To ISIS, the Manchester attack is yet another sadistic accomplishment, reflecting exactly the types of targets it has repeatedly called for killing: anyone and everyone, including children.
Twelve hours after the news broke about the Manchester attack that killed 22 people, as ISIS supporters raged on in a celebratory social media campaign, the terror group released an official statement claiming the Manchester bombing. It stated that the attacker struck the “shameless concert arena” in response to “transgressions” against Muslims.
Calls to kill Western non-Muslims “wherever you find them” is a constantly recurring element within ISIS propaganda. As Tunisian jihadist Abu Muqatil stated an interview in ISIS’ English Dabiq magazine of civilian targets:
…do not look for specific targets. Kill anybody. All the kuffar over there are targets. Don’t tire yourself and look for difficult targets. Kill whoever is over there from the kuffar.
Slain ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammed al-Adnani, an influential voice to the group’s lone wolf movement, urged for the same type of attacks in the West. He stated in a September 2014 speech:
The best thing you can do is to strive to your best and kill any disbeliever, whether he be French, American, or from any of their allies.
However, ISIS has stressed even more leniency in its soft-target stances in the past year. Several issues of ISIS’ monthly Rumiyah magazine, which is published in 10 languages, have laid out an especially broad and indiscriminate span. The publication, a source of ISIS-branded “how-to” attack guides, has specified children—not to mention other noncombatant civilians—as being permissible to kill.
The first issue of Rumiyah, released on Sept. 5, 2016, contained an article headlined “The Kafir’s [Unbelievers’] Blood is Halal [Legitimate] for You, so Shed It.” The article told readers that killing any non-Muslim not protected by covenant “is not sinful, but is rather rewarded with Jannah [Paradise].” After providing what was presented as various religious justifications, the article concluded in part:
Muslims currently living in Dar al-Kufr must be reminded that the blood of the disbelievers is halal, and killing them is a form of worship to Allah, the Lord, King, and God of mankind. This includes the businessman riding to work in a taxicab, the young adults (post-pubescent “children”) engaged in sports activities in the park, and the old man waiting in line to buy a sandwich.
Again, in issue five of Rumiyah, released on Jan. 6, 2017, ISIS featured an article, “Collateral Carnage.” It stated that “one should not grieve over the collateral killing of kafir women and children” and that if children “are killed or wounded due to them being intermingled with the men, then there is nothing wrong with killing them.” The article later followed up:
…one should not avoid targeting gatherings of the kuffar—whether military or civilian—in which kafir [infidel] women and children outnumber the kafir men. Rather, the mujahid must strive his utmost to do whatever is permissibly possible to further Allah’s cause, irrespective of the collateral carnage produced thereby amid the kafir masses.
In its public statements and media, ISIS often makes a point to show children and other civilians killed by Western airstrikes as an attempt to justify its own terror attacks. An Aug. 20, 2016, ISIS video titled “Deter the Enemy from Harming Your State” showed child victims of airstrikes in Syria and commentary by people presented as their relatives. In the video, an ISIS fighter identified as “Abu Ithar al-Jazrawi” stated:
O my brother by Allah, these criminals, whenever they come here to our lands, they intentionally bomb the Muslim public, so we must punish them likewise. We destroy as they destroyed. We terrify as they terrified. We scare as they scared. We make widows as they made widows. We make orphans as they made orphans.
“The disbelievers attacked us, so attack them just like they have done to us, the same way they struck us and killed our women and children, never have mercy on them, kill them wherever you find them,” an ISIS fighter said in a video released earlier this month.
ISIS has also threatened children via standard communiqué format. In the group’s April 9, 2017, claim of killing and wounding 190 Christians in Egypt via two suicide bombings on churches, the group threatened “Crusader” children:
Let the Crusaders and their henchmen among the apostates know that the bill between us and them is very large and they will pay it with bloody from their children as rivers, Allah permitting. Wait, for we are waiting with you.
The ninth issue of Rumiyah, released May 4, 2017, offered the same sentiment toward Christian children in an article headlined “The Ruling on the Belligerent Christians.” It stated in part:
With regard to those of the non-combatant women and children from among the belligerent Christians who are killed unintentionally, their blood is waste—just like the blood of the combatants – because their blood is not protected since they neither embraced Islam nor do they have a covenant...
The pro-ISIS community online has echoed the group’s stances toward soft targets. Prior to the Manchester attack being claimed, ISIS supporters expressed happiness with the location of the Manchester Arena attack.
One user on Telegram said, “These kufr concerts are proving to be great soft targets though,” appearing to comment on the Bataclan theater massacre during the November 2015 Paris attacks.
Another user on Telegram said similarly in part, “...whoever chose this soft target was a genius.”
Likewise, the location of the attack falls just as well into ISIS’ open-ended brand of terror. In his inaugural speech, released on Dec. 6, 2016, newly designated ISIS spokesman Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir called for attacks where victims “do not expect,” exclaiming:
So attack them in their homes, markets, roads, and clubs from where they do not expect. Ignite the land beneath their feet, and make unclear the clarity of their skies, so that they will be preoccupied with themselves. Redouble your efforts and intensify your operations, may Allah bless you.
It can be difficult to see an attack on a pop concert, packed with innocent children and their parents, as anything but a sort of sick, ideological emptiness—not a set of beliefs, but rather an aimless lack of any at all. However, to ISIS, it is this very aimlessness that helps drive its ideology and export its violence from Syrian and Iraqi battlefronts to Western soil.
The combination of these persistent attack directives with the wealth of terror materials online—spanning video, magazine, and other tutorials for bomb, poison, knife, vehicular and other types of attacks—is a recipe for travesty. It reminds us of the dire imperative we have to shut down these messages wherever they are found, because ISIS’ push to kill children—among others—will not end anytime soon.