Dutch and Belgian Mujahideen Social Media Sites Relaunch

Author: Jeff R. Weyers,  IBRABO

Nederlandse Mujahideen in Syrie Facebook and WordPress Pages

Abu Talha Al-Maghribi

Abu Talha Al-Maghribi Post on Nederlandse Mujahideen in Syrie Facebook Site

In a follow up to our examination of De Basis – De Base in the Netherlands and Belgium featured on TRAC, this week iBRABO examines the relaunch of two Dutch/Belgian Mujahideen social media sites. The first, Nederlandse Mujahideen in Syrië (Dutch Mujahideen in Syria), was originally created on Facebook in may 2013 and featured in a report on Dutch foreign fighters by Samar Batrawi (2014), but was subsequently torn down by Facebook.

NMIS link to As-Shaam Media

Nederlandse Mujahideen in Syrie WordPress Site

De BanierSince then the site has relaunched on facebook on August 4th, 2014, and has cross-links to its wordpress site Al-Shaam Media which launched September 12th, 2013 (see image above). It claims to be the “Official Page of the Dutch Mujahideen in Syria”. Both sites feature stories of Dutch Mujahideen that have died fighting in the Syrian conflict, all of whom are believed to have been fighting with the Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. On its wordpress site it also hosts a copy of De Banier (The Banner), a book written by Dutch mujahideen used as a recruiting tool to entice new fighters.

 

Nederlandse/Belgische Mujahideen In Shaam – Minbar Tawheed, Dawah & Jihad Facebook Page

Another site that has relaunched this past week is the  Nederlandse/Belgische Mujahideen In Shaam – Minbar Tawheed, Dawah & Jihad (see image below).

NBMIS Header

As with De Basis the primary point of interest for both these sites are in The Hague, Netherlands and Antwerp, Belgium. The primary demographic of interest being males 18-24 years of age (as obtained from Facebooks own analytics on both sites.

The Issue of Extremist Social Media Sites Re-Launching

One issue that all of the social media sites have been struggling with is the relaunch of extremist and terrorist sites on their platforms. The nature of their design leaves them open to abuse by terrorist and extremist groups. ISIS in fact has learned methods for hiding their sites from the traditional markers that may lead to them being removed. They have done this to some extent through pseudo naming conventions and abbreviated wordings that would be missed by the typical searches. One example of this is Is_IraQ and Levant which actually has its largest following in Jakarta, Indonesia by males aged 25-34. On this site we also see the use of foreign martyrs like Andre Poulin from Canada to assist in the recruiting message (see below).

abu muslim

Post Featuring Abu Muslim (Andre Poulin) on IS_Iraq and Levant Facebook Site

This is an area that will no doubt require further research and co-operation by corporations, academics and practitioners in order to reduce the use of social media by extremist groups.

Radicalization 2.0 : Examining Methods for Identifying Persons at Risk of Recruitment to Violent Extremism on Social Media

With the Society for Terrorism Research (STR) 8th Annual International Conference fast approaching, STR, partnered with the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies (CTSS), is launching a series of guest blog posts, written by those who will be presenting their research at STR14. In the seventh installment of this series Jeff Weyers and Professor Jon Cole discuss their work applying the structured professional judgment tool known as the Identifying Vulnerable Persons (IVP) to extremist activity on social media. Jeff Weyers and Prof. Jon Cole are working on this project as members of the University of Liverpool Tactical Decision Making Research Group.

