Recent Propaganda Releases by ISIS and Al-Qa’ida Promote Intensified Attacks by Supporters in the West
This assessment from NYPD has information that can be used to support both the federal and New York State grant applications. We highlighted issues concerning the Jewish community.
Open Source Assessment/February 10, 2020
Two recent extremist propaganda releases disseminated by ISIS’s al-Furqan Media and al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) Al-Malahem Media called on Salafi-jihadist supporters to intensify attacks as part of a retaliatory campaign of violence against the West, which may resonate with homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) based in the U.S. Both media campaigns referenced a broad variety of tactics, with ISIS’s statement promoting the use of conventional and chemical weapons, and AQAP’s message promoting simple, low-tech methods, as well as cyberwarfare campaigns.
- While both propaganda statements called for an escalation in attack efforts, ISIS’s propaganda release notably emphasized a “new phase” geared specifically towards targeting Israeli and Jewish interests. ISIS previously referenced chemical weapons tactics in numerous propaganda graphics, demonstrating the group’s persistent support and interest in this attack method. While the NYPD is not aware of any credible, active, or specific threats at this time, this statement, coupled with an already heightened threat environment, may serve as a catalyst for increased violence against Jewish communities.
- Additionally, AQAP’s latest propaganda release may potentially have a stronger resonance with al-Qa’ida-aligned HVEs in the West following the recently confirmed death of Qasim al-Rimi, the leader of AQAP, who was killed in a targeted U.S. counterterrorism operation in Yemen.
- On January 27, 2020, ISIS’s official media apparatus published a 37-minute Arabic-language audio statement attributed to its new spokesperson, Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi, marking his second speech since the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and spokesperson Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir in separate U.S. counterterrorism operations. While much of the statement—titled “God Destroyed Them and a Similar Fate Awaits the Disbelievers”—revisited ISIS’s narrative of survivability and endurance despite strategic setbacks, al-Qurayshi notably declared war on Israel, and called for ISIS supporters to broadly intensify their attack efforts worldwide.
- Throughout the speech, al-Qurayshi claimed that U.S. narratives about ISIS’s defeat in the Middle East are false and that the U.S. has historically been unable to defeat its adversaries, specifically referring to the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. He asserted that ISIS will persist despite al-Baghdadi’s death. The statement appears to have been recorded in recent weeks, as it also referenced the death of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) Major General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in early January 2020.
- After congratulating ISIS militants for waging a retaliatory campaign of violence in response to the deaths of al-Baghdadi and al-Muhajir, al-Qurayshi encouraged supporters to continue the revenge efforts by increasing the frequency of attacks. This specific statement could potentially resonate with lone offenders as a call to arms from core ISIS leadership.
- Al-Qurayshi announced the beginning of a new stage for ISIS aimed at reclaiming Jerusalem. He specifically urged ISIS affiliates in the Sinai Peninsula and Syria to turn Israeli “settlements and markets into a proving ground for your rockets and chemical weapons.” He also ordered Muslims to thwart the U.S. peace plan referred to as the “Deal of the Century,” and implored Palestinians and Muslims worldwide to target Jews. While previous ISIS messaging also emphasized the targeting of Jewish and Israeli interests in an effort to inspire attacks by established ISIS affiliates and lone offender supporters, the emphasis on these targets in this audio message likely coincides with the latest proposed U.S. peace plan for the Middle East.
- On February 6, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that Qasim al-Rimi, the emir of AQAP and potential heir to al-Qa’ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed in a U.S. military counterterrorism operation. Al-Rimi was previously featured in a propaganda video disseminated by AQAP on February 2 that claimed responsibility for the December 2019 shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, praised global al-Qa’ida-affiliated operations, and emphasized the importance of continued retaliatory attacks against U.S. interests. Given al-Rimi’s death, his latest message urging lone offender attacks against the U.S. may also catalyze HVEs to conduct retaliatory attacks.
