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Jason Burke


British journalist and the author of several non-fiction books. A correspondent covering Africa for The Guardian, he is currently based in Johannesburg, having previously been based in New Delhi as the same paper's South Asia correspondent.In his years of journalism, Burke has addressed a wide range of topics including politics, social affairs and culture in Europe and the Middle East. He has written extensively on Islamic extremism and, among numerous other conflicts, covered the wars of 2001 in Afghanistan and 2003 in Iraq, the latter of which he described as "entirely justifiable from a humanitarian perspective"

The Age of Selfie Jihad: How Evolving Media Technology is Changing Terrorism


Abstract: Extremists have sought to exploit the latest media technology to instill fear in target populations and elicit support from sympathetic audiences. In order to aid their recruitment, they adapt their tactics and strategy and structure their organizations accordingly. Recent rapid technological change that allows terrorists to reach a large audience quickly and directly has enabled them to achieve their messaging goals without launching large-scale attacks that demand significant physical infrastructure. Increasingly, thanks in part to the digital revolution, they can rely on what the Syrian jihadi strategist Abu Musab al-Suri called “individual terrorism.” With the Islamic State losing territory and the al-Qa`ida network increasingly decentralized, individuals and small autonomous cells may increasingly take the initiative in both the murderous and messaging dimensions of terrorism.

At around 9:00 PM on the evening of June 13 this year, a 25-year-old French extremist and petty criminal named Larossi Abballa killed Jean-Baptiste Salvaing, a senior local police official, in the latter’s home in a residential neighborhood of Magnanville, a small town northwest of Paris. Larossi stabbed Salvaing seven times with a large knife. He used the same weapon to kill the dead policeman’s wife. Leaving the couple’s three-year-old son unharmed, Larossi then turned to his smartphone.1a

Using Facebook’s new live stream application, Facebook Live, the food delivery man broadcasted a rambling speech in Arabic and French that lasted 12 minutes. He spoke of his motives for the attack; pledged allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi; called for further attacks in France against a range of targets, including prominent rappers, journalists, and politicians; and told those watching he was unsure of what to do with the traumatized child sitting a meter or so away from him.2

Larossi’s use of Facebook was an entirely predictable step. Terrorists’ quick exploitation of technological developments has been well documented, as has the impact that innovations in media has had on terrorist groups themselves.b But the advent of smart phones with high processing power, miniature video and camera devices, high speed data networks, and increasingly ubiquitous encryption have created, for the first time, the capability for individuals to communicate with large numbers of other people in real time. This has had potentially profound implications for the future of terrorism. This article charts the impact of changes in media technology on the way terrorist groups have organized their resources, tactics, and activities, and it looks at how the increasingly fast pace of technological change may impact terrorism in the future.

Historical Background 

If terrorism depends on creating fear among target populations and those populations are often of significant size, then some form of mass messaging is prerequisite for any terrorist strategy to succeed. It has often been noted that terrorism in its recognizably modern form emerged in the mid- to late 19th century alongside newspapers and other forms of dissemination capable of carrying the news of a given terrorist act to large numbers of people. It was also roughly contemporaneous with the development of the telegraph, allowing news of events to be relayed with unprecedented rapidity to audiences many thousands of miles away.3 Several decades later, strategists belonging to national liberation movements during the peak years of violent struggle against colonial rulers in the decade or so following World War II were quick to recognize the potential of television and to adjust their strategies to exploit this powerful, new mode of communication. In the 1970s, further technological developments were a factor in the surge of spectacular violence during that decade.4 One of these was the ability to send images live from an overseas location. Like the telegraph almost 100 years earlier, this brought a new immediacy to reports of very distant events, which terrorists were fast to exploit.c

Not all groups were able to gain from these developments, however. Achieving greater publicity depended on the ability to meet a threshold set by officials or news professionals who controlled the content of news bulletins or front pages. It was extremely difficult for terrorists to influence this reality with the limited means at their disposal. For most groups active during this period, the only means of production and dissemination of “content,” remained leaflets or even graffiti. Even as late as the mid-1990s, Islamist militant propaganda produced by Algerian groups circulated in the U.K. consisted primarily of audio cassettes, a form of dissemination used in the Middle East since the 1980s. Only those groups with significant existing capabilities, or the possibility of acquiring them, were able to execute the kind of spectacular attack that would be guaranteed to capture the attention of the mainstream media in their target countries. The IRA was a clear example. The PFLP, which was behind the 1970 Dawson’s Field hijackings, and Black September, which was responsible for the attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, were both able to take advantage of substantial infrastructure such as training camps.d

