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June 20, 2014 3

Texas Terror Arrests Highlight Ongoing Travel Threat

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Rahatul Ashikim Khan & Michael Todd Wolfe

The arrests of two 23-year-old U.S. cit­i­zens in Texas in sep­a­rate inci­dents on Tues­day for allegedly plan­ning to join ter­ror­ist groups over­seas under­scores the ongo­ing con­cerns over Amer­i­cans join­ing ter­ror­ist groups abroad and the con­tin­ued allure of Al Qaeda and its affiliates.

Dozens of Amer­i­cans and per­ma­nent res­i­dents have been charged in recent years in con­nec­tion with attempts to jointer­ror­ist groups abroad, includ­ing Al Shabaab in Soma­lia and Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula in Yemen, as well as ter­ror­ists groups in Syria.

Michael Todd Wolfe of Austin, Texas, is alleged to have attempted to travel to join a ter­ror­ist group fight­ing in Syria. The crim­i­nal com­plaint filed against him indi­cates that he was ini­tially inter­ested in join­ing Jab­hat al Nusra, an Al Qaeda affil­i­ate, but later decided instead to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which broke with Al Qaeda ear­lier this year.

Wolfe, a con­vert to Islam who grew up in Texas, was arrested at George H.W. Bush Hous­ton Inter­con­ti­nen­tal Air­port just before he attempted to board a flight to Europe, en route to Syria.

Author­i­ties say the sec­ond indi­vid­ual, Rahatul Ashikim Khan of Round Rock, Texas, con­spired with oth­ers to recruit peo­ple who would “travel over­seas to sup­port ter­ror­ist activ­i­ties includ­ing com­mit­ting vio­lent jihad,” in par­tic­u­lar with Al Shabaab, an Al Qaeda affil­i­ate in Soma­lia and Kenya. Khan is a nat­u­ral­ized U.S. cit­i­zen orig­i­nally from Bangladesh, and is a col­lege stu­dent at the Uni­ver­sity of Texas, Austin.

Demon­strat­ing the cen­tral role the Inter­net plays in online rad­i­cal­iza­tion and recruit­ment, both Wolfe and Khan had used the Inter­net to abet their activ­i­ties. Wolfe allegedly watched videos online of ter­ror­ism in Syria. Khan called him­self a “jihadi” and used an online chat room to iden­tify poten­tial ter­ror­ists between March 2011 and Jan­u­ary 2012, accord­ing to court documents.

Khan allegedly spent time on a chat room ded­i­cated to Abdul­lah al-Faisal, a Jamaica-born Mus­lim preacher who served four years in a British prison for urg­ing his fol­low­ers to kill non-Muslims, includ­ing Amer­i­cans, Hin­dus and Jews. Al-Faisel was also the “imam and spir­i­tual advi­sor” of Rev­o­lu­tion Mus­lim (RM), a New York-based fringe anti-Semitic Mus­lim orga­ni­za­tion that jus­ti­fied ter­ror­ist attacks and other forms of vio­lence for many years.

Amer­i­cans trav­el­ing abroad to join ter­ror­ist groups have been a con­sis­tent threat since 2001, with three dis­tinct waves of travel appar­ent. Between 2001 and 2005, Amer­i­cans trav­elled mostly to join Al Qaeda Cen­tral and the Tal­iban. Between 2007 and 2011, travel and sup­port were espe­cially directed at Al Shabaab. Travel to Syria – the great­est threat since 2011 – has been the third wave; since the start of the Syr­ian civil war, as many as 100 U.S. cit­i­zens are believed to have trav­elled to Syria to join the fighting.

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May 28, 2014 0

Reports Of American Suicide Bomber In Syria

Update — 5/29/2014: U.S. offi­cials have con­firmed that the sui­cide bomb­ing was con­ducted by an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen who grew up in Florida.

News that an Amer­i­can may have been one of four sui­cide bombers involved in an attack in Syria on May 25 con­ducted by Jab­hat al-Nusra (JN), Al Qaeda in Syria, has been cir­cu­lated by var­i­ous extrem­ists on social media over the past two days.syria-abu-hurayra-al-amriki-suicide-bomber

If accu­rate, the attack fur­ther indi­cates the inte­gra­tion of for­eign fight­ers, and specif­i­cally West­ern­ers, with ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions in Syria.

