By Valerio Mazzoni *
This article provides an overview of Telegram channels and chats that promote the jihadi cause.
Tracking is complex. For example, the names of the channels and chats discussed here might not match with the real names. The names are often intentionally altered by the administrators to avoid the intrusions of analysts, security agencies or rivals of other jihadi organizations. The Amaq News Agency channel, for example, has long been traced under the name of Am3q News 4gency.
In other cases, channels are private and can be joined only by obtaining an encrypted link for access, provided by the administrator or by specific bots.
To complicate matters further, administrators can exclude users from their groups at any time. So when a user sees that a channel is no longer available, there is no way to know whether he or she has been excluded or whether the channel has been reported and consequently closed.
There is time pressure too. The safest channels, which are of most interest for those conducting monitoring activity, have an average longevity of approximately three months, while the less secure and more easily trackable channels generally have a life cycle that ranges from one day to two weeks.
In order to maintain constant and efficient monitoring, direct and sustained contact with the administrators of these channels is therefore required. Such monitoring must be carried out in agreement with the competent authorities and with all the cautions that the work requires, such as anonymous online browsing and fake accounts.
Telegram Info Channels are official channels providing media coverage for a single jihadi organization. They are known as nashir (diffusors).
Currently, the most prominent channel is the Amaq News Agency, a media operation affiliated to the self-styled Islamic State that shares bulletins about the group’s worldwide operations. The official name of the channel isوكالة ناشر نيوز – Publisher News Agency.
Another well-known channel is Ibaa News Agency which provides media coverage on the Hayat Tahrir al Sham group.
Groups linked to al-Qaeda are active as well, presenting materials such as videos and audio recordings about the organization’s leadership. For example, in the Maghreb al-Qaeda has the al Andalus Media channel. In the Sahel, Jamaat Nasr al Islam wal Muslimin has az Zallaqa Media. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has Umar Media and Al Emara Studio.
All the channels mentioned above are official and their Telegram activities are managed by the organizations they represent.
There are also unofficial Telegram channels, such as al Hijra Media or Jabha News, which share information bulletins about the operations of al-Qaeda’s regional branches. These two channels are both attributable to the Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF), a media division aligned to al-Qaeda which disseminates news on the affiliates of the organization, including translations of their press releases in different languages.
Link channels provide links for joining channels that are closed to the public or considered as interesting for their followers by the administrators. Link Channels are often run by admirers or fans and they are never official.
Just to provide an example, in his link channel an al-Qaeda fan may provide the “join” links of all the groups and / or chats that gravitate towards the organization he supports.
Among the best-known and long-running channels that are close to the Islamic State, one finds Channel with channels, Join this and Connections. These provide useful links to join the official channels of the organization, fans’ channels that sympathize with it, tutorial channels and channels that deal with users’ cyber-security. Among those who instead sympathize with al-Qaeda and collaborate with it, one sees Must #Follow #Join #Groups and Let’s Try Backup.
Security channels provide cyber-security to Telegram users. They also offer instructions for incognito web browsing, anonymous email addresses (often Gmail and Hotmail) to be used in the registration of different accounts, and warnings about channels that administrators think may be fake or unsafe. Among the best known are Informotion, Mujahidin Technology, Caliphate Technology and Information Security.
These channels share pdf manuals, video tutorials and various kind of instructions useful for conducting terrorist operations. Lone Mujahid, Le Mujahid Solitaire and L.W.I are the most notorious. They offer instructions in French and English for building explosive devices – IED s – at home and handling bladed weapons and firearms. Channels such as [lethal dose] and Cecil Science provide users with instructions on how to obtain poisons from simple materials such as potatoes, bananas and rotten meat. These channels have extremely low levels of security, as they aim for very high diffusion. This determines the generally low longevity of their activity.
This is certainly the most varied category. Supporters of the jihadi cause of any organization may create groups with different functionalities and purposes. For example, they may translate news reports about operations or the media releases of the terrorist groups that they follow.
Fans of Islamic State, for example, can turn to Infos an Nur and Ghulibati a Rum. These channels translate Amaq’s information bulletins into French and Italian, respectively, provide subtitles for the videos distributed by the group, and translate the weekly magazine al Nabaa. The fan channels Taqwa Media Foundation and al Wafaa share propaganda, as seen in the jihadi media campaign about the World Cup in Russia.
As for al-Qaeda, the channels al Tamkeen Media and al Kifah Media Production perform the same functions as the Islamic State channels noted above, in English and French, respectively. There are also chats where all registered users can write and debate about developments in the jihadi world such as Mujahid News, Coming for Aqsa and Zarqawi’s Generation.