Al-Qa`ida was founded in 1988. Though his objectives and interests remained fairly constant from the early to mid-1990s, Usama bin Ladin’s media strategy took nearly a decade to mature. While in his native Saudi Arabia and then in exile in Sudan, bin Ladin had largely relied on print and audio cassettes to disseminate his ideas. Soon after shifting to Afghanistan in 1996, he appears to have become much more interested in television. His arrival had coincided with the maturing of satellite broadcasting, which was transforming the media landscape of the Middle East and beyond. Bin Ladin recognized the advantages of satellite networks to broadcast material, which would previously have been kept off air by states long able to control what their populations watched, in local languages.

The best-known satellite network example was Qatar-based Al Jazeera, set up in 1996, but there were also other outlets that enabled the leader of al-Qa`ida, though based in remote Afghanistan, to reach an audience of hundreds of millions, which would have otherwise been impossible. English-language networks also played a role, albeit a less significant one. In 1997, bin Ladin was interviewed by CNN for example. Anyone with a decoder and a dish anywhere in the world would have been able to see and hear him. By the early 2000s, few corners of the Islamic world—even tightly controlled authoritarian states—were beyond the reach of satellite TV.e Though illegal in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, dishes and decoders were sufficiently widespread for large numbers of people to watch the invasion of 2003 in real time.f

By the mid- to late 1990s, the campaign against “the Far Enemy” of the West had become al-Qa`ida’s major purpose. This had three linked goals: to force a physical, financial, and diplomatic withdrawal by the United States from the Middle East; to precipitate the fall of hated “apostate” regimes there; and to prompt the formation of a new cohort of supporters. It was a mission statement they wanted to be heard by the U.S. government, Muslims around the world, and the broader population in Western countries.

Many factors determined the structure and organization of al-Qa`ida, but the desire to execute major, spectacular terrorist attacks that would attract global media attention for their message was arguably central.g To achieve this, bin Ladin needed to launch operations that the new media gatekeepers—executives at satellite networks around the world—could not ignore.h In Afghanistan, al-Qa`ida built, or appropriated, a training structure that provided this capability. The best recruits in basic boot camps, often run by local groups or factions, were funneled into a smaller number of camps run by al-Qa`ida where they were taught advanced techniques. This provided the capacity for the escalating series of attacks executed by the group between 1998 and 2001, which can be seen as progressively more ambitious attempts to capture the world’s attention. The structure al-Qa`ida was forced to adopt to execute these strikes, however, was cumbersome, expensive, and as was shown in the weeks after 9/11, vulnerable.

The Digital Revolution 

The next decade saw a dramatic evolution of media technology. Islamist militant groups everywhere adapted their strategies and their structures as a result. The changes were neither linear nor uniform.

Until around 2004, the internet played a minor role in Islamist militancy, limited largely to providing forums for discussions and communication between a small number of people. If there were some well-known websites, these had limited reach and faced a variety of significant logistic issues, such as download times and access. Images of Daniel Pearl’s murder in Pakistan in 2002 first circulated on a video cassette before being uploaded to a militant-linked website. As far as can be ascertained, they were viewed by very few people in either format, and no satellite network existed that would broadcast them. Even in Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the invasion, the production and dissemination of most propaganda remained reliant on familiar methods. When makeshift studios set up by terrorists were raided in Fallujah in 2004, dozens of video recorders were seized.5 Though the introduction of small, affordable digital cameras made obtaining combat footage much easier, such material was usually burned onto CDs/DVDs and then physically distributed or transmitted to locations outside Iraq where the infrastructure necessary for broadcast existed.6

The next phase of the evolution—or revolution—saw distribution networks digitized. A turning point came when the images of the execution of U.S. contractor Nick Berg by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in May 2004 were posted on a militant website. The exact number of downloads is unknown, but its wide dissemination on jihadist websites, and the “buzz” it created on extremist online forums, suggests this footage reached a much greater audience than any comparable material. Even this was a limited reach compared to what was to come, especially in the Middle East where internet access remained restricted and bandwidths extremely narrow.

