Pro-ISIS How-to Guides Show Lone Wolves Beltway Snipers’ Techniques

On Wednesday, the MEMRI Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM) released a new exclusive report that covers the days leading up to Nov. 27 in which pro-Islamic State (ISIS) media outlet Al-Saqri Foundation for Military Sciences published three guides for creating and using explosives and weapons intended for lone wolf attackers living in the West. One of the publications, a guide to creating an electronic timer for explosives with a digital watch, was republished on Nov. 23, 2018, from the “notebooks” of a supporter named Jarrah Al-Ansari, who wrote it in May 2013. The second guide, which provided instructions on carrying out attacks with a sniper rifle through a hole drilled in the trunk of a vehicle, was also written by an anonymous ISIS supporter but published by Al-Saqri on Nov. 25. A video detailing how to create directionally focused explosive devices was released by Al-Saqri on the same date.

Cover of guide to creating an electronic timer for explosives with a digital watch published by pro-ISIS Al-Saqri Foundation for Military Sciences.

In the introduction to the first guide, Jarrah Al-Ansari described the necessity for Muslims to prepare themselves for jihad by “training in physical fitness, using weapons, and creating explosives,” as well as learning any technology useful in the field of jihad, including the latest weaponry and military science. Jarrah stressed that “to the extent that one is ready, trained, and well prepared, his activity of jihad will be successful, which will be noticeably reflected in the field,” and encouraged his readers to acquire such useful military knowledge before making hijra (“immigration”) to join jihad, in order to “fill the void caused by the arrest and martyrdom of your brothers who preceded you on the path of jihad.”

The guide began by describing various methods of detonating explosive devices remotely and explained that a timer is most suitable for use against targets that the mujahid cannot reach at the time of detonation, such as gas pipelines, bridges, roads, and railways, and for firing rockets. Jarrah explained that using a timer for detonation gives the mujahid time to leave the area without a trace, and that the necessary components for creating such a timer cost $50 at most. He wrote that the only disadvantage of a timer is that it cannot be used against moving targets. The guide explained that a timer can be made either with an alarm clock or a digital watch and detailed how to create one using a digital watch. When the timer is assembled, the watch will be connected to a nine-volt battery, a thyristor electric conductor, and a small electric bulb that functions as the detonator. The guide instructs the reader to set the watch to the desired time of the explosion: when the alarm goes off, the bulb will light up, detonating the explosive charge.

Photos from the guide demonstrating how to disassemble a digital watch to create a timer for detonating explosives.

A diagram from the guide showing how to connect the components of the timer.

The second guide was addressed to lone wolf ISIS supporters in order “to defend Islam and assist the Islamic State against which the unbelievers and their apostate helpers have gathered.” Writing that “the Islamic State has realized that its strongest intercontinental weapon is lone wolves, beasts of prey who drive fear into the hearts of the Crusaders,” the guide presented instructions for attacking with a sniper rifle from inside the trunk of a vehicle that can be used “to kill Crusaders in their homelands and in the midst of their crowds.”

Cover of guide to carrying out sniper attacks from the trunk of a vehicle published by pro-ISIS Al-Saqri Foundation for Military Sciences.

The guide recommended drilling two holes in the back of the car’s trunk with which the muzzle and sights of the gun can be aligned. The guide advised using a silent and accurate weapon, giving a list of rifles meeting those criteria that “are available on the black market in the lands of the unbelieving West.” The execution of an operation using two people, one to drive the vehicle and the other to shoot from his hiding place in the trunk, makes it “almost impossible… to suspect them.” The guide reminded its readers of “what your brothers in America did using this method, bringing them into a state of panic in their very homeland, slaughtering them, and demonstrating the impotence of their intelligence agencies.” The guide encouraged its readers: “Choose your weapon, prepare your equipment, and lie in wait for them in every street and alley,” asserting that “one operation in the lands of unbelief is equivalent to many operations that the Islamic State carries out in its lands.”

Photo from the guide demonstrating where to drill holes to allow an attacker to shoot from the trunk of a vehicle.

Photos from the guide of recommended weapons to use in such an operation.

The third video is a modification by Al-Saqri of a video produced by Islamic Jihad in Gaza that gives instructions on creating directionally focused explosive devices. The 22-minute video began with a disclaimer: “This video is copied from a Palestinian faction supported by filthy Iran.” The video showed Islamic Jihad fighters assembling various types of IEDs, filling them with explosives and shrapnel, and detonating them. The video concluded by showing the tools needed for creating the featured IEDs: a lathe, a drill, a manual press, and an electric press.

Scene from the Al-Saqri video showing how to fill an IED with shrapnel. The logo of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization appears in the right-hand corner.

Scene from the video showing an Islamic Jihad fighter planting an anti-tank IED.

Scene from the video showing the damage to metal plates buried in the ground caused by the explosion of an anti-tank IED.

Exploring the Middle East and South Asia through their media, MEMRI bridges the language gap between the West and the Middle East and South Asia, providing timely translations of Arabic, Farsi, Urdu-Pashtu, Dari, and Turkish media, as well as original analysis of political, ideological, intellectual, social, cultural, and religious trends. Founded in February 1998 to inform the debate over U.S. policy in the Middle East, MEMRI is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization. MEMRI's main office is located in Washington, DC, with branch offices in various world capitals. MEMRI research is translated into English, French, Polish, Japanese, Spanish and Hebrew.

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