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January 16, 2015 1

Ohio Arrest Is First Islamic Extremism Related Plot Since 2013

Christopher Lee Cornell

Christo­pher Lee Cornell

Wednesday’s arrest of Christo­pher Lee Cor­nell, a 20-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Ohio, marked the first Islamic extremism-related arrest of 2015 and the first inci­dent of an attempted domes­tic ter­ror attack moti­vated by a rad­i­cal inter­pre­ta­tion of Islam since 2013.

Cor­nell is accused of attempt­ing to attack the U.S. Capi­tol build­ing by plant­ing and det­o­nat­ing pipe bombs at and near the build­ing and then using a semi-automatic rifle to increase casu­alty counts. The plot was the first since Decem­ber 2013, when Kansas res­i­dent Terry Lee Loewen allegedly attempted to bomb the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.

Cornell’s alleged plot comes at a time of increas­ing calls for vio­lence and home­grown extrem­ism by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria(ISIS), as well as the con­tin­ued influ­ence of Al Qaeda pro­pa­gan­dists includ­ing Anwar al-Awlaki and the power of social media in the mod­ern rad­i­cal­iza­tion process.  Awlaki, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011, was an English-language spokesman for Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP).

Cor­nell was report­edly hop­ing to under­take his attack as a way to sup­port ISIS. This fits with cur­rent trends in extrem­ism: The vast major­ity of the iden­ti­fied Amer­i­cans known to have engaged with extrem­ism in 2014 sought to join or aid ISIS.

Cor­nell, who used the alias Raheel Mahrus Ubay­dah, Tweeted ISIS pro­pa­ganda and Awlaki quotes and appar­ently found jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for his alleged plot in the pro­pa­ganda mate­ri­als he accessed from ISIS and Anwar al-Awlaki.

Although ISIS lead­er­ship is cur­rently at odds with Al Qaeda lead­er­ship, the group still cites Awlaki as an ide­o­log­i­cal leader. It is not uncom­mon for appar­ent ter­ror­ist sup­ports online to share mate­ri­als from both includ­ing ISIS and AQAP despite fight­ing between the groups’ leadership.

Accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Cor­nell claimed to have con­tacted mem­bers of ISIS in hopes that they would assist him in his efforts to attack the U.S. He also watched extrem­ist videos and used his com­puter to research bomb mak­ing instruc­tions and infor­ma­tion about how to pur­chase firearms, and he com­mu­ni­cated with an under­cover infor­mant he believed to be a co-conspirator using instant mes­sag­ing ser­vices. He told the infor­mant “I believe that we should just wage jihad under our own orders and plan attacks,” accord­ing to court documents.

Some of his appar­ent Tweets indi­cated sup­port for lone wolf attacks, includ­ing one that praised attacks in Canada by Mar­tin Rouleau Cou­ture and Michael Zehaf Bibeau stat­ing, “May Allah reward the broth­ers who fought and received Sha­hada (mar­tyr­dom) in Canada! May these recent attacks send ter­ror into the hearts of the kufr (disbelievers)!

Accord­ing to fam­ily mem­bers, Cor­nell had con­verted to Islam less than a year prior to his arrest.

Accord­ing to FBI Direc­tor James Comey, the FBI is cur­rently track­ing nearly 150 Amer­i­cans who trav­eled to Syria, “a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber” of whom went there to fight. Other reports have indi­cated that close to 90 addi­tional Amer­i­cans are believed to have died fight­ing or attempted to travel abroad to join extrem­ist groups but failed.

17 of the 22 indi­vid­u­als who have been pub­licly iden­ti­fied as engag­ing in ter­ror­ism in 2014 sought to join or aid ISIS.

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January 13, 2015 0

New ISIS Threat Campaign Capitalizes on Paris Attacks

Image from Twitter campaign

Image from Twit­ter campaign

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has launched a new cam­paign on Twit­ter call­ing for addi­tional home­grown attacks in West­ern coun­tries in the after­math of the attacks in Paris last week that killed 17.

The cam­paign, adver­tised with the hash­tag #Fight­forHim was espe­cially promi­nent on Twit­ter on Sun­day, when both offi­cial ISIS accounts and mul­ti­ple sup­porter accounts Tweeted images fea­tur­ing mes­sages to Mus­lims “liv­ing in the West” and quotes by Anwar al-Awlaki advo­cat­ing “the duty of killing those who insult our Prophet Muhammad.”