Al-Zarqawi, or perhaps one of his associates, realized that extremists no longer had to make content that appealed to news editors in distant offices, or would at least not repel them. They could create their own productions, designed to speak directly to the specific people they wanted to speak to, and then broadcast them via the internet. Although al-Zarqawi built up a significant infrastructure to wage an insurgent and terrorist campaign inside Iraq, he did not set up the sort of training camps al-Qa`ida set up in Afghanistan to carry out spectacular international attacks. This was because his focus was much more on the “near enemy,” and because the security environment in Iraq was very different from that in Afghanistan pre-2001, but it was also because his ability to directly get his message out meant there was no need to carry out international spectaculars to reach his target audience.

It was another jihadi, Abu Musab al-Suri, who more fully grasped the future possible implications of the new technology. Not only did he practically exploit its capabilities, by publishing his seminal work “A Call to a Global Islamic Resistance” in late 2004 online, but he repeatedly referred in the text to the importance of the internet as a resource for jihadis.7

Though complex, al-Suri’s text is best known for its doctrine of “nizam, la tanzim,” which roughly translates as ‘system not organization’ and has been dubbed “leaderless jihad” by analysts.8 Al-Suri also himself branded it “individual terrorism.”i This vision of independent actors executing their own individual elements of the collective Islamist extremist endeavor was not an entirely new idea, but al-Suri provided one of the most articulate and elaborate codifications of this strategy and the first one that explicitly stressed the internet as a means of relaying advice and orientation.

The force of circumstance played a significant role in the development of his new strategic doctrine: the need to make terrorist groups more resilient in the face of intense international counterterrorism efforts, especially U.S. military power in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

However, al-Suri’s writings indicate that he also grasped that changes in media technology meant that terrorists could adapt in the future by foregoing much of their infrastructure and still succeed in their messaging aims. By implication, the vulnerable training camps bin Ladin had set up at a large expense in order to carry out spectacular terrorist attacks, as well as al-Qa`ida’s centralized and hierarchical structures, were no longer as necessary. “Muslim homes,” al Suri wrote, “should become both the new training camps and forward bases.”9

So that this decentralized movement would succeed in its messaging aims, he called for the creation of “covert incitement detachments” that he envisaged working alongside operational cells to get the jihadist message out “via covert means of broadcasting, especially through the internet.” These detachments, al-Suri wrote, should be made up of individuals with significant knowledge of religious law, politics, ideology, as well as media experience and experience in using the Internet.10

Yet even al-Suri did not foresee what was to come next. Phase three of the digital revolution saw a rush of deep and lasting changes. One was miniaturization, with cameras becoming so small that they could be inserted into telephones. The power of such devices was first truly demonstrated by the impact of clandestinely filmed images of the execution of Saddam Hussein in 2006.11 These clips altered the perception of this key event across the Middle East, dramatically disrupting the narrative that U.S. and Iraqi government officials sought to project and underscoring how difficult it had become for states to manage information. Over the following years, devices capable of capturing broadcast-quality footage became even smaller, cheaper, and lighter.

MMS,j SMS, and email also became cheaper and easier to use across the Islamic world and beyond. The introduction of smartphones coupled with the spread of Twitter, Facebook and other social media, allowing massive and almost instantaneous broadcast of content was a further major step. Once more, all terrorist groups began using the new technology—though, again, in different ways.

One of the most successful such propagandists of recent years, Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American cleric linked to many attacks in the West, was swift to recognize the potential of YouTube, a video-sharing platform established in 2005. A 2009 British government analysis found 1,910 videos of al-Awlaki on YouTube, one of which had been viewed 164,420 times.12 As before, the new technology often complemented older means of dissemination. In India-controlled parts of Kashmir in 2013, for example, CDs of al-Awlaki’s lectures were popular among taxi drivers. So too, for those with suitably equipped vehicles, were MP3 files.13

The Taliban started to use Twitter, launched in 2006, in early 2011.14 Al-Shabaab in Somalia was active on the platform only a few months later. The group attracted thousands of followers. Twitter gave individual members the ability to broadcast propaganda but also to voice grievances during internal power struggles. During its September 2013 attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, al-Shabaab justified the attack and gave details of ongoing operations in real time.15 k

Just as influential was Facebook, which had a million users in 2004 but 750 million by the time of the Arab uprisings of 2011.16 In a revealing comment shortly after the uprising in Egypt that deposed Hosni Mubarak in that year—a long-term aim of al-Qa`ida and a host of other extremists—a veteran of Egyptian militant activism Aboud al-Zomor, told a journalist that if Facebook had existed 30 years earlier, there would have been no need to assassinate President Anwar Sadat. Instead of trying to use spectacular violence against a high-profile target, an extraordinarily risky and ambitious enterprise for any extremist organization, to prompt a general uprising and overturn a regime, it seemed the same goal could be achieved through the networking of individuals via social media.17

