PETALING JAYA: The IS terrorist is a bearded man, in flowing black jubah, spouting supposed extremist views, right?
Wrong. Think again, the smiling young man in jeans, T-shirt and cap next to you could be the one with a bomb.
In a chilling “handbook” for would-be lone wolf attackers, terrorists have listed out how they can hide unnoticed among society before launching an attack.
It’s a scary thought but the handbook tells the lone wolf attackers that they should dress and keep a lifestyle that blends in with everyone else’s in public and hatch terror attacks in private.
The nine attackers in the Jakarta incident did just that.
They looked ordinary, so much so that they were mistaken for bystanders, until they started shooting and throwing grenades.
The lengths that these terrorists will go to to blend in is spelled out in the handbook that surfaced on the Internet this month.
A local terrorism expert Ahmad El-Muhammady said he has seen the manual and knows of a similar one in Bahasa Indonesia which had been circulating months before the Jakarta attacks on Thursday.
A lecturer at the International Islamic University of Malaysia, he has interviewed such militants for his studies.
He said they have access to manuals that teach them how to evade detection, make explosive devices and launch surprise attacks.
This latest guidebook, a 62-page PDF file, is believed to be based on lectures by a senior al-Qaeda intelligence chief but can be used by Islamic State (IS) and other militants.
The lectures in Arabic were translated into English by the authors of the guidebook, and presumably other languages.
It contained detailed instructions on how “lone wolves” and small terror cells should disguise themselves to remain below the radar of security organisations.
These disguises will even help militants stay undetected by the general population.
It called on them to shave off their beards, to avoid wearing robes, and not to go to mosques, Islamic institutes or even Islamic libraries.
They must appear as if they were not religious, the guidebook advised.
“Do not look particularly attached to religion. Avoid growing a beard, wearing qamis (robes), using the miswak (traditional toothbrush) and having a booklet of dhikr (religious verses) on you.
“Wear Western-style clothes and live like the locals do. No need to make yourself special,” it stated.
The manual encouraged militants to keep their political and religious views to themselves.
Only say what people want to hear, it advised.
It also permits militants to wear a crucifix to help them avoid detection.
This is permissible because Christians – and even atheist Westerners – wear the cross, it said.
Aside from disguise, the guidebook also delves into how militants should be operating.
It called for the formation of four or five-man cells which were less noticeable than large groups.
These cells should have no links to each other, so that if one was found out, the others would be safe, it explained.
It also advised these cells to meet in ordinary places. They should stay away from nightclubs and bars because these places were often raided by police, said the al-Qaeda intelligence chief.
But the guidebook’s authors stated that nightspots could be a good place to meet because the loud music, crowd noise and drunk people help mask conversation.
It warned about falling into a routine, which could lead to carelessness, enabling intelligence agencies to easily track the militants.
Militants were also advised against becoming dependent on certain foodstuff or items.
It related the story of a mujahideen fighter who was undone by his penchant for tea.
After his arrest, the interrogators only had to deprive him of his favourite drink to extract the information they needed from him, the manual said.
It is obvious that militants are employing the strategies in the guidebook.
One attacker in the Paris attack owned and ran a bar while another IS militant was described as “very nice” and “showed no signs of being an extremist”.
Local militants rely on translated ‘handbooks, says terrorism expert