The Conduct & Funding of ISIS – Feb. 26–March 4, 2015*

By The Meir Amit Intelligence And Terrorism Information Center*
Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 @ 11:06PM

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Left:  ISIS “deliberate destruction of irreplaceable objects of religious and cultural values in the museum of Mosul and burning thousands of books and rare manuscripts from the library of Mosul.

Destruction of historical relics

In the past two decades, following the rise of Al-Qaeda and additional Salafist-jihadi organizations, graves have been destroyed and Moslem and non-Moslem statues have been smashed in various places around the world. Thus, for example, a huge statue of Buddha was destroyed by the Taliban in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, in 2001 (the tomb was restored only a decade later); in 2012, Muslim cultural institutions were destroyed by Ansar Dine in Timbuktu, in the West African nation of Mali; and holy graves (mainly of Sufis) were destroyed by Islamist extremists in Libya in 2012 (not far from the capital Tripoli and in Misrata).ISIS is continuing this tradition of destroying graves and smashing statues. This was clearly evident in its conquests in Iraq in the summer of 2014. In this context, ISIS destroyed the Tomb of Jonah and the Tomb of Daniel, both in the area of Mosul, and the grave of the Sufi Sheikh Ibrahim in the Nineveh province. In addition, ancient statues and cultural treasures in Iraq dating from the beginnings of human civilization were smashed. ISIS is now continuing to do so even more intensely. This phenomenon is not new. It has historical Islamic roots attributed to a statement by the Prophet Muhammad.

The Islamic State recently began an unprecedented campaign to destroy ancient historical relics in the areas under its control in northern Iraq and northeastern Syria. As part of its campaign, ISIS published a video showing its operatives entering the a museum in the city of Mosul and using hammers to smash statues from the time of the Assyrian Empire found in archaeological excavations. Sennacherib’s Palace was among the historical relics that were destroyed. ISIS operatives also burned down Mosul’s library, where there were thousands of history books and manuscripts (www.taraf.com.tr, February 25, 2015). In Syria, ISIS operatives destroyed churches and stole ancient manuscripts belonging to the Assyrian community.

Instructions for making homemade IEDs-  On March 1, 2015, an ISIS-affiliated Twitter account shared a video on YouTube entitled “The Uzbek Battalion in Al-Sham (Syria) – for learning how to manufacture explosives.” The video is a step-by-step demonstration on how to make IEDs at home, designed to injure forces and damage vehicles (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account; YouTube, March 1, 2015).

Left: Step-by-step instructions for making IEDs. Right: The video that was distributed (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account; YouTube, March 1, 2015)

Left: Step-by-step instructions for making IEDs. Right: The video that was distributed (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account; YouTube, March 1, 2015)

Call for fighters and professionals to join the ranks of ISIS –  On February 28, 2015, a Twitter account holder posted a want ad on behalf of ISIS. According to the ad, the Islamic State is in need of fighters and experts in all fields of engineering, medicine and other professions. Successful applicants were promised a monthly salary and respectable living quarters. The writer of the want ad asked Twitter account holders to share it (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, February 28, 2015).

ISIS On Social Networks 

ISIS makes sophisticated use of the Internet, especially social networks, to convey messages targeted to specific audiences. From ISIS’s perspective, Western countries and Muslim communities in the West are important target audiences. Extensive media materials distributed by ISIS to this target audience are designed to deter the West from attacking ISIS; increase its strength; arouse fear and terror among the Western public opinion; spread the jihadi ideology of ISIS among Muslim communities in the West; and encourage Moslems in the West to join the ranks of ISIS and carry out terrorist attacks in their native countries. To date, ISIS’s media strategy has been highly successful. Blocking ISIS on Twitter and additional social networks may harm its media capabilities and hence ISIS’s threat and attempted intimidation of Twitter’s operators.

  • ISIS supporters have threatened the lives of Twitter employees, including co-founder Jack Dorsey specifically.    They claim that the reason for the threats is the network’s practice of blocking accounts of people involved with ISIS. A post in Arabic uploaded to a file sharing website says that the virtual war waged by Twitter against ISIS will lead to a real war against it. They threatened that the Twitter operators “have become a target for the soldiers of the Caliphate and their supporters”. Twitter’s terms of service forbid users from uploading posts containing direct threats of violence. Therefore, the company has followed YouTube in proactively shutting down ISIS-related Twitter accounts, with the aid of the UK’s Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (The Guardian, March 2, 2015).

