Study: ‘Forget about lone wolves, Islamic State is in command’

On February 4 2017, the New York Times published a lengthy, investigative report by Rukmini Callimachi on IS control of various terrorist plots around the world. Termed ‘enabled’ or ‘remote-controlled attack’ by counterterrorism experts, targets and method are determined by handlers in IS-controlled areas, while they instruct operatives through the internet, all the while remaining anonymous:

As a result, remotely guided plots in Europe, Asia and the United States in recent years, including the attack on a community center in Garland, Tex., were initially labeled the work of “lone wolves,” with no operational ties to the Islamic State, and only later was direct communication with the group discovered.”

According to Nathaniel Barr, one of the first to spot the link,

they are virtual coaches who are providing guidance and encouragement throughout the process — from radicalization to recruitment into a specific plot. If you look at the communications between the attackers and the virtual plotters, you will see that there is a direct line of communication to the point where they are egging them on, minutes, even seconds, before the individual carries out an attack.”

The shift in strategy is partly due to the greater difficulty involved in travelling to Syria, and the specific targeting of recruiters in Syria by US and UK intelligence. Instead of letting recruits come to them, IS are now looking for operatives in places they want to strike:

No longer describing the journey to Syria as a spiritual necessity, the Islamic State announced last year that those who could not reach the caliphate should attack at home. ‘If the tyrants have closed in your faces the door of Hijrah, then open in their face the door of Jihad,’ the group’s spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, said in a message released in May [2016].”

IS influence over ‘home-grown’ terrorism seems to indicate that not only ‘home-grown’ terrorism is actually influenced by outside actors, and thus seemingly inspired by the Islamic concept of Jihad, whatever excuse may be concocted for it, but also points at a hybrid between Jihadism and crime.

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