ISIS so­cial me­dia posts surge af­ter Al Bagh­dadi’s sui­cide

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - NICKY HAR­LEY

Se­cu­rity an­a­lysts noted a rise in pro-ISIS so­cial me­dia posts af­ter the death of leader Abu Bakr Al Bagh­dadi and pre­dict an in­flux of new sup­port for the group.

The in­creased traf­fic comes de­spite the ter­ror­ist group fail­ing to of­fi­cially ac­knowl­edge Al Bagh­dadi’s demise.

The Counter Ex­trem­ism Project, which mon­i­tors posts by rad­i­cals, said ISIS mem­bers were tak­ing to so­cial me­dia reaf­firm­ing their al­le­giance and pledg­ing to con­tinue fight­ing.

David Ib­sen, the project’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, told The Na­tional the group will use his death as an op­por­tu­nity to ex­pand its on­line pres­ence.

“Of­fi­cial ISIS news chan­nels have been post­ing reg­u­lar pro­pa­ganda in­clud­ing sto­ries of at­tacks by ISIS fight­ers around the world and pho­tos of cap­tured weapons,” he said.

“In­di­vid­u­als in pro-ISIS chats on Tele­gram have been urg­ing pa­tience, and warn­ing users not to be­lieve non-ISIS me­dia or spread ru­mours. Some chatroom par­tic­i­pants have discussed the con­cepts of mar­tyr­dom and per­se­ver­ance, and have re­pledged sup­port to ISIS.

“It is likely that there will be in­creased on­line ac­tiv­ity, such as the cre­ation of new Tele­gram chan­nels, be­fore the re­lease of an of­fi­cial state­ment by the group. ISIS con­tin­ues to have a sus­tained Tele­gram pres­ence, and might take the op­por­tu­nity of an ap­point­ment of a new leader to try to ex­pand on­line ac­tiv­ity.”

Us­ing the group’s pre­ferred so­cial me­dia chan­nel Tele­gram, ISIS sup­port­ers have al­ready been post­ing ral­ly­ing calls

ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Bagh­dadi was buried at sea and given his re­li­gious rites ac­cord­ing to Is­lamic cus­tom af­ter the com­mando raid that left him dead in north­ern Syria, US of­fi­cials said.

His re­mains were de­liv­ered to sea by air­craft but the lo­ca­tion was not dis­closed nor how long the burial lasted.

He died when he det­o­nated a sui­cide vest af­ter flee­ing into a tun­nel as elite US spe­cial forces closed in, the US gov­ern­ment said.

Gen Mark Mil­ley, chair­man of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Mon­day that the US mil­i­tary dis­posed of Al Bagh­dadi’s re­mains “ap­pro­pri­ately, in ac­cor­dance with the law of armed con­flict”.

The UAE, a mem­ber of the coali­tion to fight ISIS, said the ter­ror­ist’s death “sig­ni­fies a vic­tory for all na­tions united in the fight against ter­ror­ism and ex­trem­ism”.

Given the grue­some na­ture of Al Bagh­dadi’s death, it was un­likely the US mil­i­tary fol­lowed as com­plete a process as it did af­ter Navy Seals killed Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in a 2011 raid into Pak­istan. Bin Laden was killed by a gun­shot wound to the head, the US gov­ern­ment said.

In the case of Bin Laden, his body was taken to the air­craft car­rier USS Carl Vin­son. It was washed be­fore be­ing cov­ered in a white sheet, and re­li­gious re­marks trans­lated into Ara­bic were read over the corpse.

Bin Laden’s burial at sea trig­gered mixed re­ac­tions, with a prom­i­nent imam say­ing the United States breached Is­lamic

cus­tom by not bury­ing Bin Laden on land, a move seen as a US at­tempt to pre­vent the ter­ror­ist leader’s rest­ing place from be­com­ing a shrine for ex­trem­ist fol­low­ers.

In the United States, some ques­tioned why the man re­spon­si­ble for the Septem­ber 11, 2001, at­tacks that killed nearly 3,000 peo­ple was laid to rest with such re­spect.

Gen Mil­ley did not give de­tails about any of Al Bagh­dadi’s last rites. He said that be­fore dis­posal, the re­mains were taken to a se­cure fa­cil­ity to con­firm his iden­tity with DNA test­ing.

“It’s been done and is com­plete,” Gen Mil­ley said.

Syr­ian Kurds claimed to be a key source of the in­tel­li­gence that led Amer­i­cans to Al Bagh­dadi af­ter years of track­ing the man be­hind a five-year reign of ter­ror across much of Iraq and Syria.

An un­named US mil­i­tary dog was an un­likely hero of the raid, sus­tain­ing in­juries as it chased Al Bagh­dadi down a dead-end tun­nel be­neath his hide­out, where the mil­i­tant blew him­self up, killing three children in the ex­plo­sion. The dog is back on duty, Gen Mil­ley said.


Abu Bakr Al Bagh­dadi

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