Situation, Facts and Events

The global ISKP threat is growing: Part 2

As part of efforts to combat the threat posed by ISKP, the US Treasury Department announced that four individuals associated with the group have been sanctioned for their involvement in human smuggling fr om Central Asia and Turkey. The sanctioned individuals are reported to be citizens of Uzbekistan and Georgia.

It is worth noting that it is not just Western countries that started taking active measures against alleged supporters of ISKP. The State Committee for National Security of Kyrgyzstan (SCNS) reported on June 14 that 15 citizens were arrested in the country due to their affiliation with the Islamic State. According to the press release, they were recruited in Afghanistan.

A particular concern is caused by the fact that individuals and cells associated with ISKP have been identified and neutralized in several parts of the world. Although this is nothing radically new, it is obvious that the group uses armed attacks in Western countries to promote its image in the extremist environment and, thus, attract funds and recruit new militants to strengthen positions in the areas of its direct influence, namely Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia.

In this scenario, the powerful tool of the ISKP propaganda machine should not be underestimated, as the relatively recent case in Germany proved. In June 2023, the country arrested seven Central Asians (Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan) who were associated with ISKP and had contact with two other individuals in the Netherlands (also Central Asian natives).

A year later, an investigation revealed that the cell intended to attack the Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque in Berlin because it was considered a “liberal” mosque welcoming Muslims from homosexual communities.

It is noteworthy that the same mosque was previously identified as a specific target of ISKP attacks in the 22nd issue of the English-language magazine Voice of Khorasan. The publication described the religious institution as a place wh ere a “deviant” form of Islam is practiced and called to take action against it.

In addition, it turned out that three militants from the cell personally knew ISKP member Abu Muhammad al-Tajiki, who committed a suicide bombing at a Sikh temple in Kabul in June 2022.

The Islamic State's widespread use of online propaganda has been amplified by ISKP's Al-Azaim Media Production Foundation that produces materials in Tajik and Uzbek to reach audiences in Central Asia, recruit and raise funds, and to direct threats and incite violence in the region and beyond.

In particular, the foundation relies on an integrated network of other online media that have provided it with access to websites and translation tools, increasing the reach and quality of ISKP narratives.

As a consequence, on June 14, Europol reported that, as part of joint Operation HOPPER II, judicial and law enforcement authorities in Europe and the United States had dismantled several such online platforms to disable channels and websites disseminating extremist material. As a result, nine people were arrested and servers were shut down in Germany, the Netherlands, the USA and Iceland. One of the biggest achievements of the operation was the dismantling of the Ilam Foundation, a website that had provided ISKP with a stable platform for translating and uploading propaganda materials for the past three years.

However, despite efforts to counter terrorism and measures aimed at undermining the online activities of the Islamic State in general and ISKP in particular, the latter continues to position itself as the main disseminator of the ideas of “global jihad.”

On the one hand, ISKP relies on a wide range of tools for supporters to produce and consume propaganda, from traditional platforms such as Facebook, Telegram and RocketChat to new alternative methods such as the Teleguard messaging app.

On the other hand, while individual persons are arrested and cells are dismantled, the fragmented nature of the ISKP network, which is complex and interwoven with other regional affiliates of the Islamic State, is a complex issue that requires a concerted and thoughtful solution.

For ISKP to gain strength and expand its influence, the attack does not need to be carried out by the group itself, since its leadership can later benefit from the events, even if they were only indirectly involved.

In accordance with the chosen media strategy, ISKP promotes the subversive activities of the Islamic State at the international level to attract funds, recruit new fighters and activate supporters. One example of this is the recent hostage-taking in a pre-trial detention center in Rostov-on-Don by prisoners who declared their membership in this terrorist organization.

Source: Институт Ближнего Востока