Nineteen U.S.-based individuals have been inspired or directed by Islamic State virtual entrepreneurs since 2014, warn two senior members of the George Washington University’s “Program on Extremism” in a new report.
The rise of social media and encrypted communications platforms like Whatsapp, Telegram, and Signal, enable ISIS recruiters from around the globe to communicate directly with U.S.-based would-be terrorists, the report explains.
ISIS has a dedicated group of Western jihadis based out of Iraq and Syria who specifically focus on encouraging attacks against the U.S. homeland. The group is known to the FBI as “the legion.” It is “the legion,” which preys on U.S. residents who express sympathy for ISIS on social media, by reaching out to them and nurturing their jihadi beliefs. The legion’s role is to encourage “their contacts to take on more extreme positions and helping them make connections in real-world foreign fighter networks.”
The group encourages U.S. citizens to plot heinous attacks, including beheading an American soldier in the U.S., bombing a police station, and buying assault weapons to kill as many as many innocent civilians as possible. Each plot involves an ISIS recruiter communicating, guiding, nurturing, and in some cases, sending money to would-be terrorists in the U.S.
In some cases, “legion”-affected zealots would express a desire to travel to the core caliphate in Syria, or affiliates in Libya, and the virtual entrepreneurs would redirect them towards plotting attacks at home. Where it concerned an ISIS-sympathizer based in New York City, an ISIS recruiter told the individual he would vouch for his entry into the caliphate only after he successfully carried out an attack.
“As the response to this threat develops, it is unlikely the world has seen the end of virtual entrepreneurs with the deaths of Legion members and others associated with them,” the researchers conclude.
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