On April 14, a purported American woman living in Islamic State (ISIS) territory, released a “Message to America” via a channel on the encrypted messaging app Telegram, threatening, “We will continue to stomp you, as you come nearer and nearer. And we can’t wait to have you in our hands, as we behead you and give you a taste of the punishment that is awaiting for you after your death.”
The lengthy message began with the woman identifying herself as, “an American citizen, a woman, who was raised living on your streets, going to your schools, working for your companies and later learned the truth to your decievement [sic] and animosity towards Islam and God.” She continued, “now I am proud to be living…in the Islamic State. I am even more proud to be able to fight you, and watch you unable to sleep your nights, frightened as Allah…casts fear into your hearts and you tremble unable to face us on the ground.”
Seemingly alluding to recent ISIS losses in Palmyra (Syria), Ramadi (Iraq), and others, the woman proclaimed, “You take back a piece of land from us, but we surprise you in another area where you never expected us to be.”
She then attempted to provoke the U.S. into sending ground troops, saying, “If you have some real courage in you, come on the ground and face us. But you’re too scared to do so. Your degrees, education, jobs, popularity get you nowhere and will never get you anywhere.”
Continuing her provocation, the woman undermined efforts to kill individual terrorist operatives, a strategy that has become increasingly prevalent as the U.S. continues to target both Al Qaida and ISIS leaders, most recently ISIS’s alleged second in command: “You kill one of us but another one will appear stronger than the one you killed. When you killed Abu mossab al zarqawi,” the leader of the precursor to ISIS, “you failed to think with your ill minds that there are thousands of Abu Mossab Al Zarqawi. When you killed Anwar Al Awlaki,” the American Yemeni cleric who joined AQAP, “you failed to understand that there are thousands of Anwar al Awlaki. We are like a cancer you can’t destroy us, so you’re better off giving up.”
The rhetoric in this message echoes a popular ISIS strategy of using foreign nationals to threaten their home countries in propaganda, something that was done multiple times after the Brussels attacks.
The Telegram channel on which this message was posted is connected to pro-ISIS hacktivists, technologists, and other networks, and it has attracted a large group of followers. On April 16, the channel released another message in English, likely from another American female, who offered advice to others, saying, “Years ago I had someone in my life correcting me every single time I made a mistake…And I remember thinking ‘Leave me alone!!’ I used to hate whenever this person corrected me.” She continued, “Don’t learn from your mistakes, learn from other people’s mistakes.”
Another female jihadist offered more advice on the same channel: “You want a boyfriend? Get married. You have problems? Talk to a trusted sister instead of a guy. Why do you have to always go seek help from men when your sisters are here. Wallahi I see it that you go message brothers for hijrah [departure for jihad] or dawah [preaching] while sisters are here to help.” This exemplifies the way in which English-speaking female jihadists offer assistance via Telegram to radicalized women who are looking to join ISIS.
The aforementioned network of Telegram channels is private, and membership is by invitation only. Guaranteeing constant contact, they have utilized the Telegram bot service (and additional channels) to release limited-time invitations and “shout-outs” to new and updated channels.
Telegram continues to be one of the most widely utilized platforms by jihadists, including official ISIS media, for encrypted communication. In addition to the release and dissemination of propaganda, the platform facilitates correspondence between individuals, a feature that is becoming an increasingly significant part of jihadist recruitment, a phenomenon observed
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About the author:
Laith Alkhouri is co-founder and Director of Advanced Solutions at Flashpoint. A native Arabic speaker and on-air terrorism analyst for NBC News, Mr. Alkhouri supports law enforcement on national security investigations, bringing expertise on Deep & Dark Web networks used by terrorist groups and their supporters. Over the past decade, Mr. Alkhouri has researched thousands of jihadist operations, analyzing terrorist activities with a focus on the use of technology and the Internet. He’s presented to the State Department, Department of Justice, Department of Defense, House of Representatives, Council on Foreign Relations, NYPD, and others. Mr. Alkhouri is frequently cited in global media and holds an MS in International Affairs and a BA in Political Science.