Author: Jeff R. Weyers and Dr. Jon Cole

Infamously in Al-Qaeda’s first online issue of Inspire magazine, one of the articles that was included was a piece called, “Build a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom”.   The release by Al-Qaeda was significant for several reasons,  it was the first time a terrorist group had created a professionally produced e-magazine. It also demonstrated a realization by Al-Qaeda that social media would be key to its ability to recruit, fund raise and spread propaganda in the future. In fact around that same time (in 2009 and 2010) many terrorist groups including Al-Shabab, Hezbollah, Hamas, Babbar Khalsa, and the International Sikh Youth Federation were all transitioning to social media platforms . Part of the reason for this transition was in part due to increasing stresses on  traditional forms of hosting information on websites. Terrorist websites are frequently torn down by government agencies and targeted for Denial of Service (DNS) attacks by governments and hackers. This often would require terrorist organizations to change service providers and re-create their websites on foreign servers requiring money, time and technical resources. Alternatively social media platforms by their design are more resilient to such attacks. Their servers are better protected, their services are free and anyone can setup a site in minutes. These services also are also incredibly efficient at the “social” aspect of social media. If we look at recent examples like the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) on Facebook and Twitter, we see that they have been able to develop thousand of followers for their sites within hours of going operational.

Islamic State Page on Facebook and Twitter

Islamic State Page on Facebook and Twitter

In this context, the key question for law enforcement and intelligence agencies is reducing the signal to noise ratio in the online world. As part of the solution, in 2009 we were asked to come up with a structured professional judgment tool to assist in the early identification of persons at risk of engaging in violent extremism as part of the PREVENT strategy. After examining a sample of UK and European violent extremists, 16 criteria were identified that could be used to assist in identifying persons at various stages on the path to violent extremism. This structured professional judgment tool is known as the Identifying Vulnerable Persons (IVP) guidance. Since then we have applied the IVP tool against a sample of over 600 post hoc cases representing virtually every known terrorist group. As the IVP is ideologically neutral it works as well with the IRA as it does with ISIS or even ELF.

Why willyou want to see what we’ve done?

Going back to our discussion about social media, with all of the terrorist groups creating sites on social media it was the perfect opportunity to test the IVP tool against de novo cases online. Here you had virtually every terror group with a platform on social media and thousands of individuals at varying stages of extremism. So taking theses samples we attempted to determine to what extent we could identify persons at risk and were surprised to find that there were in fact hundreds of individuals displaying activities that would be of concern to law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Sometimes this simply meant they were engaged with known recruiters of terrorists groups, sometimes actual threats were made, in other instances individuals were seen with weapons while on these sites.

extremist profile

The secondary by-product of this research has included numerous criminal investigations, seizures of weapons, identification of terror cells, deportations of terrorist leaders, identification of terrorist charities and the removal of countless terrorist social media pages. So whilst identification of those ‘at risk’ of engaging in violent extremism is fraught with problems there is clear evidence that there are ways of overcoming those problems.

Ideally conferences like this allow for practitioners and academics to “show what they got” in terms of new methods for capturing, analyzing and working with data. The goal however is that we both can learn from each other and find unique ways for resolving uncommon problems.  Our thanks to the selection committee for inviting us to talk.

Jeff Weyers and Jon Cole ( Tactical Decision Making Research Unit, University of Liverpool). Applying the Identifying Vulnerable People (IVP) guidance: Social media and web 2.0

 

 

 

 

Hezbollah Launches New Facebook Site Targeting Brazil and Latin America

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Author: Jeff R. Weyers, iBRABO.com

In an attempt to capitalize on growing support in Latin America, Hezbollah has launched a new facebook page targeting Brazil and other Latin American countries. Facebook analytics for the page (below) indicate that the largest support for the page has been in Buenes Aires thus far.

Hezbollah Brasil Latin America FB Page Analytics

An Official Representative in Rio de Janeiro?

On the about page for Hezbollah Brasil they even list their contact information (seen below).hezbollah Office in Brasil

 

 

Canadian Used as Poster Child for Jihad in the New Release of Dabiq Magazine by ISIS

Author: Jeff R. Weyers, IBRABO.com

Dabiq Issue 2

Dabiq Issue 2 Spread

The July 28th release of Dabiq Magazine by the Islamic State (formerly ISIS) features a number of foreign fighters killed in battle including Canadian Andre Poulin. Where as the first issue of Dabiq appeared to focus on the establishment of the Islamic State and its legitimacy, this issue appears to focus on its accomplishments and next steps. The magazine issued by ALHAYAT media center is just the latest in a well organized advertising campaign by the Islamic State.

