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July 15, 2016 1

Terrorist Propaganda Encourages Attacks With Common Items

The use of a vehi­cle to kill civil­ians in yesterday’s appar­ent ter­ror attack in Nice, France, serves as a reminder of how ter­ror­ist groups and their sup­port­ers encour­age their adher­ents to carry out attacks with com­mon resources.

In addi­tion to run-over style attacks, ter­ror­ists have encour­aged the use of com­mon items such as house­hold prod­ucts to make bombs, as well as var­i­ous other tac­tics in their online mag­a­zines, speeches and other propaganda.

Image encouraging car attacks from AQAP Inspire Mujahid Pocketbook propaganda

Image encour­ag­ing car attacks from AQAP Inspire Mujahid Pock­et­book propaganda

The fol­low­ing list pro­vides a sam­pling of some of the tac­tics pro­moted by for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions in the last sev­eral years. Notably, a num­ber of the sug­ges­tions are repeated by dif­fer­ent groups, and the use of vehi­cles in attacks is a com­mon theme.

ISIS:

  • The 14th issue of Dabiq, ISIS’s English-language pro­pa­ganda mag­a­zine, called on sup­port­ers to assas­si­nate promi­nent Mus­lim lead­ers in the U.S. and U.K. for not sup­port­ing ISIS, “with the resources available…(knives, guns, explo­sives, etc.).”
  • In a Jan­u­ary 2015 speech, al Adnani sim­i­larly called for attacks, “whether with an explo­sive device, a bul­let, a knife, a car, a rock or even a boot or a fist.”
  • An ISIS video released in Decem­ber 2014 stated, “There are weapons and cars avail­able and tar­gets ready to be hit. Even poi­son is avail­able, so poi­son the water and food of at least one of the ene­mies of Allah. Kill them and spit in their faces and run over them with your cars.”
  • In a Sep­tem­ber 2014 speech that was widely trans­lated and shared over social media, ISIS spokesman Abu Mohamed al Adnani called for ISIS sup­port­ers to com­mit lone wolf attacks against civil­ians, and pro­vided a num­ber of sug­ges­tions for doing so, includ­ing by run­ning them over. He stated: “If you are not able to find an IED or a bul­let, then sin­gle out the dis­be­liev­ing Amer­i­can, French­man, or any of his allies. Smash his head with a rock, or slaugh­ter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poi­son him…. If you are unable to do so, then burn his home, car, or busi­ness. Or destroy his crops.”

Al Qaeda:

  • Cover of the first issue of Inspire, AQAP's English-language magazine

    The first issue of Inspire pro­vided direc­tions to “make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom.”

    Fol­low­ing the ter­ror attack in Orlando, a June 2016 pub­li­ca­tion released by Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP) pro­vided advice for mak­ing copy­cat attacks more lethal and max­i­miz­ing their pro­pa­ganda value.

  • In May 2016, the 15th issue of Inspire mag­a­zine, AQAP’s English-language pro­pa­ganda magazine’s pro­vided sug­ges­tions for mak­ing bombs using read­ily avail­able items to con­duct the assas­si­na­tions, includ­ing pack­age bombs, small bombs under cars, and bombs that can be attached to a doorframe.
  • In March 2014, the 12th issue of Inspire mag­a­zine pro­vides instruc­tions for assem­bling car bombs out of “eas­ily avail­able” materials.
  • In 2013, Inspire mag­a­zine, AQAP’s English-language pro­pa­ganda mag­a­zine, issued a com­pan­ion pub­li­ca­tion titled the “Mujahid Pock­et­book,” which aggre­gated var­i­ous attack sug­ges­tions pro­moted in Inspire and pro­vided some addi­tional sug­ges­tions as well. Plot ideas included torch­ing parked vehi­cles, caus­ing road acci­dents, start­ing for­est fires, using vehi­cles to run over civil­ians, and build­ing bombs.
  • In Octo­ber 2010, sec­ond issue of Inspire mag­a­zine sug­gested using a mod­i­fied vehi­cle to run over civil­ians and pro­vided instruc­tions on build­ing an explo­sive device.
  • The first issue of Inspire mag­a­zine, released in July 2010, pro­vided instruc­tions for build­ing a pres­sure cooker bomb, which can be made out of com­mon house­hold items.

Other ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions and their sup­port­ers have been sim­i­larly active in pro­mot­ing var­i­ous spe­cific attack sug­ges­tions. This has been par­tic­u­larly clear among Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions and their sup­port­ers, who have pro­moted sug­ges­tions that par­al­lel those advo­cated by Al Qaeda and ISIS.

