Devastating wildfires are part of a global trend and as police arrest hundreds for fire-related offenses in Australia, many wonder if terrorist threats of arson are finally being carried out.
In an article published in the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization magazine ‘Inspire’, Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American imam who U.S. government officials alleged was a senior recruiter and motivator for Al Qaeda, preached that it was a religious imperative to wage jihad by any means at hand.
“Muslims are allowed to target the populations of countries that are at war with Muslims by bombings or fire-arms attacks or other forms of attacks that inevitably lead to the deaths of non-combatants,” al-Awlaki wrote in Inspire, the organization’s magazine.
“The use of poisons of chemical and biological weapons against population centers is allowed and strongly recommended due to the effect on the enemy,’ explained al-Awlaki. “These statements of the scholars show that it is allowed to use poison or other methods of mass killing against the disbelievers who are at war with us.”
He was killed in a drone strike ordered by President Barack Obama in September 2011
In May 2012, Inspire published a call for its followers to ignite fires in the forests of their enemies. The article titled, “It is of your Freedom to Ignite a Firebomb” included graphic instructions for the creation and ignition of “ember bombs.” The eight-page article on how to construct remote-controlled explosives, with a comprehensive list of parts and ingredients and photos showing proper assembly. The article suggested targeting heavily forested locations like Montana in the U.S. “In America, there are more houses built in the countryside than in the cities,” explained the writer known as “The AQ Chef,” according to ABC News.
This methodology was adopted by the Islamic State (ISIS). In November, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a non-profit media watchdog, reported that in recent months a pro-Islamic State (ISIS) media outlet has released a series of posters titled “Ignite fires,” urging the group’s followers to set fire to forests in the West as a means of waging jihad. The first threat appeared on Quraysh, a pro-ISIS media outlet, in April, according to MEMRI.
“Oh monotheists [followers of ISIS], ignite fires in the forests and fields, and we are addressing especially those who live in Europe and America, for they are painful to them,” that first warning read, according to the report.
At least three more propaganda posters, some depicting American firefighters battling blazes, appeared urging followers to “ignite fires in the forests of America, France, Britain, and Germany, for they are painful to them.”
The posters were released while wildfires were raging in California. No connection was found between the catastrophic blaze and terrorism.
Pyroterror is familiar to Israelis. As part of the ongoing Hamas-led March of Return riots that began in March 2018, terrorists launched balloons and kites loaded with incendiary devices. The devices succeeded in burning more than 9,000 acres of farmland and nature preserves in southern Israel. Arson attacks are relatively cheap, easy, risk-free and difficult to counter.
Australian brushfires that are currently raging across the continent have destroyed 65,000 square miles of land, destroyed over 5,900 buildings including over 2,204 homes, and killed at least 28 people. An estimated one billion animals have also been killed and some endangered species may be driven to extinction. The firees began in late September in the wake of intense drought and are still burning.
The New South Wales Police Force took legal action against more than 180 people for bushfire-related offenses since late last year. Police charged at least 24 people for intentionally starting bushfires, according to a statement by police released last week. NSW Police took legal action against 183 people, 40 of whom are juveniles, for fire-related offenses since November 8, the statement said. The legal actions range from cautions to criminal charges.
Out of those 183 people, 53 received cautions or criminal charges for failing to comply with a total fire ban and 47 are accused of discarding a lit cigarette or match on land, according to the statement.
Though details of most of those charged with fire-related offenses have not been reported, it was reported that Police arrested Fadi and Abraham Zreika, 18-year-old brothers, for settting off fireworks that sparked a grass fire at Bright Park, Guildford, on December 22.
Below is a look at ISIS videos and how they are effective: