- In their November publication of Rumiyah Magazine, Islamic State (IS) dedicated an entire article encouraging lone-wolf vehicular attacks via load-bearing trucks, similar to the Bastille Day attack in Nice, which killed 86 and injured hundreds.
- The article proves practical information on choosing the appropriate vehicle and target, specifically crowded areas and celebratory events, while the graphics used suggest the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City on November 24 as an ideal target.
- Overall, given the symbolic nature of Thanksgiving as well as the fact that it provides numerous such targets for attacks, we assess that there is a credible risk for an IS-inspired lone-wolf attack on this day. This may take the form of a vehicular attack, but other methods, such as shootings and stabbings are also possible. While the famous and well-attended parade in New York City is an exceptionally desirable target for a successful attack, other smaller celebrations in cities and towns throughout USA face a similar risk.
- Those operating or residing in the USA are advised to maintain heightened vigilance in the vicinity of large crowds and celebratory events related to Thanksgiving, while being cognizant of suspicious packages, individuals, or movement.
Please be advised:
- In their November publication of Rumiyah Magazine, the magazine’s third and latest publication, Islamic State (IS) dedicated an entire article to encouraging followers and supporters to carry out lone-wolf vehicular attacks, specifically referencing such an attack conducted in Nice on Bastille Day in July of this year, killing 86 and injuring 434.
- In the article, titled “Just Terror Tactics – Part 2”, the writer elucidates on the type of vehicle to use, the types to avoid, as well as ideal targets, and advice for planning such an attack. In this context, the article repeatedly advises the use of a large, but controllable, load-bearing truck, with adequate speed, and double-wheeled “giving victims less of a chance to escape being crushed”. The author also advises a metal outer frame, and a raised chassis to allow for “mounting of sidewalks or the breaching of barriers”, among other specifications.
- Regarding targets, the article suggests “large outdoor conventions and celebrations”, “pedestrian-congested streets”, outdoor markets, festivals, parades, and political rallies, while featuring pictures of the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City.
- In addition, the article provides advice on preparation and planning for such an attack, namely “mapping out the route of the attack” and “surveying the route” for possible obstacles, cautioning that “more obstacles might be set up on the day of a targeted event”. The “Preparation and Planning” section also suggests attaining a secondary weapon if possible.
- Finally, the article concludes with a reminder, seen in previous such publications, that the assailant should find a way to announce his/her allegiance to Islamic State, such as by writing such statements on pieces of paper, and throwing them from the window of the vehicle during the attack.
Assessments & Forecast:
- Third Consecutive Rumiyah Magazine with article on lone-wolf attacks: The aforementioned publication is notable for several reasons. For one, this is third consecutive issue of Rumiyah magazine that deals extensively with the issue of lone-wolf attacks. The first such article, titled “The Kafir’s Blood is Halal for You. So Shed it” dealt extensively with the theological justification for carrying out attacks against any non-Muslim, even innocent civilians. The second article is very similar to “Just Terror Tactics – Part 2”, but gives guidance on carrying out stabbing attacks as opposed to vehicular ones.
- An Easier Path to ‘Martyrdom’: Overall, the fact that three issues of Rumiyah feature articles encouraging lone-wolf attacks highlights the shift started by IS and previously observed by MAX in our special report on lone-wolf attacks, specifically the relative ease by which an individual can attain “martyrdom” status. Compared with the past, this was a lengthy process, requiring patience, vetting, and more direct connections with Islamist networks. It should be noted that many “lone-wolf attacks” over the past year were not entirely lone-wolf, as attackers were in contact with members of IS via different messaging platforms through which he would declare his allegiance to IS and send a video of himself doing so. The “Just Terror Tactics” articles make things even easier by explaining how one can pledge allegiance to IS without needing to make any connections or even have to navigate the often complicated web of chat groups in these messaging platforms.
- Evolution of the Message: Furthermore, through these “Just Terror Tactics” publications, IS has illustrated its adaptability, evolution, and learning from their successes and failures. In this context, the first article included a lengthy religious justification for attacks in order to dispel concerns among some potential supporters that such assaults are not permissible in Islam. The following two articles focus on specific advice for carrying out these attacks and illustrate the group’s efforts to evolve what was once an open, unspecific call for attacks against whom they consider non-Muslims, to more specific instructions on how to do so in order to have the greatest impact.
- Thinly-Veiled Threat for Thanksgiving Day: Finally, it is noteworthy that the article featured two images from the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, while calling for attacks against celebratory events and parades and referencing the attack on crowds celebrating Bastille Day earlier this year. While the article at no point mentions the parade in particular, the details of an ideal target, and the graphics depicting the event appear to encourage followers to attempt an attack against the parade. This is further highlighted by the advice on how to survey a site prior to attack, and taking note of security barriers. Much like Bastille Day is symbolic for France, Thanksgiving Day and the associated parades are also very symbolic for the US.
- Forecast: While Islamic State’s general and standing call for attacks in the West has gained some level of adherence, with numerous lone-wolf attacks and attempted attacks being carried out over the past year, there has not been a direct correlation in time between these calls and the conducting of attacks. With this in mind, we assess that in addition to the standing threat of lone-wolf attacks worldwide, there is a further credible risk of such attacks in the US on Thanksgiving. Although the the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is an especially symbolic target, any parade or celebration faces a risk, even in small towns and cities across the country, as proximity and ease appear to be equally, if not more, influential aspects of a potential target. Furthermore, while the most recent publication calls for vehicular attacks and advises on how to attain a vehicle, should an attack transpire, a stabbing or shooting modus operandi is still a high probability given the added simplicity. Finally, it should be noted that while security forces will likely set up a perimeter around main events, an assailant need not reach this target in order to achieve the desired affect, and the security lines to enter a given event are equally probably to be targeted, given the sizeable crowds that result from them.
Those operating or residing in the USA are advised to maintain heightened vigilance in the vicinity of large crowds and celebratory events related to Thanksgiving, while being cognizant of suspicious packages, individuals, or movement.