laura blog - april 2018

Roots of hostage taking in extremist literature

This form of attack, was first called upon in the May 2017 edition of the Islamic State’s English language magazine, Rumiyah , as Islamic State propagandists urged western supporters that, “the objective is to create as much carnage and terror as one possibly can until Allah decrees his appointed time and the enemies of Allah storm his location or succeed in killing him.”

The assailants in the June 2017 London Bridge attacks also tried to play out this ‘siege situation’, in a pub after crashing their vehicle, and ensured their martyrdom by strapping fake suicide vests to themselves, making it more likely police would shoot them.

This modus operandi should be seen as an evolution of terrorist tactics to revive panic across the general populace of Europe and the US. This is because it forces a police presence on scene and leads to mass media attention. It also keeps authorities and communities on high alert, and so robberies being initially thought of as hostage situations may increase across the continent in the short to medium term.

Meanwhile, also in this edition of Rumiyah the group claim that the coalition fighting the group in Syria and Iraq “will be met with blades that plunge into their bodies, vehicles that unexpectedly mount their busy sidewalks, smashing into crowds, crushing bones, and severing limbs.” This is a theme echoed throughout most Islamic State propaganda, and so we may see a resurgence in vehicle attacks and other low-tech level attacks in the short to medium term.

The potential for copy-cat attacks using low-tech weaponry and/or possible hostage taking is projected to remain prominent throughout 2018. In Sept 2017, an Islamic State video called for a continuation in low-tech weaponry attacks, stating, “Kill them wherever you find them. If you are a tradesman use your nail gun. If you are a truck driver ram their crowds”.

Now that the Trèbes attack has been relatively successful, Islamic State affiliates and supporters across the western world may now be inspired to commence copy-cat attacks. As such, there may be an increase in hostage taking as a means of terrorism in the short to medium term. However, it is important to remember the limited capability and decreasingly support base the terrorist organization now has in light of its military defeats in Syria and Iraq.

Furthermore, as the Islamic State has lost all its territory held in Iraq and Syria at the hands of coalition forces, many members, especially foreign fighters of European nationality, continue to flee conflict areas and return to their country of origin. These battle-hardened individuals remain radicalised and trained in militant tactics and knowledge of how to manufacture explosives or smuggle back weapons. As such, there may be an increase in more sophisticated attacks from returnee fighters.

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