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September 22, 2014

ISIS-Related Arrest In Rochester Underscores Online Radicalization


Mufid Elfgeeh

The online activity of Mufid Elfgeeh, whose arrest for attempting to provide material support for terror, attempting to kill U.S. soldiers, and possession of firearms and silencers was made public this week by the U.S. Department of Justice, underscores the centrality of the Internet in the radicalization and recruitment process.

Elfgeeh utilized multiple online platforms including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the android application WhatsApp to try to raise money for foreign terrorist organizations and to recruit three other individuals to join foreign terrorist organizations. His online activity also inspired him to devise a plot to kill Shi’a Muslims and former American servicemen at home.

Social media enabled Elfgeeh to not only learn about the activities of foreign terrorist organizations through videos, tweets and other online propaganda, but to also connect with apparent supporters of those organizations, in particular the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

According to court documents, Elfgeeh sought donations for terrorists in Syria through Twitter. Among his alleged tweets were requests that people donate a third of their salary or at least “#Five_thousand_dollars_from_every_household” to support militants in Syria. He also tweeted and retweeted statements of support for various terror groups including, “al-Qa’ida said it loud and clear: we are fighting the American invasion and their hegemony over the earth and the people.”

On Facebook, Elfgeeh was a member of at least two Arabic-language Facebook groups in which group members regularly post and share al Qaeda and ISIS propaganda. His own Facebook photos included several images from Al Battar media, an official ISIS propaganda wing.

Elfgeeh also allegedly used Facebook to communicate with individuals he believed were members of terrorist organizations and with the individuals he was recruiting about plans to travel abroad to join terrorist organizations.

In his recruiting, he initially suggested Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al Shabaab as possible destinations, and later focused on ISIS. Notably, AQAP, Al Shabaab and ISIS are all terrorist groups that have become highly adept at distributing extensive English-language propaganda.

On April 22 2014, he allegedly posted a message on Facebook attempting to gain connections in ISIS, stating, “Whoever knows a brother from ISIS who is able to communicate well in English, can communicate with me through the private, due to the importance.” He also communicated directly on Facebook with an individual he was recruiting to join ISIS (the individual was in fact an informant).

Elfgeeh was allegedly developing a plot to commit multiple murders in the U.S. as well, apparently inspired by acts of terrorism around the world including Al Shabaab’s attack of the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya and, in particular, by Mohammed Merah’s shootings in France.

His inspiration for this plot apparently came from watching videos on YouTube. He allegedly explained that he had learned about Merah’s actions because, “[i]t’s in YouTube.” He also allegedly had watched a video that provided justification and instructions for his plot: The video, he stated, “tell[s] you what to do …it’s YouTube…they call them here…’individual wolf’ (an apparent reference to lone wolf attacks).”

Elfgeeh is a 30-year-old naturalized American citizen. Originally from Yemen, he resided in Rochester, NY prior to his arrest where he owned and operated a store called Halal Mojo and Foodmart. He was arrested on May 31, 2014 and pleaded not guilty on September 18.

Elfgeeh is the second American arrested in 2014 for recruiting others to join foreign terror organizations, following Rahatul Ashikim Khan of Round Rock, Texas, who was arrested in June.

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August 29, 2014

ISIS Succeeds Al Shaabab as Foremost Recruiter of American Militants

Confirmation by U.S. officials that two American men with links to Minnesota were killed this past weekend in Syria while fighting for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) serves as the latest indication that ISIS has replaced Al Shabaab in Somalia as the terrorist destination of choice for American militants. 


Abdirahmaan Muhumed

As the number of Americans joining Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, has steadily decreased over the past few years (more than 60 U.S. cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dentshave traveled to or attempted to aid or joinAl Shabaab since 2007, Americans traveling to or attempted to travel to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS or fight with other terrorist organizations in the region has increased.

Over 100 Americans are believed to have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the fighting overall. In 2013 and 2014, 13 Americans have been arrested for travelling or attempting to travel to the region to join ISIS, Jabhat al Nusra (Al Qaeda in Syria) or other terrorist groups.

Six others have reportedly been killed, including Abdirahmaan Muhumed, the 29-year-old Somali-American from Minnesota killed this past weekend with Douglas McAuthur McCain from San Diego/Minnesota, Moner Abu Salha from Florida, Nicole Mansfield from Michigan, Amir Farouk Ibrahim of Pennsylvania, and a man using the pseudonym Abu Dujana Al-Amriki, whose background is unclear.

Abdirahmaan Muhumed was apparently one of 15 Somali Americans from Minnesota under investigation by the FBI for travelling to Syria. ISIS has reportedly sent representatives to recruit from the Twin Cities, alarming community leaders.

Muhumed and McCain reportedly interacted on social media before their deaths; McCain allegedly wrote on Muhamed’s Facebook wall, telling him to “continue protecting our brothers and sisters.” McCain was also friends with at least one other individual who apparently traveled abroad to joina terrorist organization.


Troy Kastigar

McCain’s apparent high school friend, Troy Kastigar, became a member of Al Shabaab and was featured in an English-language propaganda video called “The Path to Paradise,” in which he encouraged Americans to join the terror group. “This is the best place to be,” said Kastigar in the video, “This is the real Disneyland and you should come here and join us, take pleasure in this fun…. Come here and join us so that we can die for the sake of Allah.”

Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan, who was indicted on terrorism charges in 2008 for joining Al Shabaab, was also an apparent friend of McCain’s. Hassan’s statements on Twitter after McCain’s death included, “The Hardest thing in Jihad is when a brother u (sic) love is granted Shahadah [martyrdom]. Today im (sic) experiencing those feelings. May Allah accept @iamthetooth [McCain].”

Hassan, who is believed to still be a member of Al Shabaab in Somalia, has encouraged other extremists to consider joining ISIS. In one response on Ask.FM, he wrote, “Fighting Jihad in other Jihadi fronts is good. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but I recommend Sham [Syria] because our prophet pbuh [peace be upon him] recommended sham so i’ll (sic) go with that.”

Al Shabaab itself appears to have taken a similar strategy of encouraging travel to any terror front. In the sixth installment of its English-language video series Mujahideen Moments, released August 27, an apparent Al Shabaab militant called on “Muslims, those that are living the U.S., especially in Minnesota, and Great Britain, Germany, and many parts of the kuffar [apostate] world” to travel abroad to join the fight in terrorist conflict zones including Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

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July 18, 2014

ADL’s Terrorism Update Examines Terror Groups on Social Media

The July edi­tion of Ter­ror­ism Update, ADL’s newslet­ter pro­vid­ing news and analy­sis on inter­na­tional ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions and their fol­low­ers in the U.S., is now available.islamic-state-media-twitter-380

The fea­ture arti­cle explores how the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) uses social media not only to spread its messages and recruit followers, including Westerners, but also to empower its supporters to do so as well.

The newslet­ter includes a pro­file on Hamas’s social media use, which has been an ongoing element of its strategy, even as the group continues to target Israelis with rockets.

This edi­tion also includes infor­ma­tion on Hezbollah’s use of WhatsApp, a California-based instant messaging service, recent terror-related arrests in Colorado and Texas, a recent Al Shabaab video calling for “lone wolf” attacks, an American suicide bomber in Syria, and more.

To sub­scribe to ADL’s Ter­ror­ism Update newslet­ter, click on the below image:



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