Islamic State video purportedly shows youths responsible for attacks in Chechnya

The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency has released a video showing four young males, including a boy and three other children or teenagers, who were allegedly responsible for terrorist attacks in Chechnya yesterday. The self-declared caliphate previously claimed responsibility for the incidents, which targeted police forces.

Amaq’s video is intended to underscore that Islamic State loyalists, albeit children or teenagers, were responsible.

FDD’s Long War Journal cannot independently confirm that the four males seen in the video were responsible for the operations in Chechnya. But the video is similar to a string of other short productions released by the Islamic State since mid-2016. In addition, Chechen authorities have said that all four of the assailants were younger than 17, with the youngest being just 11-years-old.

Those ages are consistent with the four young males who swear allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Amaq’s footage. The youngest of them holds a smart phone with an Islamic State flag displayed as they recite their pledge. See below:

There are only sketchy details regarding what transpired in Chechnya. According to the Russian news agency TASS, at least one police officer was killed and several others were wounded during three attacks. One or two of the assailants used their vehicle, a Mercedes, to run over policemen in Grozny. Two others, armed with knives, assaulted police in the town of Shali. And at least one member of the terror team attempted to blow himself up at a police checkpoint in the village of Mesker-Yurt. Chechen authorities also quickly blamed the Islamic State’s “special programs to brainwash teenagers” for the raids.

In addition to its online efforts, the Islamic State has a “cubs of the caliphate” program that was established to indoctrinate children in the so-called caliphate’s ideology. This program has operated in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and likely elsewhere. The “cubs of the caliphate” effort has created additional problems for counterterrorism authorities, who now have to worry that the jihadists will use children in attacks inside Europe. Indeed, three Islamic State supporters were convicted in the UK on terror-related charges earlier this year after authorities discovered that they were attempting to recruit dozens of children for terrorist acts. The Islamic State has also used children to carry out executions and other atrocities.

In the Amaq video released today, three of the young males brandish knives as the fourth kneels in front of them. It is reminiscent of previous scenes produced by Baghdadi’s media shop.

Since July 2016, the Islamic State’s propagandists have released a series of similar videos documenting jihadists, many of them young males, swearing allegiance to Baghdadi before lashing out in Europe, Russia or elsewhere.

The most recent of these videos, prior to today, was released in late July. Amaq’s footage reportedly showed the five young men or adolescents responsible for running over cyclists in a July 29 attack in Tajikistan. After striking the cyclists with their vehicle, the jihadi recruits jumped out of their car and lunged at the tourists with their knives. The same modus operandi — vehicular assaults combined with stabbings — has been employed in several other attacks claimed by the Islamic State. Two Americans were among the foreigners killed in Tajikistan. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Assailants in Tajikistan swore allegiance to Baghdadi before attack.]

Similar videos of terrorists swearing allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

The videos listed below featured jihadists who recorded their bayat (oath of allegiance) to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi prior to their attacks. The clips were then released online by the Islamic State’s propaganda arms, either via Amaq News Agency or Furat Media.

The list presented here is an updated version of an analysis previously published by FDD’s Long War Journal.

On July 18, 2016, an Afghan teenage refugee bordered a train in the German city of Würzburg and hacked at passengers. The teenager, identified as Muhammad Riyad, brandished a knife in an Amaq video as he swore his loyalty to Baghdadi. (The Grozny attacker repeated this scene.)

On July 24, 2016, a veteran jihadist from Syria blew himself up, perhaps accidentally, outside of a music festival in Ansbach, Germany. More than a dozen people were injured. The bomber, identified as Mohammad Daleel, rehearsed the oath of allegiance to Baghdadi in an Amaq video released online two days after his attack.

On July 26, 2016, a pair of jihadists assaulted a church during morning mass in Normandy, France, killing an elderly priest and taking several people hostage before being gunned down by police. Amaq’s video showed the two performing the oath of allegiance to Baghdadi shortly before carrying out the murder.

On Aug. 17, 2016, two young jihadists, identified as Uthman Mardalov and Salim Israilov, assaulted Russian policemen in Balashikha, which is east of Moscow. The pair swore allegiance to Baghdadi in footage that was disseminated by Amaq.

On Dec. 19, 2016, Anis Amri, a Tunisian man, drove a large lorry into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin. Twelve people were killed in his vehicular assault. Days later, Amri was subsequently killed during a shootout with Italian police in Milan. Amaq released a video of Amri swearing allegiance to Baghdadi, and US officials discovered that he had ties to Islamic State operatives in Italy.

On Aug. 19, 2017, a young man went on a stabbing rampage in the Russian city of Surgat, wounding eight people. The terrorist was shot and killed by authorities. Two days later, on Aug. 21, Furat media (another Islamic State propaganda arm) released a short video featuring the jihadist responsible for the Surgat assault. The masked man, identified as Masa’ud al-Surghuti, swore allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, whom he addressed as the “Emir of the Believers” and the caliph. Al-Surghuti called upon supporters to lash out with the simplest weapons they can find, including household tools.

On Mar. 20, a lone assailant stabbed and slashed at police in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. Shortly afterwards, Amaq News released a video of the Baghdadi loyalist brandishing a knife as he sat in front of a small Islamic State flag on the wall behind him. He addressed the “brothers” who are on “social networks” and implored them to lash out. He told fellow believers that they should kidnap or kill “all apostates” wherever they may live.

On May 12, a young man named Khamzat Azimov, who was born in Chechnya, knifed several people near an opera house in Paris. One person was killed and several others wounded before Azimov was shot and killed by police. Amaq again quickly claimed responsibility for the stabbings, employing the same language used in previous statements by stating that he “carried out the operation in response to the call to target coalition nations.” The following day, May 13, Amaq released a video purportedly showing the Paris terrorist swearing allegiance to Baghdadi. The masked man is presumably Azimov.

On July 29, five young jihadists used their vehicle to strike foreign cyclists in Tajikistan. They then stabbed or lunged at the surviving tourists with their knives. Two Americans were killed in the assault. Two days later, on July 31, Amaq News released a video purportedly showing the five assailants pledging their fealty to Baghdadi before the killings.

Screen shots from Amaq’s videos of terrorists in Würzburg, Ansbach, Normandy, Balashikha, Berlin, Surgat, Grozny, Paris, and Tajikistan swearing allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi before attacking:

16-07-19 Muhammad Riyad

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 12.57.52 PM

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Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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