Can ISIS ever be taken at its word?

Ne study examines jihadist groups claims of responsibility for a string of attacks to distinguish between truth and propaganda.

A MEMBER of ISIS waves the group’s flag in Raqqa (photo credit: REUTERS)
A MEMBER of ISIS waves the group’s flag in Raqqa
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Carefully studied, one can cut through Islamic State’s propaganda to judge truth from lie when it takes credit for terrorism, according to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.
In a report, released late Tuesday, the center reviews 22 instances in which ISIS took responsibility for global terrorist attacks between June 2016 and July 2017.
It splits the publications of taking credit into three categories.
In category one, ISIS takes credit for an attack, usually in Europe, the US or otherwise outside the Middle East, but gives very little detail about the attack because it did not actually order or plan the attack, but only served as a general inspiration to the terrorists.
The center’s analysis revealed that in these instances, ISIS does not appear to know enough about the attack to issue more than a general taking credit, without risking making a blatant error that would expose that it did not actually organize the attack.
In these cases, ISIS is trying to gain the propaganda advantage of taking credit for attacks that it did not organize.
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In category two, usually with attacks in the Middle East where ISIS has a stronger organized presence, ISIS not only takes credit for the attack, but also quickly gives details of the attack that it would be hard to provide without involvement in its planning.
Further, the intelligence center said that in this category, the taking-credit statement presents a much fuller and sophisticated statement of the “reasons” for the attack and of how the attack advances the group’s ideology.
In addition, many of these statements are apparently prepared in the languages of its target audiences.
All of these indicators show that in these instances ISIS likely planned the attack, said the report.
The third category of taking credit involves distributing videos, including often videos of the attack.
This category can be split into both types attacks. ISIS-inspired videos might be more amateurish and shorter as they are taken by the attackers with less planning, and actual ISIS-planned ones involve longer and more professionally taken videos.
Overall, the report said ISIS was usually at least honest in only taking credit when it was only an inspiration.
Still, there were exceptions, including the June 16, 2017, shooting and stabbing attacking at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate.
The center said it had Israeli intelligence information indicating that the taking-credit message in that instance “was false and reflected ISIS’s desire to show success in a symbolic place like ‘Palestine’ against the backdrop of the harsh pressures on the organization in Syria and Iraq.”
Regarding other attacks in Israel, the report noted that ISIS did not issue a statement taking credit for the June 8, 2016, Sarona Market attack, even though the terrorists’ themselves claimed they were inspired by ISIS teachings, which they learned while visiting Jordan.
The center said it was unclear why ISIS did not take credit, though it appeared that ISIS simply did not have enough information about the attack to even try to fake taking credit as it did in other instances where it did not really order or plan an attack.