Dabiq Issue 2 Andre Poulin

Andre Poulin a native of Timmins, Ontario, Canada, has been used in numerous promotional materials by ISIS in their recruitment efforts. The group has placed him on their social media platforms, recruitment videos and now their flagship magazine. For ISIS Poulin represents a key target audience that they have been slowly building throughout western countries.

ISIS Targets Indonesia in Facebook Campaign

Author: Jeff R. Weyers

Since the declaration of the Islamic State, intelligence analysts have observed a considerable focus on secondary targets of growth for ISIS. Most recently their social media campaign has targeted Indonesia which already has a demonstrated ISIS support presence.

indonesian islamic activists support isis

In addition to the local campaign illustrated above by Abu Al Bawi (an ISIS sympathizer), ISIS recently posted the “Islamic State of Iraq and Sham Indonesia” Facebook page which was documented by iBrabo on the 21st of July 2014 (See Below). While the site has since been removed by facebook, this underlines the continued attempts by ISIS to expand its reach and influence via its sophisticated advertising campaign

Islamic State of Iraq and Sham Indonesia

The Newest Advertising and Recruiting Mogul: ISIS

Authors: Jeff R. Weyers and Camie Condon, iBRABO
How many large corporations do you know of that advertise in virtually every language? Coca Cola, Microsoft, Apple… how about the terrorist group ISIS? Many people have speculated how ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham) has grown so spectacularly over the last year in its campaign to seize Syria and now a large portion of Iraq. It seems at least part of that answer lies in the extremist groups’ ability to advertise. Whether in English, French, Danish, Spanish, Dutch, German, or Arabic (to name a few), their global approach towards social media has been massive. While Facebook has gone head-to-head with ISIS trying to limit its exposure on the social media platform, ISIS has demonstrated persistence in its ability to regenerate pages and spawn new ones (at last count some ISIS pages have been re-spawned 70 plus times).

ISIS media in multiple languages

ISIS media in multiple languages

Recruiting and propaganda pages in virtually every language can be found on Facebook and Twitter in an extensive co-ordinated social media campaign by the extremist group. The fact that ISIS has now made significant gains in Iraq only seem to have emboldened its media strategy in its new push towards what ISIS is calling an “Islamic State” (@islamicstatee). It is exactly these successes that may also be driving external support from western jihadists who may have been hesitant to join lesser established groups.

Islamic State Page on Facebook and Twitter

“Islamic State” Page on Facebook and Twitter

So how successful has their approach been? Well while the true number will likely never be known, it is estimated that tens of thousands of individuals have travelled to fight along side ISIS already. In examining just their social media campaigns there are easily 10 times that many supporting the group online. From a prevention perspective this is where we are most likely to see potential recruits. This is also one of the best opportunities for intelligence and law enforcement agencies to intervene early on in interrupting that pathway.

Of greater concern are those individuals trained by ISIS who have an intention to return to their home countries. Having had para-military training in weapons and fighting, with extremist contacts and being indoctrinated with an extremist ideology it is these individuals who will pose the greatest risk. Thus the need to identify persons who have engaged with terrorist groups (like ISIS) will be paramount moving forward.

The New Battleground for ISIS – Facebook

Authors: Jeff R. Weyers and Camie Condon

The Battle for Hearts and Minds on Social Media

Starting in November of 2013 the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS), a terrorist organization currently operating out of Syria, began a massive social media campaign in an attempt to gain sympathy, support and recruit members. iBrabo has been tracking the development and propagation of ISIS’s content on social media and as a result has identified a number of groups and individuals supporting the organization and others at risk of recruitment to the organization.

