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

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes 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.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

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