Covid will inspire ISIS fanatics to 'switch tactics from suicide bombings to unleash biological warfare'

THE CORONAVIRUS pandemic could inspire ISIS fanatics to switch from the use of bombs and suicide attacks to biological warfare, according to a new study.

The study suggests terrorist organisations have used the uncertainty and anxiety caused by the global pandemic to "intensify their propaganda" and "spin a plethora of sinister schemes".

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Researchers also warned jihadists could learn from the pandemic and "intensify their efforts to switch from the use of complicated devices, bombs, and suicide attacks to biological warfare, and bioterrorism".

The study reveals evidence of doctoral-level scientists who have been recruited by ISIS to study scientific journals about biological and chemical advancements.

Professor of Psychology Arie Kruglanski from the University of Maryland, the lead author of the study, said: "Far from just keeping up their activity despite the pandemic, they are using the pandemic as an opportunity to grow stronger.

"They are exploiting gaps in security, and the general burdens on societies that the pandemic imposes and are pushing forward their ideologies as a cure for fear, frustration, and panic."

BIOLOGICAL TERROR

It comes after a wave of deadly terror attacks in Europe in the last month.

In March alone, researchers claim ISIS launched attacks in at least seven countries, while al-Shabaab launched 37 atrocities in Somalia and Kenya.

Other terror incidents over the same period include the "devastating" attack on a funeral parlour in Afghanistan, killing 24 and wounding 68 victims.

The al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab attacks left 52 dead and 35 wounded, while in Mali, al-Qaeda-linked Jama'at Nasr al-Islam kidnapped a high-profile opposition leader.

"Despite the overriding media attention to the Covid-19 pandemic and its near-total eclipse of security issues, the terrorism milieu has hardly taken a pause from its deadly pursuits or suspended the execution of its plans," Prof Kruglanski said.


The study, published in the journal of Global Security: Health, Science and Policy, said terror organisations view the pandemic as an "opportunity to tie their messaging to information about the disease".

Terrorists' messages are being pursued through a "diverse, and, often internally inconsistent" blend of communications, the study says.

Messages varied across different groups, but included conspiracy theories, claims of the God's vengeance against its enemies, exhortation to weaponise the virus and taking advantage of society's weakness by "launching widespread attacks wherever and whenever possible".

ISIS and al-Qaeda propagandists have claimed coronavirus is a soldier of Allah sent to avenge the Muslim people's suffering brought about by the US and its allies, researchers said.

"In this narrative, the coronavirus is seen as a type of plague sent by God that will kill the enemies of Allah, sparing the believing Muslims," the study says.

"In May, ISIS spokesman Abu Hamza al-Qurashi made a speech in which he compared the pandemic to the biblical story of Moses cursing Pharaoh with the 10 plagues until he relented and let God's people go."

Western countries, such as the UK, have also "delayed deployments to Africa in order to focus on fighting the virus, leaving local security forces more vulnerable" to jihadist attacks, the study claims.

Far-right extremists "have not been sitting idle" either, researchers said, stating that fascist groups have been responsible for 90 per cent of terrorist attacks in the US, compared to 66 per cent in 2019.

This includes 50 vehicle ramming attacks since late May, targeting protesters. There have also been right-wing attacks against anti-lockdown protesters in Germany.

Prof Kruglanski said: "For both the jihadists and the far righters, the pandemic has offered new opportunities and methods for unleashing violence against the objects of their hate.

"Though everyone's attention is naturally drawn to the immense health and economic challenges that the pandemic poses, we cannot ignore the potential storm of intensified world terrorism that seems to be gathering in its shadows."

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