(ISIS West Africa photo)

ISIS Declares Humanitarian Aid Workers Are Legitimate Targets

ISIS issued a warning to humanitarian organizations in the latest issue of its weekly al-Naba newsletter, calling their workers legitimate targets who either represent enemy entities or are trying to proselytize.

The terror group made the threat as it maintains provinces and cells in areas that are often in need of humanitarian assistance, including central, north and west Africa, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Syria.

The warning came just a few weeks after the Islamic State West Africa Province released a video showing five blindfolded men kneeling on the ground as masked, camouflaged terrorists stood behind them. The captives were all shot.

The victims were reportedly from aid groups Action Against Hunger and the International Rescue Committee, along with one from Nigeria’s State Emergency Management Agency. They were kidnapped while traveling between Maiduguri and Monguno in Borno State; the ISWAP claim of responsibility accused the men of “Christianizing” while conducting their duties.

The International Rescue Committee issued a statement July 22 “strongly” condemning “the senseless execution of our colleague, Luka Filibus, and his fellow humanitarian captives.”

“We are deeply saddened and heartbroken by this news. Luka and his family were forced to flee their home, and he was still compelled to alleviate the suffering of children. He dedicated his life to protecting children and to help lessen their trauma in the face of crisis. His colleagues in Nigeria remember him always with a smile on his face. We grieve with Luka’s family and will do everything we can to support them through this challenging time,” IRC said.

The group added, “The killing of aid workers is a violation of international law. Aid workers must never be a target.”

In its al-Naba article, ISIS argued that aid organizations helping any entities seen as being in conflict with their brand of Islam were by extension at war with ISIS as well as “a partner in the fighting.” Aid groups “nullify the fighting of the apostates, simply because of their work,” the terror group continued.

ISIS also claimed that “it is no longer a secret that working in these organizations” was among the “most important covers” for spies.

“In addition to that, many of these organizations have a Western origin” and while providing relief services for countries in need are also working to “entrance” populations to Christianity “and bring them closer to that,” the article said. “Also, some of them direct their activities to push other blasphemous beliefs, such as secularism, democracy, socialism and others.”

“Many of them push Muslims to disbelief,” ISIS charged, specifically decrying groups tied to the United Nations or to “blasphemous governments” and aid programs intended “to improve the image of tyrants and truly criminal states.”

Legitimate targets include “all the people who work in those organizations,” the terror group concluded.

ISIS called on followers to “study the situation of organizations that claim to provide services” and warn Muslims “not to work in organizations that aim to spread blasphemy and atheism” or ascribe to principles of democracy. “They have to fight organizations fighting the religion of Islam” and prevent them from working in Muslim countries, the terror group said.

Past ISIS murders of humanitarian aid workers have included the 2014 beheading of American aid worker Peter Kassig in Syria and the 2013 abduction of Kayla Mueller after she left a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Syria.

U.S. Africa Command recently warned that ISIS and al-Qaeda were making inroads in Nigeria and looking to expand, sparking a debate within the Nigerian government on how to weigh the U.S. warning and confront the threat.

“We have engaged with Nigeria and continue to engage with them in intel sharing and in understanding what these violent extremists are doing. And that has been absolutely critical to their engagements up in the Borno state and into an emerging area of northwest Nigeria that we’re seeing al-Qaeda starting to make some inroads in,” AFRICOM commander Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson told a media briefing two weeks ago.

“So, this intelligence sharing is absolutely vital and we stay fully engaged with the government of Nigeria to provide them with an understanding of what these terrorists are doing, what Boko Haram is doing, what ISIS-West Africa is doing, and how ISIS and al-Qaeda are looking to expand further south into the littoral areas,” he said.

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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 senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She 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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