• The Global Islamic Media Front appears to be inspired by al-Qaeda’s ideology, but appears to lack formal connections to the group’s leadership
• The Global Islamic Media Front does not appear to be a hierarchical group, but rather is a loose franchise with independent emergent cells
• The Global Islamic Media Front serves as a force multiplier for the worldwide jihadist movement and acts as an engine of recruitment
The Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF) is a jihadist media group responsible for the production and dissemination of al-Qaeda inspired propaganda. The GIMF’s center of gravity appears to be located in central Europe, although it likely has members and cells scattered throughout the world.
The GIMF is known to produce original videos as well as recompile footage previously produced by other jihadist media groups. Additionally, the GIMF has produced written statements touting the progress of the global jihad. The GIMF has a demonstrated multilingual capability and has released video and written propaganda in several languages including Arabic, English, German, and French. Additionally, the GIMF also has a proven relationship with a number of jihadist websites and is therefore able to disseminate its propaganda to a broad and varied audience (Previous Report).
The GIMF has also demonstrated a technical sophistication in its production of various software programs. Two of its more famous productions include the video game, “Night of the Bush Capturing” and a secure communications tool known as “The Mohajedeen’s Secret” (Previous Report). The creation of these programs indicates a technical sophistication including a detailed knowledge of coding and software production as well as a familiarity with graphical user interface design.
The Franchise Model
Available evidence indicates that the GIMF has a global presence. As discussed above, the group is able to translate propaganda into a variety of languages. It appears that individual cells operate their local GIMF outposts as franchises and shape the jihadist message to fit the unique concern of local Muslim extremists and other radicals living within the local GIMF cell’s base country.
For example, the March 2007 tape produced and distributed by an Austrian GIMF cell made specific mention of Austrian domestic political concerns such as the introduction of student fees. These “targeted” recruitment pitches were designed to recruit homegrown extremists to adopt al-Qaeda’s jihadist ideology and potentially carry out acts of violence. In this sense, the local GIMF cells act as, “boots on the ground” in al-Qaeda’s “media jihad.”
Additional GIMF franchises also appear to operate in North America. In September 2007, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested Said Namouh, a 34-year Canadian citizen and immigrant from Morocco, for conspiring to carry out a terrorist attack. Referring to Namouh’s connection the Austrian GIMF cell, Colonel Rudolf Gollia, a spokesman for the Austrian Interior Ministry, said, “there was a link between the three people arrested on the 12th of September in Vienna and the man arrested in Canada.”
Finally, North Carolina-based blogger Samir Kahn appears to have connections with the GIMF. Members of the GIMF have communicated with Kahn through his blog (Previous Report). Additionally Kahn is a ‘Senior Member’ of TIS-419038, a popular English language jihadist website with documented connections to the GIMF. While Kahn may not be responsible for the day-to-day operations of TIS-419038, his senior role in the forum implies a de facto leadership position.
It does not appear that these various cells are organized in a hierarchical manner. It is likely that jihadist sympathizers from around the world are free to create their own local GIMF franchise. In some cases, as demonstrated by the apparent communication between Austrian GIMF members and Samir Kahn, these cells will attempt communication but the level of coordination is unclear.
Disruption and Resiliency
This franchise model offers the GIMF a degree of resiliency. For example, on September 12, 2007, Austrian Interior Minister Günther Platter announced the arrest of three second-generation Muslim immigrants – all allegedly members of the Austrian GIMF cell. One of those arrested is 21-year-old Austrian citizen of Egyptian descent Mohammed Mahmoud. Officials believe Mahmoud to be the ringleader of the German-language “franchise” of the GIMF.
Despite these arrests the GIMF still managed to release an online statement reaffirming its continued ability to participate in the “electronic Jihad.” Additionally, on November 20, 2007 the GIMF released a new video that reiterated its earlier threats directed towards the German and Austrian government. Therefore, the loss of its apparent leader represented only a temporary setback for the GIMF as it has continued to disseminate propaganda.
As discussed above, it is likely that other jihadist sympathizers, perhaps without prior connections to the group, stepped into the void created by the arrest of Mahmoud and simply assumed his duties. As a result, it appears to the outside world that the Austrian GIMF cell has continued its activities without disruption.
While the GIMF may not be as prolific as other jihadist media groups like as-Sahab, its ability to produce propaganda accessible to such a broad and diverse audience make it a serious threat.
For example, prior to this summer’s thwarted attacks in Germany, the GIMF had produced and disseminated an increased amount of Jihadist propaganda from Austrian and possibly German soil. While there may not be a direct correlation between the GIMF’s increased production of German-language propaganda and the planned attacks on German soil, it seems clear that the propaganda was designed to recruit German-speaking individuals for participation in the global jihad.
Further, other GIMF members have also demonstrated a willingness to fight in the global jihad by traveling to fields of battle. Specifically, Al-Muhajir al-Islami, a 23-year old member of Fatah al-Islam and administrator of a GIMF operated jihadist website, died fighting the Lebanese Army in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp (Previous Report).
As such, GIMF propaganda’s ability to act as a force multiplier and recruit other on-the-fence sympathizers into the global jihad is a serious threat. To this end, the GIMF’s ability to localize propaganda, due to its apparent franchise model, is more distressing as “personalized propaganda” stands a better chance of convincing sympathizers to act.