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The conduct of the Islamic State February 12-18 2015 Illustration אילוסטרציה

Cyber warfare waged by ISIS-affiliated hackers

On February 13, 2015, an ISIS-affiliated Twitter account posted the claim that ISIS-affiliated hackers had hacked into the websites of the Islamic Emirates’ Al-Ittihad newspaper and the Abu Dhabi TV channel.

The Orient TV channel reported that ISIS had hacked into its website and posted threats and insults targeting the owners and employees. The ISIS hackers changed the site’s background and wording (Orient TV, February 12, 2015).

American estimates of the number of ISIS operatives

American intelligence officials estimate that ISIS has between 20,000 and 30,000 operatives in Syria and Iraq (Nytimes.com, February 14, 2015). That is the same as the CIA estimate published a number of months ago. However, apparently the relative number of foreign fighters in the ranks of ISIS in Syria and Iraq is rising.

In American assessment, the coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria have not slowed the rate at which foreign fighters enlist in the ranks of ISIS and other jihadi groups. AP, quoting American intelligence officials, noted that today there were about 20,000 foreign fighters in the ranks of ISIS from 90 different countries, at least 3,400 of them from Western countries.

According to American intelligence officials, about 150 American citizens tried, some successfully, to reach combat zones in Syria. Some were detained on their way to Syria, others were killed and a small number were still fighting (AP.org, February 11, 2015). More than 12,000 foreign fighters from the Arab countries are fighting in Syria, most of them from Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Morocco (Sky News Arabic, February 12, 2015).

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Nick Rasmussen, director of the American National Counterterrorism Center at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said that the rate of foreign fighter travel to Syria was unprecedented. He said it far exceeded the rate of foreigners who went to wage jihad in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen or Somalia at any other point in the past 20 years (Foxnews.com, February 10, 2015).

Graves desecrated in Al-Raqqah province

On February 14, 2015, ISIS’s propaganda department in the Al-Raqqah province posted a video of the extensive, systematic desecration of the graves of Muslim holy men and the destruction of mosques of non-Sunni Muslim denominations. An ISIS operative interviewed for the video claimed that thousands of graves had already been destroyed in the Al-Raqqah province by ISIS’s “morality police (al-hisbah).” He claimed they were planning to “take care of” two other cemeteries. He quoted sayings of the prophet Muhammad about idolatry (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, February 14, 2015).

The destruction of graves and statues is a familiar tactic of ISIS and other Salafist-jihadi organizations. It is rooted in the history of Islam and based on a saying of the prophet Muhammad. During ISIS’s conquests in Iraq and its gaining a foothold in Syria, it desecrated graves and blew up ancient statues and otherwise destroyed cultural treasures dating from the dawn of civilization.

ISIS’s educational system

On February 12, 2015 an ISIS-affiliated forum posted a video about the establishment of the Imam al-Bukhari school in the Tel Abiad region of the Al-Raqqah province. Local children, both boys and girls between the ages of six and 12, study there, as do the children of foreign fighters. A six year-old boy said that he came to Syria with his mother and father from Belgium (Shabakataljahad.net. February 12, 2015).

Written by: The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC)