In an audio message released in May, ISIS second-in-command Abu Mohammed al-Adnani called for the terrorist group’s followers worldwide to carry out so-called “lone wolf” attacks on American and European civilians during the holy month of Ramadan. Al-Adnani stated that these attacks were “dearer to us than the biggest action by us” in Iraq and Syria.
Ramadan, which this year runs from June 5th to July 5th, is generally regarded as one of the holiest periods of the year for Muslims. Observed in part by fasting from sunup to sundown during the prescribed month, Ramadan is meant to commemorate the first revelation to Mohammed of the Qur’an, the Islamic holy scriptures. This is the first time that ISIS has made such a public call for attacks during the holy month, and marks a departure in tactics for the group.
Lone wolf followers of ISIS are those who have no direct connection to the group other than a shared ideology. They operate completely on their own with no material support from terror cells. In most cases, they carry out their attacks against their own countries, becoming what the U.S. intelligence community refers to as “Homegrown Violent Extremists (HVEs).” HVEs were predicted by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in February to be one of the biggest terrorist threats we are likely to face in the United States.
Because these operatives are completely independent of any command structure, they can be extremely difficult if not impossible to detect and stop before they can act. In order to find them, we must often rely on indicators of intent—patterns of actions they take that may point to an imminent attack. One of the best ways to find these patterns is through the use of advanced surveillance technologies such as video analytics based on Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR). ALPR-based analytics can instantly extract vehicle movement patterns from data going back days, weeks, or months—an extremely cumbersome and slow task for human beings. Since most people drive, including terrorists, these solutions can show Homeland Security officials if an individual has paid multiple visits to a sensitive site or to a merchant that could sell them bomb-making materials. ALPR and ALPR-based analytics can literally be the difference between saving and losing hundreds of lives.
Let us hope, then, that those tasked with protecting our security come to see the wisdom of utilizing this valuable technological tool. In the meantime, I ask that anyone who will be travelling this June exercise extra caution and be aware of your surroundings. This threat is not going away anytime soon. We must always be on our guard for threats to ourselves and our loved ones. One more life lost to the likes of ISIS is one too many.
By: John Chigos, CEO & Founder, PlateSmart Technologies