The Islamic State’s terrorist army in recent weeks has used channels on a popular messaging app to show gruesome killings and to instruct followers on how to attack the U.S. with chemical weapons, despite the app’s assertion that it blocks such extremists.
The terrorists’ presentations have appeared on at least two channels on Telegram, the messaging platform launched and subsidized by Russian dissident Pavel Durov from his adopted home, Berlin.
Telegram offers encrypted messaging, ensuring the privacy of users who increasingly include Islamic terrorists. They can plan without worrying about authorities intercepting their communications.
Telegram also offers public video channels.
A libertarian, Mr. Durov created the free-of-charge Telegram in 2013 as a tool for political dissidents, including those in his home country of Russia. His overriding user theme: privacy.
He asserts in his web page’s guidelines and in a series of Twitter messages last month that Telegram takes down extremist messages and videos.
“Some media claimed Telegram did little or nothing to stop ISIS from using its platform,” he tweeted. “Nothing can be further from the truth!”
He retweeted a message from Telegram itself: “Every day we block over 60 ISIS-related channels before they get any traction, more than 2,000 channels each month.”
Steve Stalinsky, who directs the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), told The Washington Times that Mr. Durov is not telling the truth.
“I am currently following over a thousand jihadi Telegram accounts and ‘chats,’ the majority of them are affiliated with ISIS, al Qaeda and also smaller jihadi groups including Hezbollah and the Taliban,” said Mr. Stalinsky, whose group monitors all types of jihadi communications. “Every time one of these accounts gets updated, a ‘ding’ is [sounded] to notify users. I never leave the volume on my computer anymore, because there literally is nonstop dinging happening. Just about every second of the day, a jihadi is posting something new on Telegram.”
The Islamic State is also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh.
Mr. Stalinsky said the channels showing bomb-making and gruesome killings were still up as of Friday.
What’s more, that same day the Islamic State’s Al Hayat Media Center posted its new magazine, Rumiyah, on Telegram. The issue provides a photo and the address of a new target: a Baptist church in Texas.
A U.S. National Counterterrorism Center intelligence report obtained last week by The Times quotes French officials as saying Telegram’s encrypted messaging played an important role in the Islamic State’s orchestration of the Nov. 13, 2015, attacks in Paris.
Telegram helped the Belgian, French and Iraqi assassins secretly plan a relatively simple killing spree: drive into Paris and massacre innocents in cafes, a theater and a soccer stadium. In all they killed 130, which the French press said was the largest one-day loss of life since World War II.
In sum, Telegram has become a mobile command and propaganda center for terrorists, even as Mr. Durov claims his creation is not.
MEMRI reports that the Islamic State’s media office in Raqqa, the terrorist group’s so-called capital in northeastern Syria, posted a video on Telegram that urges Muslims in France to carry out attacks. It demonstrates how to stab someone to death, recommending sharp kitchen knives.
The same video features a fighter, Abu Al-Nour Al-Shami, providing detailed instructions on bomb-making using the explosive material acetone peroxide.
He is shown at a modern kitchen counter top mixing acetone peroxide, hydrogen peroxide, sulfuric acid, acetone, ice and water. Then he shows how to make a detonator using light bulbs, batteries and other household items.
Next a young man admits to working for Kurdistan’s counterterrorism department. He runs barefoot into the desert until a backpack bomb is remotely detonated, killing him.
A Moroccan fighter named Abu Suleyman al-Firansi, speaking French, then uses an accused spy tied up in a damaged building to show where to stab a person to death.
“First, [attack] the throat by slicing or stabbing. Second, the chest, which is often targeted,” he says.
On Jan. 2 and 3, the Islamic State’s “Lone Mujahid” channel on Telegram posted a series of videos. They vow to destroy the United States, providing instructions on how to make pressure-cooker bombs and chemical weapons.
A video states that “disease[-inducing] and chemical gases completely paralyzes life in vital [enemy] areas,” according to MEMRI’s captured graphics.
The video further states: “One of the ways to get a chemical weapon [is to] place a bottle filled with sulfuric acid in the middle of a box [that is] perforated randomly from the top and sides. Placed around the sulfuric acid’s box [is] a[n] amount of potassium cyanide. Once you break the middle box and the spreading of acids to the dry material [occurs] the interaction will start and the countdown of [the] demise of America will as well, inshallah.”
The fact this video was posted on a Telegram channel and remains there, according to Mr. Stalinsky, seems to dispute Telegram’s message to users.
“While we do block terrorist bots and channels, we will not block anybody who peacefully expresses alternative opinions,” Telegram’s online guidelines say.