ji·had·ica

Turning the Volume Up to 11 is not Enough (part 2): Networks of Influence and Ideological Coherence

On February 3, 2014, the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (ISIS or ISIL) published a video depicting captured Jordanian pilot Mu’adh al-Kasasiba wearing the notorious orange jump suit. For the background information on the secret negotiation attempt for his release, please check out the detailed contribution by Joas. For this Jihadica posting, let us concentrate on the propaganda side – and works – of ISIS, as announced in our first part. This post looks at three aspects; • How this video fits into the greater puzzle of jihadist ideology including the intersection between text based ideology and the demonstration (via video) of this ideology in practice. • How the elements of the Swarmcast ensured the video would reach a wide audience and maintain a persistent presence. • The limited impact of the response, named #opISIS, by hackers linked to Anonymous seeking to disrupt ISIS media networks. Content matters, as does the means

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Battlefield Yemen: The Islamic State’s Challenge to AQAP

Since the caliphate declaration of late June 2014, Yemen has emerged a key battleground in the intra-jihadi struggle pitting the Islamic State against al-Qaeda. The country hosts what is arguably al-Qaeda’s most prestigious affiliate, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). But as far as the Islamic State is concerned, that organization ceased to exist when the caliphate was declared. Thereafter all jihadi groups were expected to dissolve themselves and incorporate within the all-supreme caliphate. Preemptive bay‘a In mid-November, the Islamic State, driving home this point, officially declared its “expansion” to Yemen, among other target countries, proclaiming “the dissolution of the names of the groups in them and declaring them to be new provinces of the Islamic State.” A series of bay‘as— statements of allegiance to Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi—were issued simultaneously on November 10 from Yemen, Arabia, Egypt, Libya, and Algeria. Three days later, Baghdadi “accepted” the pledges, conferring on

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A Jihadi Civil War of Words: The Ghuraba’ Media Foundation and Minbar al-Tawhid wa’l-Jihad

Amid the ongoing conflict between al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, jihadi ideologues and media appear more divided than ever before. Notwithstanding U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria that some thought could unite jihadi ranks, the jihadi civil war is raging on unabated, and nowhere more so than on the ideological and media front. Among more traditional media, it is now the norm for jihadi web forums to identify—even openly—with one belligerent or the other. Some forums, such as Platform Media and Tahaddi, promote the Islamic State, with Shumukh more or less also on board; Fida’ and ‘Arin, among others, clearly favor al-Qaeda. Yet the real jihadi battle of wits is not being waged on or between the forums. The ideological battlefield is defined, rather, by a number of upstart media outlets on Twitter supportive of the Islamic State, on the one side, and a few established websites of older jihadi

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Caliphate Now: Jihadis Debate the Islamic State

Since the mid-November beheading in Aleppo of allied commander Muhammad Faris of Harakat Ahrar al-Sham, a barrage of negative media attention has afflicted Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS). ISIS was concerned by its public image problem even before this signal mistake. In a September statement, Islamic State official spokesman Abu Muhammad al-‘Adnani defended his emirate from a perceived media onslaught, thought to be led by “the unbelieving West” and its regional allies and aimed at discrediting ISIS: playing up its feuds with other mujahidin in Syria and playing down its battlefield accomplishments. Another campaign to discredit the Islamic State, however, cannot be attributed to Western origin. It arises from within the jihadi community itself. In November the two most high-profile jihadi ideologues alive today issued searing critiques of ISIS and its emir, al-Baghdadi. Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and Abu Qatada al-Filistini, imprisoned in Jordan in the

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A Little-Known Syrian Jihadi Magazine

In various previous posts, I have paid attention to the Syrian-British Jihadi-Salafi ideologue Abu Basir al-Tartusi, for example because of his criticism of other jihadis and his support for the Free Syrian Army at the expense of Jabhat al-Nusra. His position, differing somewhat from that of other major radical scholars, was interesting because it was more conciliatory towards non-Islamists and remnants of previous regimes and also because it was less dismissive of the widespread calls for democracy that the Arab Spring showed. The Arab Spring also pulled Abu Basir out of the semi-isolation that he was in when he was still living in Britain. Since the early protests against the Syrian regime, he has been very active in promoting the downfall of President Bashar al-Asad, with an unprecedented amount of footage of his speeches, lessons, etc. appearing on YouTube. Part of this greater exposure in the media was a Facebook

