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ICSR Insight: ICSR Urges Caution Regarding “Abu Rashash” Social Media Accounts

19/06/2014

By ICSR Staff

A number of media outlets have published reports about an alleged British ISIS fighter named Abu Rashash Britani (@aburashashisis) (see, for example, here).

Rashash, whose Twitter account was suspended earlier today, has made a number of threats against the United Kingdom. This has been interpreted as evidence of ISIS’ intention to attack Western targets.

While it is true that some foreign fighters have issued such threats, ICSR believes that Rashash’s account should be viewed with caution.

Over the past 18 months, ICSR has compiled an exhaustive database containing the social media profiles of just under 400 foreign fighters currently in Syria.

Based on our monitoring of their accounts, we have developed a sophisticated methodology for assessing the credibility of those purporting to be Syrian foreign fighters.

Grounds for scepticism include:

· In addition to the ‘Britani’ accounts, there is a near identical ‘Abu Rashah al Amriki’ Facebook account, featuring the same photographs but claiming to represent an American foreign fighter.

· There is no evidence from any of his social media accounts that Rashash is currently in, or has ever been to, Syria. There are no pictures of Syrian landscapes; him posing with other foreign fighters; or other kinds of material normally used to confirm a fighter’s presence in Syria.

· No foreign fighter with whom we have spoken has been able to confirm his existence, nor is there any cross referencing or validation from foreign fighters through their social media accounts.

As a result, we are not convinced at this point that there is sufficient evidence to be sure of Rashash being in Syria or being a member of ISIS.

Fake social media profiles by “wannabe” jihadis are not uncommon, and it would be a mistake — in our view — to overrate Rashash’s statements without additional proof.

To learn more about ICSR’s path-breaking work on social media and foreign fighters, click here.

For our most recent report about influence within foreign fighter networks, click here.