Islamic State Short-Term Propaganda and the Lone-Wolves Threat to the West

Jihadist Propaganda and European Security
Islamic State propaganda might represent a direct threat for the European security (Credits: Foto di Markus Spiske su Unsplash)

Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598 Volume 41 Issue 3
Author: Christian Tratzi

Background Information

Following the Crocus City Hall attack, the Islamic State has further increased its online propaganda, inviting its affiliates to conduct new actions globally. The activity of Islamic State provinces in Africa and the Middle East has not ceased and has indeed seen a further increase in attacks against civilians.

A growing concern arises from the increasing demand for indiscriminate violence, which is being promoted on various transmission platforms of the Islamic State. Following the Moscow shooting, Abu Hudhayfa, Islamic State’s official speaker, released an audio message that reiterated the “call to action” initially presented in 2024.

At the same time, some agencies linked to the Islamic State have produced a wide range of images inviting “lone-wolf jihadists” in the West to imitate the attacks executed in Russia, showing potential targets and methods of operation.

Short-Term Propaganda. Analysis and Risk

In graphic reproductions, the Islamic State primarily appears to address sympathisers and members present in their respective Western territories instead of specific provinces. By addressing the theme of religion and the suffering experienced by Muslims globally (poverty, individual suffering, crises in Palestine and the Middle East), the goal is to provide a solution to those complex situations with an individual call to action.

The presence of a large virtual community of adherents reduces the need for strictly physical propaganda, while simultaneously increasing the speed of message transmission to a larger number of people. The difficulty in identifying networks also makes it more complicated to recognise potential participants capable of acting.

Several web pages disseminated content from the al-Furqan platform, which includes propaganda, on both regular browsers and the darknet, to reach a larger audience.

This explains the respective action messages aimed at so-called “lone wolves”, inviting them to attack indiscriminately and emulating the attackers of Crocus City Hall. Therefore, it becomes evident that the propaganda aims more towards an individual audience or a small number of people, rather than a specific group, aspiring for the continuity and immediacy of action.

However, it is important to consider the possibility that the Islamic State is preparing medium-term planned actions, as there are references to regions where the group holds significant power, such as Africa and Central Asia.

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The Threat for the West

When examining the propaganda of the Islamic State, it becomes evident that Christians, referred to as “crusaders,” and Jews, are the primary focus of threats. The message encourages attacks to be carried out without discrimination, anywhere and at any time.

Among the “crusaders”, the threats target nations that have provided support to Israel, with the United States being foremost among them.

Although the United States represents a potential target, the Islamic State has not yet conducted any actions on American soil, while the European countries are the most exposed to the threat because of the recognised presence of various members of the group within its territory. However, the continuous references to the United States and its political establishment – several messages directed at Biden – raise the level of alertness in North America.

In blogs and private groups of Islamic State sympathisers, there has also been discussion of an interest in attacking the East, specifically China and Indonesia, demonstrating the global nature of the alert. Although the group’s leadership has not directly issued the threats, the messages may show sympathisers or affiliates in these new territories. Therefore, we cannot exclude these areas from potential risks because there is a possibility of lone-wolf actions.

Major sporting events in Europe are currently one of the main points of interest in the propaganda. While previously there had been threats to the Olympics scheduled for the summer of 2024 in Paris, the Islamic State is currently inviting attacks on stadiums during sports events, identifying them as easy targets with the potential for high casualties.

The threat initially focused on Germany, specifically targeting the Allianz Arena, an important football stadium in the city of Munich, considering that the country will host the European football championships in the summer. The threat then extended to an unspecified territory where stadiums could become targets for IEDs.

In the past, the Islamic State has attempted to carry out actions during sporting events (for example November 2015 in Paris), which could encourage individuals to heed the invitation. The large number of sporting events – even a minor event would attract significant attention to the action – could make difficult to identify the plot, complicating any effort for prevention.


The ongoing calls to action are raising the level of international risk. While the organisation directs the medium-to-long-term propaganda campaign towards Islamic State provinces, mainly in Africa and Central Asia, they primarily focus on lone-wolf actors in their immediate strategy. These actors are difficult to predict, but easier to organise, and have the potential for a wider scope of impact.

Strengthening control over virtual spaces and thoroughly analysing potential targets identified in the propaganda can be key elements in preventing terrorist attacks, while recognising the wide difficulty of preventing such actions.

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