We can track a seemingly limitless number of jihadi support groups on the Telegram internet platform alongside the official channels of terrorist groups, as we briefly reported in an earlier article. This article takes a closer look at the support groups.
There are several functions in the support category. Some groups cover news about jihadi events in a single country, such as Emaan News Center on Syria. Other groups aim to proselytize online, for instance by sharing quotes of jihadi scholars such as Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi or Anwar al-Awlaki. Tutorial Channels can also be placed in this broad category.
Certainly the supporters of the self-styled Islamic State and their channels on Telegram are the most interesting subcategory to analyze, due to their variety and their reach.
Tracking an Islamic State supporters group or chat is not easy. The administrators of the most important groups or chats take care of their security, inserting bots that can check the users who join the channels. These bots can inspect the other groups the user has joined before entering the group and check if we have disabled the notifications of the group.
Generally, from the administrator’s point of view, someone who has disabled notifications or who is inside several groups or chats, perhaps with a different manhaj (Islamic methodology), is a spy or more simply an untrusted person.
If this happens, the administrator will add the nickname of the user’s account to a banned list. In this way, it will be impossible to for the user to join every group created by the same administrator – if the user tries to join, he or she will be automatically barred.
Because of these high security measures, in general supporter chat groups are not large, typically hosting around 200 users.
Some channels simply translate official statements and war bulletins of the self-styled Caliphate. They can appear linked because of graphics and organizational structure.
For example, Ghulibati a Rum, Infos a Nur, Halummu and Ansarulhaqq, respectively, translate into Italian, French, English and Bengali and use the same graphic structure. In these groups the translations of Amaq war bulletins are put on a white background while the original Amaq statements use a blue background. Likewise, the official statements of Islamic State, originally on a red and blue background, are translated and put on a green background.
Other translating channels linked to the Islamic State avoid the graphics work and merely forward the original statement or war bulletin in Arabic with a translation added as a caption. Examples include the German language groups entitled Journalist Schwarz and Mr. Sommer and the Somali Makawi News.
Equally important are the channels Meydan Haber and Al Bayynah. The first translates into Turkish on a blue and green background. The second shares multiple translations into several eastern European languages, such as Albanian, Russian, and Bosnian, on a grey and green background.
Are these channels connected with the media structure of the Islamic State? Are there any links between these channels?
At present, we aren’t able to answer the first question. All the channels mentioned above are private. So we can’t see who the administrator is or who the users are.
We do know that the Islamic State media apparatus speaks with the supporter channels, urging them to follow the general guidelines of the group and to translate only the original materials disseminated on the official platform. But we still can’t know if there are some direct links between, for example, the administrators of Infos an Nur and a member of the Islamic State media office.
However, thanks to tracking activity we can suspect that there are some links between different supporter groups. There are chats, such as Men-10, where several accounts share materials taken by these news channels. An account named Martyr., in these chats, always share Infos an Nur bulletins. If we check his or her account information under the heading “groups in common”, the group Infos an Nur isn’t mentioned. This could mean that behind the nickname Martyr. is the real administrator (or administrators) of Infos an Nur.
The same modus operandi is verifiable with the Italian channel Ghulibati a Rum. Italian translations of the Islamic State statements are disseminated in Men-10 by two accounts named Distanza and CaliffatoIT. Both are not registered in the channels of Ghulibati a Rum.
In chats like Men-10 one finds all that is needed to analyze Islamic State supporters. Bulletins, statements translated into several languages, and propaganda material, such as fan magazines or home-made videos. In the next article we will join chats such as Men-10 or Dawlah Squad to see how some fan magazines and home-made videos are generated and disseminated online through channels such as al Abd al Faqir Media Foundation and Muharir al Ansar.