Western authorities: ISIS group an online threat

Authorities say the magazine has become a potent propaganda tool for the group to recruit Westerners

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The latest issue of the digital magazine “Dabiq” features glossy photos of smiling militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, mutilated bodies on the battlefield and articles with titles such as, “There is No Life Without Jihad” and “Foley’s Blood is on Obama’s Hands.”

It refers to Americans as “crusaders” and “apostates.” And it insists “sincere Muslims” must help speed “the complete collapse of the modern American empire.”

Authorities say the magazine - published in English and other languages and easily available on the internet - has become a potent propaganda tool for the group to recruit Westerners. They also warn that the publication, along with other inflammatory messages and videos on Twitter and other social media, have the power to incite so-called “lone wolves” who hatch domestic plots such as the ones officials have alleged recently in Australia and upstate New York.

“That is a current threat - their ability to inspire people here in the United States who can’t travel to Syria to fight, or inspire people to travel to Syria and while they’re there train them and inspire them to come home and commit terrorist acts,” New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton said recently.

Australian authorities have detained suspects in an alleged plot to carry out random beheadings in Sydney. Across the globe, Mufid Elfgeeh, of Rochester, New York, pleaded not guilty to charges accusing him of trying to help three recruits get to the Mideast and plotting to kill members of the U.S. armed forces returning from war and Shiites in the Rochester area.

Terror propaganda on the Internet - and law enforcement’s concern about it - isn’t new: Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the NYPD has assigned foreign-born officers fluent in languages like Arabic and Farsi to surf websites where hatred of the West rages as a way to detect threats. In 2007, it also released analysis warning that the rants could put young men from the Middle East who had grown disillusioned with life in America on the path to jihad.

Proliferation offshoots

But authorities say the rise of the ISIS group and the proliferation of al-Qaeda offshoots has multiplied the anti-American messages found on the Internet, reaching an even broader audience and upping their potential to invite mayhem.

“ISIS and al-Qaida now are competing to see who can do the most,” said Jerome Hauer, commissioner of the New York State Division of Homeland Security, using one of the acronyms for the group. “I think ISIS will become a greater threat as time goes on. ... But I don’t see it as an organized attack. I see it as a ‘lone wolf’ attack.”

One posting that surfaced last week - titled “To the Lone Wolves in America: How to Make a Bomb in Your Kitchen, to Create Scenes of Horror in Tourist Spots and Other Targets” - was purportedly sanctioned by the ISIS group. Local authorities are less concerned about whether the posts are authentic and more so about whether they help radicalize homegrown terrorists, said John Miller, the NYPD’s top counterterrorism official.

“When you talk about threats over social media, the business end is not on where the information originates, it’s on the user end,” Miller said. “It’s calling on these lone wolves to take this information and carry out individual attacks.”

The first edition of “Inspire” - another online magazine linked to an al-Qaida affiliate and known for publishing recipes for homemade bombs and recommending domestic targets - was found downloaded on the computer of one of the two brothers behind the Boston Marathon bombing, authorities have said. A later edition after the attack proclaimed, “The act of the two great brothers ... is but the true image reflected by the bloody deeds of your hands, reflected by the oppressive policies of your downtrodding regimes.”

The content of “Dabiq,” named after a city in northern Syria, relies on religious texts to justify the caliphate proclaimed by the ISIS group and its religious authority over all Muslims. The latest edition blames President Barack Obama for the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley by refusing to negotiate for his release with the ISIS grop, and accuses America of hypocrisy.

“If a mujahid kills a single man with a knife, it is the barbaric killing of the ‘innocent,’“ read one article. “However, if Americans kill thousands of Muslim families all over the world by pressing missile fire buttons, it’s merely ‘collateral damage.’“

Authorities say Elfgeeh, 30, expressed similar frustrations. According to court papers, he was caught on tape complaining that the American military was killing women and children and that, “If you kill in the name of Allah, then you have defended our sanctities and avenged their blood.”

“Dabiq” offers no particulars on where and how it’s published. However, it does say, “The Dabiq team would like to hear back from its readers.” There was no response to messages sent to email addresses listed as contacts.