Terrorists look to exploit the chaos of the pandemic and use themselves as “bioweapons.”
Despite the new coronavirus pandemic, jihadi groups around the world remain very active. On March 19, Turkish troops came under rocket fire near Mount Zawiya on the M4 Highway in Idlib, Syria. The attacks were allegedly carried out by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham or Huras ad-Din militants.
In Mozambique, two hundred militants seized the town of Mocímboa da Praia in the Cabo Delgado Province on March 23. In Somalia, the Al-Shabaab terrorist group held a five-day consultative forum on jihad in East Africa with 100 participants, including intellectuals, theologians and traditional leaders.
On March 22, Boko Haram carried out the largest action in Chad in several years. At least 92 Chadian military personnel were killed on the border with Niger and Nigeria. According to the President of Chad, this is the largest single loss of life in a single incident in the country.
In March, despite the coronavirus epidemic and the signing of a truce between the Taliban and the US, fighting continued across Afghanistan.
On March 7, ISIS claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack that killed 32 people. On March 25, the militant group attacked the Sikh Dharamsala Temple in Kabul. The attack killed 25 civilians and injured 8. The next day, an IED was detonated near the funeral pyre of Sikhs killed in an attack by ISIS militants the day before in Kabul. The blast injured a child.
ISIS: Seize the chaos
While most governments around the world are doing their best to combat COVID-19, terrorists are attempting to take advantage of the situation. A large part of the resources of most nation-states have been thrown into the fight against the disease. Significant restrictions have been imposed on the population and armed forces, where the coronavirus is also spreading. Many armies are also tied up conducting street patrols and victim assistance. Under these circumstances, the fight against terrorism has been relegated to the background. The terrorist organizations themselves, especially ISIS, are calling on their followers to step up attacks against their enemies. Experts note that the coronavirus has led to the activation of the propaganda of jihadists, who saw it as a sign of God. The general theme is that the virus is a punishment against the West and China for their sins.
In mid-March, ISIS issued recommendations on how to avoid the novel coronavirus, noting that “one should not strike by oneself but by the command and decree of God.” At the same time, the leadership of the terrorist organization ordered extremists not to visit the contaminated territories.
In an editorial on COVID-19 in ISIS Al-Naba, published on March 19, COVID-19 is called the “crusaders’ worst nightmare.” ISIS calls on its supporters to attack Muslim countries and the West in situations where the health care system will be as busy as possible for Coronavirus patients. Then, in their opinion, the attacks will have the maximum effect.
“The last thing they want today is that this critical time of theirs should coincide with preparations of the Caliphate for new strikes on them, similar to the strikes of Paris, London, Brussels and other places. And the proportion of the preoccupation of their security and medical institutions has reached the maximum limit in some places, and what they fear above all today is that the mujahideen should greet them in the morning with a day like the days of the past conquests in any of the regions of the Earth that He gives to inherit to whomsoever He wills of His servants,” an ISIS editorial on COVID-19 says.
At the end of March, a pro-ISIS website shared instructions in Italian for making explosives (https://www.memri.org/jttm/pro-isis-website-shares-instructions-italian-making-explosives).
ISIS also calls for the use of chaos to free its supporters in camps in Iraq and Syria.
Al-Qaeda: punishment for the infidels
The pro al-Qaeda Thabat News Agency published an article “Corona: destroyer of the oppressors and martyrdom for the believers” where it was said that “the collapse of the idolaters and whoso is loyal to them has become very close, so be prepared of Ummah of Tawheed to nail the last nail in the coffin of falsehood, and to launch your assault so that the land of God should be ruled by the rule of God”.
In this material, the coronavirus is assessed from an eschatological perspective. It is noted that if Muslims die from coronavirus, they will become martyrs.
Al Qaeda-linked Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), a predominately Uighur jihadist organization, named the coronavirus outbreak in China as “punishment from God” for the state’s oppression of the Uighur Muslims.
Abdullah Muhammad al-Muheisseni, a Saudi Salafi preacher who fights alongside Idlib extremists declared that the Western countries wrongly understand the novel coronavirus in pure materialistic way. He and other jihadi leaders opposed the closure of mosques in Idlib.
“In their prayers the Muslims in al-Sham ave turned towards God in these difficult days: they have turned to Him so that He may rid them of the human viruses: the Russian, Rafidite and Nusayri ones, and so that He may protect them from the evil of the microbial viruses: corona and its sisters,” al-Muheisseni declared.
Editorial from weekly Iba’ magazine affiliated with Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham noted that Iran is one of the most affected countries. Jihadists call the epidemic a tribute to Iran for its fight against them in Syria.
Salafi Jihadi ideologue Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi, who is close to Al-Qaeda, declared that Muslims should rejoice at infidels’ deaths from Coronavirus.
