AKYA, Turkey — A man identified by ForeignPolicy.com as Abu Ali, a commander of a moderate Syrian rebel group in northern Syria, told the publication a black laptop was seized earlier this year in a raid on an ISIS hideout in the Syrian province of , close to the border with Turkey. He said it belonged to a Tunisian jihadist named S.
Abu Ali explained that he came into possession of the dusty Dell machine when fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), left it in a building in the Syrian province of . After rebels took control of the building, the laptop and a power cord were discovered in a room. Ali took it not knowing if the machine contained anything of value or if it was even operational.
The Dell laptop did in fact work. It wasn't even password-protected, however "My Computer," revealed empty drives.
A novice snoop would have conceded the device's drives were wiped clean. After all one wouldn't expect an ISIS associate to leave a laptop full of goods up for grabs. That was not the case.
Upon closer inspection, reporters from Foreign Policy inspecting the laptop hit pay dirt. The "hidden files" section of the dusty computer held 146 gigabytes of material, containing a total of 35,347 files in 2,367 folders. Abu Ali allowed Foreign Policy to copy all these files -- which included documents in French, English, and Arabic ForeignPolicy.com was permitted to copy of thousands of files, which were in French, English, and Arabica as well as videos of Osama bin Laden, and ideological justifications for jihad and tutorials on how to carry out the Islamic State's deadly campaigns.
The files also contained manuals on how to make bombs, instructions for stealing cars, and lessons on how to use disguises in order to avoid getting arrested while traveling from one jihadi hot spot to another.
After hours of examining the documents, it became clear that the ISIS laptop held more than the run of the mill propaganda and instruction manuals used by jihadists. The laptop contains a 19-page document in Arabic on how to develop biological weapons and how to lethally leverage the bubonic plague from infected animals.
Documents found on the laptop also suggest that the laptop's owner was teaching himself about the use of biological weaponry, in preparation for a potential attack that would have shocked the world.
"The advantage of biological weapons is that they do not cost a lot of money, while the human casualties can be huge," the document states.
There are also instructions on how to test the manufactured disease safely, before it is used in a terrorist attack. "When the microbe is injected in small mice, the symptoms of the disease should start to appear within 24 hours," the document says.
The laptop also includes a 26-page fatwa, or Islamic ruling, on the usage of weapons of mass destruction. "If Muslims cannot defeat the [unbelievers] in a different way, it is permissible to use weapons of mass destruction," states the fatwa by Saudi jihadi cleric Nasir al-Fahd, who is currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. "Even if it kills all of them and wipes them and their descendants off the face of the Earth."
Jihadists association with weapons of mass destruction is not new. Before the 9/11 attacks, al Qaeda had experimented with a chemical weapons program in Afghanistan. In 2002, CNN obtained a tape showing al Qaeda members testing poison gas on three dogs, all of which died. Post 9/11 national security measures and social attitudes have been highly influenced by the possibility of a broad scale terrorist attack,
Nothing on the ISIS laptop, of course, confirms that the jihadists are in possession of these dangerous weapons or materials at the moment. And any jihadi organization contemplating a bio-terrorist attack won't find it easy to do so. Al Qaeda tried unsuccessfully for years to get its hands on such weapons, and the United States has devoted massive resources to preventing terrorists from making just this sort of breakthrough. This doesn't mean that they won't keep trying. It certainly doesn't diminish the possibility of an attempt. The material on this laptop is a reminder that jihadists are hard at work at acquiring the weapons and personnel that one day could allow them to deal an episode of mass mayhem on a grand scale.
The alleged laptop's owner Muhammad S, identified as a Tunisian national, reveals just how jihadists may be pursuing advanced chemical weaponry as a means to inflict terror on their opposition. Muhammad S is reported to have joined ISIS in Syria after studying chemistry and physics at two universities in Tunisia. It appears he was studying to manufacture biological weapons destined someday for a possible catastrophic attack that could have had global consequences.
The Islamic State's successful gains in recent months may have provided it with the capacity to develop such new and dangerous weapons. Members of the jihadi group are not solely fighting on the front lines these days. They control substantial parts of Syria and Iraq. And they are fairly well funded CNN reported ISIS as raising at least 2 million a day from the oil black market alone.
The fear now is that men like with ample financial means, could be quietly working behind the front lines -- for instance, in the Islamic State-controlled University of Mosul or in some laboratory in the Syrian city of , the group's de facto capital -- to develop chemical or biological weapons.
The information discovered on the laptop force feeds us a reality we're opposed to swallowing. The longer the caliphate exists, the stronger and smarter it becomes. This makes it more likely to recruit members with a science background that will come up with something horrible. The documents found on the laptop of the Tunisian jihadist also underscore just how deadly the organization is willing to get.
"Use small grenades with the virus, and throw them in closed areas like metros, soccer stadiums, or entertainment centers," the 19-page document on biological weapons advises. "Best to do it next to the air-conditioning. It also can be used during suicide operations."
If there was ever any doubt how deep into the vaults of terror ISIS is willing to reach to propel their ideology, the discovery of this laptop certainly dispels those doubts.