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Islamic State Hind Province Amalgamates Media Branches; Pro-IS East Asia Group Claims Bombing in Thailand
ISHP in India/Kashmir (By Riccardo Valle)
On April 13th, it was announced that a host of media groups and channels linked to and associated with the Islamic State Hind Province (ISHP) would be merged into a single centralized propaganda outlet called Nashir al-Hind to focus primarily on India and Kashmir. The official statement was disseminated in pro-Islamic State (IS) Telegram groups in both Hindi and Urdu with links to a Nashir al-Hind channel and an affiliated bot.
The message was first circulated in the pro-Islamic State Pakistan Province (ISPP) Urdu channel Rah-e Nijat, which issued four statements: one in the Urdu language, one in Hindi, one in Hindi transliterated into the Latin alphabet, and one in Arabic.
In addition to the Sawt ul Hind channel, which publishes the Voice of Hind magazine series and is seemingly close to the ISHP group, several other unofficial ISHP-linked channels on media platforms have been publishing IS content in the Hindi language, mostly translations and posters. While no list of organizations involved in the merge is provided, one of the main channels being integrated into Nashir al-Hind is al-Qitaal Media, a channel that translates all IS claims into Hindi in the same way and with the same logo that Nashir al-Hind now does. When IS announced the appointment of its new leader Abu al-Hassan, al-Qitaal Media was the only institution to release its pledge of allegiance in the Hindi language along with several other pro-IS institutions such as al-Azaim Foundation (Pashto, Dari, Uzbek, and Tajik), Nida-e Haq and Tafakkur (Urdu), Aladyat (Arabic), and many others. Another outlet that can be easily identified is Infiroo Media, which translates IS claims into Hindi/Urdu transliterated, as its logo is also featured.
It is notable that there is an array of other media channels which could have been integrated into the new institution but, for now, are missing. These include the al-Tazkirah Media channel which used to publish propaganda posters in support of ISHP; al-Burhan Media, which frequently published statements and posters in English, Urdu, and Hindi, being featured also in the pro-ISPP channel Nida-e Haq; Rah-e Haq, which also published in Urdu and Hindi, and similar to al-Qitaal, it released its pledge of allegiance to the new IS leader using the Urdu language text of Nida-e Haq and Tafakkur statements.
This reorganization of the media structure may be an ISHP attempt to assert its presence online. As Kabir Taneja, Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), argues, ISHP is “largely an online entity for now, and that is where they plan to expand.” Taneja points out that there is very little overlap between ISKP and ISHP activities, considering also that ISKP started translating independently the IS al-Naba newsletter into the Hindi language, even translating the first issue of al-Azaim Foundation’s Voice of Khurasan magazine into the Malayalam language of Kerala. In the past, many young supporters of IS traveled from Kerala to Afghanistan where they joined ISKP, such as Abu Khaled al-Hind, who was featured in al-Naba issue 239, or Najeeb al-Hindi, whose story was described in the second issue of Voice of Khurasan. “I am not sure if there are very strong homogenous structures on propaganda aimed at India,” notes Taneja.
I personally believe IS is now increasingly focussing more on internal communal issues that some states are facing, as we saw with the hijab row in Karnataka which was covered widely by both IS and al-Qaeda. These cases are mostly happening in BJP-run states, so instead of targeting kinetically, there is a bigger shift in using ideology to try and make a breakthrough in India against the Indian state.
It is possible that by integrating all ISHP-linked channels into one institution, ISHP is trying to streamline its propaganda messaging. This is similar to what ISKP did with al-Azaim Foundation, which practically absorbed the plethora of pre-existing pro-ISKP channels and became the centralized official mouthpiece of the organization. However, ISHP cells seem to be comparatively more scattered and less organized and the centralization process could add a new risk dynamic regarding infiltration from hostile intelligence agencies.
In terms of ISHP’s militant operational activity and strength, it is notable that no attacks have been claimed by ISHP in 2022 and that the group claimed only eight attacks in 2021 as per al-Naba and Nashir News. During the recent campaign of bayah to the new Islamic State leader, ISHP issued a set of pictures of its militants – poorly equipped – pledging allegiance to Abu al-Hassan. For now, the new Nashir al-Hind functions intermittently and is limited in publishing translations of IS claims and al-Naba editorials.
ISEAP in Thailand? (By Lucas Webber)
Thus far, the Islamic State movement has had little success in establishing an official presence in Thailand, although there has been a recent push by pro-Islamic State media elements to disseminate videos of alleged attacks and statements claiming responsibility for their operations. On April 15, the pro-Islamic State East Asia Province (ISEAP) ‘East Asia Knights’ media outlet released a claim of responsibility for a roadside bomb attack which they said “killed a Buddhist” and “seriously injured two EOD personnel”.
The statement is the latest in the recent sequence of activity by pro-Islamic State militants and propagandists focused on Thailand. In early December 2021, militants identifying as “soldiers of the caliphate in Thailand” appeared in a video, with one of the men directing his message at the “Prime Minister of Thailand”. A month later, the Islamic State-aligned al-Nbiras News Agency released a production showing an ambush on Thai Rangers at a checkpoint on January 3rd, claiming the attack killed one soldier and injured two others. Very soon after, al-Nbiras released another video showing photos of their fighters training, posing with an improvised explosive device, and displaying their arsenal of weapons and munitions.
Jihadist propaganda expert Daniele Garofalo notes the murkiness surrounding the media activity and claimed militant attacks by such forces, saying that IS has found little traction in Thailand and “only a small segment of Thai separatists have shown interest and sympathy for the Islamic State.” He pointed out that the Islamic State’s official media has not issued a statement claiming the bombing but left open the possibility that IS could do so in the coming days if the group did indeed carry it out.