The Jihadi Websites Monitoring Group at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism presents periodical insights on the latest significant issues discussed in Jihadi forums. The review covers a broad range of fields and presents trends in the dialogue between Jihadi activists and supporters. It examines new Jihadi publications as well as traditional news sources, and includes: leaders' statements, Jihadi magazines, interesting correspondence which stimulated dialogue, specific threats and clues regarding attacks, predicted future activity and more.
Islamist terrorist organizations, such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, show a great interest in cyberspace an important and central tool in increasing their technological capabilities and as another arena of activity in their war against the West. These organizations are undergoing a constant learning process characterized by their attempt to find tools in cyberspace to help them gather intelligence material concerning the enemy’s capabilities and to implement technological tools among their ranks. Since September 2015, we have witnessed a significant increase in the use of the Telegram software (software for sending encrypted instant messages) by the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda. In March 2016 alone, 700 new channels identified with the Islamic State were opened.
Since Al-Mourabitoun merged with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in December 2015, the latter has experienced significant momentum. Its increased number of terrorist attacks, its intensified operations in Mali, the move of its activities to other parts of the African continent (especially in the Sahel region and Western Africa, such as Burkina Faso), and its success in attacking Western-affiliated institutions as well as claiming many lives and destroying property, indicates an increase in AQIM’s power. The strengthening of AQIM stands out against the backdrop of the Islamic State’s weakening power in various fronts due to latter’s strategic distress as a result of strikes by coalition forces in Iraq and Syria. Abu Abdul Ilah Ahmad, a senior AQIM leader, acknowledged in an interview given to the Palestinian jihadist magazine, Al-Masra, in March 2016 that the merger of the two organizations had significantly increased the organization’s power.
The status of the Al-Azhar Institute at local, regional, and even international levels has been improving significantly since Abdel Fatah al-Sisi was elected President of Egypt in 2014 – due to the fact that it is a strategic partner in the battle against the rising tide of Islamic terror and the religious rhetoric of terrorist organizations. The institution has been an active supporter of the regime’s political agenda ever since the 1952 revolution of the Free Officers Movement, with the understanding that preserving good relations with the regime would ultimately earn power for Al-Azhar, and serve to boost its image in the eyes of Egyptian society. In the 1970’s, for example, Al-Azhar participated in the propaganda war lead by Anwar Sadat against the Communists in the country, who were viewed as a threat to the regime’s stability. It wasn’t for naught that in December 2014, al-Sisi announced his intent to wage his war against Islamic terror from Al-Azhar. From his perspective, the Al-Azhar Institute held a key role in creating a counter narrative and an alternative interpretation of Islamic law, which could suppress the trend of radicalization in society, and challenge the radical discourse emanating from the Islamic terror organizations’ study halls. Al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Muslim Brotherhood were specifically targeted. Al-Sisi surpassed himself when he ruled that there was an urgent need to lead a “religious revolution” to make the religious discourse apply to modern times.
During 2014, the Al-Malahem media institution, belonging to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), published a series of eight recorded lectures about military strategy and combat methods. The lectures – which were produced and presented by a senior official in the organization, Nasr bin Ali al-Ansi – were featured in the framework of publications by the "Jihadist Military Academy". In order to make the lectures more approachable, in November, 2014 a 26 page document was published, briefly summarizing the main points of each lecture.
The introduction to the lectures indicates that "military strategy" is only one of many (33) topics covered in over 60 lessons, about a wide variety of military issues – in the areas of history, tactics, training, naval warfare, military engineering, and more (see appendix) – which the AQAP transmits to its students in lectures at the "Jihadist Military Academy". In addition, the introduction clarifies that the target audience of the videos is the fighters with battlefield experience who "are qualified for taking responsibility for commanding, guiding, and planning". This sits well with the fact that most of the principles detailed in the lectures apply more to management of the combat system in the battlefield, and not to attacks carried out by lone terrorists or small cells.