In 2014 the then-Islamic State of Iraq made use of MMS during framing operations before launching its successful, ‘surprise’ offensive against Mosul, sending images of executions and abductions of comrades to Iraqi Army officers in a successful effort to undermine morale.18 It also launched a hashtag on Twitter, #AllEyesOnISIS, as the campaign got underway.19

The combination of digital cameras; cheap laptops and editing software; and social media has subsequently been systematically and massively exploited by the Islamic State and its sympathizers both inside and outside the regions it controls in well-documented ways. A detailed examination is beyond the scope of this article.20 It is worth noting that the group has invested very significant resources into its propaganda and made the production and dissemination of content a key strategic function. The Islamic State has consciously choreographed violence in the areas it controls to meet the demands of its key audiences, and it has carefully exploited the capabilities of contemporary media technology to deliver that content, often via social media but also via other means. Many of the practices of the Islamic State have been replicated both by its various affiliated organizations, such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, and by competing groups in areas they control.

Jihadist Millennials 

A new generation of tech savvy jihadi millennials are starting to exploit the full potential of advancing media technologies. One very important part of this new phase has been new technology such as GoPro cameras—originally designed for use by extreme athletes—which allows a single individual to film point-of-view images, produce, and broadcast content. The gradual exploitation by attackers of the full capabilities of such equipment when combined with smartphones and fast internet was seen in France in recent years. Mohammed Merah, a 24-year-old French-Algerian who killed seven in a 10-day shooting spree in 2012 in southwest France, filmed his own attacks with a GoPro camera and edited a lengthy clip from the material he had obtained. However, he reverted to traditional “mainstream” media when it came to delivery and dissemination of that content, sending it on a USB key to Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based TV network, which refrained from broadcasting it.21 Amedy Coulibaly, 32, who attacked a kosher supermarket in Paris in 2015, captured images with a GoPro camera and then uploaded them to a laptop while holding hostages. He attempted to email them to a contact, but the images were never broadcast, and it is unclear what became of them.22 As outlined above, Larossi Abballa, the 25-year-old Magnanville attacker, used a live feed to address his audience from the scene of his attack.l

Larossi for Burke
Magnanville killer Larossi Abballa
in his Facebook Live video

The next step, which now appears inevitable, is a live stream from a GoPro or other camera of an actual killing. The technology now exists, with the use of a range of live-streaming apps such as Periscope, Twitch, and Facebook Live expanding rapidly over the last 18 months.23 Already, these apps have allowed a French woman to live-stream her suicide and a teenager in the United States to broadcast her friend’s rape.24 In August 2015, a journalist and a cameraman were shot dead by a colleague during a live broadcast of a television interview in Moneta, Virginia. Though the local CBS affiliate cut the broadcast feed, the killer Vester Flanagan had used a GoPro camera to capture point-of-view images of the attack and then posted a 56-second video on social media. Both Twitter and Facebook quickly removed Flanagan’s profile—the former within eight minutes of the footage being posted—but the event received global attention. Newspapers around the world featured images of the killings from Flanagan’s own footage on their front pages. And Flanagan’s tweet—“I filmed the shooting see Facebook”—was rapidly and widely disseminated by social media users.25

A further development is more extensive, effective, and available encryption. The Islamic State has made Telegram, a free messaging application, one of its main outlets for propaganda and for claims of responsibility for operations.26 In the week following the Paris attacks of November last year, Telegram said it had shut down 78 “ISIS-related channels.”27 Such channels are, however, public. Groups, of up to 200 members, and supergroups, of up to 5000, on Telegram are not. Chat facilities are heavily encrypted, and messages can be set to self-destruct.28

Encrypted Messaging channels such as Telegram have provided the Islamic State and other terrorist groups with a powerful new operational tool to instigate, plan, coordinate, and broadcast attacks. French investigators believe that Rachid Kassim, a 29-year-old alleged French Islamic State member currently believed to be in Syria or Iraq, used the Telegram application not only to circulate a list of targets and attack scenarios to some 300 contacts within France,29 but also to privately reach out to extremists and unite radicalized individuals who lived far apart and may not have known one another to form operational cells. Kassim is believed to have brought together the two men who killed a priest in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, in July 2016, as well as the female cell accused of plotting to use a car filled with gas canisters as an explosive device near Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral.30 Among Kassim’s contacts was Larossi Abballa, who killed the police couple in Magnanville. Private electronic exchanges between them obtained by French security services reveal that the 12-minute speech Larossi broadcasted via Facebook Live was heavily influenced by Kassim.31 Other groups such as al-Shabaab have also adopted Telegram to claim responsibility for attacks.m These days the self-destruct option available on Telegram has been added to most chat apps, while end-to-end encryption protocols are becoming near universal.32 Encryption apps allow extremists not only to communicate securely with terrorist groups but also to securely upload footage of their attacks.

