In addition to being one of the most brutal militant groups currently fighting in the Middle East, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) might also have the most elaborate public relations strategy.
This week, the insurgents released a new episode in a video series called Mujatweets, depicting an ISIS member visiting injured fighters in a hospital and offering them comforting and encouraging words.
In addition to the blatant propaganda vibe, the videos have strikingly high production quality — they are shot in HD and include sophisticated graphics and logos. Most of the content is in English, suggesting that they are specifically designed as a recruitment tool for Western audiences.
One Mujatweet video shows smiling ISIS members handing out candy and ice cream to cheering children; others include images of militants fighting in Syria set to a song extolling the group's virtues.
One video, entitled "The End of Sykes-Picot," shows an ISIS fighter standing on and crossing over the border between Iraq and Syria. He says "We don't recognize [the border] and will never recognize it. God willing this is not the first border we will break, we will break all the borders as well."
All of these videos are distributed by Al Hayat Media Center, the new media arm for ISIS that was established in May. It is unclear exactly who is behind Al Hayat, but it is thought to be an initiative of Abu Talha Al Almani, a former German rapper also known as Deso Dogg, who left Europe to fight alongside ISIS in Syria, according to MEMRI.
"The new media branch follows ISIS's general media strategy of distributing diverse materials in several languages, including new videos and subtitles for existing videos, and also articles, news reports, and translated jihadi materials," said MEMRI in a report about Al Hayat.
Almani explained his motivation for joining ISIS in one video, saying, "That's why I pledged allegiance [to ISIS], in order to help the brothers and sisters of ISIS… and teach them how to make da'wa [preach] to people who have long lived in humiliation and do not know the laws of Allah."
Al Hayat's first video was released June 19 and quickly received widespread attention. It is entitled "There is No Life Without Jihad" and depicts Western jihadis explaining why they left their homes to fight with ISIS and encouraging other Muslims to join them.
In addition to the videos, Al Hayat has released an online English-language magazine titled Dabiq. Then there are in-depth reports called "Insight into the Islamic State" that detail ISIS strategy and updates on its "successes." The high-quality nature of these publications, all written in English, is reminiscent of al Qaeda's infamous online magazine, Inspire.
ISIS and its followers have also gained notoriety for their use of social media, frequently posting gory images and videos on their accounts throughout the Syrian civil war. But many of these accounts were quickly shut down soon after the ISIS offensive in early June, including the main Twitter accounts of Al Hayat in English, French, and German.
But the social media censorship did not deter ISIS from getting their message out, in large part because of the creation of Al Hayat. The English-language magazine and articles are freely available for download online, in addition to the videos that are hosted on many third-party websites.
And the slick high-definition videos from Al Hayat are markedly different from the grainy snapshots that were frequently appearing on various ISIS' members Twitter accounts.
Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @obecker928