Awlaki was an Amer­i­can pro­pa­gan­dist for Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula. He was killed in a drone strike in 2011 but his writ­ings and say­ings con­tinue to be a moti­va­tional force for extrem­ists, includ­ing the Kouachi broth­ers, who are believed to have been two of the three indi­vid­u­als who attacked the Char­lie Hebdo offices last week, and Amedy Coulibaly, believed to be one of the two indi­vid­u­als behind last week’s hostage inci­dent in a kosher gro­cery store in Paris.

At the same time, ISIS sup­port­ers are also con­tin­u­ing a cam­paign of hack­ing Jew­ish insti­tu­tional web­sites and, increas­ingly, sites that are affil­i­ated with gov­ern­ments, mil­i­tary insti­tu­tions, and other orga­ni­za­tions, replac­ing the orig­i­nal text on the site with anti-Semitic and pro-terrorist mes­sages. Mon­day after­noon, ISIS sup­port­ers claimed respon­si­bil­ity for hack­ing the social media accounts affil­i­ated with U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand.

One of the Tweets from the #Fight­forHim cam­paign fea­tures a red ban­ner image with the quote, “You are a Mus­lim? Liv­ing in the West? Being a city wolf is your task! For you are the only ones to do so! You are already ’cit­i­zens’, and no doubt you are the suit­able ones to be cho­sen for such a task. You are shar­ing the same land with them! The same busses and trains, the same neighborhoods!”

Sev­eral Tweets also fea­tured what appeared to be pages ready for inser­tion into an English-language pro­pa­ganda mag­a­zine that quoted Anwar al-Awlaki nar­rat­ing a story about a “Jew­ish leader and…very elo­quent poet” who wrote poems that spoke out against Muham­mad, after which he was killed. In the story, Muham­mad stated, “I am the Prophet of mercy and I am the prophet of war” and “he has harmed us and he has defamed us with his poetry, and none of you (Jews) would do this except we would deal with him with the sword!”

Image from Twitter campaign showing Anwar al-Awlaki

Image from Twit­ter cam­paign show­ing Anwar al-Awlaki

The three pages that make up this story are titled Char­lie, ref­er­enc­ing the mag­a­zine. In its sub­ject mat­ter, the story also can be read as sup­port­ing attacks on Jews more broadly.

These images and oth­ers were Tweeted directly from mul­ti­ple indi­vid­ual Twit­ter accounts. This may indi­cate that they were part of a coor­di­nated cam­paign run through the Dawn of Glad Tid­ings app, a Twit­ter appli­ca­tion that allows ISIS to Tweet directly onto users’ pages, thus rapidly and widely dis­sem­i­nat­ing pro­pa­ganda and enabling effec­tive hash­tag cam­paigns. Some of the images were Tweeted from between 80 and 100 accounts in minutes.

The cam­paign was sup­ple­mented by an essay writ­ten by an ISIS sup­porter that urged attacks in West­ern coun­tries and pro­vided sug­ges­tions for car­ry­ing them out.

The essay cites Inspire mag­a­zine, Anwar al-Awlaki, Osama bin Laden and ISIS as sources for inspi­ra­tion and lists mul­ti­ple cities, states, and coun­tries that can be attacked, includ­ing mul­ti­ple loca­tions in the U.S.

“Until life in Nor­way, Florida, Mon­treal, Fin­land, Lis­bon, Lux­em­bourg and Can­berra becomes…a land that burns, a sky that rains rock­ets, and cities through which wolves walk, the lions of jihad, and where breaths are con­ceal (sic) until they taste our sever­ity” it states. The essay later threat­ens addi­tional attacks includ­ing San Fran­cisco, Bel­gium, Lon­don, Madrid, Syd­ney, Rus­sia, Boston, Dal­las, Vir­ginia and Ams­ter­dam with explo­sive devices, booby traps and poison.

This essay was picked up and cir­cu­lated by offi­cial ISIS media out­lets fol­low­ing its post­ing on Justpate.it, an online pub­lish­ing site reg­u­larly used by ter­ror­ist sup­port­ers to quickly and anony­mously post text and images online.

Although the #fight­forHim hash­tag is new, calls by ter­ror­ist groups for home­grown attacks have a lengthy his­tory. In the past year, ISIS, Al Qaeda, AQAP and Al Shabaab have all called for such attacks. In the wake of the attacks in France, addi­tional groups includ­ing the Pak­istani Tal­iban, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Al Moura­bitoun have also called for copy­cat attacks.

