ISIS and the Moscow Attack

I have followed #ISIS closely since its inception in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, drawing on my fieldwork and studies as a terrorism and counter-terrorism expert and academic and a war journalist. With this background, I question the claim that Islamic State is responsible for the Moscow attack. My scepticism is based on several anomalies and unusual aspects that undermine the authenticity of ISIS’s claim:

1. The use of the term “Muqatileen” in the communique is atypical; previous communiques have preferred the terms “Mujahideen” or “Fursan” or “Istishadeyeen”.

2. Amaq’s statement that the attackers had “safely withdrawn” contradicts reports of their capture. Amaq usually waits to announce the results of attacks until all the results are in, but in this case they prematurely claimed success even though the terrorists had been arrested.

3. ISIS has never used voice changers in its communiqués. Notably, even when “Jihadi John” changed his voice due to his British nationality and recognition, voice changers were not used. The attackers in this case were not Western, and it is unprecedented for non-Western members to use voice changers, even when shouting “Allahu Akbar” or versus related to the Koran.

4. Live webcasting of attacks is not a method used by ISIS. While Go-Pro cameras have been used in the past, they have never been connected to a live internet feed to avoid the risk of interception, unless there is an advanced capability to scramble the signal after transmission.

5. Amaq consistently publishes the name of its media agency in both Arabic and English when attacks occur outside the Middle East, a detail missing from this claim.

For the reasons outlined above, combined with my professional reluctance based on past experience of claimed attacks in Iran where subsequent communiques were corrected, I am inclined to discount the claim of ISIS involvement in the Moscow attack.

Further disclosure of other discrepancies has been withheld to avoid providing insights that could be used to refine future claims.

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