Containing ISIS' Online Campaigns After Manchester

The Simple Tools We Can Use But Choose Not To

People look at floral tributes for the victims of the Manchester Arena attack, in St. Ann's Square in central Manchester, United Kingdom, May 25, 2017. Darren Staples / Reuters

The suicide attack at a Manchester teen pop concert on Monday, which killed nearly two dozen people and injured many more, was the latest reminder that the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) is waging the most aggressive and effective worldwide recruitment and incitement campaign of any terrorist group in history. Although it remains unclear whether the bomber, Salman Abedi, a British-born 22-year-old of Libyan descent, was groomed by ISIS, many who have executed attacks in the West have been—often through the Internet. At the very least, Abedi was likely influenced by the contents of ISIS online propaganda, which has during the past year increasingly incorporated images of children killed or wounded in Turkish, Russian, and U.S. air strikes targeting the group in Iraq and Syria. Such images resurfaced only hours after ISIS claimed responsibility for this attack, in a photo packet produced by the media office of ISIS’ Furat “province,” and was distributed on Telegram Messenger channels managed by Nashir News, a group that has become the initial point of distribution for official ISIS propaganda.

Since mid-2014, ISIS has promoted a narrative, particularly in the propaganda tailored for their audiences in the West, that the group’s leader and self-declared caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, considers allegiance to the group to be demonstrated not only in words but by action. This can take the form of either hijrah (emigration) to the “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria, to help defend and expand territorial holdings, or jihad, to be waged at home. In late 2015, ISIS shifted its efforts from recruiting Western fighters to petitioning them to launch attacks in the West. Months later, the group’s original spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, who died in 2016, acknowledged during his Ramadan address just months before he was killed by a U.S. air strike that the barriers to making hijrah had grown too high for many in the West, insisting that targeting civilians in the United States and Europe was now “more beloved.” A

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