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

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs