FILE – In this June 16, 2014 file photo, demonstrators chant pro-Islamic State group, slogans as they carry the group’s flags in front of the provincial government headquarters in Mosul, 225 miles (360 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad. ISIS placed eighth on Google’s list of 2014’s fastest-rising global search requests, the company said Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. (AP Photo, File)
As the world is dealing with the spread of COVID-19, radical Islamic terrorist organizations are seeking to use the pandemic to their advantage. Key leaders in the terrorist movement are calling on their operatives to capitalize on the situation by launching attacks while governments are preoccupied with containing the disease.
The Washington Times published a report on Thursday detailing the efforts of these groups to commit more acts of violence to push their extreme agenda. “Leading terror organizations such as Islamic State have been calling on followers to increase attacks in recent days as world governments and militaries shift their focus to combating the COVID-19 pandemic,” author Guy Taylor wrote.
Taylor indicated that the “wave of attacks from Africa to Afghanistan” that occurred this week could potentially be tied to leaders’ calls for more violence. Apparently, they are telling their followers that the coronavirus outbreak was created by God to help jihadis wage war against their enemies.
Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, director of research at The George Washington University’s Program on Extremism has been following radical terrorist groups, analyzing how they are responding to the coronavirus. “Jihadis see the current crisis as a manifestation of the wrath of God, both upon the non-believers for their rejection of God’s law and crimes against Muslims, and upon those Muslims who have forsaken the duty of jihad,” he told The Washington Times. “They argue that fighting jihad is the surest way to guarantee protection from the virus.”
Meleagrou-Hitchens is not the only expert who believes terrorist groups are using COVID-19 to rally their troops. Bill Roggio, who works with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, suggested that other extremist groups like the Taliban and Al Qaeda are making similar claims. He told The Washington Times that a “common theme” is that the “coronavirus is a punishment from Allah to our decadent Western style of life.”
But groups like ISIS aren’t only focused on launching attacks in Africa and the Middle East. It appears they also have their sights set on the west. According to Meleagrou-Hitchens, the terrorist group – which is known for its vast online presence – is focusing their propaganda efforts on encouraging attacks in Europe and the United States. He explained that they are emphasizing the idea that “the Western world’s attention is now firmly on the health crisis, meaning a possible reduction in counter-terrorism capabilities.
He continued, insisting that ISIS understands the impact that a major terrorist attack could have on a Western nation. “With ISIS output there is a clear recognition of new opportunities emerging, in theory at least,” he said, adding that an act of terror “would compound the misery and could lead to social disorder and further economic collapse.”
Unfortunately, ISIS’ leaders might be right. If one of their operatives managed to pull off a major terrorist attack on American soil while our agencies are focused on the coronavirus outbreak, it could strike a serious blow to the U.S.’s national psyche and lead to more panic. It’s evident that this is the last thing the public needs at this moment.
Fortunately, the Department of Homeland Security seems to be up to the task of preventing terrorism on American soil. Earlier this week, they issued a warning and are working to uncover potential acts of violence from groups like ISIS. If they attempt to carry out an act of terror, DHS seems ready to disrupt their plans.
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