- AQAP’s propaganda video featured Qasim al-Rimi, often pairing his image with other al-Qa’ida ideologues. He declared that AQAP was responsible for the December 2019 shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola which was conducted by Saudi aviation student Mohammed Saeed al-Shamrani, who he claimed was a sleeper agent for AQAP. Similar to the retaliatory narrative in past AQAP propaganda messages, he stated that the shooting was in revenge for crimes committed by the U.S. across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Additionally, on February 4, the al-Qa’ida-affiliated al-Shabaab echoed this narrative by congratulating AQAP for its role in the Pensacola attack and encouraged continued lone offender operations in the West.
- Al-Rimi connected the Pensacola shooting to other al-Qa’ida-affiliated operations, stating that it was part of a series of global attacks. He compared al-Shamrani to the group’s other perceived “heroes,” such as Nidal Malik Hassan, the November 2019 Fort Hood shooter, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the brothers who orchestrated the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, in a likely attempt to encourage similar operations by HVEs in the West.
- Most significantly, al-Rimi explicitly called for lone offender attacks in the U.S and told supporters to make sure their “chief concern” is “America.” He urged students, journalists, doctors, engineers, merchants, workers, Arab and non-Arabs to use low-tech, simple tactics, including vehicle ramming, firearms, and explosives. He also encourages viewers to consult AQAP’s Inspire magazine for tactical guidance.
IMPLICATIONS FOR NEW YORK CITY
There is currently no direct, credible or specific threat to New York City following these recent propaganda releases by ISIS and AQAP media entities; however, ISIS’s calls for attacks against Jewish communities highlights the importance of vigilance for suspicious activity indicators at similar locations, houses of worship, and Jewish faith community gatherings throughout the five boroughs. In recent months, authorities have disrupted numerous plots by malicious actors from across the violent extremist ideological spectrum who espoused anti-Semitic views and targeted the Jewish community.
Security personnel are advised to be on alert for suspicious behavior that could indicate pre-operational surveillance for an attack. Such behavior could include individuals taking photographs of security procedures in place, and asking probing questions of security/law enforcement officers stationed outside such locations.
Information sharing and prompt reporting of suspicious behavior indicators between the public, private-sector security personnel, faith community leaders, and law enforcement authorities remains vital to the deterrence, detection, and disruption of terrorist activity and the prevention of attacks.
If You See Something, Say Something – 1-888-NYC-SAFE (1-888-692-7233)
Our hearts and prayers go out for the dead, wounded and survivors — all innocent victims of a blatantly anti-Semitic attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. We are deeply grateful to the first responders who ran towards the bullets and prevented the carnage from getting any worse. The messages of solidarity, hope and revulsion to anti-Semitism offered by many public officials and community leaders reassure us of the basic goodness of our nation. Still, recent events reinforce our ongoing concern that the hatred and violence borne by homegrown violent extremists can stem from many sources and motivations. When any group or faith is at risk, we are all at risk.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the NYPD deployed heavy weapons teams, including the officers from the Critical Response Command and the Strategic Response Team, to houses of worship across the City to supplement the patrol cars in every command making additional visits to reassure congregants. We have been in touch with the NYPD, the DHS and the FBI. Currently, there is no nexus to New York or any credible, direct threat to New York or the broader Jewish community. However, the confluence of mail bombs and the Tree of Life attack could be a catalyst for other copycat attacks.
According to NYPD SHIELD, “active shooters often choose to target religious locations/houses of worship during peak times and may make use of a wide range of tactics and weapons in attacks including, but not limited to, improvised explosive devices, assault rifles, improvised incendiary devices, and knives. Religious locations/houses of worship must take into account a diversity of tactics in preparing plans and response scenarios for potential crises and routinely familiarize all staff and students with emergency-specific lock down, shelter-in-place, and evacuation procedures.”
- Report. Anyone who observes any suspicious behavior is encouraged to contact law enforcement immediately at 888-NYC-SAFE. If you see something, say something.
