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ISIS Supporters Told to Start Vehicle Fires in Remote Areas

A new magazine published by ISIS supporters tells adherents to deploy fire as a weapon by using accelerants concealed in apple juice containers.

A new magazine published by ISIS supporters tells adherents to deploy fire as a weapon by using accelerants concealed in apple juice containers to start blazes of remote parked cars and then escape the area.

The new issue of the English-language “Voice of Hind,” which is published monthly by ISIS supporters in India, uses a full-page graphic to detail how followers of the terror group can “make them ashes.”

Attackers are encouraged to take a container of gas to the scene and “look for a parking lot in a desolate place,” avoiding areas with surveillance cameras or “where people can easily see and identify you.” They are told to have an escape plan concocted in advance to “easily” flee the area.

The magazine then tells supporters to douse the front tires with accelerant and leave a trail leading from the car before lighting it with a match. “Avoid touching the car, alarms may be installed,” the graphic adds, noting terrorists should take care to avoid burning themselves.

“Then escape as soon as possible so that no one suspects you,” the call for attacks continues, adding that “hiding petrol bottle is important, for that purpose use a bottle of apple juice with a cap.”

A year ago, also during the height of wildfire season, a video from ISIS’ Al-Hayat Media Center told followers that arson is the highest-rated of low-skill terror tactics and encouraged fire attacks with the devastation and death toll of the 2018 Camp Fire in California highlighted as an example.

“Consider which you can use easily and without drawing attention to yourself and making the result be death, destruction and heavy losses to the enemies,” the narrator stated. “Yes, my brother, it is that weapon which is within reach of every hand and even children are proficient using it, and people have used it since ancient times to harm their enemies — yes, it is fire.”

Would-be attackers were advised to “try looking for the losses caused by fires in the lands of the crusaders every year — fires in forests and fields, cities and villages completely destroyed, people displaced, armies of firefighters and civil defense personnel working continuous days to no avail.” The video noted that death tolls in major blazes sometimes “exceed the number of those lost in major strikes by the mujahideen in which they used guns and explosives.”

Examples of death tolls were displayed for wildfires in Australia, Greece and California — specifically, the death toll of the 2018 Camp Fire that destroyed most of the town of Paradise. That blaze was sparked by a faulty power transmission line.

Tactically, the video advised would-be jihadists to “monitor well for a place where you can set a fire without drawing attention” and “consider that the fire will be so great that efforts made to extinguish it will cost your enemies greatly and perhaps they will not be able to put it out” before it spreads out of control.

The video showed animation of a hand marking a spot on a map between San Francisco and Sacramento. The graphic then lit on fire, burning through the California map.

The video also urged arson jihadists to “safely dispose” of evidence after fleeing the scene of their attacks.

A target map at the end of the video suggested forest fires in the western United States, factory blazes in Canada, burning buildings in Europe, and agricultural fires in South America.

ISIS has long promoted arson as a cheap and easy terror tactic, and has put those threats into action in Iraq and Syria – taking advantage of warm temperatures to set natural fuel alight with the intent of sowing fear, economic pain and potentially casualties. ISIS claimed in May 2019 that the terror group was behind a series of wildfires: In the ISIS newsletter al-Naba article, “Roll Up Your Sleeves and Begin the Harvest — May Allah Bless What You Reap,” ISIS reminded “soldiers of the caliphate” that they “have before you millions of acres… their plantations, fields and homes, as well as their economic foundation” to burn.

In January 2017, ISIS’ now-defunct Rumiyah magazine told would-be jihadists that when planning and executing wildfire terrorism they should look for dry brush “as fire cannot endure in damp or wet environments.” The article added that “incendiary attacks have played a significant role in modern and guerrilla warfare, as well as in ‘lone wolf’ terrorism.”

The magazine suggested targets for arson jihad to “include houses and apartment buildings, forest areas adjacent to residential areas, factories that produce cars, furniture, clothing, flammable substances, etc., gas stations, hospitals, bars, dance clubs, night clubs, banks, car showrooms, schools, universities, as well as churches, Rafidi [Shiite] temples, and so forth. The options are vast, leaving no excuse for delay.”

Jihadists were advised to time arson attacks “preferably in the later part of night to the early hours of morning when people are generally asleep,” and were instructed how to block off exits in an effort to increase casualties.

A tutorial in a 2012 issue of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Inspire magazine highlighted the damage caused by various wildfires and instructed jihadists on picking optimum weather conditions for arson and where to set a blaze to inflict maximum devastation. The magazine included a step-by-step guide on building an “ember bomb” with a timer to spark a conflagration.

During California wildfires in 2018, supporters of al-Qaeda — which has a lengthy history of promoting wildfire arson — circulated news photos from the blazes with the Quran verse, “They will question you about the mountains. Say: ‘My Lord will scatter them as ashes.’”

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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 speciality 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, anti-Semitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. 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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