One of the killers of the priest in Saint-Etienne-du Rouvray, Adel Kermiche, was particularly active on the Telegram messaging app. In the weeks before the attack, he broadcasted a series of audio messages to 200 extremists via his private Telegram channel recounting his failed attempt to travel from France to join the Islamic State in Syria. He also signaled he was intending to carry out a knife attack in a church. The day before the attack he told his followers that they would soon need to rebroadcast content that he was going to post. “I’ll tell you in advance, three or four minutes before, and when the thing happens, you’ll need to share it live.” The next morning around 90 minutes before launching the attack, he told followers to “share what will follow.” He then again accessed the application just minutes before entering the church. After killing the priest, he and his accomplice forced a hostage to record the aftermath of the attack on one of the their cell phones, even checking on the quality of the images, but they were killed by French commandos during the hostage siege before it seems they had a chance to upload the footage. However, before the attack, they managed to send out a video they had previously recorded video pledging allegiance to the Islamic State, which was rebroadcast by the Islamic State-affiliated Amaq news agency. In an extraordinary twist a week after the attack, new messages were posted on Kermiche’s private Telegram channel, including an audio message by a French-speaking extremist who presented himself as based in a jihadist battleground overseas. In the tape, the mystery extremist, who presumably was provided Kermiche’s account details before he was killed, congratulated the church attackers and the Magnanville killer Larossi Abballa.33

Other operatives may have planned to live broadcast attacks. In the early hours of November 20 an alleged Islamic State network which French investigators say were plotting attacks in France was arrested by French police in Strasbourg and Marseilles. In the hours before their arrest two of the conspirators downloaded “Periscope” to their smart phones, a Twitter app that allows users to broadcast live video, establishing “the imminence,” according to the Paris prosecutor, of their planned attack.34

It is entirely possible that, at some stage in the not too distant future, there will be an encrypted live stream of an attack sent to followers of a particular channel. The encrypted nature of the communication means, however, that it would only initially reach those who were already part of, or close to, an extremist network, but they could be downloaded and rebroadcasted by terrorist groups like the Amaq news agency did for Abballa’s Facebook Live.n

More Individual Jihad  

The cumulative effect of all these various technological innovations is to make smaller attacks by individuals or very small groups more attractive to terrorist organizations than ever before.

With the exception of attacks in Paris and Brussels, most of the attacks by the Islamic State in the West have involved the group inspiring or instigating small scale acts of terror. Although the Islamic State created an external operations division dedicated to launching international attacks, the group so far has not put a large fraction of its resources into this unit.35 No evidence has so far come to the light that the group has set up training camps, like al-Qa`ida did in Afghanistan, exclusively dedicated to attacking the West. While the decision to dedicate only limited resources to international attacks has reflected the Islamic State’s focus on maintaining and defending its so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq, it also reflects how evolving media technology has offered the organization an alternative to costly, complex, spectacular attacks that were once the only way terrorists could achieve their messaging aims. In the months since the March 2016 Brussels attacks, sympathizers in France and Germany have launched a series of attacks and attempted attacks using what they have branded as Islamic State operations using media tools.36 Cumulatively, these have been effective in keeping the Islamic State in the headlines, exacerbating communal tensions in Europe and elsewhere in the West, and, to some extent, obscuring the growing weakness of the organization.

