Amaq News Agency
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Amaq News Agency (Arabic: وكالة أعماق الإخبارية) is a news outlet linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), It is often the "first point of publication for claims of responsibility by the group".
Amaq was created by Syrian journalist Baraa Kadek, who joined IS in late 2013, and seven others who originally worked for Halab News Network. According to The New York Times, it has "a direct connection with ISIS", from which it "gets tips". Its name was taken from Amik Valley in Hatay province, which is mentioned in a hadith as the site of an "apocalyptic victory over non-believers".
Amaq News Agency was first noticed by SITE during the Siege of Kobanî (Syria) in 2014, when its updates were shared among ISIL fighters. It became more widely known after it began reporting claims of responsibility for terrorist attacks in Western countries, such as the 2015 San Bernardino attack, for which ISIL officially claimed responsibility the next day. An Amaq cameraman shot the first footage of the capture of Palmyra in 2015.
Amaq launched an official mobile app in 2015 and has warned against unofficial versions that reportedly have been used to spy on its users. It also uses a Telegram account. It had a WordPress-based blog, but it was removed without explanation in April 2016.
On 31 May 2017, a Facebook post announced Amaq's founder, Baraa Kadek AKA Rayan Meshaal, had been killed with his daughter by an American airstrike on Mayadin. The post was reportedly made by his younger brother. Reuters could not immediately verify this account. On 27 July 2017, the US confirmed that Kadek had been killed by a coalition airstrike near Mayadin between 25 and 27 May 2017.
In June 2017, German police arrested a 23-year-old Syrian man identified only as Mohammed G., accusing him of communicating with the alleged perpetrator of the 2016 Malmö Muslim community centre arson in order to report to Amaq.
Amaq publishes a stream of short news reports, both text and video, on the mobile app Telegram. The reports take on the trappings of mainstream journalism, with "Breaking News" headings, and embedded reporters at the scenes of ISIL battles. The reports try to appear neutral, toning down the jihadist language and sectarian slurs ISIL uses in its official releases.
Charlie Winter of the Transcultural Conflict and Violence Initiative at Georgia State University, and Rita Katz of SITE Intelligence Group in Washington say Amaq functions much like the state-owned news agency of ISIL, though the group does not acknowledge it as such. Katz said it behaves "like a state media. ISIS sees themselves as a state, as a country — and a country needs to have its own media". Amaq appears to have been created, or allowed to develop, by ISIS as a way to have a news outlet that is controlled by the group but is somewhat removed from it, giving ISIL more of the appearance of legitimacy.
According to Rukmini Callimachi in The New York Times: "Despite a widespread view that the Islamic State opportunistically claims attacks with which it has little genuine connection, its track record — minus a handful of exceptions — suggests a more rigorous protocol. At times, the Islamic State has gotten details wrong, or inflated casualty figures, but the gist of its claims is typically correct. The group has made it clear that it considers itself responsible both for acts carried out by its own personnel, as well as acts carried out by people who lack direct ties to the group but were inspired by its propaganda. In several instances, moreover, the Islamic State has claimed attacks before the identities of the killers were known".
According to journalist Graeme Wood writing in The Atlantic in October 2017, "The idea that the Islamic State simply scans the news in search of mass killings, then sends out press releases in hope of stealing glory, is false. Amaq may learn details of the attacks from mainstream media—and often gets those details wrong, also like mainstream media—but its claim of credit typically flows from an Amaq-specific source." However, Wood continued, "A false claim of credit in [the 2017 Las Vegas shooting] will effectively shred the Islamic State’s news agency’s credibility. It will become a news agency that was once reliable, and now associates itself indiscriminately with heavily armed crazy people in casinos".
According to an October 2017 article in The Hill, "Historically, ISIS has not been arbitrary in the attacks it claims have been carried out by its supporters. Experts who track the group closely say that when it comes to attacks in the West, if ISIS is claiming responsibility, there typically was some kind of connection between the perpetrator and the group.... until recently, claims of responsibility put out through official channels were seen as reliable." However, "That might be changing," as ISIS loses territorial sovereignty in Syria. The Hill points to two incidents in the summer of 2017, the Resorts World Manila attack and a false claim that bombs had been planted at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. In addition, the claim of an ISIS connection to the 2017 Las Vegas shooting appeared to be false.
According to Rita Katz on the SITE Intelligence Group website, calling a terrorist a "soldier of the caliphate (warrior from the caliphate)" in a statement issued by Amaq, was the usual way in which ISIS indicated that it inspired an attack. Centrally coordinated attacks were usually described in language such as "executed by a detachment belonging to the Islamic State", and are often announced by both Amaq and by ISIS' central media command.
- "Un fondateur d'Aamaq, l'agence de propagande de l'EI, tué en Syrie". 31 May 2017 – via Le Monde.
- "A News Agency With Scoops Directly From ISIS, and a Veneer of Objectivity". The New York Times. 14 January 2016. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
- "Siria, fondatore agenzia ufficiale Isis "Amaq" ucciso in raid Usa". Yahoo! (in Italian). Retrieved 2017-08-19.
- "Amaq – 24/7 News Agency Run by ISIS". Asharq Al-Awsat. 26 March 2016.
- "Islamic State: Fake version of Isis Amaq news app is spying on its supporters". International Business Times. 2 June 2016.
- "Islamic State claims responsibility for Nice attack - Amaq news agency". In.reuters.com. Retrieved 2017-08-19.
- "US-led coalition strike 'kills founder of Islamic State media outlet Amaq'". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-08-19.
- "Coalition removes ISIS leaders from battlefield". U.S. Central Command. 27 July 2017.
- Kallimachi, Rukmini (8 June 2017). "Syrian Accused of Working for ISIS News Agency Is Arrested in Germany". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
- Dearden, Lizzie (9 June 2017). "Isis propagandist who linked terrorists with Amaq 'news agency' arrested in Germany". The Independent. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
- Tomson, Chris. 5 Syrian soldiers killed near Palmyra despite huge territorial setback for ISIS. Al-Masdar News. 2017-04-27.
- Wood, Graeme (2 October 2017). "Why Did the Islamic State Claim the Las Vegas Shooting?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
- Williams, Katie Bo (2 October 2017). "Terror experts puzzled by ISIS claim in Las Vegas attack". The Hill. Retrieved 3 October 2017.
- Katz, Rita (6 November 2017). "Is ISIS' Comment on the Manhattan Attack Out of the Ordinary? Not Really". SITE Intelligence Group. Retrieved 8 November 2017.