ISIS might be wounded, but it still has its most dangerous weapon, the Internet -- and it’s radicalising India

ISIS might be wounded, but it still has its most dangerous weapon, the Internet -- and it’s radicalising India

A recent report published by the United Nations has revealed that of the 1,400 militia part of the Islamic State terror outfit that surrendered to authorities in Afghanistan in November 2019, some fighters were Indian. In the 25th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, the United Nations noted that peace efforts between Afghanistan authorities and the Taliban had played a significant role in the dismantling of ISIS-Khorasan, widely known as the Islamic State’s South Asia branch. Top United States peace negotiators also confirmed that while the threat of ISIS-K has not been fully countered, “real progress” had been made towards hurting the outfit.

The report also detailed that there may currently be somewhere between 2,500 ISIS-K fighters still in Afghanistan, the majority of whom are concentrated in the Kunar Province. It also specifically states the Internet as the key means by which the outfit carries out its radicalisation operations.

Indeed, ISIS’ modus operandi has always been to subvert infrastructure to serve its own ends. For instance, when it claimed responsibility for the Easter attacks that took place in Sri Lanka, it issued statements not just in the expected Arabic and English, but in Tamil and Malayalam as well, indicating that the organisation had made concerted efforts to recruit members fluent in regional languages. Although the group’s influence in South Asia is minimal, it has still managed to recruit over 180 Indians (as of April 2019), often preying on the disenfranchisement that Indian Muslims may feel against a backdrop of anti-Muslim rhetoric often witnessed in the country.

Yet, the danger may not lie in the number of individuals it succeeds in recruiting, but in their capability to advance the terror outfit’s strategic objective. Many experts have commented on the strength and quality of ISIS’ media apparatus that often incorporates glossy visuals and stylistic editing. The group, reportedly, specifically target individuals educated in particular skills such as graphic design, production, or social media management, through carefully devised processes of grooming. The unmasking of the ISIS twitter troll Shami Witness in 2014, for instance, revealed him to be an employee of one of India’s largest companies.

Moreover, it was only days after the WhatsApp snoop-gate controversy involving the Israeli spyware Pegasus, that the US State Department published a report outlining India’s fears of how social media and messaging platforms were being used for terrorist recruitment purposes. The report also specifically called attention to the regions of Jammu and Kashmir, northeastern states, and Maoist territories as key targets for outfits like ISIS and al-Qaeda.

With the death of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, and limited knowledge available on the operational capabilities of his successor, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi, it is difficult to determine how probable a complete ISIS revival is. What is clear though, is the group’s intimate familiarity with the internet, as a potent tool of radicalisation.

By: Times Now News