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66 Important Jihadist Twitter Accounts (part 2)

In our earlier post, together with Ali Fisher we detailed and assessed 66 accounts listed by Shumukh al-Islam jihadi Forum member Ahmad ‘Abdallah as ‘important jihadist’ members on twitter. We looked primarily at the users individually, using the data of these 66 accounts to create this infographic to give our readers an overview of these users. In this post we focus on what we are able to find out about them as a group and provide an interactive network map to show the links between these advocated ‘important jihadist’ twitter accounts. Relational dynamics Analysing the relational dynamics between these accounts as a group and those who choose to follow them is a key part of understanding the online strategies of “The most important jihadi and support sites for jihad and the mujahideen on Twitter”. As we identified previously, the accounts had been categorized in different types by Ahmad ‘Abdallah. This

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Jihadi Twitter activism – Introduction

Ali Fisher and I have recently exchanged thoughts and data regarding the increasing Jihadi use of Twitter. By taking an interdisciplinary approach of social-media analysis and cluster network assessment, we decided to start a series on Jihadica on the parts of the overall jihadi, primarily Arabic language propaganda resonating among the audiences online. We plan on delivering updates on the subject as we move along and kick-off the series with an overall introduction to the theme. In future posts in the series, we will highlight and decipher some of the core content most often shared on Twitter, allowing conclusions to be drawn about the parts of jihadist propaganda which resonate with a wider audience (and hence shared over and over again). Introducing the theme The recent essay by Abu Sa‘d al-‘Amili on the state of global online jihad (discussed here) lamented a general decline in participation in jihadi online forums.

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Are the Jihadi Forums Flagging? An Ideologue’s Lament

Last month prominent jihadi ideologue Abu Sa‘d al-‘Amili published a critical essay on the state of online global jihad. Released by Fursan al-Balagh Media (@fursanalbalaagh) on February 17, the eight-page essay stirringly lamented a general decline in participation in jihadi online forums (websites such as Shumukh al-Islam and Shabakat al-Fida’ al-Islamiyya) and pleaded with users to reinvigorate the forums as the proper centers of jihadi discussion and intellectual production online. (For the history of these forums and their important role in jihadi activity, including their ties to al-Qaeda and its affiliates, see here.) While it is certainly a stretch to say that the forums are falling into desuetude, al-‘Amili’s lament ought to be taken seriously, if only on account of the author’s status in jihadi circles. The pseudonymous shaykh is a prolific jihadi presence online, with numerous essays and fatwas and even a collection of poetry to his name. Who

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Al-Qaeda Advises the Syrian Revolution: Shumukh al-Islam’s “Comprehensive Strategy” for Syria

Three weeks ago members of Shumukh al-Islam, al-Qaeda’s premier online forum, began collaboration on a “comprehensive strategy” for the ongoing Syrian jihad. In a thread started by a certain “Handasat al-Qaeda,” several dozen members of the access-restricted site set down a plethora of observations and recommendations. A week later, on February 9, the same member to initiate the thread condensed these contributions into a single strategic document, intended to represent the forum membership’s thinking as a whole. The author identified the document as sensitive and not to be shared except via email with jihadis lacking access to Shumukh. (The Shumukh forum, which has direct ties to al-Qaeda, is password-protected and does not readily register new users.) In the spirit of transparency, I have taken the liberty of translating the document in its entirety (see below). In all likelihood, Shumuk’s so-called “comprehensive strategy” for Syria has less value for jihadis on

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Al-Qaida advises the Arab Spring: Syria

With the Arab Spring going strong in several countries, al-Qaida (in a broad sense, so including ideologues and scholars supportive of the organisation) still finds it necessary to comment on what is happening. In a series of posts, I will deal with the advice al-Qaida is giving the people of several countries, starting with Syria. Praise One of the men “advising” the Syrians currently revolting against the regime of President al-Asad is Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of al-Qaida. In an epistle meant solely to greet, encourage and heap praise on the people he is addressing, al-Zawahiri spends one of the first paragraphs of his letter saying “salamun ‘alaykum” to his audience no fewer than eight times. He addresses them as “the mujahidun who command good and forbid evil”. This seems to be an attempt to claim that al-Qaida-like people are the ones trying to overthrow the Syrian regime, which is a good

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