The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has launched a new campaign on Twitter calling for additional homegrown attacks in Western countries in the aftermath of the attacks in Paris last week that killed 17.
The campaign, advertised with the hashtag #FightforHim was especially prominent on Twitter on Sunday, when both official ISIS accounts and multiple supporter accounts Tweeted images featuring messages to Muslims “living in the West” and quotes by Anwar al-Awlaki advocating “the duty of killing those who insult our Prophet Muhammad.”
Awlaki was an American propagandist for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He was killed in a drone strike in 2011 but his writings and sayings continue to be a motivational force for extremists, including the Kouachi brothers, who are believed to have been two of the three individuals who attacked the Charlie Hebdo offices last week, and Amedy Coulibaly, believed to be one of the two individuals behind last week’s hostage incident in a kosher grocery store in Paris.
At the same time, ISIS supporters are also continuing a campaign of hacking Jewish institutional websites and, increasingly, sites that are affiliated with governments, military institutions, and other organizations, replacing the original text on the site with anti-Semitic and pro-terrorist messages. Monday afternoon, ISIS supporters claimed responsibility for hacking the social media accounts affiliated with U.S. Central Command.
One of the Tweets from the #FightforHim campaign features a red banner image with the quote, “You are a Muslim? Living in the West? Being a city wolf is your task! For you are the only ones to do so! You are already ’citizens’, and no doubt you are the suitable ones to be chosen for such a task. You are sharing the same land with them! The same busses and trains, the same neighborhoods!”
Several Tweets also featured what appeared to be pages ready for insertion into an English-language propaganda magazine that quoted Anwar al-Awlaki narrating a story about a “Jewish leader and…very eloquent poet” who wrote poems that spoke out against Muhammad, after which he was killed. In the story, Muhammad stated, “I am the Prophet of mercy and I am the prophet of war” and “he has harmed us and he has defamed us with his poetry, and none of you (Jews) would do this except we would deal with him with the sword!”
The three pages that make up this story are titled Charlie, referencing the magazine. In its subject matter, the story also can be read as supporting attacks on Jews more broadly.
These images and others were Tweeted directly from multiple individual Twitter accounts. This may indicate that they were part of a coordinated campaign run through the Dawn of Glad Tidings app, a Twitter application that allows ISIS to Tweet directly onto users’ pages, thus rapidly and widely disseminating propaganda and enabling effective hashtag campaigns. Some of the images were Tweeted from between 80 and 100 accounts in minutes.
The campaign was supplemented by an essay written by an ISIS supporter that urged attacks in Western countries and provided suggestions for carrying them out.
The essay cites Inspire magazine, Anwar al-Awlaki, Osama bin Laden and ISIS as sources for inspiration and lists multiple cities, states, and countries that can be attacked, including multiple locations in the U.S.
“Until life in Norway, Florida, Montreal, Finland, Lisbon, Luxembourg and Canberra becomes…a land that burns, a sky that rains rockets, and cities through which wolves walk, the lions of jihad, and where breaths are conceal (sic) until they taste our severity” it states. The essay later threatens additional attacks including San Francisco, Belgium, London, Madrid, Sydney, Russia, Boston, Dallas, Virginia and Amsterdam with explosive devices, booby traps and poison.
This essay was picked up and circulated by official ISIS media outlets following its posting on Justpate.it, an online publishing site regularly used by terrorist supporters to quickly and anonymously post text and images online.
Although the #fightforHim hashtag is new, calls by terrorist groups for homegrown attacks have a lengthy history. In the past year, ISIS, Al Qaeda, AQAP and Al Shabaab have all called for such attacks. In the wake of the attacks in France, additional groups including the Pakistani Taliban, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Al Mourabitoun have also called for copycat attacks.