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Islamic State ‘moron’ bragging online brings an airstrike on himself

An Islamic State fighter on a bank of the Euphrates river in Raqqa, Syria, last year.  (Militant Web site via AP)

The Islamic State’s Internet recruiting strategy — Twitter accounts, slick videos — is often cited as a part of the group’s appeal to young jihadists.

“The glorification of extreme violence using social media is one of the defining aspects of the Islamic State,” The Washington Post’s Terrence McCoy wrote last year after an image appeared of a young boy holding a severed head next to his father, an Islamic State fighter. “… It’s neither extemporaneous nor undisciplined. It’s concerted. It’s tactical. It’s evil. And that’s the point.”

[Islamic State has an English-language radio broadcast that sounds eerily like NPR]

But, according to a U.S. Air Force commander, an Islamic State fighter bragging on social media recently brought about the destruction of an Islamic State facility.

In a speech sponsored by the Air Force Association on June 1 in Arlington, Gen. Herbert J. “Hawk” Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, said airmen in Florida were able to call in an airstrike after finding an Islamic State “moron” talking about the jihadist group’s fighting abilities online.

“The [airmen are] combing through social media and they see some moron standing at this command,” Carlisle said, as the Air Force Times reported. “And in some social media, open forum, bragging about command and control capabilities…. And these guys go, ‘Ah, we got an in.'”

After some sleuthing, not described by Carlisle, the airmen located the building and destroyed it with joint attack direct munitions (JDAMs) — more or less, smart bombs.

“About 22 hours later through that very building, three JDAMS take that entire building out,” Carlisle said. “Through social media. It was a post on social media. Bombs on target in 22 hours. It was incredible work, and incredible airmen doing this sort of thing.”

Carlisle did not specify the date, time or location of the building’s destruction, and did not name the social media network the airmen used to find the building.

The news came as the Islamic State made territorial gains in recent weeks, including the occupation of Palmyra in Syria and a victory in Ramadi, Iraq, after Iraqi forces fled.

“What apparently happened was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight,” Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said of Ramadi’s collapse. “They were not outnumbered, but in fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force. And yet they failed to fight.”

Carlisle’s story also offered an alternate view of social media’s role in a war with few U.S. troops on the ground.

“Air Force intelligence officials have said their collection efforts must utilize a wide network of tools to include social media in order to keep up with the enemy,” Defense Tech wrote. “It appears these re-organization efforts are producing targets.”

Still, in a hearing earlier this week before the House Committee on Homeland Security, officials stressed how the Islamic State’s command of social media shapes the battle for Iraq and Syria. The jihadist group has reportedly posted 1,700 videos, pictures and magazines in the past year that have contributed to the recruitment of 22,000 foreign fighters and reached more than 200,000 people.

“I have been doing this for 45 years,” said Francis Taylor, the undersecretary of intelligence and analysis for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as McClatchy reported. Using a popular acronym for the Islamic State, he added: “I’ve never seen a terrorist organization with a kind of public relations savvy as ISIL.”

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