The face of extremism
Currently, there are at least 30 extremist groups all over the world and here you will find some information about some of those ones that use social media for recruitment and funding.
Although many countries don’t classify far-right groups as terrorist groups, some of them have recently started perpetrating attacks against minorities.
According to a recent report released by Hope not Hate, although membership to far-right groups has been decreasing in the UK, the threat of attacks perpetrated by them has evolved because nowadays these groups count on young people who operate online and have exchanged information and techniques with people from other countries.
The situation in the United States isn’t different. The Anti-Defamation League has pointed out an increase of 77% of white supremacist propaganda in universities, including anti-Islamic and anti-semitic fliers, stickers, posters, and banners.
Here are some of the groups that are active on the internet:
English Defence League: is a British group that has at least 150 members and has a Nationalist ideology that is anti-Islam and anti-immigration. It is active on Facebook and Twitter.
The United Klans of America: half a century ago, it was the largest Klan group in the US and it was involved in a number of murders and acts of violence. It collapsed in the 1980s but it seems to have resurrected through people who believe to belong to the Aryan race. It is just one type of the many Klan groups that remain somehow active in the US. They have recently changed their tactics, looking for ways to reach maximum publicity with a minimum number of members.
National Nationalist Movement (NSM): this group has around 350 members and it has reached its peak during the mid-2000s. It organizes public events and rallies around the United States.
For more information about white supremacist groups in the United States, access: https://www.adl.org/
In the United Kingdom, you find more information about it at: https://www.hopenothate.org.uk/
Place of Origin: Iraq
Year of Origin: 2013
ISIS or Daesh is an extremist group formed in Iraq and Syria. Its major goal is to unite the world under a single caliphate. Some of its first members came from Al-Qaeda – an extremist group that don´t agree with attacks targeting Muslims.
The group considers infidels those ones who are not Sunnis, especially the Yezidi people that live in Northern Iraq.
Thousands of people all over the world have joined Daesh and many of them appear on propaganda videos produced by the group in order to attract more fighters. Recently, there was a shift in the group´s strategy: instead of calling people to join them in Iraq and Syria, the group started inciting people to perpetrate attacks in their own countries. Some of the recent attacks registered in Europe were inspired by Daesh´s ideology, such as the London Bridge attack.
Currently, at least 34 extremist groups have pledged allegiance to Daesh, expanding its reach in Africa, Middle East and Asia.
Daesh pays to media professionals some of the biggest salaries, which proves how much they value the material produced by them. Daesh has online magazines in different languages, short videos and even documentaries edited in a very professional manner. The group use songs and some editing effects to convince people that its cause is good for Muslims. In many videos the group uses images of happy children and foreigners from different countries telling the audience they have made the best decision of their lives moving to Iraq or Syria. These pieces can be found on the Internet and parents must also pay attention to videogames played by teenagers since some of them have been used by extremists for recruitment. The group also uses instant message applications such as Telegram, Whatsapp, Wickr, KiK, and YikYak to give instructions to new followers. Some recent reports also points out recruiters have used social media outlets to “field questions about joining” the group, a process which resembles an “online version of [a] religious seminar”, and online platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, Ask.fm and Askbook.
As you can see, they produce a very persuasive narrative that must be confronted with facts:
- Daesh is the deadliest terrorist group in the world. Over 27.000 people were killed as a result of violent conflicts with the group in Syria and Iraq.
- In 2015, attacks coordinated and inspired by Daesh killed at least 6.000 in 11 countries. There were 609 bombings by Daesh in 2015.
- In August 2014, IS fighters abducted hundreds, possibly thousands, of Yezidi men, women and children who were fleeing the IS takeover from the Sinjar region, in the north-west of the country. Many of these women were kept as sexual slaves, including 12 year-old girls that were raped several times. An unknown number of Yezidi women remain in the arms of IS soldiers as sexual slaves, but it is believed that it is up to 3.000. The persecution against Yezidi people was recognized as genocide in 2015.
- There are dozens of mass graves in Syria and Iraq where Daesh buried the bodies of thousands of people.
- The group is known by its extreme violence against Christians, Yezidis and other minorities: some of them were crucified, others were beheaded and some of them were tortured in the square.
- In some territories controlled by Daesh, children have learned how to use knives to cut throats and how to wear explosive vests.
This is the real Daesh (we use this name to refer to this group because we don´t recognize it as a Muslim state).
Source: Global Terrorism Index 2016 / Counter Extremism Project / Escape from Hell (Amnesty International Report) / United Nations
Place of Origin: Afghanistan and Pakistan
Year of Origin: 1988
Al-Qaeda is one of the most ancient extremist groups and it has changed its strategies as time goes by. It was founded by Osama bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam, during the Soviet war against Afghanistan, inciting a global jihad. It became well-known by the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3.000 peoplle in the United States. Since them, the US started to attack some of its bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan, culminating with the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011. The leader of the group was finally dead, but Al-Qaeda remained active in many countries. The group established at least six regional affiliates in the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, East Africa, and the Indian subcontinent: Al-Shabaab, Al-Nusrah, Front Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Abdullah Azzam Brigades and the Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent.
Al-Qaeda is a jihadist group that seeks to establish a global caliphate and the main difference between this group and Daesh is that Al-Qaeda doesn´t agree with the killing of Shias.
