Research suggests brutal films, such as that of the killing of David Haines, are inspiring potential jihadis
By Robert Booth
Guardian Online – 14 September 2014
Graphic videos showing British and American hostages being murdered by Islamic State (Isis) fighters are stirring support among foreign jihadis who are excited by a new confrontation with the west, monitoring of Islamists' social media activity suggests. Barbarous online films, such as the two-and-a half-minute video showing the killing of British aid worker David Haines released on Saturday night, are "turning on" jihadists in countries such as Tunisia and Libya who had previously reacted coolly to the civil war between the Sunni fundamentalists of Isis and the Shia minorities in Syria and Iraq.
Evidence from the Twitter, Facebook, Ask.fm and Instagram accounts of 450 foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq and others who follow them suggests the filmed murders and speeches attacking Washington and London appear to have made Isis's cause more glamorous to extremists abroad, according to the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) at King's College London. The response may explain why Isis fighters have released the videos and have threatened to kill another Briton, Alan Henning. Some analysts have asked why Isis leaders would invite stronger military intervention from the west, but postings on social networks used by jihadis suggest the tactic could be aimed at widening support for Isis.
… Other analysts claimed the latest video was a sign of Isis's weakness after US air strikes. It drew a measured response from Cameron who promised "a calm, deliberate" process of driving back, dismantling and destroying Isis. But a former senior government adviser on terrorism said it should be met with immediate military strikes by British forces.
"I despair at the stupidity of these three beheadings,"
said Afzal Ashraf, a former senior Foreign Office official in Iraq, now a consultant fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.
"There is no rationale to this. They are annoyed and upset they are being killed and so they are wheeling these poor guys out who they have held in some cases for two years and who they were hoping to get a ransom for. This tells me they are really hurting and the only thing they can do is kill an unarmed hostage in a very, very cowardly act, which shows just how weak they are."
He argued that paratroopers and special forces should be sent in to kill Isis fighters manning the remote checkpoints that guard the group's recently claimed territory.
"We have to send out a message that must be understood by not very smart people,"
"I would get a few of our guys who would be only too happy to deliver David Cameron's compliments to those outposts. They could be there by supper, out by breakfast and be home in time for dinner."
But Julian Lewis MP, a member of parliament's intelligence and security committee, said such a response would be to grant Isis's wish for the west to launch "crusader-style attacks in Muslim lands".
"These disgraceful performances are acts of deliberate provocation,"
"The reason they are doing this is they are seeking to consolidate their position in the vanguard of political Islam … The very fact they are going to such lengths … shows they know the position they are trying to carve out is not secure."
Lewis called for an ideological counterattack in the form of a mass public information campaign aimed at rubbishing claims that the brutality of the Isis militants has any root in Islam.
"We need a greater national effort to identify the doctrine and undermine it,"
he said. That was echoed by Ghaffar Hussain, managing director of the counter-extremism think-tank the Quilliam Foundation, who called for a
"multi-agency and cross-departmental approach to countering all forms of extremism and preventing radicalisation, whether violent or not, stemming from the acceptance that jihadist organisations recruit from a much larger pool of non-violent extremists".