Potential AWD Imposter Group Releases New Video; Pro-ISIS Group Threatens Judge in Spain
(New York, N.Y.) - The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) reports weekly on the methods used by extremists to exploit the Internet and social media platforms to recruit followers and incite violence. This week’s edition finds the Yom Kippur synagogue shooting in Halle, Germany that was livestreamed on Amazon-owned Twitch is proliferating on Telegram. Additionally, a new video that was allegedly made by an imposter Atomwaffen Division offshoot was released and Feuerkrieg Division took credit for a bombing attempt in Lithuania. Lastly, a pro-ISIS group threatened a judge in Spain for the arrest of an ISIS sympathizer and a new online magazine from Al Saqri Foundation was released.
“Last week’s tragic shooting in Germany, livestreamed on Amazon-owned Twitch, is yet another example of how online platforms are still too susceptible to misuse by extremists,” said CEP Researcher Joshua Fisher-Birch. “Stephan Balliet, a copycat of March’s New Zealand Christchurch terrorist shooter, was clearly inspired by the latter’s use of Facebook Live to broadcast his attack.”
“Despite knowing that Twitch’s livestream technology could be similarly used, Amazon appeared unprepared for the incident, and a staggering 2,200 people were able to view the video before it was removed. All tech companies must now be vigilant in ensuring that this latest attack – already proliferating on Telegram to the tune of 53,000 views – does not have the same extended shelf life as the Christchurch shooting.”
German Far-Right Terrorist Attack Broadcast on Twitch, Spread On Telegram
On Yom Kippur, October 9, Stephan Balliet attempted to attack a synagogue in the German city of Halle. Balliet, armed with several homemade firearms and homemade explosives, and one manufactured rifle, was unable to gain access to the synagogue and instead shot a female bystander and a male in a restaurant. Balliet engaged in a gun battle with police before he was taken into custody.
Using a helmet mounted camera, the gunman livestreamed his assault on the Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch, which later claimed that the 35-minute livestream was viewed by five people. They then stated that the subsequent archive video was removed after being online for 30 additional minutes, but not before it was viewed by approximately 2,200 people. Links to the Twitch stream were spread on 4chan’s politically incorrect board, far-right Telegram channels, and on Twitter.
In the video, the attacker introduces himself as “Anon,” referencing online communities affiliated with “chan” culture. He additionally denied the Holocaust, blamed feminism for low birthrates, condemned immigration, and identified Jews as the cause of these problems.
The video was spread on far-right Telegram channels, including those that specifically endorse terrorism, revere the New Zealand Christchurch attacker, and promote racism and fascism. At approximately 11 a.m. on October 14, the main copy of the video on Telegram (and spread on numerous channels) had been viewed more than 72,000 times. Other copies of the video, available via BitTorrent, were spread via the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer, and a humor and gaming internet forum popular with extremists.
Three documents explaining the attacker’s ideology and discussing his equipment were also spread on Telegram. The attacker stated his desire was to kill Jews and “anti-whites,” spread footage of his attack, and show that homemade weapons could be used in similar assaults. One of documents used anti-Semitic language identical to that used on “politically incorrect” chan boards, and on far-right Telegram channels.
The Halle attack appears to be heavily inspired by the Christchurch attack and successive similar terror attacks. The attackers share a similar far-right, white supremacist, anti-immigration ideology. The Halle attacker’s manifesto had similar organization and goals as previous shooters, and he dressed similarly to the Christchurch attacker and also livestreamed his attack.
New Video Claiming to be from The Atomwaffen Division Released; Atomwaffen Division Website Declares Video Made by Imposters
On Thursday, October 10, a video purportedly made by the Atomwaffen Division (AWD) was spread by a Telegram channel that has previously endorsed the group. The video is significantly different from previously released AWD videos in quality, tone, directness, and by the use of a drone for aerial footage. The video was released in both low quality and high-quality versions on Telegram, and also with English and Russian subtitles, both a first for the group.
The group features seven armed and masked men wearing AWD patches hiking and training in a wooded area, burning American and Israeli flags, and declaring their intent to commit acts of violence. The speaker in the video states the group’s intent to “vanquish the modern world in totality” without morals or restraint, stating that they will wage a relentless campaign of violence. Such directness from the AWD is an aberration.
The video title and introductory shot alludes to an entity or group “dividing or splitting into two or more parts,” suggesting that the video was made by an entity that considers themselves either a breakaway AWD cell or independent group. The video was not posted to an online repository of AWD material.
On their site on the dark web, the AWD condemned and disavowed the October 10 video, stating that it has no connection to the group. Their website stated that despite using AWD symbols such as patches and flags and adopting the same camouflage uniforms, no actual AWD members participated in the making of the video. An audio message from James Mason posted on the same site denounced the video, and stated that it was unconnected to the AWD. This leaves open the possibility that the video was made by a group that considers themselves a regional AWD cell, a competing group, or an entity that is attempting to disguise themselves as AWD.
Feuerkrieg Division Releases Video, Claims Bombing Attempt
On October 8, the Feuerkrieg Division (FKD), a neo-Nazi group with members in Europe and the U.S., posted a video on their Telegram channel allegedly showing explosives made by group members, and photos of firearms. The video also features Lithuanian newspaper headlines that describe a bomb in the country’s capital city of Vilnius that did not detonate, implying that the group is responsible. The video concludes with a statement that the group is dangerous and willing to act on their threats. The group has previously encouraged their supporters to commit acts of violence, and has expressed an interest in making and using explosives.
Man Arrested In Spain for ISIS Related Threats, Pro-ISIS Group Threatens Spanish Judge
On Saturday, October 5, a Spanish citizen accused of being a member of the pro-ISIS group Muntasir Media, was arrested in Spain for making threats. A search of the suspect’s home led to the discovery of precursor chemicals that could be used to make the explosive TATP, as well as a list of targets. A video made by Muntasir Media was posted to pro-ISIS channels on Telegram on October 7, threatening a Spanish judge with assassination by bombing. Despite being posted on Monday, the video was dated August 2019, suggesting it was a repost. Muntasir Media has previously released Spanish subtitled pro-ISIS videos.
New Online Magazine from Pro-ISIS Group
On October 8, Al Saqri Foundation for Military Sciences, a pro-ISIS group, released a new online magazine. The group seeks to educate ISIS supporters on ambush tactics and the making and usage of explosives and chemical weapons. The magazine contains information on previously released Al Saqri releases, and offers how-to guides on hiding weapons in public places, making timers for explosives, and creating poisons. The magazine also offers a way to contact the group to ask for further instructional materials.
In addition to Telegram, the magazine was released on at least four websites: Mediafire, the Internet Archive, Top4top, and JustPaste.It. Two days later, the magazine was still available on the Internet Archive.