Currently, the leader of the group is Ayman al-Zawahri. In 2015, Al-Qaeda killed 1.620 people in 11 countries (Algeria, Bangladesh, France, Kenya, Lebanon, Mali, Pakistan ,Somalia, Syria, Uganda and Yemen).
Al-Qaeda has focused its recruitment on Middle East, but it also has inspired people from Western countries (the brothers Tsarnaev exploded a bomb during the Boston Marathon in 2013 after watching an instruction video produced by Al-Qaeda).
The former communication strategies were basically messages broadcasted by radio and later the group produced some appearances of Osama bin Laden in videos that were broadcasted on TV. With the Internet, the extremist group expanded the reach of its messages and started producing some short videos to incite people to plot attacks against the West.
Source: Global Terrorism Index 2016 / Counter Extremism Project
ABU SAYYAF GROUP
Place of Origin: Philippines
Year of Origin: 1991
The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is an Islamist extremist organization that recently pledged allegiance to Daesh and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The group intends to establish an independent Islamic state in southern Philippines and it has started threatening people who live in Southeast Asia.
ASG is known for some of the brutal techniques used by Daesh: beheadings and foreigners´ kidnappings. It also attacks local politicians, business people and civilians. ASG also offers protection to some jihadists fugitives and is connected to other Philippines´ extremist organizations such as the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
ASG usually recruits members from clan and family groups – it is believed that many of them are young Muslims from the southern islands of the Philippines. Some reports show evidence the group has recently began to recruit people from other countries, such as Indonesia and Malaysia.
Media content produced by ASG is fairly lower in comparison to the production of other extremist groups. The group have produced some small videos with English subtitles, targeting foreign audience.
Source: Counter Extremism Project / Jihadology
Place of Origin: Somalia
Year of Origin: 1996-1997
Al-Shabab is the Al-Qaeda´s affiliate in East Africa and it seeks to establish a caliphate in Somalia and nearby countries. The name Al-Shabab also means “the Youth”. Currently, the group controls territories in Southern Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.
Since 2012, when it pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabab executed violent attacks in Somalia and Kenya. In September, 2013, the group killed 68 people in the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya and in April, 2015, Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack that killed nearly 150 people in Garissa University, Kenya.
Acoording to Counter Extremism Project, the main targets of the group are the Somali government and the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM).
In the early stages, Al-Shabab focused on recruiting in Somalia and Kenya, but lately it started using the internet to spread its ideology and recruit people from the West.
Al-Shabab is another extremist group that produces videos for recruitment. It has small videos showing operations in Somalia and fighter´s testimonies with English subtitles so as to attract the foreign audience.
Source: Counter Extremism Project / Jihadology
Place of Origin: Maiduguri, Nigeria
Year of Origin: 2002
Boko Haram, which means in English “Western education is forbidden”, is also known as Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād and more recently Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP).
It is based in northeastern Nigeria, but also perpetrated attacks in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Burkina Faso. The group is one of Daesh´s allies and seeks to establish a caliphate in Nigeria. It was founded by the Salafist cleric Mohammed Yusuf, who reportedly received funding from Osama bin Laden in the early 2000s. He died in 2009 and the new leader, Abubakar Shekau, declared jihad against the Nigerian Government and the United States in 2010.
The group became worldwide known after the abduction of nearly 300 girls in April 2014. In 2015, the group has killed more than 5.000 people, including approximately 2.000 civilians that lived in the town of Baga.
Since March 2010, Boko Haram has been receiving military training, funding and media training from Daesh and, according to Counter Extremism Project, it had abducted 10.000 boys between 2014 and 2016 to train them as soldiers. People from other countries have joined Boko Haram, but this movement seems to be lower than the one verified with Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
Just like Daesh, Boko Haram has produced small videos and used the Internet and instant message applications for recruitment and to give instructions to their followers. Some of the videos use a wide range of visual effects and sounds to attract people´s attention.
Source: Global Terrorism Index 2016 / Counter Extremism Project
Place of Origin: Kandahar, Afghanistan
Year of Origin: 1994
The Taliban is the jihadist group that remains active in Afghanistan and seeks to establish a caliphate in the region. The group is known by a radical interpretation of Islam, standing against the Afghan government and the West.
It was founded in 1994 by Mohamad Omar and at that time it was formed by mujahedeen – who were fighting against the Soviet Union during the Afghan War – and a group of Pashtun tribesmen. The Taliban remained on control of Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001, when it was defeated by an American-led invasion. Since then, the number of terrorist attacks executed by the group has increased.
The main targets of the group are the government´s institutions and citizens. 2015 was the deadliest year ever recorded of the group with more than 4.500 deaths in Afghanistan due to attacks executed by Taliban.
In the beginning, the group trained many youngsters that came from Pakistan and joined the Taliban in Afghanistan. In 2014, Voa News estimated the group had approximately 60.000 fighters, including children that were trained to become suicide bombers.
There are few videos of Taliban on the Internet, which indicates their main strategy relies on radio broadcast. Despite the power of social media, the group still values radio as a powerful means to persuade people. Besides that, the group also has their own media channel, which often releases its statements on the Internet in English.
Source: Counter Extremism Project / Global Terrorism Index 2016 / Jihadology