ISIS Call to Attack Foreign Embassies and Diplomats of the “Infidel Countries”

Overview

ISIS's weekly newsletter al-Nabā' published an editorial about the lessons to be learned from the attack on the Iraqi embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan (July 30, 2017), which it called "an action of high quality." According to the editorial, attacking embassies and diplomatic staff is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to exert pressure on "infidel governments." The Islamic State considers such attacks very important and encourages Muslims in every country to attack embassies and either kill the staff or take them hostage. Killing diplomatic staff serving in foreign countries is preferable to killing dozens of civilians in their own countries, because the effect is greater. The editorial called on Muslims to take the initiative and attack the embassies and diplomatic staff of the "infidel countries" (al-Nabā', August 3, 2017).

The editorial, entitled "War on Embassies: the Greatest [Cause of] Fear and Pain for the Infidel Countries" (al-Nabā', Issue 92, August 3, 2017)

  • Behind the call to attack foreign embassies were ISIS's recent defeats in Iraq and Syria, most significantly the loss of Mosul, the Caliphate's "capital." Following its weakening in the "core states," ISIS has encouraged its operatives and supporters around the globe to carry out attacks in their own countries in support of the Islamic State. ISIS considers the attack on the Iraqi embassy in Kabul "an action of high quality," and is urging its supporters to carry out the same type of attack wherever they live. In ITIC assessment, ISIS's operatives and supporters may try to obey the call.
Main Points of the Editorial
  • The editorial appeared in ISIS's weekly newsletter al-Nabā', headlined "War on Embassies: the Greatest [Cause of] Fear and Pain for the Infidel Countries." It was published on August 3, 2017, three days after ISIS operatives attacked the Iraqi embassy in Kabul (the first attack on a foreign embassy ISIS has claimed responsibility for). Note: For the full Arabic text of the editorial, see the Appendix.
  • According to the editorial, the attack on the Iraqi embassy was not the first of its kind, but was a reminder of the importance and effectiveness of such attacks in delivering "painful blows" to ISIS's enemies. A number of reasons for carrying out more such attacks are the following:
    • Foreign legations and embassies are in fact miniatures of their own governments and have an important function in promoting and realizing the political, economic and strategic interests of the governments they represent.
    • Foreign embassies are centers for espionage, collecting information and organizing operations against enemies and opponents. They also serve as a base for foreign nationals traveling to other countries.
    • Attacking the embassies and their diplomatic staffs is one of the most effect methods of exerting pressure on governments with a relatively small investment. Terrorist attacks on embassies embarrass governments and show they cannot protect their citizens.
    • Attacking an embassy will cause the home country a great deal of suffering, more than killing dozens of people. It is more painful for governments than attacking the security and/or military headquarters in their own countries.

For those reasons, the Islamic State regards embassies and those working in them as important targets. It therefore encourages Muslims around the globe to strike embassies and either kill the staff or take them hostage. In addition, according to al-Nabā', anyone who wants to wage jihad and cannot, for whatever reason, leave his own country, will not find it difficult to locate foreigners where he lives and attack them, thereby preforming his duty of jihad. In this instance ISIS is focusing on embassies and diplomats to get more publicity for its attacks (compared with stabbing and vehicular attacks, which ISIS has encouraged its supporters to carry out in their own countries).

Attack on the Iraqi Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan
  • On July 31, 2017, the Iraqi embassy, located on embassy row in the center of Kabul was attacked. The Afghan ministry of the interior reported that four terrorist operatives were involved in the attack. The attack began when a terrorist blew himself up at an entrance gate, allowing the other terrorists to enter the embassy grounds, where they began firing indiscriminately. According to the ministry of the interior, police forces surrounded the area and extracted the embassy staff unharmed (website of the Afghan ministry of the interior, July 31, 2017).

The explosion at the Iraqi embassy in Kabul
(website of the Afghan ministry of the interior, July 31, 2017).

  • ISIS's Khorasan Province claimed responsibility for the attack. According to an ISIS announcement, two operatives, Abu Jalabib the Khorasanian and Abu Talhah al Balkhi carried out a double suicide bombing attack at the Iraqi embassy. They attacked the embassy wearing explosive belts and armed with machineguns and hand grenades. One terrorist blew himself up near the guard post and the other shot at embassy staff inside the building. ISIS claimed seven security guards had been killed outside the embassy building and more than twenty staffers inside (Haq, July 31, 2017).
   
Left: The scene of the attack (al-Sumaria, July 31, 2017).
Right: The ISIS operatives who carried out the attack on the Iraqi embassy in Kabul (Haq, July 31, 2017).
  • It was not the first time a foreign embassy in Kabul was attacked. On May 31, 2017, a sewage tanker filled with explosives blew up in the well-guarded diplomatic quarter, killing more than ninety people and wounding 463, eleven of them Americans (Reuters, May 31, 2017). A spokesman for the Kabul police department said the explosion took place near the German embassy. An Afghan security guard at the embassy was killed and several staff members were injured. The building housing the embassies of the UAE and Egypt was also damaged. The Taliban denied any connection to the attack (Saudi Arabian news channel and the Afghanistan Times, May 31, 2017). According to a number of reports in the Arab media, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. ISIS's role in the attack has not been verified.
Appendix
Full Arabic Text of the Editorial in ISIS's Weekly Newspaper al-Nabā' Calling for Attacks on Foreign Embassies and Diplomatic Staff around the World

Full Arabic Text of the Editorial in ISIS's Weekly Newspaper al-Nabā' Calling for Attacks on Foreign Embassies and Diplomatic Staff around the World