Abu Hurayra Al Amriki would be at least the fourth Amer­i­can rumored to have been killed while fight­ing in Syria, join­ing Nicole Mans­field, Amiir Farouk Ibrahim and a man iden­ti­fied as Abu Dujana al Amriki. An appar­ent image of Abu Hurayra Al Amriki hold­ing a cat and jux­ta­posed to images of the bomb­ing was shared by sev­eral JN sup­ports on Twitter.

He would also be at least the fourth known Amer­i­can to have suc­cess­fully under­taken a sui­cide bomb­ing on behalf of an Al Qaeda linked ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion. The other three, Shirwa Ahmed, Farah Mohamad Beledi and  Abis­dalan Hus­sein Ali, were among a wave of Amer­i­cans who joined Al Shabaab, Al Qaeda in Soma­lia, pri­mar­ily between 2007 and 2012.

The U.S. State Department’s “Think Again, Turn Away” account on Twit­ter, which aims to counter ter­ror­ist sen­ti­ments online, Tweeted: “another life wasted by #alqaeda’s cult of death. Thanks to them #Assad remains in power while Syr­i­ans suf­fer.” U.S. offi­cials, how­ever, have not con­firmed whether or not an Amer­i­can was actu­ally involved in the attack.

Two other Amer­i­cans, Nicholas Teau­sant and U.S. legal per­ma­nent res­i­dent Mohamad Has­san Ham­dan, are known to have attempted to travel to Syria to fight along­side ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions this year. There were sev­eral other Amer­i­cans pub­li­cally iden­ti­fied who joined or attempted to join the con­flict in 2013.

Con­cerns over Amer­i­cans fight­ing in Syria have been increas­ing since the start of the con­flict, with “dozens” believed to have trav­elled there thus far accord­ing to U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cials. Last week, the Jus­tice Depart­ment appointed a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor to inves­ti­gate indi­vid­u­als trav­el­ling to Syria, and they have long been the sub­ject of high lev­els of scrutiny by law enforcement.

Although casu­alty counts were unavail­able as of this writ­ing, the sui­cide attack report­edly killed or wounded “dozens” of Syr­ian troops. The attack had been directed at Syr­ian army posi­tions in the Idlib province of Syria.

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May 13, 2014 0

Al Shabaab English Video Includes Calls For “Lone Wolf” Attacks

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Image from the con­clu­sion of Al-Shabaab’s new video

A new English-language video issued by Al Shabaab, the Somali Al Qaeda affil­i­ate, calls on Mus­lims liv­ing abroad to either under­take “a lone wolf mis­sion” in their home coun­tries or to travel abroad to join for­eign ter­ror­ist organizations.

Al Shabaab has long been active in recruit­ing West­ern­ers, and par­tic­u­larly Amer­i­cans, to its cause. Between 2007 and 2012, over 60 U.S. cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents attempted to aid or join the ter­ror­ist organization.

The video comes in the midst of an upsurge in sophis­ti­cated English-language pro­pa­ganda dis­sem­i­nated by ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions over the inter­net that is aimed at encour­ag­ing Amer­i­cans and other West­ern­ers to under­take vio­lent actions.

Other Al Qaeda groups, such as Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula, have long advised their ide­o­log­i­cal adher­ents to under­take lone wolf attacks and domes­tic rad­i­cal­iza­tion rather than travel abroad.

How­ever, Al Shabaab had pre­vi­ously been more focused on strength­en­ing its orga­ni­za­tion in Soma­lia. By pre­sent­ing Mus­lims abroad with a choice between mate­r­ial sup­port and lone wolf action rather than only call­ing on them to travel to Soma­lia, though, this video may mark a shift in Al Shabaab’s strategy.

The video is the fifth in a series called “Mujahideen Moments” but is the first to be pre­sented exclu­sively in English.

In addi­tion to its call for vio­lent activ­ity, it also ref­er­ences Al Shabaab’s 2013 attack on the West­gate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, as a pos­i­tive exam­ple for those con­tem­plat­ing ter­ror­ism abroad.

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