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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. 

isis-abdirahmaan-muhumed

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.

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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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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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May 28, 2014

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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