Ter­ror­ist sup­port­ers some­times pro­mote their own ideas for non­tra­di­tional attacks online as well. In a recent exam­ple, a dis­cus­sion on a pro-ISIS forum that ran between June and July 2016 included a num­ber of ter­ror attack sug­ges­tions from forum users, some of which had been sug­gested by offi­cial ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda as well. Among them were set­ting for­est fires and call­ing in false reports of bombs to dis­rupt the oper­a­tions of emer­gency services

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June 27, 2016 0

New AQAP Publication Encourages Additional Attacks Following Orlando

AQAP Inspire pamphlet encourages attacks following Orlando

Cover of the AQAP pam­phlet, fea­tur­ing an image of Omar Mateen

Al Mala­hem media, Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP)’s pro­pa­ganda wing, released a pam­phlet on June 23 that praised the Orlando shoot­ing and pro­vided sug­ges­tions for copy­ing it and mak­ing addi­tional attacks both more lethal and bet­ter suited to AQAP’s pro­pa­ganda aims.

The four-page PDF pam­phlet, which was released on Telegram, was titled “Inspire Guide: Orlando Oper­a­tion,” and included mul­ti­ple ref­er­ences to Inspire mag­a­zine, AQAP’s English-language pro­pa­ganda magazine.

The pam­phlet indi­cated that its goal was to “[pro­vide] guid­ance to the Lone Mujahid (fighter)” and to “follow-up, guide, put right and cor­rect Lone Jihad oper­a­tions in order to real­ize the best mil­i­tary and polit­i­cal results that serve the gen­eral pol­icy of the Mujahidin (fight­ers) in our war with America.”

This fol­lows in the path of recent issues of Inspire mag­a­zine, which have focused on small scale attacks that can be con­ducted by indi­vid­ual sup­port­ers of AQAP.

The pam­phlet praised the fact that the shoot­ing was against a large pub­lic gath­er­ing in an enclosed area, and that the per­pe­tra­tor, Omar Mateen, owned his gun and had prior firearms train­ing. It sug­gested as well that Mateen was able to cause more destruc­tion because, it claimed, “those present in the night­club were drunk.”

How­ever, the pam­phlet sug­gested that it would be best for future per­pe­tra­tors not to tar­get spe­cific groups in soci­ety, such as Lati­nos or the LGBT com­mu­nity, because the focus of news cov­er­age would then be on the group tar­geted, rather than on the over­all ter­ror­ist ele­ment of the attack.

Despite its sug­ges­tion to tar­get more het­ero­ge­neous groups for strate­gic pur­poses, the pam­phlet did not shy away from anti-LGBT incite­ment. Rather, its cri­tique was couched by the state­ment that “the killing of such peo­ple is the most bind­ing duty and closer to human nature, but bet­ter than this is to avoid tar­get­ing areas where minori­ties are found.” ADL recently pub­lished an analy­sis of anti-gay rhetoric in Inspire and in ISIS’s English-language mag­a­zine, Dabiq.

Inter­est­ingly, the pam­phlet nods to the fact that Mateen indi­cated sup­port for ISIS, not Al Qaeda, while con­duct­ing the attack, stat­ing, “Lone Jihad is not monop­o­lized by al-Qaida (sic) or any other group, there­fore we call upon all active Jihadi groups, to adopt and build upon the idea of Lone Jihad and call towards it.” How­ever, it encour­ages would-be future per­pe­tra­tors to refer to bomb-making instruc­tions in past issues of Inspire mag­a­zine to make their attacks more deadly. An attack with weapons clearly taken from Inspire magazine’s sug­ges­tions would enable AQAP to claim some degree of credit.

To date, the Boston Marathon bomb­ing is the only domes­tic attack that was fully car­ried out that uti­lized direc­tions from Inspire mag­a­zine. How­ever, the mag­a­zine has played a role in the rad­i­cal­iza­tion of mul­ti­ple domes­tic extrem­ists, includ­ing the Tsar­naev broth­ers of the Boston Marathon bomb­ing, Jose Pimentel, who attempted a bomb­ing in New York, and Abdel Daoud, who attempted a bomb­ing in Chicago.

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June 15, 2016 1

The Orlando Shooter’s Many Paths to Violence

This weekend’s shoot­ing at the Pulse night­club in Orlando, Florida, which left 49 dead and 52 peo­ple injured, has rein­vig­o­rated debate sur­round­ing the nature of rad­i­cal­iza­tion and what it means when some­one claims to act on behalf of a for­eign ter­ror­ist organization.omar mateen

While details about the attack and the per­pe­tra­tor, Omar Mateen, con­tinue to emerge, there are indi­ca­tions that the assailant may have been moti­vated by more com­pli­cated fac­tors than a sim­ple alle­giance to any one, or com­bi­na­tion of, ter­ror­ist groups. Dur­ing his call to 911 at the time of the attack, Mateen pledged alle­giance to ISIS and its leader, Abu Bakr al Bagh­dadi, called the Boston marathon bombers his “home­boys” and men­tioned Moner Abusalha, a Florida res­i­dent who com­mit­ted a sui­cide attack on behalf of Jab­hat al Nusra, Al Qaeda in Syria, in 2014.

