Wars and Military Conflicts

Islamic State radio targets English speakers in West

The Islamic State has launched its first English language bulletins on its "al-Bayan" radio network, in a move that analysts said reflects the militant group's continued interest in attracting Muslims living in the West.

The initial bulletin aired on Tuesday April 7, according to the Associated Press, and was delivered in fluent English. An audio file obtained by CNBC from links on Twitter opened with music, followed by a greeting: "We thank our listeners for tuning in and present the following Islamic State news bulletin."


In the nine-and-a-half minute bulletin, the presenter went on to discuss the killing of a top Islamic State commander at the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, Syria, as well as the extremist group's campaigns across Iraq and Libya.

"They've had a consistent strategy to appeal to Western Muslims," Firas Abi Ali, senior manager of MENA (Middle East and North Africa) at IHS Global Insight, told CNBC by phone.

"The Islamic State has consistently shown a lot of media savvy, the quality of their production is consistently quite high...They know how to construct an appealing, consistent narrative…

[And] wherever there's susceptibility to this narrative, IS tries to capitalize on local language."

The bulletin added to the broadcasts the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) already does in Russian and Arabic. Ali noted that the Islamic State's YouTube videos were often in English, and that the group's monthly magazine "Dabiq" was published in both Arabic and English.

Eckart Woertz, a senior researcher at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs and a Middle East specialist, said that more English content could help the Islamic State attract funds from supporters in the West, as well as recruits for the cause.

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"That person narrating seems to have learned English from very young age," Ali said. "And if you listen to the pronunciation it's almost of the American type -- not sure if it indicates they grew up in the U.S., but indicates American schooling at very young age."

Although mostly in English, the broadcast was sprinkled with clearly-articulated Arabic phrases, which Woertz suggested were strategically used to create a feeling of inclusion for the audience.

Ali said the presenter's level of Arabic fluency suggested a middle to upper-class background.

Whether the presenter could become an important mouth piece for the Islamic State is unclear.

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Notably, Western media closely covered the activities in 2014 and early 2015 of a man known as Jihadi John, who became well-known for beheading a number of victims in Islamic State videos. He has since been unveiled as Mohammed Emwazi, a British man from West London.

"They know how to build stardom around a character, and they could do it again. But they would need someone who is more religiously credible," Ali said.

"They would need someone of higher profile and they realise these people become security targets."

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