Tuesday, January 26, 2016

4 Thoughts on The Islamic State's Latest Video

On Sunday, the Islamic State released a new video. It featured a number of the attackers involved in the November 2015 attack on Paris. Here are four thoughts.

1) The video shows that the attackers were trained, ideologically inculcated-sustained and operationally directed from Syria. The threat/testament from the plot ringleader, Abdelhamid Abaaoud illustrates how IS has a distinct strategic direction towards attacks on the international community. The video also shows the degree of pre-planning involved: one attacker specifically threatens Paris. Also relevant here, see my warning last week on Jakarta attack lessons.

2) Executions in the video show that IS regards the Paris attackers as operationally directed fighters who are true members of the cause - not simply random losers who they are using as cannon fodder. IS wants to attract new recruits with the notion that they too can become immortalized heroes of the cause/ pure warriors - as IS would see it. Of course, it says much about IS ideology/morality that they regard playing with decapitated heads (in video) as virtuous acts.

3) The concluding threat to UK is, to me, the most interesting and concerning element of the video. The degree of specificity in targets, including National Gallery – Ally Pally Farmers Market, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge and the fact that the video ends by singling out the UK will concern UK govt. for 3 reasons. First, the cross-hairs on Cameron - in light of Paris attacks prospectively targeting Hollande - will raise fears of assassination attempt. 2) The specific but variable target list is a clear hint at a Paris style attack. 3) The timing of the video (in late January) will raise concern that it is an order to attack for ISIS assets in the UK. We must also bear attention to the fact that there are a great number of ISIS/AQ suspects under intelligence monitoring in UK - but MI5/ Police CTC units are struggling to monitor all these suspects. ISIS fighters are relying on encrypted communications - telegram/gaming communications etc. that are much harder to intercept. Access to firearms in UK is more difficult, but not impossible. ISIS teased MI5 about its stretched human surveillance capabilities in their latest Dabiq magazine issue. This video also teased about encrypted communications – challenging western intelligence services to crack a coded message.

4) IS uses specially designated personnel for returner attacks. I warned about this significant threat in June 2014, but was derided for scare mongering by Richard Clarke.

No comments:

Post a Comment