Read Part 1 here
Tracking and monitoring Telgram chat groups such as Men-10, Dawlah Squad or Toyota Gang is of capital importance. These chats are internet homes for many suspected administrators of the most important groups or channels linked to the self-styled Islamic State.
To start with, these chats offer an excellent overview of how different supporter groups interact with each other, including “know-how” sharing.
For example, in the Toyota Gang group, named after the videos showing Islamic State fighters aboard Toyota pick-ups, an administrator of several lone wolf tutorial channels known as “Virus” requested the support of an English to French translator in order to share military manuals in French. If someone in the chat is interested, he or she can contact Virus privately for more detailed instructions.
This kind of collaboration isn’t limited to relatively simple tasks such as translation. Several users can join forces to create more elaborate works – fan magazines, propaganda videos, and so on.
It is likely that these channels were the platform where the first steps were taken in the creation of fan magazines such as From Dabiq to Rome. It is a weekly magazine produced by Islamic State supporters. It is written in English and its structure is very similar to al Naba, the official Arabic weekly magazine of Islamic State. It now counts 33 editions has a solid organizational structure, with an official channel on Telegram named Alhut-Tawhid Publications.
Close to this weekly fan magazine are the newly born magazines Risalah and Youth of Caliphate, both with one issue so far.
Risalah focuses on Kashmir and is written and directed by a local jihadi. This magazine springs from the circles of The Anfaal, a fan group of the self-styled Islamic State in the Kashmir region. It is characterized by fierce criticism of al-Qaeda and Pakistan.
Youth of Caliphate is a produced and disseminated by al Abd al Faqir Media (or more simply AF Media). It is one of the most widely known propaganda fan channels linked to Islamic State, producing a range of graphic works, often to threaten the enemies of the organization. AF Media has also produced a cartoon on the life of Abu Mohammad al Adnani entitled “The Story of a Mujahid”.
The operations of these fan magazines over the last year is related to developments in Syria and Iraq. There have been no new issues of Rumiyah and Dabiq, both official magazines of Islamic State, for over a year. This is probably due to the recent defeats of the group in Syria and Iraq and its depleted finances and resources. Aware of this, the people behind supporter groups and chats have moved a step closer to their idols in order to help the organization.
This includes linked messaging. The terrorist group now limits itself to threatening its enemies with rare audio messages from its central leadership – the spokesman Abul Hasan al Muhajir and the leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. These messages are then amplified and further disseminated in graphic images and home-made videos by its supporters. For now, Dabiq and Rumiyah are no longer needed.
Other important channels include Remah Media Production and Muharir al Ansar.
Remah Media specializes in home-made videos. Generally taking footage from videos edited by Amaq News Agency, this group produces montages, inserting audio quotes from famous speeches by former Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al Adnani, Abul Hassan al Muhajir, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, and Abu Musab al Zarqawi, considered a precursor of the organization.
Muharir al Ansar works with infographics and manifestos. This channel became famous after a seriously threatening campaign against the FIFA World Cup in Russia. In the months before the event, the channel disseminated many images showing famous football players and coaches as hostages or killed and inciting lone wolves to strike the tournament.
The last media campaign carried out by Muharir al Ansar targeted Australia in the weeks following the “Strawberry Scandal”, when some needles were found inside Australian strawberries. “Follow the example oh mujahidin, it’s so easy” was the main shared message.
Taking inspiration from all this, many accounts in several chats linked to Islamic State try to emulate the productions of Remah Media Production and AF Media. This includes videos with footage taken from popular video games, such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, with added modifications, such as an Islamic State symbol on the screen or a nasheed as soundtrack.
It is important to remember that al Qaeda has many supporter groups and chats on Telegram, just like Islamic State. In this rival galaxy, a new trend has emerged recently. Several groups linked to al Qaeda have closed their channels on Telegram and now work simply as accounts. Finding an account is harder than tracking a channel. And where do these channels masked as accounts spread their messages? In trusted fan chats, of course.