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September 10, 2014 1

Former Revolution Muslim Imam Encourages Support for ISIS

Imam Abdul­lah Al-Faisal, for­mer spir­i­tual leader of the now-defunct Rev­o­lu­tion Mus­lim (RM)orga­ni­za­tion, con­tin­ues to actively preach hatred and extrem­ism online in Eng­lish and now actively encour­ages his fol­low­ers to sup­port the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

authentic-tauheed-abdullah-faisal

Ad for the Authen­tic Tauheed con­fer­ence sup­port­ing ISIS

In an online con­fer­ence this week­end, Al-Faisal and three other extrem­ist, English-speaking cler­ics spoke for a col­lec­tive 200 min­utes on the theme of sup­port for ISIS and its self-proclaimed Caliphate.

Two of the cler­ics who spoke in addi­tion to Al-Faisal have also been known to incite extrem­ism. One, Atila Ahmed from Lon­don (also known as Abu Abdul­lah) was report­edly sen­tenced to nearly seven years in prison in 2008 on charges of solic­it­ing mur­der. The sec­ond, Miza­nur Rah­man from Lon­don (also known as Abu Baraa), was con­victed of hate speech and solic­i­ta­tion to mur­der in 2006.

Remarks dur­ing the con­fer­ence ranged from endorse­ment of ISIS to anti-Semitism and anti-LGBT state­ments, including:

  • “Who are those that reject the Dawla (ISIS)?…The peo­ple that claim that the sharia is not impor­tant, don’t think about the sharia, think about them­selves.” (Al-Faisal)
  • “When you see that the Dawla cut off the heads of Shi’as you will think that’s extreme, these peo­ple are crazy…first of all, the clas­si­cal schol­ars did not con­sider Shi’as as Muslims…you don’t know what the Shi’as believe and you don’t know why the Dawla is so harsh against the Shi’as.” (Al-Faisal)
  • “All the other groups espe­cially in Iraq don’t have as strong a com­mit­ment to imple­ment­ing Sharia as the Dawla and…Dawla is con­quer­ing town after town.” (Abu Ruqayyah)
  • “What about our­selves sit­ting on our back­sides eat­ing cakes and bis­cuits at home while they’re [ISIS fight­ers] strug­gling to bring honor to the com­mu­nity of Islam?”
  • “All you Mus­lims that vote, you have the blood of Mus­lims that are killed by the West on your hands… by giv­ing your alle­giance to kuf­far (apos­tates) and the man-made laws…” (Abu Abdullah)
  •  “Did you know that they say Abu Bakr al Bagh­dadi is a Jew? When they accuse Abu bakr al Bagh­dadi of being a Jew, what are they? They are noth­ing but the bark­ing dogs of jah­hanam (hell).” (Al-Faisal)
  • “If you say some­thing against the Zion­ist Jews or the Jews that died in the wars at the hands of Hitler and you don’t accept it, they could put you into prison. This is the free­dom that the Mus­lims are vot­ing for.” (Abu Abdullah)
  • “So by these they [homo­sex­u­als] are prey­ing on our chil­dren in schools. They say the inte­gra­tion, the accep­tance of democ­racy is brain­wash­ing our chil­dren into accept­ing homo­sex­u­al­ity. They’re try­ing to make our chil­dren like them [gay]. As you see if they’re pump­ing it day and night on the news on these shows all full of homo­sex­u­als and les­bians.” (Abu Abdullah)

These remarks are con­sis­tent with state­ments that Al-Faisal has been mak­ing via his Authen­tic Tauheed web­site and on his per­sonal Twit­ter account for months.

In July, Al-Faisal copied the offi­cial ISIS ver­sion of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s biog­ra­phy in Eng­lish onto his web­site and pre­sented a lec­ture encour­ag­ing stu­dents to learn from and about Bagh­dadi and ISIS.  Sim­i­larly, in a July lec­ture posted on his site, he stated, “There is no doubt that he (Bag­dadhi) is the legit­i­mate caliph and it is incum­bent upon you to give your be’ah (alle­giance),” later adding, “So take up arms, take up arms, O sol­diers of the Islamic State! And fight, fight!”

