HYDERABAD, India — When the Islamic State identified a promising young recruit willing to carry out an attack in one of India’s major tech hubs, the group made sure to arrange everything down to the bullets he needed to kill victims. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/04/world/asia/isis-messaging-app-terror-plot.html?_r=0
For 17 months, terrorist operatives guided the recruit, a young engineer named Mohammed Ibrahim Yazdani, through every step of what they planned to be the Islamic State’s first strike on Indian soil.
Mohammed Ibrahim Yazdani, left, and his younger brother Ilyas, whom he recruited to participate in the Hyderabad plot.
They vetted each new member of the cell as Mr. Yazdani recruited helpers. They taught him how to pledge allegiance to the terrorist group and securely send the statement.
And from Syria, investigators believe, the group’s virtual plotters organized for the delivery of weapons as well as the precursor chemicals used to make explosives, directing the Indian men to hidden pickup spots.
Continue reading the main story
Until just moments before the arrest of the Indian cell, here last June, the Islamic State’s cyberplanners kept in near-constant touch with the men, according to the interrogation records of three of the eight suspects obtained by The New York Times.
As officials around the world have faced a confusing barrage of attacks dedicated to the Islamic State, cases like Mr. Yazdani’s offer troubling examples of what counterterrorism experts are calling enabled or remote-controlled attacks: violence conceived and guided by operatives in areas controlled by the Islamic State whose only connection to the would-be attacker is the internet.
In the most basic enabled attacks, Islamic State handlers acted as confidants and coaches, coaxing recruits to embrace violence. In the Hyderabad plot, among the most involved found so far, the terrorist group reached deep into a country with strict gun laws to arrange for pistols and ammunition to be left in a bag swinging from the branches of a tree.
For the most part, the operatives who are conceiving and guiding such attacks are doing so from behind a wall of anonymity. When the Hyderabad plotters were arrested last summer, they could not so much as confirm the nationalities of their interlocutors in the Islamic State, let alone describe what they looked like. Because the recruits are instructed to use encrypted messaging applications, the guiding role played by the terrorist group often remains obscured.
As a result, remotely guided plots in Europe, Asia and the United States in recent years, including the attack on a community center in Garland, Tex., were initially labeled the work of “lone wolves,” with no operational ties to the Islamic State, and only later was direct communication with the group discovered.
ISIS Attacks, Outside of Its Self-proclaimed Caliphate
In at least 10 executed attacks, officials have found that the assailant was in direct communication with planners from the Islamic State.
Sized by number of deaths
The Islamic State has declared its caliphate to include parts of Syria, Iraq and about a dozen other countries where it has affiliates.
While the trail of many of these plots led back to planners living in Syria, the very nature of the group’s method of remote plotting means there is little dependence on its maintaining a safe haven there or in Iraq. And visa restrictions and airport security mean little to attackers who strike where they live and no longer have to travel abroad for training.