There are signs, how­ever, that extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy may have been only one of many ele­ments that led him to carry out the mas­sacre. Mateen report­edly exhib­ited vio­lent ten­den­cies prior to the attack; he was accused of domes­tic abuse by his ex-wife and report­edly threat­ened cowork­ers in the past. Domes­tic vio­lence has been linked to mass shoot­ings – extrem­ist or oth­er­wise. His ex-wife has also sug­gested he may have been gay. If true, that could point to a host of per­sonal, psy­cho­log­i­cal rea­sons for his deci­sion to attack Pulse, which was a gay nightclub.

Still, the fact that Mateen had claimed sup­port for Hezbol­lah and Al Qaeda in a con­ver­sa­tion with co-workers – which, along with his pos­si­ble con­nec­tions to Moner Abusalha, led to him being inves­ti­gated twice by the FBI– may indi­cate he had some pro­found attrac­tion to these groups.

Mateen is far from the only indi­vid­ual whose activ­ity appears to have been shaped by a com­plex web of fac­tors, of which extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy may be just one ele­ment. For example:

  • In August 2014, Ali Muham­mad Brown was allegedly engaged in a rob­bery when he shot a man in a car in New Jer­sey. Brown is also accused of killing three indi­vid­u­als out­side a gay night­club in Cal­i­for­nia that June; Brown had allegedly lured them to his car on Grindr, a gay  (dat­ing) app, and then mur­dered them. When appre­hended, Brown claimed that the mur­ders were revenge for U.S. actions in the Mid­dle East. Brown had also report­edlyali-muhammad-brown writ­ten in a jour­nal that he planned to fol­low ISIS and “learn the way of jihadis,” and had pre­vi­ously been linked to a con­spir­acy to send funds to Al Shabaab, al Qaeda in Soma­lia. The cir­cum­stances of this par­tic­u­lar mur­der, how­ever, indi­cated that he was hop­ing to get away with rob­bery, rather than under­tak­ing a polit­i­cally charged act.  Sim­i­larly, there were no clear indi­ca­tions that his mur­ders in Cal­i­for­nia were under­taken for polit­i­cal reasons.

At least two other indi­vid­u­als never claimed their attacks on behalf of spe­cific for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions, but were linked to those orga­ni­za­tions in their online activ­ity – and in both cases, ISIS even­tu­ally claimed credit for their vio­lent actions. ISIS has also claimed credit for the Orlando attack.

  • In Sep­tem­ber 2014, Okla­homa res­i­dent Alton Nolen was sus­pended from his work­place, a food pro­cess­ing plant. Nolen returned with “a large bladed knife,” with which he beheaded a for­mer col­league and attacked a sec­ond. Nolen’s social media feed indi­cated an inter­est in vio­lent extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda, and par­tic­u­larly vio­lent acts asso­ci­ated with ISIS, even as it became clear that he had no actual links to extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions or a com­pre­hen­sive adher­ence to extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy. Indeed, his online activ­ity may have influ­enced him to some extent — his inter­est in extrem­ist vio­lence may have informed his deci­sion to under­take a behead­ing rather than another form of vio­lence. Dabiq, ISIS’s Eng­lish lan­guage mag­a­zine, claimed credit for Nolen’s activ­ity and boasted that he had acted based on ISIS pro­pa­ganda. The cir­cum­stances of the activ­ity, though, seemed more directly related to work­place vio­lence than to Islamic extremism.
  • In Octo­ber 2014, Zale Thomp­son of New York attacked law enforce­ment offi­cers with a hatchet. Thompson’s online his­tory  indi­cated he had exper­i­mented with a vari­ety of extrem­ist ide­olo­gies, but had most recently engaged with Islamic extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda and ide­ol­ogy, includ­ing ISIS-specific pro­pa­ganda, prior to the attack – pre­sum­ably because it jus­ti­fied such an attack more than other groups he had asso­ci­ated with. He had also inde­pen­dently expressed anger against law enforce­ment. Thompson’s ulti­mate motives have not been made clear; the NYPD clas­si­fied his actions as a ter­ror­ist attack, but the FBI did not. Like Nolen, Thomp­son did not state that his action was under­taken on behalf of a for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion, but ISIS claimed that it was inspired by their pro­pa­ganda in Dabiq magazine.

The appar­ent com­plex­ity of the moti­va­tions in the Orlando Shoot­ing would indi­cate that this tragedy can fall under the rubric of many other mass casu­alty attacks – such as Sandy Hook and Charleston– as well as under the rubric of domes­tic ter­ror­ism moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy – such as the Boston Bomb­ing and the San Bernardino shooting.

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