Islamic State’s Turkish franchise has released a how-to e-book for terrorist amateurs that seeks to increase the frequency of attacks and the range of targets in the West.
The first-of-a-kind “Lone Wolf’s Handbook,” written in Turkish, gives detailed instructions for burning parked cars, setting forest fires, setting traps for highway accidents, making bombs, instructions for suicide-truck attacks on pedestrians, and the most efficient ways to detonate buildings. The 66-page manual with 174 illustrations and 7 charts was released July 3 via encrypted chat rooms in the Telegram instant messaging service and other online platforms.
The author urges readers to carry out in Europe and the United States. But since the Turkish-speaking terror network in Europe is far more extensive than its counterpart in the United States, European cities may be the first targets.
The publication of the e-book comes as Islamic State faces battlefield losses, including the fall of Mosul to U.S.-backed Iraqi forces this week and a separate siege that has already breached the wall of the terror group’s “caliphate” capital in Raqqa, Syria. Many U.S. officials and private analysts are predicting the Islamic State will revert to classic terror strikes such as the ones carried out in Paris, Brussels, Berlin and London after it no longer has to defend a territorial base in the Middle East.
Islamic State’s sophisticated propaganda operations and online publishing have been credited with helping inspire deadly terror attacks in the past. The July 2016 truck rampage in Nice, France, came just months after Islamic State produced a video recommending using driving SUVs into crowds as a terror technique.
In addition to the new e-book, the same channel on Sunday distributed an all-hands alert calling upon “lone wolves all over the world to stand up and to initiate attacks of any kind.” The 25-second video clip, closely related to the new handbook, features a young teenager speaking in Turkish with Arabic subtitles, calling on viewers to implement the tactics in the e-book.
Some of the procedures presented in the “ISIS Lone Wolf’s Handbook” were taught by al-Qaeda and Marxist terrorists in titles such as “The Mini-manual of Urban Guerrillas,” “The Turner Diaries” and “The al-Qaeda Training Manual.”
But the new manual from Islamic State is seen as unusually comprehensive and appears to be aimed at inexperienced operatives or sympathizers who have never carried out an attack.
The first chapter teaches the fine points of burning cars “in retaliation to the bombings of the coalition forces.” Arson is described as one of the easiest tactics: “All you need is some gas and a match.” Apprentice arsonists are advised to be vigilant about surveillance cameras and to plan escape routes carefully. The manual references the 2013 spree of French car fires in which leftist rioters managed to burn 1,200 vehicles in a few days.
The author or authors are recommending that have proven effective in Turkey. Boys between the ages of 12 to 16 were effective arsonists in the city of Sanliurfa, Turkey in 2012, tying down local police for nearly a month to stop the attacks and identify the perpetrators. But the manual introduces a new wrinkle by promoting arson in forests abutting residential neighborhoods, with meticulous instructions on how to produce handmade fire bombs guaranteed to cause a firestorm.
Other chapters examine the most effective ways to demolish buildings, sabotage roadways and, perhaps in a pitch to younger readers, how to “make a bomb in your mom’s kitchen. The handbook touts home-made explosive because the ingredients are readily available and can be purchased without attracting attention.
There are signs the manual was rushed to its followers. It lacks a cover page and a summary, as well as the slick editing often found in Islamic State web publications, perhaps a reflection of the shrinking territorial hold Islamic State claims in Syria and Iraq.
But U.S. military and counterterror experts warn Islamic State’s ability to strike cannot be underestimated.
“The fact that ISIS has been able to absorb this much damage and yet still somehow continue to resist the coalition, albeit in weaker form, to this day — and even more impressively continue to direct, enable, or inspire terrorist attacks around the world — should be a sobering and instructive demonstration of organizational resilience,” Lt. Gen. Michael K. Nagata, director of strategic operational planning at the National Counterterrorism Center, said in an interview last month.
• Ahmet Yayla is an adjunct professor of criminology, law, and society at George Mason University and served as the chief of counterterrorism and operations department of the Turkish National Police in Sanliurfa between 2010 and 2013.