- Overview. Look at the recent DHS publication, Mass Gatherings: Security Awareness for Soft Targets and Crowded Places, can be a great template for your security planning process. Virtually every suggestion in the document can be applied to your planning process. Organizations should “Connect, Plan, Train, and Report”. Applying these four steps in advance of a possible incident or attack can help better prepare us to proactively think about the role that our whole community plays in the safety and security of our organizations.
- Connect. The first step in the process is to “Connect”. You should have an ongoing relationship with your local police precinct. They should know when your services and programs are scheduled. If you don’t know your local police officials, the JCRC can help. Click here to contact us.
- If you have not already done so, get a security assessment of your building to identify your vulnerabilities. Click here for some suggestions and sources.
- Download Potential Indicators, Common Vulnerabilities, and Protective Measures: Religious Facilities and Hometown Security Report Series: Houses of Worship for suggestions and ideas.
- Active Shooter response. Many of our contacts attended active shooter trainings offered in the New York area last week. If you could not attend either session or another training, click here for the JCRC-NY dedicated Active Shooter Resources webpage that includes resources from many sources. If you want to arrange a training the JCRC can help, based on available resources. Click here to contact us.
- Access control. If an attacker can walk into a building unchallenged bad things will happen. No unauthorized person should be able to enter your building at any time. The first step is to develop a feasible access control policy (see our Sample Building Access Policies & Procedures) and to keep any door that cannot be monitored and controlled locked.
- Security personnel. Guards at synagogues vary in quality, but generally, almost anything is better than nothing. Volunteers are good, trained volunteers are better. Uniformed guards (e.g., identifiable shirts, vests, blazers) can be deterrents. Guards who are off-duty or retired police or corrections officers bring experience, training and judgement. To be effective, any guard has to have clear instructions and procedures (see below). NYPD does have a Paid Detail Unit which provides officers to perform off-duty, uniformed security work within New York City for approximately $45/hour. Click here for more information and contact details. For a discussion of armed vs. unarmed guards see our post Armed or unarmed security, what’s best? and a guest post here.
|Quick tips: What should your guard(s) be doing?|
|Guards should not be merely uniformed potted plants adorning your lobby. Rather, they should be an important and active component of your overall security plan.If you have a single guard, his/her logical priority is access control (see our suggestions on how to develop an access control policy here). At the same time, don’t lose sight of other important functions, including:
The security management industry calls instructions for guards, “post orders” which clearly outline the duties, responsibilities, and expectations of security guards. For example, your post orders should clearly set forth your access control policies and define the areas of your property that should be included in a walk-around and their time and frequency (e.g., upon arrival and upon returning from lunch).
Rosh Chodesh Elul includes clarion calls indicating that the High Holidays are coming soon. So, now is a good time to check out a recent presentation on synagogue security or to take a deeper dive into the library of documents available on the JCRC-NY Security Resources pages. Here are some relevant selections:
High Holiday Security and Emergency Preparedness Planning Library
- High Holidays: Are you ready to get out if you have to?
- JCRC-NY High Holiday Security Thinkplate
- Access control considerations during High Holiday services (PDF)
- Houses of Worship and the High Holidays
- Planning for the Unexpected – High Holiday Edition 2010 (PDF)
- Are you prepared? 5 steps to make your facility safer and more secure
- Sample Building Access Policies & Procedures (PDF)
- Bomb Threat Guidance resources. See also Hoax threats can be scary, too, To evacuate or not to evacuate? That is the question., DHS’ Introduction to Bomb Threat Management, Manhattan bomb threat: lessons learned, Bomb threat training video.
