The Islamic State (IS) released the 259th edition of its newsletter, Al-Naba, on 5 November, which reiterated IS’s admission that it was behind the 2 November shooting rampage in Vienna that murdered four people and wounded twenty-two. IS had posted the killer’s bay’a video on Telegram during the attack, and the following day formally claimed the Vienna attack, naming the killer by his kunya as Abu Dujana al-Albani. This is the first claim of an attack in the West by IS since the stabbing in Streatham, London, by Sudesh Amman on 2 February 2020.
Al-Naba 259 led with the Vienna attack on its front page and then devoted all of page seven to it under the headline, “Soldier of the Islamic State Kills and Injures Nearly 30 Crusaders With an Attack in the Centre of the Austrian Capital, Vienna”. Where normally Al-Naba would indicate the administrative department of IS that the article was about—e.g. “Wilayat al-Iraq – Diyala”—for the page-seven article it simply says “Al-Namsa” (Austria).
IS says that the “caliphate’s soldier set out armed with his faith, first, then with his rifle”, and his “bullets shook the Crusader government of Austria”. IS revels in the condemnation of the atrocity from “the Crusaders, Jews, and apostates”, and is likewise pleased that “the mujahid was killed in a clash with the police forces” after he had killed and wounded more than two-dozen civilians.
The attack is briefly described by Al-Naba 259, but no unique details are disclosed. Al-Naba goes on: “The following day, Amaq News Agency published a video of the perpetrator of the attack declaring his ‘bayat’ [oath of allegiance] to the Commander of the Faithful, Shaykh Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi [Amir Muhammad al-Mawla], may God protect him, confirming that ‘the State of Islam is remaining and expanding’, God willing.”
IS went on to celebrate that the media worked for hours to cover the Vienna attack, and that millions more were able to live view it through the posting of videos to social media. The shock and terror “revived hope in the hearts of the believers, and angered the unbelievers and the hypocrites”, says Al-Naba.
IS took care to note that Arab governments were among those who condemned their attack, and IS sees this as further evidence of their apostasy. Al-Naba then has a section gloating about the confusion of the Austrian government—there was initially unclarity on the number of shooters, for example.
The page-seven article concludes, under the subheading, “The Terror Transcends the Border of Austria”, by noting that security measures were taken around the borders of Germany, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic, and Britain raised its terrorism threat level. There is no direct threat made by IS; Al-Naba simply quotes a media report saying that Austria has lost its sense of security.
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The continued highlighting of Africa is noticeable in Al-Naba 259, with page four devoted to events in Nigeria by IS’s West Africa “Province” (ISWAP) and page five having a long layout of offensive operations from IS’s Central Africa Province (ISCAP), in the Congo and Mozambique, now spilling into Tanzania. Later in the pages there are lots of shorter reports from Iraq and Syria of guerrilla activities—including some important targeted assassinations—and similar reports from Egypt. The ideological essay—this week against “backbiting”—has been moved to page eleven, and the news roundup that usually appears on that page eliminated.
There are two articles worth drawing just slightly more attention to.
First, the main editorial on page three celebrates the popular Muslim reaction, including protests and boycotts, against France because the government refused to censor newspapers some consider blasphemous. IS took the chance to incite against Arab rulers and its other Sunni rivals, accusing them of being Western puppets and of having demonstrated this in Syria, where they vocally supported the rebellion at the outset and then redirected their effort away from bringing down Bashar al-Asad’s regime towards a focus on the Western security priority, namely IS (and Al-Qaeda).
Second, on page six is a report from Afghanistan where IS reiterates its claim of responsibility for the attack on the University of Kabul on 2 November. IS has a whole subsection devoted to attacking “the media of the apostates and Crusaders … [which] presented what happened as targeting ‘university students’,” which IS says is a lie—they were not the targets—but since these reports also admit that these students were attending an event where the Iranian ambassador was present and blasphemous ideas were being disseminated, IS isn’t exactly sorry for murdering students, either.
“Mujahideen sources said that two of the caliphate’s soldiers, Anas al-Bansheeri and Tareq al-Khorasani—may God accept them—stormed a gathering set up by the apostate Afghan government at Kabul University, to graduate judges and interrogators after they had completed a training course at the university”, says Al-Naba. “The mujahideen targeted the attendees with automatic weapons … The attack resulted in the deaths of more than 20 people and wounded about 60 others”. The two attackers were also “martyred” it seems in clashes with security forces, rather than as suicide bombers as some initial reports had suggested.
As a coda to this attack on Kabul University: a fake video has been disseminated wherein IS-Khorasan (ISK) supposedly rescinds its claim of responsibility; it is unclear who created the video, but it has been injected into, and inflamed, a fraught political dispute.
Senior Afghan government officials have accused the Taliban of being behind the attack and blaming it on ISK, which many government officials do not believe exists, seeing ISK—like the Taliban—as a deniable means for Pakistan to interfere in Afghanistan.
The Taliban responded with an angry counter-claim that the government was responsible for this atrocity, either allowing ISK to carry it out or controlling ISK, and then trying to pin it on the Taliban to damage the Taliban’s standing with the Afghan population and possibly to trigger other consequences like abrogating the withdrawal agreement the U.S. signed with the Taliban in February (however unlikely an eventuality that is).
In this environment, where everyone thinks ISK is a sideshow or a puppet of another party they regard as their main antagonist, there is room for ISK to entrench and grow.
UPDATE: on 14 November 2020, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, announced it had arrested Muhammad Adil, whom NDS says was the mastermind of the Kabul University attack and the suicide bombing outside the Kawsar-e Danish education centre, also in Kabul, on Oct. 24.