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The Links Between ISIS Propaganda and Terrorist Attacks

June 08, 2022
Maura Cremin and Bogdan Popescu


In analysis for Political Violence At A Glance, an IGCC-supported blog dedicated to political violence and its alternatives, Maura Cremin, a Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago, and Bogdan Popescu, a Departamental Lecturer of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford, find that ISIS propaganda can predict actual attacks only when ISIS had previously called out the target country for airstrikes.

In September of 2014, Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, the chief propagandist for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) issued a chilling message. Calling on followers of ISIS to take up arms against the group’s enemies, al-Adnani stated, “If you can kill a disbelieving American or European—especially the spiteful and filthy French—or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be.”

By the end of 2014, ISIS-inspired attacks had been carried out in each of the named countries. These acts of violence included the Queens hatchet attackSaint-Jean-sur-Richelieu car ramming, and Parliament Hill shooting in October 2014, as well as the Joué-lès-Tours police station stabbing and Lindt chocolate shop hostage crisis in December 2014.

While the rapid fulfillment of al-Adnani’s call to action was striking, not every threat made by the Islamic State came to pass. For instance, ISIS regularly threatened Rome, and particularly the Vatican, even going so far as to promise Christmastime bloodshed in 2017. Yet no ISIS-inspired attacks were ever carried out in the Eternal City, despite its symbolic importance as a center of Western Christianity. Why, then, do some ISIS propaganda statements predict attacks and others do not?

Read the full blog post at Political Violence At A Glance.