anwar al-awlaki » ADL Blogs
Posts Tagged ‘anwar al-awlaki’
January 16, 2015

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

January 13, 2015

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

September 10, 2014

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,