A research fellow at the George Washington University Program on Extremism (GWUPOE) has said that the Islamic State “planned a media campaign” around the > Dhaka restaurant attack in advance and the outfit was posting photographs of the scene through its official media channel almost in real time.
Amarnath Amarasingam, a fellow at the GWUPOE who tracks the social media aspect of the IS, told The Hindu on the phone from Canada that Bangladesh’s denial about the IS’s role in the attack amounted to “choosing short-term political goals over long-term national security.”
“The Bangladesh government’s overwhelming attempt to say ‘we don’t have a problem here’ means that they are probably not looking in the right direction. Groups like Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh have pledged allegiance to the IS,” he said.
Bangladesh has categorically denied that the attackers belonged to the IS. But the outfit’s Amaq news agency, in a communiqué distributed on Telegram and Twitter, indicated that five fighters carried out the attack, targeting a gathering of “citizens of Crusader states” in Dhaka and killed 22 “Crusaders,” including 7 Italians, and two police officers. “Let the citizens of the Crusader states know that they will not be safe from the strikes of the mujahideen as long your aircraft kill Muslims,” the message posted by Amaq read.
The news agency posted pictures of five Bangladeshi men wearing black kurtas, kifayas (headgear) and holding assault rifles with the trademark IS black flag in the background.
“As the attack was happening, IS channels posted real time photographs, which doesn’t usually happen,” said Mr. Amarasingam, who identified the Bangladesh attackers after culling out details from their social media profiles.“This shows that they had planned out the media campaign. The attackers must have sent the pictures to someone they must have been in touch with. I don’t know about the transmission, but I don’t get the sense that they first made it to mainstream media. The first time most people saw these pictures were on ISIS channel”
He said that Amaq, the official channel of the IS, was run in conjunction with media persons in Syria and with the help of people around the world. “Of course, you have people in the U.K. and other places who also help them. They are all voluntary. One of the interesting things happening now is that the Telegram channels have expiring links. The link goes public for an hour or so and then it’s closed.”
Mr. Amarasingam has interviewed over a hundred fighters with a variety of Sunni jihadists groups, their supporters online, as well as mothers, fathers and friends of youth who have joined the fight abroad. On the Turkey-Syria border, Mr. Amarasingam has interviewed dozens of injured fighters, refugees and former and current activists of the Syrian revolution.