News / Middle East

Online Campaign Suggests ISIL Has Sympathizers Worldwide

Images uploaded by Twitter users to show their support of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
Images uploaded by Twitter users to show their support of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

Analysts and security experts are expressing mounting fears that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) may be gaining international support following the launch of its “One Billion Muslims” campaign last month.  Some are especially troubled that some of that support is coming from Muslims in the West.

Several photographs posted onto social media sites show ISIL supporters posing in front of identifiable landmarks – including London’s Big Ben and Rome’s Colloseum. 

One image posted shows four people, their faces blurred, holding up ISIL banners in a Dutch city decorated with flags to celebrate The Netherlands’ participation in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Followers from Britain, Germany, Spain, Austria and other European and non-European countries have posted photographs online, increasing worries that the al-Qaida breakaway group could draw on its foreign followers to help plan and execute terrorist attacks in the West.  

ISIL, which recently began calling itself the Islamic State (IS), launched its “One Billion Muslims” campaign June 14.  The group urged sympathizers worldwide to show solidarity with the organization and created a special Twitter hashtag for the purpose.

“Having taken control of large areas of Iraq, IS is now enjoying increasing shows of solidarity from the Middle East and from across the Muslim world – and also from Western countries,” the Middle East Media and Research Institute (MEMRI), a Washington D.C.-based non-profit which monitors and translates jihadist media, said in a recent report

Western support is “crucial to the group’s propaganda efforts,” MEMRI said.

“…in addition to swelling the ranks of its fighters and bringing in funds and logistical support, it increases its prestige and deters its rivals,” said the group.

Airport security tightening

Al-Qaida leaders disowned ISIL last winter after a dispute over jihadist strategy.  Western security agencies are fearful al-Qaida may try to unleash a terror spectacular of its own as a way to grab back the initiative and attention from its one-time affiliate, whose leaders have declared an Islamic “caliphate” and are demanding allegiance from jihadists worldwide.

European governments have ramped up airport security in response to U.S. concerns that al-Qaida suicide bombers could be planning attacks on American-bound commercial flights, possibly using a new generation of non-metallic explosives that current airport security equipment may not be able to detect.

International airports in the U.K. introduced new anti-terror measures Thursday. Transatlantic passengers are undergoing greater scrutiny, often accompanied by rigorous body searches.   Airport agents are swabbing all electronic items – including cell phones, computers, cameras and even electric toothbrushes – for signs of explosive residue and requiring owners to switch the equipment on and off, passengers told the British press.

Bringing jihad back home?

Western security has been focused on the threat from Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria, which U.S. and European officials say is collaborating with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).  A Sunni jihadist group based in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, AQAP has persisted in attempts to attack U.S.-bound passenger jets.

But former and current U.S. security officials say the longer-term worry is ISIL, which has managed to attract the bulk of foreigners recruited by jihadists to fight in Syria and Iraq.  And they cite growing fears of blowback, worrying that returning foreign fighters will be used to stage attacks in their home countries.

Some of those posting solidarity with ISIL now could be former fighters, say intelligence officials, or people they have helped to recruit.

Most of the Western Muslims who have gone to fight in Syria have not joined moderate rebel militias but rather foreign-dominated, radical Islamic militias, including ISIL, said retired FBI agent Martin Reardon, a former chief of the bureau’s Terrorist Screening Operations Center.

“These guys knew exactly who they were joining when they signed up with IS or Jabhat al-Nusra,” Reardon said.  “If only a few of them morph from being a foreign fighter into a terrorist, that will be a big challenge.”

Reardon said jihadist groups are always on the lookout for ways to circumvent Western defenses and launch attacks in America or Europe.  And he harbors no doubt there will be consequences for America and Europe.

“You shouldn’t underestimate the threat,” he said.

U.S. anxiety about a blowback was heightened May 25, when Florida-born Moner Mohammad Abusalha became the first known American fighter in Syria to undertake a suicide bombing mission against Syrian government troops.

Adding to concerns, a former foreign fighter, 29-year-old French-Algerian Mehdi Nemmouche, has been accused by Belgian authorities of a May 24 shooting in the Brussels Jewish Museum in which four people died.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Ali baba from: New York
July 07, 2014 10:07 AM
The united State has to change its approach . USA has to look for Muslim community and eliminate the extremist . Those extremist are getting Foreign terrorist like 9/11 that the most of terrorist come from Saudi. The Egyptian that involved for the First world trade center attack had married American woman to get citizen chip. This radical are living in US and disguise their intention . we have to get them before it will be too little to late

by: kenneth liew from: malaysia
July 06, 2014 11:49 PM
If they can commit such atrocities against their fellow muslims and blow up Shite mosques, what will they do to non muslims and their
places of worship like churches and temples ?? The US has trained them well and has created a monster with many heads like the legendary hydra....

by: meanbill from: USA
July 06, 2014 8:13 PM
IF ONLY, the US, EU, an NATO countries hadn't interfered in the Islamic countries politics, trying to force their type of government styles on the Islamic countries... none of this violence, killings, destruction and wars, wouldn't be happening now in these Islamic countries, would it?

The US, EU, and NATO countries interfered in the Islamic countries of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and Syria... bringing all this violence, killings, destruction and wars, that continue on to this day, doesn't it?.... leaving millions of innocent people displaced and homeless, and hundreds of thousands of innocent people injured and wounded, and hundreds of thousands of innocent people killed, with millions of innocent peoples homes, towns, cities and countries destroyed..... and like (3) of the (4) horsemen of the Apocalypse, they keep rampaging on, bringing violence, killings, destruction and wars.... to this day.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More