On his Twit­ter account, where this weekend’s con­fer­ence was adver­tised, Al-Faisal’s tweets have included:

  • “The #Islam­ic­state has no bor­ders because we are meant to be #mujahideen sans fron­tiers #ISIS” (August 20)
  • “Why should #Jews com­mit geno­cide and then play the race card to defend them­selves. To me, #Hitler was right.”(September 2)

    abdullah-al-faisal-twitter-isis

    Via Abdul­lah Al-Faisal’s Twit­ter feed

  • “Our females make us proud by join­ing IS (The Islamic State, or ISIS).” (Sep­tem­ber 9)
  • “Any Mujahid [reli­gious fighter] who doesn’t give his bayah (alle­giance) to Dawla (ISIS) is a fake Jihadi and his death will b in vain. So please b warned.” (Sep­tem­ber 9)

Al-Faisal has also used Twit­ter con­ver­sa­tions to encour­age oth­ers to fol­low his views. In com­ments to one of his posts writ­ten on Sep­tem­ber 4, al-Faisal was asked whether the Pro­to­cols of the Elders of Zion was a “good resource to under­stand the zionist’s [sic] and their plan.” Al-Faisal responded, “I was taught the pro­to­cols of zion [sic] in Univ. Hence I would rec­om­mend it as an excel­lent source of knowledge.”

In the same con­ver­sa­tion, Al-Faisal was asked, “Shaikh I recently became Mus­lim but am still in High School how do you rec­om­mend I seek knowl­edge?” Al-Faisal directed the asker to the Pro­to­cols of the Elders of Zion and also to a link on the Authen­tic Tauheed site that, in sum­ma­riz­ing prin­ci­ples of Islam, states, “There is a Quranic verse where Allah (SWT) pro­nounced Jews and Chris­tians as Kuf­far (apos­tates) even before the huj­jah (in this con­text, pun­ish­ment for not fol­low­ing Islam) was estab­lished against them.”

Prior to his sup­port for ISIS, al-Faisal was a known sup­porter of al Qaeda, and once con­demned Anwar al Awlaki, who after­ward went on to become al Qaeda’s chief English-language pro­pa­gan­dist, for not being rad­i­cal enough.

Al-Faisal has pre­vi­ously been jailed for his vio­lent preach­ing. In 2003, al-Faisal was sen­tenced in a court in Lon­don to nine years for incit­ing racial hatred and mur­der. The sen­tence was later reduced to seven years and in May 2007 he was paroled and deported to Jamaica.

In his UK ser­mons prior to his arrest, Al-Faisal encour­aged Mus­lims who are 15 and older to get weapon train­ing dur­ing school vaca­tions and to assume a “jihad men­tal­ity.” In his speeches he said that non-Muslims, includ­ing Hin­dus and Jews, should be killed like “cock­roaches.” In one lec­ture he said that the “filthy Jews [were] evil to the core.” In a recorded speech that was car­ried shortly after the Sep­tem­ber 11 attack and pre­sented as evi­dence at the trial, Al-Faisal, argued that it is “per­mis­si­ble to drop bombs on a kuf­far (apos­tate) nation” and that women and chil­dren who may be hurt are “col­lat­eral dam­age” and Mus­lims will “become martyrs.”

Al-Faisal’s Authen­tic Tauheed site, on which this weekend’s con­fer­ence took place and where he reg­u­larly posts his lec­tures, is hosted on the PalTalk web­site, which bills itself as a “free videochat com­mu­nity.” It also main­tains two Twit­ter feeds dis­tinct from al-Faisal’s feed. Al-Faisal has been using the ser­vice since at least 2008. The word tauheed (some­times spelled tawhid) is an Islamic term refer­ring to monotheism.

Al-Faisal was per­haps best known as the spir­i­tual guide for RM, a fringe anti-Semitic Mus­lim orga­ni­za­tion that jus­ti­fied ter­ror­ist attacks and other forms of vio­lence for many years. RM dis­trib­uted al-Faisal’s CDs and posts videos of his lec­tures and his writ­ings to its Web site, and dona­tions to RM were believed to pos­si­bly sup­port Faisal financially.

He is also believed to have played a role in the rad­i­cal­iza­tion of Richard Reid, the “shoe bomber” and Jer­maine Lind­say, one of the bombers behind the July 7, 2005 attacks on London’s tran­sit system.

Abdul­lah Ibrahim Al-Faisal (also spelled El-Faisal) was born Trevor For­rest in Jamaica. He con­verted to Islam when he was 16 and moved to Britain as a young man. In 1992, after sev­eral years of study­ing reli­gion in Saudi Ara­bia, he returned to Britain and became a preacher at the Brix­ton Mosque in Lon­don, where he deliv­ered very rad­i­cal speeches to crowds of up to 500 worshipers.

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