Islamic State Video Threatened Jihad on France
Two months ago, a group of French members of Islamic State put out a video calling on Muslims to conduct terror attacks on French soil and offering them direct operational support. This morning, their calls were answered.
We don't know many of the facts about the attack, including who perpetrated it or why. But we do know that the unidentified gunmen who stormed the offices of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 people, including 2 police officers, self-identified as Islamic jihadists intent on avenging what they saw as disrespect for the Prophet Muhammad. They also displayed military-style training and brandished military-grade assault weapons. While several IS Twitter feeds have praised the attack, none so far have taken direct credit for either inspiring or commanding it.
But in mid-November, IS media organs published an 8-minute video narrated in French showing a group of French IS members currently fighting the Middle East. Released by the Al Hayat Media Center, it appeared shortly after the French government had disclosed the names of two French nationals who were identified in IS beheading videos.
Obviously, the attack coming so soon after the video may be coincidental. But surely one focus of the coming investigation will have to be on the question of whether the attackers took IS up on its offers of direct assistance.
“If you are unable to come to Syria or Iraq, then pledge allegiance in your place -- pledge allegiance in France,” a French jihadi identified as Abu Salman al-Faranci says in the video. “Operate within France. Terrorize them and do not allow them to sleep due to fear and horror.”
He then offers more practical advice, implying that there were IS assets already in place to aid in such attacks. “There are weapons and cars available and targets ready to be hit,” he said. “Even poison is available, so poison the water and food of at least one of the enemies of Allah. Kill them and spit in their faces and run over them with your cars.”
The video, entitled “What Are You Waiting For?” begins with the clip below, available on YouTube, in which jihadis burn their Western passports while the narrator praises the rise of Islamic State.
Abu Osama al-Faranci, another French fighter, calls for all French Muslims to travel to IS's new nation and take up arms. Abu Maryam al-Faranci, a third French IS fighter, makes a direct threat to his homeland: “As long as you keep bombing you will not find peace. You will even fear traveling to the market.”
He then tells French Muslims that if they cannot come to the battlefront, they are obligated to perpetrate attacks on French soil. “Indeed you have been ordered to fight the Kafir wherever you find him,” he says in French, using the Arabic word for nonbeliever. “What are you waiting for? Do you not look around you?”
It’s only the latest example of Western attacks following online calls for action by the terrorist group. Last month, an Australian man stormed a Sydney coffee shop and held hostages while asking for an IS flag to display. It came on the heels of an IS video that specifically asked aspiring jihadists to punish Australia for its support of the U.S.-led coalition fighting it in Iraq.
In October, a Canadian Muslim who claimed allegiance to IS stormed the Ottawa parliament building and shot a law enforcement officer in the back. Canadian Justice Minister Peter MacKay told me in November that the Canadian government was sure that the Ottawa attacker had been inspired by IS and strongly suspected he was in direct contact with the group.
Today in Washington, officials and lawmakers aware of the pattern of IS-inspired attacks on Western targets are already calling for more action to address the growing threat.
“That shows a certain level of command and control,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told me today. "ISIS has reach, both through inspiration and through organization. Is this an inspired attack or a command and control attack? If this is a command and control attack, this is a new level of threat. The longer they are entrenched and enriched, the more of a threat they are. So President Obama’s plans to destroy [Islamic State] are insufficient and need to be upgraded.”
Senator Bob Corker, the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told me today that IS's ability to inspire Western terrorists online means we must be very cautious about limiting the ability of the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies to monitor online communications.
“I certainly respect privacy rights and want the constitutional rights of Americans upheld. At the same time, this attack is Exhibit A on why we need to ensure that the NSA has the tools necessary to prevent that activity here,” he said. “It’s going to cause us, the symbol of the Western world, to have to step up our game as technology increases people’s ability to put forth those kinds of attacks.”
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