Abdurazak al Mahdi, a Syrian Jihadist preacher close to the Turkistan Islamic Party (one of the founders of the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham) declared that “plague is punishment for unbelievers and mercy for the believers”.
قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم:
"الطاعون عذاب يبعثه الله على من يشاء وجعله الله رحمة للمؤمنين
ليس من أحدٍ يقعُ الطاعونُ
فيمكث في بلده صابراً محتسبا
يعلم أنه لا يصيبه إلا ما كتب الله له
إلا كان له مثل أجر شهيد" البخاري
ولأحمد"جلس في بيته"
— ش. عبد الرازق مهدي (@abdulrezakm11) March 27, 2020
Muslim Brotherhood: Bioweapon
Not only the well known jihadists from Al Qaeda and ISIS called for the terror. Even some influential members Muslim Brotherhood declared COVID-19 to be great opportunity to them ad called people for action.
Bahgat Saber, a New York-based Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood activist, said in a video he uploaded to his Facebook page on March 1, 2020 that anyone with symptoms of the coronavirus should infect an Egyptian official, official, policeman or soldier.
“If you have contracted coronavirus, you should exact revenge! Avenge yourself, avenge the honor of your women, avenge the people who are in prison, and avenge the oppressed people. Go there. Why die alone? When you die, why die alone?” declared the activist. After that, Egyptian authorities declared that “the international terrorist organization of the Muslim Brotherhood poses an imminent threat to international peace and security.”
In turn, the Muslim Brotherhood-Affiliated Canadian Imam Hussein Amer joined the chorus of extremists saying that Coronavirus is Allah’s punishment for the Chinese because their “repression” against Muslims.
Muslim Brotherhood historian Mohamed Gawady declared that “God willing after the coronavirus passes, all the presidents of the world will belong to the Muslim Brotherhood as the world has matured.”
كما كانت مصر أول دولة تكونت في التاريخ
فإنها أول دولة يرأسها إخواني وان استشهد
ومن بعد كورونا ان شاء الله
رؤساء العالم كلهم اخوان
لان البشرية نضجت #أبوالتاريخ
— د . محمد الجوادي (@GwadyM) March 14, 2020
On March 16, the Egyptian Global Fatwa Index (GFI) organization reported that the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS have, through a number of fatwas, called on Muslims to produce “human biological weapons” to attack the enemies of Islam. They have also ruled that Muslims who die of the coronavirus are considered “martyrs.” According to the report not only the Muslim Brotherhood, but ISIS as well has plans to use coronavirus-infected members as “human biological bombs”.
المؤشر العالمي للفتوى يرصد ويحلل الفتاوى الخاصة بفيروس كورونا:o (10%) نسبة فتاوى فيروس كورونا.. (60%) منها غير…
The “Axe of Resistance”: greater responsibility
The organizations from the pro-Iranian Axis of Resistance have taken a much more responsible position.
Palestinian Mujahideen Brigades say they are employing more disinfectant than rifles during the global pandemic.
— Joe Truzman (@Jtruzmah) March 25, 2020
Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas also declared the fight against coronavirus a priority. Hezbollah in Lebanon is taking a responsible stance by encouraging citizens to stay home while the government effectively conducts a quarantine. The Houthi movement in Yemen closed all ports and airport the capital Sanaa, and also took some quarantine measures
The list of organizations joining in the fight against COVID-19 with the international society also includes the Taliban. Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban’s spokesman, declared that “the Islamic Emirate through its Health Commission assures all international health organizations and WHO of its readiness to cooperate and coordinate with them in combating the coronavirus.”
The Islamic Emirate via its Health Commission assures all international health organizations and WHO of its readiness to cooperate and coordinate with them in combatting the Corona virus.
— Suhail Shaheen (@suhailshaheen1) March 16, 2020
The end times
According to experts, jihadists are using the epidemic to stir up apocalyptic sentiment and mobilize radicalized Muslims to participate in their atrocities.
These sentiments are widespread because: not only marginal extremists are expressing them. For example, Sheikh Saleh Al-Maghamsi, a Saudi cleric close to current Saudi king Salman, declared on the TV that the pandemic is a sign that the day of judgment is near.
New attacks, or at least the attempts to commit them, both in the West and in the Middle East, are imminent.
However, judging by the increasing activity of jihadists in Africa, it is most likely this continent that will become the main area of activity.
Moreover, it is African countries that are the worst prepared for the coronavirus pandemic. It is here that jihadists can benefit more from the paralysis of public services and the chaos. By interpreting the inability of African nations to cope with the threat as an indicator of the wrath of Allah, they will try to increase their support among the scared population.
In this regard, African countries need more assistance from other countries, both in terms of medical and military-technical support, in the fight against the militants. Otherwise, the continent may fall prey to an even more dangerous plague – global jihadism.