammad Noor Rahmani, the provincial council head, said three Uzbek nationals, including two women, were involved in insurgent activities in the district. He said residents of the locality did not understand their language."