In this era of Islamic State terror, social media and encryption are making al-Suri’s vision of individual terrorism a reality. There has been a steady rise in the number of lone-actor operations over the last decade,37 a trend which has coincided with the deepening and broadening of the digital revolution as well as the encouragement of such operations by terrorist groups because intensified counterterrorism operations have disrupted their ability to launch larger plots. Lone actors now have much greater capability to create and broadcast material than they did a decade ago, while extremist groups can contact and interact with potential recruits with much greater ease. This has made it easier for “individual” terrorists from Copenhagen to San Bernardino to Bavaria to claim carrying out their attack on behalf of a particular terrorist group, something that both the Islamic State in its propaganda magazines and Abu Musab al-Suri, many years ago, have stressed as vital. For individual terrorism to be “orderly,” “wonderful individual initiatives” needed to be “invested” with “a state of general unity,” the Syrian had argued in “Call to a Global Islamic Resistance.”38

Terrorist communication now takes place through multiple channels to maximize the impact of a given attack. The echo chamber of social media can be relied on to do the rest. Indeed, if the aim of terrorism is to create fear, then so-called “lone actors” are peculiarly effective, underscoring the ordinary citizen’s sense that the threat to them is ubiquitous and unstoppable. A series of attacks by individuals can thus create a generalized sense of panic, which almost rivals that prompted by some larger attacks like the recent attacks in Paris and Brussels, but for a fraction of the investment.

What Lies Ahead 

With al-Qa`ida increasingly becoming a coalition of loosely connected local groups united only by nominal allegiance to a weak central leadership, and as the Islamic State loses yet more of its territorial base, a new Islamic extremist landscape is emerging. As the latter group loses access to territory in Syria and Iraq and the capability to recruit, train, and direct foreign fighters, it is likely to rely more on “individual terrorism” by actors acting on behalf of the group by their own initiative. Whether these actors are foreign fighters who have migrated back home or to new fronts or whether they are extremists who never traveled to join the group, a “post-caliphate” generation of jihadis will likely take advantage of new media technologies to amplify the impact of their attacks. The new landscape will be one with few formal boundaries or solid structures, where groups can form wherever resources permit and circumstances are favorable. It is also one in which technology may permit active militants in the future to become individual terror broadcasting units, cataloging their path to terror and teaching others their tradecraft.

Jason Burke is a British journalist and author who has covered extremism, conflict, and political violence for more than 20 years, reporting from Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia. His most recent book, The New Threat from Islamic Militancy, was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize. He is currently a senior foreign correspondent for The Guardian. Follow @burke_jason

The author wishes to thank Paul Cruickshank for his significant editorial input.


Substantive Notes

[a] This article builds on a Guardian report by the author earlier this year. Jason Burke, “How Changing Media is Changing Terrorism,” Guardian, February 25, 2016.

[b] The relationship between the media and terrorism has been explored in seminal works such as Bruce Hoffman’s Inside Terrorism and Paul Wilkington’s The Media and Terrorism: A Reassessment. A production of Joseph Conrad’s classic novel The Secret Agent, which examines terrorism in the U.K. in the first decade of the 20th century, prompted considerable debate in the U.K. on this crucial topic this summer.

[c] Others included new lightweight video cameras, portable video recorders, and technology, which allowed video footage to be transmitted from a location to a studio or broadcast direct. Hoffman, pp. 178-179.

[d] The PFLP and Black September were also aided by connections to European leftist groups and received assistance from Soviet, Eastern European, and Middle Eastern states. John Follain, Jackal: the complete story of the legendary terrorist, Carlos the Jackal (New York: Arcade Publishing, 1998), pp. 27-28; Christopher Andrew, The Mitrokhin Archive II (New York: Penguin), chapter 12; Jeffrey Herf, Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left, 1967-1989 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), pp. 29, 354, 356; Dan Byman, Deadly Connections: States that Sponsor Terrorism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 133, 140.

[e] Bin Ladin was far from the only Islamist extremist keen to exploit the new technology. Lebanon-based Hezbollah launched its own satellite channel, Al-Manar, in 2001. Author’s reporting, interviews with Hezbollah and al-Manar, Beirut, 2005.

[f] This is, as far as the author knows, the first time that the population of a country had actually watched an invasion while it happened.

[g] The group’s commitment to fighting in Afghanistan alongside the Taliban was tactical, born of a desire to maintain good relations with their hosts. Attempts to aid other extremist factions fighting elsewhere continued, though sporadically.

[h] Though bin Ladin cultivated a relationship with Al Jazeera, he was frustrated by the lack of interest of its editors in the content of the many video tapes delivered by courier to its bureau in Pakistan or headquarters in Qatar. Author interview with one such courier, Pakistan, October 2001.

[i] Abu Musab al Suri’s book elaborated on ideas he taught in training camps in Afghanistan before 9/11. Videotapes from the summer 2000 show him telling a class, “We ask the Muslim youth to be a terrorist. Why do we ask for such individual terrorism? First because secret hierarchical organizations failed to attract Muslims. The youth fear joining such an organization because if there is a mistake, then the authorities will reach them. Second because we need to give the youth the chance to play a role without being part of an organization. Some youth don’t want to join an organization and don’t know how to act on their beliefs.” See Paul Cruickshank and Mohanad Hage Ali, “Abu Musab Al Suri: Architect of the New Al Qaeda,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 30:1 (2007): pp. 1 – 14.