At the start of this surge several of the ISIS pages seemed to fly under the radar continuing to operate on Facebook spreading their propaganda. In late November Facebook, no doubt aided by law enforcement, began a strong effort to limit the access of ISIS. By some accounts this has been a cyber-war of persistence between Facebook and groups like Bilad al Shaam who has rebuilt their page 45 times  and  “We are all ISIS” who  has rebuilt their Facebook page 38 times (including as recently as April 1st 2014). Many of these pages now maintain sister sites in preparation for their removal linked to the original site.

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Other pages like the Islamic Stat of Iraq and Ash-Sham Media Hub and The Victorious Party in the Land of Ash-Sham appear to have maintained their presence despite their obvious links to ISIS. In addition to its account on facebook, the ISIS hub twitter account also continues to tweet out the progress of ISIS in Syria.

Islamic State of Iraq and Ash-Sham Media Hub FB Page 02Apr2014

Media Men in the Advertising of Terror

On November 29, 2013, an individual believed to be a former French resident named James Rebeiy started a Facebook page entitled, “The Islamic State of Iraq & Sham” with the following facebook address: https://www.facebook.com/groups/228051280704039/ (Last Captured 10 Nov 2013). On the 4th of December 2013, Rebeiy altered the name on his personal facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/james.rebeiy) to Abu Qatada (Almuhajer). The name Abu Qatada is often affiliated with a Jordanian man who has been accused in England, not only of providing a “religious justification for acts of violence and terror”, but also of being a “significant international terrorist, with extensive extremist contacts”, engaging “in conduct which facilitates and give[s] encouragement to the commission, preparation and instigation of acts of terrorism”, and “raising funds for terrorist groups”. It is very likely that REBEIY has used this name in title only.

On his facebook REBEIY identifies his hometown as being: Paris, France and indicates having attended a highschool in Tours, France. His profiles last updated location indicated that he was in Istanbul, Turkey. Much of material Rebeiy posted included what appeared to be original ISIS content not previously seen on other ISIS sites. The nature of this content has an Inspire magazine style and structure in its design and quality which appears to be a trend in the extremist material being generated by ISIS. The content is predominantly being created in English and targeting western audiences (below). Both James Rebeiy’s site and his ISIS page have since been torn down. While his pictures can be seen in various ISIS social media forums, it is unknown if he will take on a reputation for media savvy like that of Inspire Magazine author Samir Khan. Based on the initial observations made of Rebeiy it appears highly likely that he is providing material support to ISIS through his online contributions, including their recruiting and media campaign.

ISIS propoganda

The Path Forward in the fight against Cyber Extremism

As terrorist groups like ISIS and Jabhat al Nusra (JN) continue to utilize social media to their advantage there will be a growing onus on social media companies and law enforcement to have advanced strategies for eliminating their content.  In the past terrorist organizations relied upon their own websites but have quickly found it expensive and unproductive to keep them operational against government efforts to crush them. In contrast as has been noted with “We are all ISIS” and Bilad al Shaam they can literally recreate their pages on social media daily, in little time and at zero cost on systems that are designed for open expression and networking. Perhaps more concerning is that there are 100’s to 1000’s of individuals that rejoin these sites daily as well. This will require social media companies to rethink how they eliminate terrorist sites including the potential for automated identification tools for emerging concerns. No doubt this cyber war is far from over in a battle where vigilance and indeed technology itself may be our best weapon against our enemy. As illustrated below their understanding of the media battlefields and how to use them are quite clear.

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BraboCo is now iBrabo in our rebranding

Welcome to iBrabo on wordpress and to our readers of BraboCo thank you for your continued interest. This change is part of our rebranding effort under the banner iBrabo.com which we are now grouping all of our resources under.

We look forward to providing you with continued topics of interest in the area of OSINT, Identifying Terrorist Groups and Individuals and topics related to Terrorism and Extremism.

Please enjoy and thanks again for your continued interest.