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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs