ISIS Crowdsourcing ‘Lone Wolves’ Heightens Risks for Southeast Asia

ISIS Crowdsourcing ‘Lone Wolves’ Heightens Risks for Southeast Asia

What you need to know

With the advent of ISIS crowdsourcing, countering the organization’s expansion beyond the Middle East will be an arduous task.

The move by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to crowdsource terrorist attacks have become a major plank of the group’s strategy to inflict global violence and heightens the risk for terror attacks in Southeast Asia, a security analyst says.

ISIS is also known as Islamic State (IS) and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). According to CNN, since 2014 the group has conducted or inspired more than 140 terrorist attacks in 29 countries other than Iraq and Syria, killing more than 2000 people and injuring thousands more.

Crowdsourcing terror attacks involve motivating or enabling “lone wolves” who despite weak links to ISIS or its ideologies partake in violence in its name.

Syed Huzaifah Bin Othman Alkaff is a Senior Analyst with the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR), at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

In a new report, Alkaff says that with the advent of ISIS crowdsourcing, countering the organization’s expansion beyond the Middle East will be “an arduous task.”

“ISIS is in dire need of support and manpower following its significant loss in and outside of Iraq and Syria. Policymakers thus need to discern any hint of changes in the group’s movement and strategy,” Alkaff says. “Especially for the Southeast Asian region, the multi-religious and multi-ethnic societies are central to the ISIS framework of offense. Steps to preserve these societies’ social fabric are critical now that ISIS is expanding its radical milieus and tapping within them.”

By crowdsourcing attacks ISIS is blurring the lines between “lone wolves” terror acts and collective violence, Alkaff says.

The report notes that ISIS, via its propaganda publications, including “Rumiyah,” teaches supporters how to communicate with the group to claim responsibility after attacks have been conducted, especially if the attack is not ordered directly by the group.

“An example would be to place a symbol related to the group – like the ISIS flag – at the scene of the attack. In this way, ISIS easily gains and maintains its terror name through its crowd-sourced supporters.”

It also suggests that pledging of allegiance to ISIS can now be done online, circumventing security restrictions imposed by many countries on travel to potential ISIS-controlled areas, and assists any ISIS supporter conducting attacks “anywhere and anytime without direct instructions from the central command.”

“Crowdsourcing of radicalism also accelerates the process of turning radicals into terrorists. ISIS members are no longer required to be attached to ISIS ‘wilayats’ (provinces) or be present in Iraq and Syria.”

In Asia, ISIS-linked attacks have been seen in a handful of countries including Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Editor: Olivia Yang