- Active Shooter Resources Page (DHS, FBI and NYPD)
- Cybersecurity Resources Page
- US Postal Inspection Service Guide to Mail Center Security (PDF)
Vulnerability, Risk and Safety Assessments and Planning
- FEMA: Reference Manual to Mitigate Potential Terrorist Attacks Against Buildings
- FEMA, Emergency Operations Planning
- Potential Indicators, Common Vulnerabilities, and Protective Measures: Religious Facilities (Updated)
- Hometown Security Report Series: Houses of Worship
- K-12 School Security: A Guide for Preventing and Protecting against Gun Violence (2nd ed., 2018) provides preventive and protective measures to address the threat of gun violence in schools. The Guide is delivered in two parts: the first portion is a PDF with general security best practices and considerations in narrative format; while the second portion is a Microsoft Excel-based security survey. Together, these documents outline action-oriented security practices and options for consideration based on the results of the individual school’s responses to the survey. While the primary audience for the Guide is the K-12 community, institutions of higher education or pre-K schools may also benefit from the information presented.
- NYPD: Engineering Security: Protective Design for High Risk Buildings
- OSHA: Evacuation Plans and Procedures eTool. This expert system will help you to create a basic Emergency Action Plan. This basic plan likely will be adequate for needs of many small and medium-sized entities. Most small and medium-sized entities can create basic plans using this system in 10 to 15 minutes. Larger, more complex organizations will require more work.
- Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Drug Free and Safe Schools. Taking action now can save lives, prevent injury, and minimize property damage in the moments of a crisis. The importance of reviewing and revising school and district plans cannot be underscored enough, and Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities is designed to help you navigate this process. The Guide is intended to give schools, districts, and communities the critical concepts and components of good crisis planning, stimulate thinking about the crisis preparedness process, and provide examples of promising practices.
- Emergency Preparedness Planning Guide for Childcare Centers. From the Illinois Emergency Medical Services for Children (a collaborative program between the Illinois Department of Public Health and Loyola University Chicago). Lots of ideas to keep toddlers safe.
- Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance Center, U.S. Department of Education
- REMS: Conducting a Safety Audit
- California STAS: Protective Measures for Enhanced Facilities Security
- New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness Critical Infrastructure Protection Bureau: Facility Self-Assessment Tool (updated) and other tools here.
Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry just released its 2015 worldwide analysis of anti-Semitism. Read the entire report here. The executive summary is below.
The feeling with which the year 2015 ended was one of fear and concern, among Jews and non-Jews alike, especially in Europe. Waves of immigrants shook the continent, and terror took a terrible toll in human lives and brought up heavy questions and doubts regarding the ability of democracies to defend themselves and their citizens. The Jewish communities and Jews as individuals feel threatened by the influx of refugees on the one hand, and the increase in the right wing parties’ electoral power as a result, on the other. On the one hand, recent developments brought down the number of violent anti-Semitic cases perpetrated against Jews and Jewish sites, and on the other the nature of the violent cases have become more cruel, and the growing variety of verbal and visual anti-Semitic expressions, mainly on social media, became more brutal and insulting. An attempt to explain these seemingly contradicting tendencies is therefore required.
The number of violent antisemitic incidents worldwide decreased quite dramatically during 2015, especially after the first months of the year, in comparison to 2014: The Kantor Center team monitored 410 violent cases during 2015, compared to 766 in 2014, a decrease of approximately 46%. While this is the lowest number in the recent decade, it should be taken in consideration that 2014 was a very difficult year, especially due to the Protective Edge operation during the summer, and that the number of violent cases in 2015 is more or less equal to that of 2011, and that, compared to 2013, the decrease in 2015 is about 26%.
The decrease is most notable in the modus operandi in all its variations, especially the use of weapons (a decrease of over 60%) and arson (decrease of over 50%), and in weaponless cases, threats and vandalism as well. Regarding targets, the most notable decrease is in cases perpetrated against synagogues (by about 70%!) and individuals by close to 50%), as well as against schools and community centers, and the highest numbers of registered incidents was perpetrated against cemeteries and memorials.
It should be noted that these numbers are the result of the specific monitoring and analysis system developed by the Kantor Center team, which has been working together on these issues for more than twenty years now, and are based on the various reports sent to us by our contact persons in the world at large. The specific criteria (anti-Semitic motivation, and no exaggeration or diminishing of the severity of the situation, counting a multi-event as one case) are the basic reason for the differences that might occur between these numbers and those released by other monitoring communities and institutes.