[j] MMS, or Multimedia Messaging Service, is a way to send messages with multimedia content between cell phones.

[k] Omar Hammami, also known as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, was a U.S.-born recruit who, slightly ahead of his time, effectively live tweeted an attack on his life in late 2013. David Smith, “US ‘jihadist rapper’ claims to have survived attempt on life by al-Shabaab,” Guardian, April 26, 2013.

[l] Tech companies face formidable difficulties to counter such acts. The video was finally suspended around 11 hours after the live-stream was initially broadcast, according to The Washington Post. Caitlin Dewey and Sarah Parnass, “For the first time, an alleged terrorist has broadcast a confession in real time on Facebook Live,” Washington Post, June 14, 2016.

[m] In October, the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab used Telegram to claim responsibility for a car bombing in Mogadishu, clearly believing that sufficient members of its group would act as relayers for the message to reach a broader audience. Harun Maruf, “Al-Shabab Bomb Attack Hits Mogadishu Restaurant,” VOA, October 2016.

[n] The Facebook Live posted by Magnanville attacker Larossi Abballa was available to those following his Facebook page. One of those was the French journalist David Thomson who was the first to report on the video. The footage was downloaded by Islamic State sympathizers and an edited version of the recording was subsequently released via the affiliated Amaq news agency. See Amar Toor, “French terror suspect reportedly streamed attack on Facebook Live,” The Verge, June 14, 2016; and Tim Hume, Lindsay Isaac, and Paul Cruickshank, “French terror attacker threatened Euro 2016 in Facebook video, source says,” CNN, June 14, 2016.

[o] The terrorists who attacked Copenhagen in February 2015 and the terrorist couple who attacked San Bernardino in December 2015 pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi via Facebook. The terrorist who attacked passengers on a train in Bavaria in July 2016 claimed responsibility in a video file transferred to the Islamic State-affiliated Amaq news agency. See “Denmark terror suspect swore fidelity to ISIS leader on Facebook page,” CNN, February 23, 2015; “San Bernardino shooting investigated as ‘act of terrorism,’” CNN, December 5, 2015; “IS’ `Amaq News Agency Releases Video of Alleged Wuerzburg Attacker Identifying as ‘Soldier of the Caliphate,’” SITE Intelligence Group, July 19, 2016.


Citations

[1] “Le tueur de Magnanville, Larossi Abballa, connaissait l’une de ses victimes,” Le Monde, June 16, 2016.

[2] “L’État islamique revendique le meurtre d’un policier et de sa compagne,” Le Figaro, June 14, 2016.

[3] Emerson T. Brooking and P.W. Singer, “War Goes Viral,” Atlantic, November 2016.

[4] Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016), pp. 173-195.

[5] Jason Burke, “Theatre of terror,” Guardian, November 20, 2014.

[6] Author interviews, Amman and Baghdad, 2003 and 2004.

[7] See Chapter 8, sections 5 to 7 in Abu Musab al Suri’s “The Call to a Global Islamic Resistance,” which was published on jihadist websites in December 2004.

[8] See Mark Sageman, Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Century (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2008) for the most obvious example.

[9] James J. F. Forest, Jarret Brachman, and Joseph Felter, Harmony and disharmony, exploiting al-Qa’ida’s organizational vulnerabilities (West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center, 2006), p. 54.

[10] Abu Musab al Suri’s “The Call to a Global Islamic Resistance” was published on jihadist websites in December 2004.

[11] “Iraqis arrest men over Saddam hanging video,” NBC News, January 3, 2007; Burke, “How Changing Media is Changing Terrorism.”

[12] Gabriel Weimann, “New Terrorism and New Media,” Wilson Center, 2014, p. 11.

[13] Author’s own reporting, Kashmir, 2013.

[14] Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger, ISIS: The State of Terror (Glasgow: William Collins, 2015), p. 134.

[15] Peter Bergen, “Are mass murderers using Twitter as a tool?” CNN, September 27, 2013.

[16] “Number of active users at Facebook over the years,” Associated Press, May 1, 2013.

[17] Richard Engel, “Sadat’s assassination plotter remains unrepentant,” NBC News, July 5, 2011.

