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August 20, 2014

Americans Respond To ISIS Recruitment

Update– 8/27/14: Douglas McAuthur McCain of San Diego, died while fighting with ISIS in Syria in August 2014.

Even as it fights on a number of fronts in the Middle East, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al Qaeda-inspired terrorist group that claims sovereignty in sections of Syria and Iraq, continues to recruit westerners through its sophisticated online propaganda campaign.al-hayat-ad-propaganda

Some Americans are heeding the call.

In 2014, five of the six Americans arrested in the U.S. for attempting to join the conflict in Syria and Iraq were accused of attempting to join ISIS: Donald Ray Morgan of North Carolina in August (arrested on weapons charges but believed to have been attempting to join ISIS); Shannon Maureen Conley of Colorado in July; Adam Dandich of California in July (charged with passport fraud but believed to have been attempting to join ISIS); Michael Todd Wolfe of Texas in June; and Nicholas Teausant of California in March. The sixth, Mohammed Hassan Hamdan of Michigan, allegedly attempted to fight in Syria with Hezbollah.

Furthermore, In June the FBI said it launched an investigation into 15 Somali Americans from Minnesota believed to have joined ISIS.

At least two other Americans have appeared in videos released by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria.A video released in August 2014 featured an alleged American national called Abu Abdu­rah­man al-Trinidadi encouraging others to join ISIS. And in May, Moner Abu Salha of Florida was identified in a Jabhat al-Nusra video as having participation in a suicide attack.

U.S. intelligence officials estimate that over 100 American nationals have travelled to join the conflict in Syria, a conflict that has since spread to Iraq.

The effect of ISIS’ increased strength and notoriety, as well as its advanced online recruitment strategies, appear to be having an effect. Of the seven known Americans who either traveled to or attempted to travel to Syria to fight with militants last year, only one was believed to have fought with ISIS; a video released online in November 2013 featured an apparent American called Abu Dujana al-Amriki, praising ISIS.

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August 20, 2014

ISIS Backs Up Threats Against U.S. With Beheading

Update – 9/3/2014: On September 2, 2014, an ISIS video was released showing the beheading of a second American journalist, Steven Sotloff, again blaming U.S. policy in Iraq. A third individual, this time a citizen of Great Britain, was threatened at the conclusion of the video.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an Al Qaeda inspired terrorist group, released an English-language video in which it depicts the beheading of a kidnapped American journalist.foley-beheading-terrorism-isis

ISIS is claiming that it murdered the journalist, James Wright Foley, because of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. The video closes with an image of another kidnapped journalist kneeling next to what appears to be the same executioner, who states “The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.”

The video is titled “A Message to America.” It marks a new approach by ISIS, making good on threats against Americans that the group only began circulating significantly this June. Such strategies have been used extensively by the terrorist group to intimidate enemies and opponents on the ground, but had not previously been employed against Westerners.

In the video, footage of President Obama announcing the airstrike campaign is followed by a statement by Foley in which he asserts U.S. actions are the cause of his death. Foley’s masked executioner then delivers an address in British-accented English in which he depicts the U.S. as an aggressor against ISIS and the Muslims who accept ISIS as a state, and says that any military action against ISIS will lead to more “bloodshed” of Americans. The executioner then beheads Foley. Afterward, the other kidnapped journalist is shown next to the executioner.

The release may improve ISIS’s recruitment capacity. ISIS broke with Al Qaeda Central in February, and the organizations compete for recruits, followers and influence. ISIS’s reputation for violent action surpassing Al Qaeda’s has already contributed to its recruitment efforts, and if this video is seen by extremists as a successful blow to the U.S. it may lead more to join ISIS.

The video was announced on Twitter and on the social media site Diaspora on August 19, and was linked from the Internet Archive website, an online “digital library” that is sometimes used by terrorist groups as a repository for online media storage.

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August 5, 2014

New ISIS Video Recruits Westerners

Following reports that between 70 and 100 Americans have travelled to fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a new video released by ISIS’s Al-Hayat media wing has allegedly featured an American calling for others to join.isis-terrorist-targets-video

The video, “Eid Greetings from the land of Khilafah,” was released on August 2 and features video of children praising the organization’s governance interspersed with video of fighters from around the world. The alleged American is a man called Abu Abdurahman al-Trinidadi who is apparently of Trinidadian origin. Other militants featured  allegedly came from Great Britain, Finland, Tunisia, Indonesia, Belgium, Morocco and South Africa. All praise ISIS and encourage Muslims from around the world to join the organization and to establish themselves in the territory it holds.

For more background on ISIS’s media savvy and recruitment of foreign fighters, see ADL’s report “Hashtag Terror: How ISIS Manipulates Social Media.”

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