To spread its message and recruit new members, the Islamic State produces an online magazine called Dabiq. Far from shoddy, the terrorist group uses its millions to make sure its propaganda is slickly produced. This month’s exclusive: an interview with one of their own captives, an alleged Mossad spy.
At first glance, Dabiq might appear like any other webzine. “Interview with a Spy Working for the Israeli Mossad,” the article’s title reads, its text expertly arranged alongside a photo of the subject. The whole spread is given an eye-catching coat of orange. It could easily be mistaken for a New York Magazine cutout. It could easily stand in as the cover to a John le Carré novel.
The difference being the content.
The “Israeli Mossad spy” is 19-year-old Muhammad Said Ismail Musallam from Jerusalem, who tells his captives that he was recruited into Israeli intelligence by a neighbor.
“He came one day and asked me to work with Israeli intelligence,” Musallam says. “I told him I would think about it, and then went and asked my father and brother what they thought. They both encouraged me to do it and told me that it was a very good job.”
Musallam says he was trained at Anatawt Training Camp in East Jerusalem, and that after an initial salary, he was paid per mission.
“In general, the pay would be proportional to the assignment and its level of importance, and the minimum would be 5,000 shekels. The bigger the assignment and the more valuable the information, the more they would pay me and the more bonuses I would receive.”
Israel has neither confirmed nor denied that Musallam is one of their agents, but if the young man’s account is true – and not coerced or altogether fictionalized marketing on the part of the Islamic State – he seems to be highly experienced given his age.
According to the interview, after his training, Musallam was ordered to seek out arms dealers and report to his superiors about any potential terror plots. After working in that capacity for an undisclosed amount of time, Musallam says he was offered a chance to spy on the Islamic State in Syria.
“They offered me a monthly salary. They would also give me a house, and would take care of any issues I had and any documents I needed, as well as my living needs when I returned,” he said.
Entering Syria through Turkey, Musallam says he was supposed to get intel on the Islamic State’s weapons caches.
Dabiq allows Musallam to describe his capture in his own words.
“[I] began acting in a manner that was not typical of a muhajir,” he says. “The mujahidin put me in prison, and moved me from one prison to another. During the interrogations, I confessed I was a spy working as an agent for the Israeli Mossad.”
This entire interview should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt, as other articles published in Dabiq show the magazine’s real purpose in spreading Islamic State propaganda. One article blames Japan for the Islamic State execution of two Japanese hostages. Another glorifies the burning death of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh.
That execution led the Jordanian government to undertake a series of airstrikes against Islamic State targets. The group claims that one of these strikes killed American hostage Kayla Jean Mueller. While US authorities have confirmed her death, the Islamic State has not provided any evidence that her death was accidental.