The attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that left twelve people dead comes at a time when terrorist groups are increasingly encouraging their supporters in the West to carry out attacks in their home countries.
While no one has taken responsibility for the attack thus far and the perpetrators are still at large, online terror supporters have already claimed the attack as a victory for their cause. Charlie Hebdo has been the focus of terror threats since 2006 for their satirical depictions of Muhammad and of Muslim countries.
While it is still not clear whether this attack was inspired by outside forces, it is notable that some terrorist groups have consistently encouraged followers to orchestrate attacks in their home countries rather than traveling abroad since at least 2010, perhaps most notably with the release of the first issue of Inspire, an English language magazine produced by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Similarly, a 2011 video released by Al Qaeda’s Central organization featured American Al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn urging supporters in the U.S. to purchase guns and undertake shooting sprees.
In 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Al Shabaab (the Al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia), which had previously encouraged their adherents in the West to join them abroad, began advocating individual attacks in the West as equally valuable.
In addition, terrorist groups have been claiming credit for such “freelance terrorism,” including lone wolf-style attacks. Both ISIS and AQAP, for example, wrote about and to some extent claimed credit for attacks in New York, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Canada and Australia.
The following is sampling of calls for homegrown attacks in 2014, including those in the U.S. and France:
December 2014: An ISIS video calling for French Muslims to either travel to Iraq and Syria or undertake attacks at home stated, “Operate within France. Terrorize them and do not allow them to sleep due to fear and horror. There are weapons and cars available and targets ready to be hit. Even poison is available, so poison the water and food of at least one of the enemies of Allah. Kill them and spit in their faces and run over them with your cars.” This video has been recirculated by terror supporters on social media in the aftermath of the January 7 attack.
December 2014: The 6th issue of ISIS’s English-language magazine Dabiq praised individual attacks on various Western countries including the U.S., Canada, Australia and France, stating, “There will be others who follow the examples set by Man Haron Monis and Numan Haider in Australia, Martin Couture-Rouleau and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau in Canada, Zale Thompson in America, and Bertrand Nzohabonayo in France, and all that the West will be able to do is to anxiously await the next round of slaughter.”
December 2014: The 13th issue of AQAP’s Inspire magazine called for attacks on American, French and British airlines and assassinations of prominent Western financial leaders. Quotes included, “The Lions of Allah who are all over the globe – some call them lone wolves – should know that they are the West’s worst nightmare,” and, “It’s not necessary to do what Mohammed Atta (of the 9/11 attack) did, it’s enough to do what Nidal Hasan (the Ft. Hood shooter) did.”
December 2014: An ISIS video featured a Canadian recruit addressing people in Canada who threatened the Canadian people and called upon Canadian Muslims to carry out attacks, stating, “You either pack your bags or you prepare your explosive devices. You either purchase your airline ticket or you sharpen your knife.”
November 2014: An ISIS video titled “What are you waiting for,” released in French with English and Arabic subtitles, called for attacks on France and featured various French members of ISIS calling on their compatriots to attack France or travel to Syria. One specifically stated, “I send a message to my brothers and sisters that live in the land of Kufr (apostasy) – France. If you are unable to come to Sham (Syria) or Iraq… operate within France. Terrorize them and do not allow them to sleep due to fear and horror. There are weapons and cars available and targets ready to be hit. Even poison is available….”
October 2014: The 4th issue of ISIS’s Dabiq magazine included the text of a speech released in September (see below) that called for attacks on the West. It also included an image of individuals in business suits walking on a sidewalk with the caption “Crusader ‘Civilians.’”
September 2014: ISIS released a text version of a speech by Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the group’s primary spokesman calling for attacks in theWest. Initially released in English, French and Hebrew, this was the first significant instance where ISIS incited home-grown attacks rather than encouraging travel to Iraq and Syria. Excerpts from the speech include: “If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the…French – or an Australian, or a Canadian…kill him in any manner or way however it may be. Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s verdict. Kill the disbeliever whether he is civilian or military….”
August 2014: A special edition AQAP English-language magazine titled “Palestine: Betrayal of the Guilty Conscience” attempted to harness anti-Israel sentiment to call for attacks against the U.S. and the U.K. The magazine reprinted instructions for building pressure-cooker bombs and car bombs from previous issues of Inspire. Quotes included, “We tell the Muslims in America and Europe: There is a better choice and easier one to give support to your ummah (the Muslim community). That is individual work inside the West such as the operations of Nidal Hassan (the Ft. Hood shooter) and Faisal Shazad (attempted Times Square bomber).”
May 2014: Al Shabaab released a video that called on Muslims living abroad to either join the group in Somalia or undertake “a lone wolf mission” in their home country.
March 2014: The 12th issue of AQAP’s Inspire magazine provided instructions for making car bombs along with a list of potential targets in the U.S., U.K. and France. Statements encouraging attacks on the West include, “Whether the brother has a channel to join the brothers [abroad] or not it is better for him to perform his duty of Jihad in the West. On the battlefield, you are just another soldier, but in the West you are an army on your own.”