[18] Jason Burke, The New Threat from Islamic Militancy (London: Bodley Head, 2015), pp. 4, 88-89.

[19] Brooking and Singer.

[20] For more, see, for example, Daniel Milton, Communications Breakdown: Unraveling the Islamic State’s Media Efforts (West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center, 2016). Martin Chulov, “Media jihad: why Isis’s leaders bow to its propagandists,” Guardian, January 4, 2016; Greg Miller and Souad Mekhennet “Inside the surreal world of the Islamic State’s propaganda machine,” Washington Post, November 20, 2015; Mubaraz Ahmed and Fred Lloyd George, “A War of Key Words: How extremists are exploiting the internet and what to do about it,” Tony Blair Faith Foundation, July 2016; and Stern and Berger, pp. 148-174.

[21] Burke, “How Changing Media is Changing Terrorism.”

[22] Paul Cruickshank, Jim Sciutto, and Steve Almasy, “Official: Gunman recorded terror attack on Parisian kosher grocery,” CNN, January 31, 2015.

[23] Karissa Bell, “You can now livestream your GoPro footage on periscope,” Mashable, January 26, 2016.

[24] Peter Holley, “‘She got caught up in the likes’: Teen accused of live-streaming friend’s rape for attention,” Washington Post, April 19, 2016; Max Bearak, “Suicide on Periscope in France is the latest in live-streamed horrors,” Washington Post, May 11, 2015.

[25] Burke, “How Changing Media is Changing Terrorism.”

[26] “Islamic State makes Telegram messaging app a major marketing tool,” Reuters, November 18, 2015; Jared Malsin, “What to Know About ISIS’s Role in the Orlando Shooting,” Time, June 12, 2016.

[27] James Titcomb, “Encrypted messaging App Telegram shuts down Islamic state propaganda channels,” Daily Telegraph, November 19, 2015.

[28] “Deux hommes soupçonnés de liens avec Rachid Kassim mis en examen et écroués,” Le Monde, September 21, 2016.

[29] Soren Seelow, “Rachid Kassim, le gourou des jeunes apprentis terroristes,” Le Monde, September 16, 2016.

[30] Pierre Alonso and Willy Le Devin, “Les flux furieux de Rachid Kassim,” Liberation, September 16, 2016.

[31] Alonso and Le Devin; “Three Women Charged Over Foiled Paris Terror Plot,” Agence France-Presse, September 13, 2016.

[32] Robert Graham, “How Terrorists Use Encryption,” CTC Sentinel 9:6 (2016).

[33] See “Attentat à Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray: Une vidéo montre les suspects prêter allégeance à Daesh,” 20 Minutes, July 27, 2016; “Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray : le rescapé forcé à filmer l’assassinat se confie,” Le Parisien, September 28, 2016; “Attackers forced church attendee to record French priest’s murder, hostage says,” Fox News, July 27, 2016; Victor Garcia and Jérémie Pham-Lê, “Tu vas dans une église, tu fais un carnage”: l’enregistrement glaçant de Kermiche,” L’Express, July 28, 2016; Victor Garcia, Claire Hache and Jérémie Pham-Lê, “Le terroriste Adel Kermiche est mort, mais son Telegram s’est remis à parler,” L’Express, August 3, 2016.

[34] Press Conference by Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins, November 25, 2016; Elise Vincent, “Ce que révèle l’enquête sur le démantèlement de la cellule de Strasbourg,” Le Monde, November 25, 2016.

[35] Nicole Magney and Paul Cruickshank, “A View from the CT Foxhole: Adam Szubin, Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, U.S. Department of the Treasury, CTC Sentinel 9:8 (2016).

[36] Examples include the attacks on the police officers in Magnanville in June, the attack on a priest in Normandy in July, and the terrorist who attacked a train in Bavaria in July 2016. He claimed responsibility in a video file transferred to Amaq news agency. “IS’ `Amaq News Agency Releases Video of Alleged Wuerzburg Attacker Identifying as ‘Soldier of the Caliphate,’” SITE Intelligence Group, July 19, 2016.

[37] Lone-Actor Terrorism Final Report, Royal United Services Institute, Countering Lone-Actor Terrorism Series No. 11 (2016)

[38] Al-Suri quoted in Cruickshank and Hage Ali.

 

 

Especial: 11-S. Operación global contra el terrorismo: El análisis de los profesionales

 


Fuente: Combating Terrorism Center
Fecha: 2016-11-30

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