Geo-jihad: New Zealand militant accidentally tweets his Syria location
Mohammad Daniel, also known as Abu Abdul Rahman, and formerly known as Mark John Taylor sent out more than 45 tweets documenting his whereabouts before realizing that it may have been a mistake.
“Unfortunately for him we captured all of them prior to him removing the tweets and will discuss the value of the intelligence they contained,” Canada-based open source intelligence research group iBRABO, which spotted the failure, said in a press-release.
Tracking terrorists in this way is of immense value to intelligence services trying to establish the whereabouts of jihadists, iBRABO stressed.
“In this manner, they can better justify potential criminal charges against the individual and at the very least build grounds for their detention and investigation upon their return,” the agency’s Jeff R Weyers wrote. “Taylor isn’t the first jihadist to broadcast his whereabouts via social media and in fact looking at the battlefield in Syria we see fighters from Canada, France, and other western countries making the same mistake.”
Because of his actions, iBRABO could trace Kiwi Jihadi to a specific house that he had “predominantly used” between December 3 and December 10. Subsequent tweets showed that he had been moving.
“No doubt this is a better alternative than being targeted by a drone strike or any group with the operational capabilities to target his short lived home in Al Tabqah,” Weyers added.
Previous tweets that Taylor had sent out in October had clearly shown him to have been with ISIS fighters in Syria – Kafar Roma –an area which Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.
“From his broadcasts during the first two weeks in October (below) we know that his tweets ceased about the same time the Syrian army made a strong push into the area,” iBRABO said.
Taylor already made headlines in September after incinerating his New Zealand passport and posting pictures of the charred remains on Facebook with the caption “one way trip”.
However, he decided later on that it had not been a good idea, telling Aotearoa Independent Media Centre that “I only went there for adventure Jihad, but along the way I realized Syria is in a very dire need of humanity aid and support.” He claimed to have been in contact with New Zealand authorities to request a replacement. However, there is no evidence that they responded.
In July he told the New Zealand Herald that he would stay fighting in Syria until his “martyrdom”.
It isn’t just Twitter that uses geotag tracking in its updates; Facebook, Instagram and Flickr all use it, and all the geotag information.
“Pictures also quite often can contain geotag information and have been used to establish the movements of groups and their activities,” iBRABO said.
iBRABO has suggested that the recent “Tweet removal hasn’t been Taylor’s only social media failure.
“Taylor shows again his lack of understanding of technology and intelligence as he broadcast out the facial image of another fighter captured in the background of his photo,” it said.