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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

ISIS: Cities Distracted by Coronavirus Should be Hit with Attacks Like Paris, London, Brussels

The Islamic State stressed in a new editorial on the coronavirus pandemic that countries’ security distraction in trying to control and respond to the spread of the virus leaves an opening for jihadists to exploit.

While countries have been “striving to reduce the likelihood of the mujahideen launching attacks,” said the full-page article on page 3 in the latest issue of ISIS’ al-Naba newsletter, the coronavirus represents “additional pressure and burden” on governments including price hikes, product shortages and “a great retreat in the economy and incomes” that reduces the ability of governments to coordinate counterterrorism operations with one another and brings “fears that their other enemies will exploit this critical situation they are all going through in order to make gains at their expense.”

“The last thing they want,” ISIS continued, is for jihadists to be currently preparing new attacks “similar to the strikes of Paris, London, Brussels and other places.”

ISIS added that not only is security strained but hospitals in affected countries are overburdened and “what they fear above all is that the mujahideen should greet them in the morning” like on the days of attacks past. Militaries, they said, have been driven by the virus into “a state of paralysis because of the restriction of their movements,” and also face crippling budget pressure.

Jihadists should concentrate on attempting to free ISIS prisoners during this time and “must have no pity for the disbelievers and the apostates even as they are at the height of their tribulation” weathering the coronavirus, and “must intensify the pressure” while countries are weakened. Financial difficulties and “preoccupations with protecting their countries” will weaken efforts to confront terrorism, ISIS predicted.

The editorial follows a full-page infographic on coronavirus prevention ISIS included in the previous issue of the terror group’s official weekly al-Naba newsletter.

The group has followed the outbreak from the beginning of this year, regularly including updates in the news briefs section of the newsletter. “A new virus spreads death and terror in China,” al-Naba reported in January, adding that “communist China is panicking after a new virus has spread” and noting how Chinese officials discussed the discovery of person-to-person transmission as well as the lockdown of Wuhan. Al-Naba highlighted “growing concern about the spread of the infectious virus,” adding that “this could push the World Health Organization into an emergency.”

Around the same time, ISIS-supporting Quraysh Media, which has been active in its production of online propaganda posters, seized on the outbreak to produce and disseminate a poster with a grainy image of a person in a hazmat suit and respirator. “China: coronavirus,” the poster stated, adding, “A promise is a debt we must not forget.”

As the outbreak spread, perhaps mindful that the global reach of the new coronavirus could also pose a threat to their members or supporters, the Islamic State turned to criticizing the Chinese government for hiding the scope of coronavirus outbreak.

In a February al-Naba piece, ISIS noted that while “many Muslims rushed to confirm that this epidemic is a punishment from God Almighty” for China’s widescale abuse of of the Uyghur population, “the world is interconnected” and transportation “would facilitate the transfer of diseases and epidemics.” Muslims should “seek help from God Almighty to avoid illness and keep it away from their countries,” the terror group added.

“The real numbers for the dead and the ill are many times what they announced,” the ISIS news brief said, adding that China was “claiming the recovery and discharge of some patients with the disease… to reassure people, and to reduce the catastrophic effects.”

In the recent infographic al-Naba issue, a full-page graphic on the back cover cited Islamic texts for “directives to deal with epidemics.”

ISIS highlighted “the counsel to put trust in God and seek refuge in Him from illnesses” and “the obligation of taking up the causes of protection from illnesses and avoiding them.” The terror group also added that “the healthy should not enter the land of the epidemic and the afflicted should not exit from it,” though their claimed provinces and active cells aren’t all operating in virus-free lands: While West and Central Africa remain mostly untouched, along with no reported cases in Syria or Yemen (where ongoing war would make gauging the extent of an outbreak difficult), cases have been reported in Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, India, the Philippines and Indonesia.

ISIS also reminded followers to “cover the mouth when yawning and sneezing” and cited a hadith about germs and contamination: “Cover the vessels and tie up the waterskins, for there is one night in the year when pestilence descends, and it does not pass by any vessel that is not covered or any waterskin that is not tied up, but some of that pestilence descends into it.”

People should also “wash the hands before dipping them into vessels,” ISIS concluded.

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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