As national security officials warned lawmakers Thursday that “emerging threats” such as drones “are outpacing our defenses,” an ISIS-affiliated media group circulated a poster online showing a drone doing the work of the jihadist to attack Paris.
The poster from Muharir al-Ansar shows a commercial drone grasping a sizable object flying next to the Eiffel Tower, which is framed in crosshairs. A jihadist is depicted walking away.
“Await for our surprises,” says the message on the poster.
In May, Muharir al-Ansar, which has been one of the active ISIS-affiliated media groups steadily crafting and circulating English-language incitement and recruitment propaganda, released an image with French President Emmanuel Macron’s face, declaring “sang pour sang” — or “blood for blood.”
The group has idolized Paris native Samy Amimour, one of the 2015 attackers, who criticized those living in France who “claim to be Muslims” yet don’t fight. A poster from the group issued a directive for Muslims in the West to “ANSWER THE CALL and join the caravan of martyrs.”
In March, Muharir al-Ansar released an image of Spain with the order to jihadists, “If you do not have a weapon, you have a truck or knife.”
This theme of using easily available weapons to inflict mass casualties has been reflected in other posters from the group, including a February picture of a white cargo truck like the one used in the Nice attack with the words, “Hit them with a truck. Kill them all.”
A few days before the vehicle attack poster, Muharir al-Ansar encouraged jihadists to “break the cross.” Another poster showed the White House in flames while urging would-be terrorists to attack with fire. In mid-February, Muharir al-Ansar distributed a “kill them all” poster encouraging a mass shooting in the style of the Oct. 1 Las Vegas massacre.
More recently, the group depicted the assassination of President Trump in August and September posters.
At the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen warned that “terrorists and criminals are already using drones to surveil, smuggle, kill and destroy and our country is in the cross-hairs.”
“We’re in the early stages of seeing terrorist use of drones and UASs for swarm attacks, explosive delivery means and even assassination attempts,” National Counterterrorism Center Acting Director Russ Travers testified.
The National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin updated last month notes terrorists’ potential to use drones and chemical attacks outside of the groups’ occupied territory and conflict zones.
“Specific attack tactics have included the use of vehicle ramming, to include the use of rental vehicles, small arms, straightedged blades or knives, homemade explosives, and poisons or toxins,” the Bulletin continues. “Some terrorist groups overseas are using battlefield experiences to pursue new technologies and tactics, such as unmanned aerial systems and chemical agents that could be used outside the conflict zones. Many of these technologies are readily available. Additionally, terrorists continue to target commercial aviation and air cargo, including with concealed explosives.”
ISIS units in Syria and Iraq were found to be using off-the-shelf drones to conduct attacks and film attacks, and the terror group was also conducting research and development based on downed coalition drones.