The threat against the operators of Twitter (http://justpaste.it/jot6, March 2, 2015)The threat against the operators of Twitter (http://justpaste.it/jot6, March 2, 2015)

Tape justifying the burning of the Jordanian pilot
  • ISIS’s Al-I’tisam Media Foundation recently published a tape which provides explanations about the burning of the Jordanian pilot (apparently in response to criticism leveled at ISIS). According to the speaker on the tape, this was “a legitimate retribution for a crime”. According to the speaker on the tape, the first caliphs in Islam used to burn their enemies and therefore, it is legitimate. The speaker stressed that the burning was based on the principle of blood revenge, since the pilot came to them and flew in the skies of their country in order to kill them (Al-Minbar al-I’lami al-Jihadi forum, February 25, 2015).
Publication of the pledge of allegiance by Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar operatives
  • ISIS posted photos which they claim document the pledge of allegiance to ISIS by a few dozen operatives of a military framework by the name of Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar in the Aleppo province; some of these operatives are from the Caucasus region (http://justpaste.it file sharing website, March 2, 2015)
  • Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar is a jihadi Islamic military framework whose hard core consists of fighters from Chechnya and the Caucasus. This framework is currently affiliated with the Al-Nusra Front, the Al-Qaeda branch in Syria. The Chechen operatives include highly motivated fighters with combat experience who participated in the uprising against Russia in the 1990s. Several Chechen operatives who joined Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar attained senior command ranks and some senior commanders were killed in battle. The head of this military framework in its various incarnations (since its establishment in March 2012) was a senior operative from Chechnya codenamed Omar the Chechen, until he defected from the unit and joined the ranks of ISIS in early 2014. This reflects the continuation of the phenomenon of operatives defecting from this framework to join the ranks of ISIS.

ISIS’s new official website

  • On February 28, 2015, a jihadi forum reported that ISIS’s new website has gone live. The website address is http://www.is-tube.cf. Many ISIS videos have been uploaded to the website, which is divided into sections according to the mediafoundation that produced them. The website includes live footage from ISIS’s various provinces (at present, there is no content from some of the provinces, and the website is apparently still under construction). In addition, the website includes audio clips from ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, radio bulletins and newsflashes (jihadi forum; official ISIS website, February 28, 2015).

The new website of ISIS, a terrorist organization which is investing considerable effort and resources in developing its propaganda machineThe new website of ISIS, a terrorist organization which is investing considerable effort and resources in developing its propaganda machine

ISIS’s funding sources

  • According to the Iraqi agriculture minister, Islamic State operatives have stolen billions of dollars from the agricultural banks in the provinces that they have captured: Nineveh, Salah al-Din, Al-Anbar, Diyala, and Kirkuk. ISIS has also reportedly stolen agricultural vehicles and the contents of agricultural warehouses in these provinces (Al-Arabi al-Jadeed, February 26, 2015).
  • Commenting on the financial condition of ISIS at a hearing before the US Senate Select Armed Services Committee, James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence (DNI), said that ISIS has recently had financial problems.  He said that of late, ISIS has been forced to cut the salaries of its operatives (Wall Street Journal, February 26).

Young British woman accused of funding terrorism

  • In Britain, Hana Khan, a 23-year-old British woman, was convicted of “funding terrorism”. The young woman sent GBP 1,000 to her boyfriend, who is fighting alongside global jihad organizations in Syria. According to the prosecution, she supported her boyfriend financially even though she knew that he had joined a jihadi organization (Evening Standard, February 23, 2015).

Arrest of three young men in Brooklyn

  • FBI agents arrested three residents of Brooklyn on suspicion of attempting to transfer material aid to ISIS. Two of them, one 24 and the other 19, planned to go to Syria to join ISIS. The third, a US citizen from Uzbekistan, 30, was arrested on suspicion of running a network of local supporters to aid in financing the travel of the other two. The two men bought tickets to Turkey in February and were arrested in March, before making the trip (Time.com, February 26, 2015).

* The full report Spotlight on the Global Jihad (February 26 – March 4, 2015, is available here

 

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