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News, documents and analysis on violent extremism

Monday, October 26, 2015

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, 10/26/15: New Tech, Bad Actors; Iran in Syria; Swedish Extremist Attack and More


Tailored Online Interventions: The Islamic State's recruitment strategy
The Islamic State has devoted significant resources to implementing a distinct online recruitment strategy, which follows targets from their introduction to the organization’s message, through a careful pruning of their social networks, before culminating in a call to action. The strategy relies on scores of users who maintain a high level of availability online, allowing them to lavish attention on potential recruits, and who provide a drumbeat of incitement to action, such as social media activism, migration to Islamic State territories, or the commission of terrorist attacks.

J.M. Berger also took part in an Atlantic Council panel on how new technologies empower bad actors. The video can be seen below:


The First Defector: Abu Sulayman al-Utaybi, the Islamic State, and al-Qa`ida
Tensions between the Islamic State and al-Qa`ida have been in the headlines since the Islamic State’s feud with its one-time Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, became public in 2013, and particularly since the Islamic State declared itself a caliphate in 2014. The Islamic State’s leaders see al-Qa`ida as irrelevant meddlers, while al-Qa`ida’s commanders believe their Islamic State counterparts to be so ideologically extreme that they cannot cobble together a coherent strategic plan. Al-Qa`ida’s concerns about the Islamic State were heightened in 2007 when a defector disclosed that the Islamic State of Iraq’s leaders had declared a state in 2006 because of apocalyptic premonitions. Nearly a decade later the defector’s accusations remain part of the war of words between the Islamic State and al-Qa`ida. By Brian Fishman.

The Identity-Extremism Nexus: Countering Islamist Extremism in the West
This essay provides an overview of how identity relates to Islamist-inspired radicalization. The aim here is twofold. First, the essay highlights issues relevant to the identity-radicalization debate, and their relation to extremism. Then, drawing from this discussion, it develops a number of points to consider for those considering developing community-based rehabilitation and de-radicalization initiatives. By Dina Al Raffie.

The Ankara Bombings and the Islamic State's Turkey strategy
Although the investigation is in its early stages, Turkish authorities suspect the Islamic State was responsible for the October 10, 2015 attack in Ankara that killed more than 100 people. The two suicide bombers are believed to be part of a cell responsible for two attacks in Turkey this year. Turkey’s decision to join the anti-Islamic State coalition has exposed it to a growing threat from the group because of its significant presence inside the country, its large number of Turkish recruits, and its growing attractiveness to Turkish Islamist extremists of Kurdish descent. By Metin Gurcan.

The Islamic State Digs In
Russia’s recent intervention in Syria will generate more opportunities for the Islamic State than it quells. If the Islamic State’s core defenses around major cities in Iraq and Syria hold, the Islamic State will weather Russia’s intervention and likely emerge stronger. The Islamic State has an effective defensive strategy, which it employed in the summer and early autumn of 2015. By Jessica Lewis McFate.

One Year of the Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula
Sinai militancy changed over 2015, following the decision of the peninsula’s main violent jihadi group – Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis – to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State organization and become Wilayat Sinai. The developments have created challenges for Egypt and for Israel, but they also provide an opening to weaken the group’s entrenchment in North Sinai. By Zack Gold.


Iran's Proxies in Syria
Phillip Smyth comes on the show to discuss recent news and issues related to Iranian proxy groups fighting in Syria. By Karl Morand with Phillip Smyth.

Lawfare: Joby Warrick and William McCants at the Hoover Book Soiree
Joby Warrick, author of Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS, and William McCants, author of The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State, discuss their recent books. By Benjamin Wittes with Will McCants and Joby Warrick.


What I Discovered From Interviewing Imprisoned ISIS Fighters
They’re drawn to the movement for reasons that have little to do with belief in extremist Islam. By Lydia Wilson.

What analysis of the Islamic State’s messaging keeps missing
Countering Islamic State “strategic communications” is one of the most pressing national security concerns facing Western governments. Developing more nuanced understanding of the organization’s communications strategy will be crucial to devising effective counter-narrative strategies. By Haroro Ingram.

ISIS Releases First Propaganda Video in Hebrew
The Islamic State (ISIS) has released its first-ever Hebrew-language video, featuring a masked militant speaking the language fluently and warning that the extremist group will "eradicate" Israel and "no Jew will be left" alive.

French jihadists reveal what life is like in ISIS
The document, named Recruitment, Itinerary and Activities of French Fighters was sent to every magistrate investigating terrorism in the country at the beginning of October.

FBI director: Fewer Americans trying to join Islamic State abroad
FBI Director James Comey says federal law enforcement has seen far fewer Americans try to travel abroad to join the Islamic State in recent months.

Islamic State Ramps up Attacks, But Not Capturing New Ground
Islamic State fighters launched 1,086 attacks between July and September, according to the study by IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre. That is a 42 percent increase from violence between April and June. However, the attacks haven’t done much to win new territory for the extremists.

Al-Shabaab faction pledges allegiance to ISIS
A high-ranking member and spiritual leader of Al-Shabaab has pledged allegiance to ISIS, a move that further fractures the Somali-based jihadi group and spreads the reach of ISIS farther into Africa.

Nine killed in shootout between Turkish police and IS suspects
Seven suspected Islamic State jihadists and two Turkish policemen were killed in a gun battle in the Kurdish-majority southeast on Monday, adding to tensions as the deeply divided country goes to the polls at the weekend.


Sweden school attack: police treat killing of pupil and teacher as racist hate crime
Suspect chose his victims at Kronan school in Trollhättan based on the colour of their skin, say police.

13 in Custody in Germany in Possible Plot to Attack Refugees
The police in Bavaria picked up 13 people and seized a cache of weapons, including detonators, in a series of raids that may have disrupted a suspected plot by right-wing extremists to attack some of the refugees now pouring into Germany, the authorities said on Thursday.

Major al Qaeda camp was unknown to U.S. for months
An al Qaeda training camp in southern Afghanistan that was the target of a major raid two weeks ago had been operating since last November -- and the U.S. didn't learn the full details about the site until July, coalition forces said in an email Wednesday.

Hatchet-wielding minor arrested in second attack on NH Planned Parenthood clinic this month
A minor was arrested early on Wednesday after allegedly vandalizing a Planned Parenthood clinic in Claremont, New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported.

Buy the new book ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger. 

Buy J.M. Berger's seminal book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam


Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



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ISIS: The State of Terror
"Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger's new book, "ISIS," should be required reading for every politician and policymaker... Their smart, granular analysis is a bracing antidote to both facile dismissals and wild exaggerations... a nuanced and readable account of the ideological and organizational origins of the group." -- Washington Post

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Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam:
"At a time when some politicians and pundits blur the line between Islam and terrorism, Berger, who knows this subject far better than the demagogues, sharply cautions against vilifying Muslim Americans. ... It is a timely warning from an expert who has not lost his perspective." -- New York Times

More on Jihad Joe


INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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