Islamic State (IS) supporters on Twitter have launched a campaign of threats against Americans. Unified by the hashtag, “WeWillBurnUSAgain,” the campaign has prompted references to the 9/11 attacks and past lone wolf attacks in the West along with promises for future ones. Content tweeted, along with written messages, included images, videos, and past IS media releases.
The hashtag was first used by the account of “Rabitat al-Ansar,” a pro-IS media group, on April 8, 2015. The message, made in a long series of tweets, announced the hashtag and established its motivation:
We swear that lone wolves are present in all countries of the world and lurking for you. What happened in France is not far from you and will be repeated, but this time in the streets of American cities. The word will be what you see and not what you hear.
The account then specified the date and time which the campaign would take place:
And let your slogan to be today as “I shall not survive if the worshipper of the Cross survived” and Allah permitting, the Media Campaign will be on Friday from 4:30 through
“In a time of lone wolf attacks, and Americans and other Westerners pledging to the Islamic State, this kind of campaign should not be taken lightly,” said SITE Director Rita Katz. “In recent weeks, about 10 Americans were indicted for attempts to act on behalf of the Islamic State, and there are many with every passing day that the group operates on Twitter.”
Currently, the hashtag has exceeded 15,000 uses—the overwhelming majority of which happening on April 10, the campaign’s designated start date.
Within the campaign has been a steady barrage of threats for lone wolf attacks. User “Abu Khattab Ansari 61,” for example, stated bluntly:
The account of “Raiding Battalion,” among the first to promote the campaign, tweeted a series of similar tweets threatening Americans on April 10:
Such messages also included an array of images showing the destruction of American buildings and monuments, including the White House and the Statue of Liberty:
One set of images—which included attribution to Media Front for the Support of the Islamic State, a pro-IS media umbrella group, and Rabitat al-Ansar —showed pictures of fighters along with threats toward Americans at home and abroad:
Dominant in the “WeWillBurnUSAgain” campaign was a focus on the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., with many tweets referencing Usama bin Laden and the fallen World Trade Center—by both text and picture. One such tweet, posted by user “Umm al-Bara’a al-Ansariah,” read:
Also tweeted with the “#WewillBurnUSAgain” hashtag were specific threats toward soldiers, deriving particularly from the Islamic State Hacking Division’s March 20, 2015release of 100 soldiers’ alleged addresses. One tweet, made by user “Abu Ubaidah,” showed photos of coffins wrapped in U.S. flags along with the message:
IS supporters also used the hashtag to forward past IS media releases from al-Hayat Media, IS’s Western-aimed media arm. Releases circulated within the campaign included IS’s beheading video of American citizen James Foley and the July 11, 2014 posthumous video of Canadian IS fighter “Abu Muslim”:
“This Twitter campaign, along with other ones like it in the past, shows the Islamic State’s skill in forcing itself into Western conversations,” said Katz. “The planning of the hashtag two days prior and the content tweeted by these accounts shows a unified and structured method of online mobilization by the Islamic State and its followers.”
- CEP Applauds Twitter Action on Extremist Accounts but Broader Problems Ignored (counterextremism.com)