Terror manuals and the cheerleaders of death. How ISIS provides resources for ‘Lone Mujahid’s’ in the West.
Like many other ISIS channels on the encrypted messenger app, Telegram, “Lone Mujahid” is constantly being deleted, before being uploaded by IS supporters again and again and again.
However, this particular channel gets deleted far quicker than any other. It’s shorter than average lifespan gives credit to how much of a concern it must be for security services monitoring IS activity online.
“Lone Mujahid” is a collection of information useful to those carrying out a terror attack in the West. From knife attack techniques, to making a suicide vest, the channel is an archive of information that is nearly impossible to remove.
In the form of a modern Jihadi style Anarchist Cookbook, images, and PDF files detail the instructions step by step, and videos give a blow by blow tutorial for any would be terrorists.
For the less tech savvy are a set of basic cyber security guidelines for keeping hidden from security services. A list of apps and software to keep anonymous online and erase all traces of activity are available for the user to download.
The resources used in the terrorist curriculum come from various origins. Some come from Al Qaeda publications such as “Inspire”, some from the Islamic State themselves, and others from various military guides.
Some of the information detailed inside the guides and resources available come from unknown sources, but are extremely amateurish and likely from someone with very little experience or knowledge. The contributions can even come across as common sense or comical at times.
Al Qaeda strategist, Abu Musab Al Suri has been credited with coining the concept of “leaderless jihad”. The Aleppo born author of a manifesto entitled “A Call to a Global Islamic Resistance” argued for a decentralized structure of jihad in which lone actors, or self established cells formed by supporters with no ties to an organization would carry out operations.
This strategy would make preventing attacks and the interception of cells much more difficult for security services. This type of “individual jihad” as he called it, could come in the form of self radicalized attackers, sometimes assisted by others online. Al Suri described this jihadist philosophy as “no organization, just principles”.
The legacy of this strategy was evident in a 2014 speech given by Abu Mohammad Al-Adnani, the former IS spokesman, in the Islamic States first official instruction to supporters in the West to kill non-Muslims.
“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European — especially the spiteful and filthy French — or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be. Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him”.
This strategy favors quantity over quality. A series of low tech and crude attacks, such as vehicular assaults, can be just as effective as a rare spectacular attack carried out by trained operatives smuggled into Europe and carrying out orders on behalf of IS.
Attacks such as those in Paris or Brussels are much harder to organize logistically while avoiding detection at the same time. A series of harder to prevent attacks every month or two across the continent by so called ‘Lone Wolves’ can sow discontent in Europe, making Western society feel under constant attack due to the easily manipulated nature of the relationship between terrorism and the media.
Over the last couple of years, IS terrorist attacks in Europe have mainly been carried out by those who had never been to Iraq or Syria before. Some were even self taught, learning how to make explosives online.
It is not known if the “Lone Mujahid” channels have actually been used as a resource for a terror attack, however given the frequency of it’s distribution in jihadist circles online it is highly likely that if it hasn’t been referenced before, it will be at some point in the future.
As news breaks of another violent incident in the West, moderators of IS channels eagerly share there the news hoping that it was IS inspired. In some cases the incidents are not jihadist related, but it gives an indication as to how in sync these people are with developing events, and how much they desperately want to hear news of another attack to go on the list of successful operations.
This bizarre sort of cheerleading of death and destruction feels more like supporters of a sports team celebrating a win. These channels gain several hundred followers before being quickly shut down and simply uploaded again. This constant battle demonstrates the determination of a group of IS supporters to make this material easily available to those that wish to carry out violence.
Another form of disturbing behaviour on these channels are the regular suggestions for specific locations and events for attacks.
For example, as seen on the left, a map of Wimbledon. Accompanying this map was an image of the arena targeted in Manchester. While there is probably no specific threat to the tournament, it demonstrates the eagerness of this small online community to see carnage.
Again, here we see another example, an eagerness to see a repeat of the attacks at Orlando. It is worth noting that the suggestions tend to be linked with previous attacks, with reference to other operations. Repeating the same types of attacks regularly to keep the momentum going is the aim here. Not large scale once off spectacular assaults.
As of writing this, these were posted last night. An upcoming football match in 7 days time. Unlikely for an attack to an occur at this event, however the least this will do is generate some publicity within the media about “IS targeting the event”. In turn this forces the police to announce they will step up security. Which will in turn put further strains on manpower and resources.
It is not known who runs these channels, but several things seem to indicate that there is some form of connection to the UK. The nom de guerre used in one publication is Abu Kitaab Al Inkaltarra, meaning someone from England. There has also been a lot of attention paid to the London attacks in particular, with images of the London and Westminster Bridge attackers being shared.
There are many references to the Manchester Arena suicide bombing, and several suggestions for targets in the UK. Lists of Army bases, bus stations and shopping centres have been posted in the past. As well as the addresses of several embassies in London, and images of the Myanmar ambassador to the UK.
If there is no link to the UK in particular then there is most certainly a strong interest in seeing attacks in the country by the individual or group running the channel.
Glossy photo shopped images with text urging followers to carry out attacks are frequent, featuring famous European landmarks on fire for example. However none of the content appears to be from any official IS outlet. This would suggest that the attempt at imitating the IS style of propaganda is more like fan work from the online community of supporters, rather than an initiative from any official IS media arm.
It is in these online communities where this constant call for action resonate quite strongly with people who are willing to carry out an attack. A sense of support, of others standing behind you and ready to applaud your actions is fostered by these particular channels.
This demonstrates the potency of the propaganda that IS produces. It’s so powerful and unique, that pro IS activists have a go at producing their own.
More importantly, the “Lone Mujahid” channels grant followers the opportunity to speak or act on behalf of the group. While IS has called for attacks on the West, a small group have taken the initiative and produced a library of sorts for any prospective attackers. This influence that IS has is unique in this sense as supporters mirror the organisation.
It’s an important reminder that there are many roles undertaken by IS supporters, giving them a stronger network with a variety of capabilities. Making the threat of IS terrorism all the more dangerous for the forseeable future.