NEW YORK: The Islamic State and Al-Qaeda propagandists instead of blaming Western or Chinese powers for creating and spreading the virus as a bioweapon, claim that the coronavirus is a soldier of Allah sent to avenge the Muslim people’s suffering brought about by the US and its allies.
The new international study published in the journal Global Security: Health, Science and Policy, analysed terrorist activity and trends across the globe since the pandemic began.
“In this narrative, the coronavirus is seen as a type of plague sent by God that will kill the enemies of Allah, sparing the believing Muslims,” the study authors wrote.
“In May, ISIS spokesman Abu Hamza al-Qurashi made a speech in which he compared the pandemic to the biblical story of Moses cursing Pharaoh with the 10 plagues until he relented and let God’s people go,” they noted.
What might be even more troubling, the research shows, is grave concerns that jihadists will learn from the horrific world impact of Covid-19 and “intensify their efforts to switch from the use of complicated devices, bombs, and suicide attacks to biological warfare, and bioterrorism”.
The study demonstrated evidence of doctoral-level scientists who had been recruited by ISIS to study scientific journals about biological and chemical advancements.
“For both the jihadists and the far rights, the pandemic has offered new opportunities and methods for unleashing violence against the objects of their hate,” said study lead author Arie Kruglanski from the University of Maryland in the US.
“Though everyone’s attention is naturally drawn to the immense health and economic challenges that the pandemic poses, we cannot ignore the potential storm of intensified world terrorism that seems to be gathering in its shadows,” Kruglanski added.
The uncertainty and confusion caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is being “widely exploited by terror groups for spinning a plethora of sinister schemes”, which could lead to a new tide of violence against people and governments.
The team of experts noted “far from uniting humanity against a common threat,” the pandemic has enabled — or at least not stopped — a vast range of incidents.
These include: ISIS attacks in seven countries in March alone; the Islamic State Khorasan Province carrying out a “devastating” attack in a funeral parlour in Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al Shabab organisation reporting 37 attacks in Somalia and Kenya, and in Mali, al Qaeda-linked Jama’at Nasr al-Islam kidnapping a high-profile opposition leader.
“Terror organisations have used the pandemic as a golden opportunity to tie their messaging to information about the disease and intensify their propaganda for purposes of recruitment and incitement to violence,” Kruglanski stressed.
“The awe of the pandemic notwithstanding, extremist groups have not ceased sowing their own brand of horror,” the authors wrote.