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The Islamic State And The FIFA World Cup

Al-Ahram, Egypt, May 27 

With the 21st FIFA World Cup set to take place in Russia in just two weeks, security agencies in Moscow have been ramping up their presence on the streets and at the different venues in an attempt to foil any attempt to carry out attacks. The Islamic State, in particular, has been vocal about its plan to target the prominent soccer tournament. ISIS-affiliated websites have published dozens of posts, including videos and images, warning participants against attending the games. Fake photos of Argentinian football star Lionel Messi and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo wearing orange bodysuits as they face execution have proliferated throughout the web. While these posts certainly induce anxiety and fear, they also demonstrate the dire circumstances the Islamic State is currently facing. After sustaining a humiliating defeat in Syria and Iraq and loosing most of their personnel, ISIS leaders have realized that their only means of carrying out a successful attack against Western targets is by inspiring lone wolves to act on their behalf. In other words, these propaganda materials are meant to inspire radicalized youth throughout the world to carry out an attack at the games, particularly against notable football stars, using makeshift weapons. It is also clear that ISIS leaders understand that the security measures being taken to thwart any large-scale attack in Russia are likely to be effective. Therefore, their attention has shifted to encouraging small attacks that might go unnoticed by Russian security authorities and intelligence agencies. While this type of attack should not be undermined, it is far less dangerous than a massive attack aimed at a larger public. Nevertheless, there is still reason to be concerned. The weakness of the Islamic State could, in fact, be the main source of danger since the movement is determined to prove it is still potent. With no other means to sustain itself, ISIS might resort to targeting the tournament at any cost. – Wahid Abd al-Majid

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