During the first two weeks of May, both ISIS and Al-Qaeda (AQ) called on their followers abroad -- and in the US specifically -- to carry out lone wolf attacks. In one of the propaganda videos, Hamza bin Laden, the son of AQ founder Osama bin Laden, urged extremists to attack “Jewish interests everywhere.” As an increasing number of potential terrorists draw inspiration from both organizations (detailed in ADL’s 2016 report), the confluence of these calls to jihad from multiple sources in a short time is cause for concern.
Both terrorist organizations’ propaganda provided specific instructions for committing “successful” attacks, from the choice of weapons to the identification of targets. ISIS also urged supporters to post fake job and real estate ads online and in newspapers to lure targets to specific locations.
- On May 13, AQ released a video of Hamza bin Laden, the son of AQ founder Osama bin Laden, offering “advice for martyrdom-seekers in the West”. As in other AQ videos and speeches, Hamza bin Laden calls for followers in the West to remain in their countries and execute attack there rather than joining AQ abroad saying that “inflicting punishment on Jews and Crusaders where you are present is more vexing and severe for the enemy.” Hamza bin Laden goes further and prioritize the targets for AQ followers saying that they should look for “Jewish interests everywhere”. He points to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)’s “Inspire” magazine, which has repeatedly called for long wolf attacks, as a source for instructions on executing such attacks.
- On May 7, the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Qasim al-Raymi, appeared in a video titled “An Inspire Address - Lone Mujahid or An Army By Itself,” urging attacks by AQ’s followers in the West. The video starts with pictures of terrorists, including Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Omar Mateen and Nidal Hassan, all of whom have executed attacks in the U.S. Al-Raymi underscores the deep connection between Muslims in the West and their “brothers” in the Arab world, emphasizing their shared losses and objectives. He mentions the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and United States wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen as justification for Muslims in the US to conduct attacks. As is the case in ISIS propaganda, al-Raymi instructs Al-Qaeda followers to keep their attacks as simple as possible: Just find an assault rifle and choose a target.
- On May 4, in the 9th issue of its Rumiyah (Rome) magazine, ISIS advocated for lone wolf attacks using cars, knives and assault rifles, which, the organization emphasized, are easily accessible in the U.S. at gun shows and through private dealers. The magazine also focused on hostage-taking operations, and gave readers a list of possible targets and past examples of successful actions.
This propaganda by ISIS and AQ represents a continuation of trends we saw in 2016, when terror organizations encouraged followers to skip foreign travel in favor of domestic attacks, and recommended steps to make attacks “easier,” including advocating the use of non-traditional weapons to conduct attacks against targets of convenience (rather than symbolic targets). A number of terrorists have pointed to a range of Islamic extremist propaganda as their primary motivation, which points to a fluidity of allegiances among would-be terrorists, as well as the troubling extent to which these extremist materials are successfully influencing a global audience.