The Islamic State terrorist group has launched a big social media campaign to try to capitalize on the Paris massacre.
The group, known also by the acronyms ISIL and ISIS, is calling on jihadists to kill more Westerners and to celebrate the lives of the three Muslims who slaughtered 17 innocent civilians and police on a rampage that began on Jan. 7.
Twitter feeds and other social media messages began Sunday, urging each Muslim to act as a “city wolf” and kill co-workers and fellow commuters.
The Islamic State, an uber-violent Sunni Muslim army now occupying parts of Syria and Iraq, jump-started the tweets via two affiliated media groups, Al-Battar and Al-Ghuraba, reports the Middle East Media Research Institute.
Led by Iraqi cleric Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State views the Paris massacre as a success on which it can build support and recruitment for more anti-Western violence.
“Clearly ISIL’s social media sophistication is working and must be defeated, quickly,” said Robert Maginnis, a retired Army officer and military analyst.
“ISIL’s strategy to harness social media challenges the West’s military dominance by reaching past our governments to the people,” he said. “The people are the center of gravity of the battle against Islamists, especially in the Middle East, but there are Islamist elements within the West, the so-called no-go Muslim ghettos and the Islamist lone wolves that ISIL seeks to manipulate as well.”
Islamic State-linked Twitter accounts have used the hashtag #FightForHim — a reference to the Prophet Muhammad — over 3,000 times since early Sunday.
One tweet says “revenge for him! Cut the tongues that do not have anything to insult except Allah & His Prophet!”
Another, “Where r the #Islamic State supporters who made the west mad? Tell your friend and be ready at 9 p.m.”
Also, “In the #Charlie Hebdo blessed operation, 12 killed, the coming will be bitter.”
Two Muslim brothers connected to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Said and Cherif Kouachi, went on a deadly shooting spree Jan. 7 at the Charlie Hebdo newsroom and on the street outside. French forces killed off both assailants in a later standoff.
The newspaper had run cartoons lampooning Muhammad and repeated the satire Wednesday in a press run of over 1 million copies.
The Islamic State’s direct connection is the third attacker, Amedy Coulibaly, a career criminal who was radicalized in prison, according to French press reports.
Coulibaly appeared on an Islamic State-distributed video previewing his attack. He is suspected of assassinating a police officer Thursday before going to a kosher market in eastern Paris, where he gunned down four Jews on Friday. Police stormed the store and killed him.
The Islamic State media campaign also includes social media postings, such as, “You are 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 businesses and trains, the same neighborhoods.”
Another tweet honors Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric who became an operations officer for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and urged followers to kill Americans. He personally blessed the mission of failed “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. The U.S. killed al-Awlaki in a 2013 drone strike.
“We’ll #FightforHim, we’ll instigate, we’ll bomb and we’ll assassinate,” that tweet says.
The tweets call for some unspecified action to have taken place at 9 p.m. Mecca time Sunday.
“The perpetrators intend on using the [Paris attack] as theater for their cause and are of course successful in creating the theater in the digital age,” said James Russell, an instructor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.
“But it is also the case that the act in and of itself can discredit the organization and its objectives very quickly, almost immediately, helping to reinforce societal norms that are bedrock of developed societies. The same thing happened after 9/11.”
Robert Spencer, who directs JihadWatch.org, said the Islamist movement has different faces on social media.
The Islamic State is blunt, while the Council on American-Islamic Relations condemns what such groups do but then opposes counterterrorism steps, he said.
“The Islamic State is forthright about what it is all about, rather than deceptive,” Mr. Spencer said. “Clearly this appeals to numerous Muslims in Western countries, since thousands have traveled from the West to join the Islamic State.”
On Monday, CAIR demanded that Fox News drop as on-air analysts Mr. Spencer and others it labeled “Islamophobes.”
The Justice Department listed CAIR as an unindicted co-conspirator in the terrorist financing prosecution of a Texas Islamic group that funneled money to the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas. In November, the United Arab Emirates listed CAIR and hundreds of other groups worldwide as terrorist organizations.
CAIR called the United Arab Emirates listing “bizarre.”
“We are seeking clarification from the government of the United Arab Emirates about this shocking and bizarre report,” it said. “There is absolutely no factual basis for the inclusion [of] CAIR and other American and European civil rights and advocacy groups on this list.”
In 2010, the Justice Department reaffirmed the co-conspirator label in a letter to Congress. The letter related trial evidence that linked CAIR and its founders to Hamas, which was designated a terrorist organization in 1995 and calls in its charter for the killings of all Jews everywhere.
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