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ISIS Posts 'Wanted' List Of 100 U.S. Military Personnel

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

ISIS has fired another shot in its propaganda campaign. A group calling itself the Islamic State Hacking Division released what it said was a hit list. This list contains the names, addresses and photos of U.S. service members, people ISIS claims were involved in attacking the group's positions in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. NPR's counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston is in the studio with us. And, Dina, what exactly do we know about this message from ISIS?

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: Well, a group that claimed to be affiliated with ISIS posted in English what was basically a call to action. It claimed that it had hacked into military servers and databases to get personal information about 100 members in the U.S. military. And then in English it called on followers in the U.S. to use that information to attack those people.

Now, we understand from U.S. officials that no official servers or databases have been hacked. The FBI and the Defense Department are investigating this now, but they say it looks like the group put together this hit list using social media and public sources, like websites that provide addresses. For example, one case, there's a picture that shows a soldier shaking hands with the president. His name was public. That said, you know, service members are being identified, and naturally that's a concern.

GREENE: Sure. You mention this message is calling on followers in the United States to act. I mean, who exactly is this message meant for?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, the message is clearly directed to ISIS followers in the West, the kind people we've seen who either want to go to Syria to fight, or have thought about going to Syria, or might decide to take up this call to action instead. You know, in this latest post, the group says its followers should take the next step. It actually says, what are you waiting for? And then suggests all these brutal ways to carry out attacks.

GREENE: Is this kind of post new? I mean, has ISIS done anything like this before?

TEMPLE-RASTON: This is a new twist on something they have done before. U.S. officials say that ISIS hasn't provided this kind of detail in the past, but it has suggested specific individuals as targets. The FBI and the military had alerted local police and service men and women about this sort of thing months ago. They have been told to be careful about what they post publicly. Over the weekend, they were reminded to scrub their online presence out of concern that they could be threatened.

But targeting police and military personnel isn't new. You may recall that the men behind the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in January were targeting police. And last year, there was a lone-wolf attack on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in which a military guard was killed, and the man behind that attack claimed to be inspired by ISIS. And then two years ago, in southeast London, a soldier was hacked to death by Islamist extremists, and that was caught on video. So this kind of targeting has been going on for a long time, and this new list is just another propaganda ploy by the group, and it's gotten a lot of attention.

GREENE: Well, you call it propaganda ploy, but, I mean, is this a serious threat as well?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, the concern is that someone sees this post and then decides to act on it. It's important to understand that ISIS isn't directly controlling these individuals, these so-called lone wolves. These people just get inspired and then launch something on their own, and that makes them incredibly hard to track. And that's been the big worry for U.S. officials.

There's also this nagging problem of recruits. A growing number of people still appear to be going to Syria to join ISIS. You know, the release of this list comes just as it appears nine British medical students - that's five men and four women - have gone to Syria to work as medics for ISIS. These were young people in their 20s who had all been reared in the U.K., but had been working at a medical school in Sudan. They left their school in Khartoum last week. They told their parents they were in Turkey, and now it's believed that they went in to Syria just in the past couple of days.

GREENE: All right. We've been speaking to NPR's counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston about a group calling itself the Islamic State Hacking Division that has released what it said was a hit list containing the names, addresses and details of U.S. service members. Dina, thanks a lot.

TEMPLE-RASTON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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