A new propaganda video from a pro-ISIS media group featured Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump calling Brussels a “horror show” after the recent terror attacks there.
The nine-minute video showed news coverage of the Tuesday bombings in Brussels, which killed more than 30 people, and included a shot of Trump on the phone with a TV network.
“Brussels was one of the great cities, one of the most beautiful cities of the world 20 years ago. It was amazing, actually, and safe,” Trump said in the interview. “And now it’s a horror show, it’s an absolute horror show.”
As Trump’s “horror show” statement echoes, the video cut away to footage of militants fighting in the Middle East.
Experts say that including Trump in the video was likely a bid to get media attention focused on the attack in Brussels while the group — which is also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh — loses ground in the Middle East. ISIS claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s airport and metro bombings.
“Anything with Trump is going to attract attention and provoke controversy,” Alberto Fernandez, a former US ambassador who led the State Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, told Business Insider.
“It’s going to get clicks, which is of course what they want,” he continued. “They are in the media business.”
The video was produced by the Al-Battar Media Foundation, a pro-ISIS organisation that isn’t officially affiliated with the group.
“It’s important that this is not an official video,” Charlie Winter, an expert on jihadist propaganda and a senior research associate at Georgia State University’s Transcultural and Violence Initiative, told Business Insider in an email. “While it is undoubtedly ISIS-sympathetic, it is not an official statement of policy, rather one of a fanboy.”
And the Brussels video relied mostly on old footage of militant fighters. This was noticeably different from the official ISIS video released after the Paris terror attacks last November, which featured recent footage of the attackers.
“It’s clearly a rushed job,” Fernandez said. “It’s continuing a pattern we’ve seen recently of pro-ISIS accounts rather than the more formal accounts leading. … What you often see in these situations is an effort to be super timely, super current.”
An official ISIS release is likely forthcoming, Fernandez said. But this video, released just days after the attacks, ensures media coverage stays focused on ISIS’ atrocities.
Travelling to ISIS territory “is now a lot harder, so they really have the one thing, which is the spectacular attacks,” Fernandez said. “It becomes really important. … It’s a way of them changing the narrative and refocusing the attention of the media and government to sa, ‘Hey, we’re still here, we’re still relevant.'”
ISIS is also likely looking to distract media attention from the assault on Palmyra, Syria, an ancient city that ISIS seized last year.
“With the loss of Palmyra happening, all of the military advances of the past year have now been erased,” Fernandez said. “So they are really really losing ground in their core area in Syria and Iraq, which means that bringing attention to other ‘victories’ … becomes more important.”
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