ISIS propaganda to supporters abroad urging them to carry out stabbing attacks (Cover of issue #2 of Rumiyah, an ISIS publication, October 4, 2016).
|1. In the two months since the beginning of the campaign for Mosul, ISIS has been promoting terrorist attacks around the globe, especially in the West and in other countries fighting it. ISIS initiated a media campaign which repeatedly calls on its supporters to carry out local attacks to support ISIS in its fight against its enemies["ISIS-inspired attacks"]. ISIS has also employed skilled operatives in its terrorist networks abroad to carry out mass-killing attacks in crowded locations. The most serious attack for which ISIS has claimed responsibility was in the Coptic cathedral in Cairo. Local ISIS supporters inspired by ISIS also carried out attacks in Kenya, Germany and possibly the United States. On the other hand, mass-killing attacks planned for France, Russia, Albania and Saudi Arabia were prevented by local security services. ISIS can be expected to continue attempting attacks, especially during the upcoming holiday season.|
2. ISIS's high motivation to carry out attacks abroad is the direct result of the increasing difficulties it faces in Iraq and Syria. It wants to prove it has retained operational capabilities and can still carry out attacks that will cause pain to the countries fighting against it, to draw attention to their internal arenas and deter them from continuing to combat ISIS. To increase its supporters' motivation, in its media campaign ISIS stresses that the Islamic Caliphate belongs to the entire Muslim nation, including Muslims who do not live in the Caliphate and fight to defend it. Therefore, attacks in countries beyond the borders of the Caliphate make a significant contribution to ISIS's military effort, and ISIS's supporters should regard such attacks as equal to fighting in Syria or Iraq.
3. To promote its campaign ISIS's media network issued a series of videos and articles which appeared in its various publications (See Appendix A). They urge ISIS supporters around the world to join its military campaign, making the fighting in Syria and Iraq part of its comprehensive campaign against the West ("the Crusaders"). Some of the videos and articles appear in the languages of ISIS's target audiences(including English, French and Turkish). For ISIS, general calls are insufficient, and it posts detailed instructions for stabbing and vehicular attacks, and how to make explosives at home using easily-obtainable materials(See Appendix B). In some of the videos operatives who have already carried out attacks appear, as do ISIS supporters, appealing to Muslims to follow in their footsteps.
Left: Appeal to British Muslims in an ISIS video: "Why do you delay support for your religion?" as a bullet is fired in slow motion. Right: Amedy Coulibaly, the terrorist who carried out the attack at the kosher supermarket in Paris, in the same video, represented as a role model (Haq, November 27, 2016).
4. An analysis of terrorist attacks that were both prevented and carried out by ISIS over the past few months indicates that so farthe organization has failed to ignite a chain reaction of "inspired attacks,"despite repeated appeals to its supporters. In addition, most of the attempts of skilled operatives to carry out mass-casualty attacks were prevented (including attacks at soccer games in Saudi Arabia and Albania, the latter planned for a game between Albania and Israel). ISIS's greatest so-called "success" so far was the suicide bombing attack at the Coptic cathedral in Cairo, which killed 25 and was widely covered by the media(for terrorist attacks prevented and carried out in recent months, see Appendix C).
5. The difficulties facing ISIS indicate a gap between its high motivation for a series of attacks on the one hand, and the capabilities of its operatives and the desire of its supporters on the other. That is most likely the result of the decrease of ISIS's operational capabilitiescaused by the pressures on it (including after the killing of experienced, skilled senior operatives who were part of its terrorist attack network abroad, and the increase of difficulties in crossing the Syrian-Turkish border). Additionally, there has apparently been an improvement in the preventive and intelligence activities of the countries fighting ISIS. That has been manifested by the prevention of terrorist attacks in Western Europe, Russia and the Balkans. The recent appeal of ISIS's Euphrates Province to Muslims in Britain asking "Why do delay support for your religion?" may indicate a certain lack of patience and perhaps even disappointment of the ISIS leadership with the lack of response to its calls for terrorist attacks abroad, especially in the West (so far).
|6. In all probability, ISIS will continue its efforts to orchestrate and persuade its supporters abroad its operatives to carry out attacks. Some of its operatives have already been or will be dispatched from Syria, and some have already returned to their countries of origin after having fought in Syria or Iraq. ISIS's motivation to carry out terrorist attacks is likely to increase as pressures on it in Iraq and Syria increases. ISIS's network of operatives and supporters in Western and other countries make it possible for the organization to carry out "inspired" and showcase attacks, although not of the scope and frequency ISIS would like. Christmas and the New Year may be chosen as target dates because of the number of mass events held and the great media coverage such attacks would have(the media reported that European security officials were concerned lest attacks be carried out during the holiday season, and have taken precaution to prevent them).|
7. Three appendices follow:
A. Examples of ISIS appeals to its supporters around the globe to carry out attacks.
B. Specific instructions to ISIS supporters around the globe for carrying out attacks.
C. Examples of attacks, both carried out and prevented, during the past two months.
The vehicular attack in the Christmas market in Berlin on December 19, 2016, which killed 12 people may be another ISIS "success," if it is verified that the terrorist was inspired by or received instructions from ISIS.
According to Dick Schoof, Holland's National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism, intelligence experts estimate that ISIS has between 60 and 80 ISIS operatives planted in Europe to carry out terrorist attacks. He said ISIS called on its operatives to focus their activities on Europe and asks them not to come to Syria and Iraq, but to prepare attacks in Europe. He also said that while Holland had not been subject to terrorist attacks like France and Belgium, the possibility of attacks on Dutch soil exists (Fox News, November 19, 2016).