British Air Force Fights ISIS

According to analysis from the British newspaper The Guardian, British aircraft and unmanned drones have been attacking ISIS targets in Iraq with over 200 bombs and missiles in largely-ignored military operations.  The air strikes, which started back in autumn, have been undertaken by the RAF’s oldest bombers, Tornado GR4s, as well as its newest weapon, the remotely-piloted Reaper.  Tornados have dropped at least 87 Paveway IV bombs, and fired at least 47 Brimstone missiles, while Reapers have Nelson Lewis RAFfired more than 80 Hellfire missiles.  Reapers, which are controlled via satellite in RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, have fired more than 80 Hellfire missiles.

ISIS targets attacked by the RAF include 20 buildings, 65 trucks and at least two containers.  In at least 90 separate attacks, groups of what the Ministry of Defense (MoD) has called “terrorists” have been targeted.  Nonetheless, British operations remain a fraction of those carried out by the US.  American aircraft have attacked more than 6,000 ISIS targets as part of “Operation Inherent Resolve”, including around 2,000 buildings, 3,000 US Humvees and 80 tanks over Iraq and Syria.  A House of Commons motion passed back in September excluded UK air strikes in Syria, and any decision to extend operations would require a separate vote in parliament.  The cost of British weapons used against ISIS so far amounts to over 13 million pounds sterling, a figure that doesn’t include the cost of fuelling and maintaining the aircraft, including RAF Sentry command and control planes, Sentinel surveillance aircraft and Hercules transport planes.

The MoD describes Paveway IV bombs and Brimstone missiles, used to target ISIS, as “precision weapons”.  In one attack back in March, a Tornado was said to have struck an armored personnel carrier positioned under a bridge.  And earlier, a Reaper is said to have spotted an ISIS checkpoint, which they then attacked with a Hellfire missile.  The Cyprus-based Tornados rely on Voyager air-to-air refueling tanker aircraft to sustain long-distance air patrols.  In addition, a British military team has been deployed to northern Iraq, where they’re responsible for teaching infantry and first-aid skills to Kurdish Peshmerga volunteers, as well as how to combat improvised explosive devices (IED), which ISIS fighters have been using with increasing frequency as Iraqi forces drive them back.


Hacktivists Fight ISIS

Nelson Lewis Anonymous

The hacktivist group “Anonymous” is known to keep their identities secret by wearing Guy Fawkes masks, made popular by the film “V For Vendetta”.

It looks like hackers across the world have decided to take the fight against ISIS to the next level: three major “hacktivist” groups, Anonymous, GhostSec and Crtlsec have collaborated to release the names of around 9,200 account names associated with ISIS.  This comes as part of the #opisis, an effort to draw attention to the growing presence of ISIS online, as well as a chance to track individuals associated with the terrorist group.  This is an historic event in the digital world, as it’s the first time that these three hacktivist groups have ever come together for something like this.  Usually, these groups are very closed off, and seldom willing to work outside of their circles.  Yet ISIS, as well as their firm control of social media, have become a large enough problem that they were willing to form an alliance to fight them.

The 9,200 accounts are all active, and in one way or another related to ISIS.  However, due to the size of this list, it’s been difficult to verify all of them.  Anonymous launched the #opisis campaign earlier this year, which they claim has already disrupted nearly one thousand websites, email accounts and VPN connections related to ISIS.  They claim that they would treat the group like a virus, and that they were the cure.  The hacktivists have been calling on the public to spread the word about these accounts, so that they can get suspended.

ISIS has extensively used social media, particularly Twitter, as a platform to spread propaganda to a worldwide audience and gain sympathizers and supporters for their vision of an “Islamic Caliphate”.  Twitter has already suspended certain ISIS-related accounts, although it hasn’t yet been effective at preventing ISIS from using the service in this manner.  ISIS used “swarm accounts” to stay active despite Twitter’s suspensions.  According to Anonymous, they create a multitude of accounts and them use them to cross-promote each other, which in turn creates a hydra-like platform.

Other sites apart from Twitter have been used to spread information, including Justpaste for text, Sendvid for videos and for retrieving propaganda content that’s been deleted by an Internet service provider.  However, Twitter serves as the system’s linchpin, since it allows the sites to keep content alive an easily accessible.  Without Twitter working as its central hub, ISIS wouldn’t be able to move around their content.  This ongoing issue of ISIS using social media to spread propaganda and gain support has recently led a US defense policy researcher to call on the US government to support Anonymous in disrupting ISIS’ accounts.