A change of ISIS tactics? Now couples as terrorist kill teams?

It is just being reported that Tashfeen Malik, the female half of the San Bernardino, death squad had sworn allegiance to ISIS (Da’esh), but that it was not clear if the couple were self-radicalised and acting by themselves or were acting on the orders of someone else.

That may be a question that will never get answered. But it raises the spectre of the pair having been “placed” there with some general instructions to raise mayhem either on being triggered or, even at their own initiative. We have become used to the use of female suicide bombers, some of them also mothers. We have seen young children being desensitised to deadly violence by playing assassin games but with real live prisoners. The use of young children as human shields or – as perhaps in California – as camouflage is not something that would cause any moral distress to Da’esh. It could even be that the pair were advised to have a young child just for that purpose.

The use of a husband-wife team, put in place as a “sleeping” killer squad, would represent a new tactic. Single, young men are too obvious and attract attention. A “family man” and a “young mother” carry a protective shroud of innocence. And if they are pushing a stroller or carrying a baby in a child-seat in a car, they would be far down the list of suspicious looking people. That the mother in this case had few qualms of abandoning her 6-month old baby may be shocking, but I am no longer surprised at any behaviour of jihadists who have worked themselves up into a religious fervour.

For the US, I think it now raises the possibility that there may be many such husband-wife kill teams in place all over the country. They may not even have travelled to Saudi Arabia (though a visit to Saudi and a return with a fiancee is likely to raise automatic red flags), as the NYT reports:

NYT: …. The F.B.I. refocused its efforts on these individuals earlier this year in response to a shift in tactics by the Islamic State, law enforcement officials said. Instead of trying to persuade Americans to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State, the group began calling on its sympathizers and followers in the United States to commit acts of violence at home.

“We’ve especially focused on the portfolio of people we’re investigating for the potential of being homegrown violent extremists,” the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, said last month at a news conference. “That is, people consuming the propaganda. So those investigations are designed to figure out where are they on the spectrum from consuming to acting.” …….

…… In the days leading up to the shooting, the couple in San Bernardino took several steps to delete their electronic information, in an apparent effort to cover their tracks, officials said. Those efforts have led authorities to believe that the shooting was premeditated.

Islamic terrorists have used the oath of allegiance, called a bayat, to declare their loyalty to specific groups and leaders. To become a member of Al Qaeda, for instance, terrorists historically swore their devotion to Osama bin Laden.

Ms. Malik, 27, was born in Pakistan and traveled on a Pakistani passport, but had recently lived in Saudi Arabia. Mr. Farook, 28, was a United States citizen, born in Illinois, whose parents were from Pakistan. ….. 

Just visiting a jihadist site is now likely to raise a flag and be tagged. But a sliver lining here is that ISIS is rapidly running out of tactics to use. Fourteen innocent people were massacred here but I see little benefit actually accruing to ISIS.

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