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July 22, 2013 0

Florida Teen, Shelton Thomas Bell, Latest American To Attempt To Join Al Qaeda

shelton-thomas-bell-florida-al-qaeda

Shel­ton Thomas bell

The lat­est Amer­i­can cit­i­zen to appar­ently respond to Al Qaeda’s call by attempt­ing to join the ter­ror­ist group is 19-year-old Florid­ian Shel­ton Thomas Bell.

Bell, who accord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors attempted to join Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP) in Yemen, has been charged with con­spir­ing and attempt­ing to pro­vide mate­r­ial sup­port to terrorists.

Since 2007, at least 52 Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents have been arrested or charged for suc­cess­fully trav­el­ing or attempt­ing to travel abroad to reach Al Qaeda affil­i­ate groups. Many joined or attempted to join Al Shabaab in Soma­lia, while oth­ers have received train­ing in Pak­istan. More recently, some Amer­i­cans have been attracted to Jab­hat al-Nusrah in Syria.

Bell, report­edly a Mus­lim con­vert, “devised a plan to travel to the Ara­bian Penin­sula to join Ansar al Sharia (AAS),” an alias for (AQAP), “and par­tic­i­pate in vio­lent armed con­flict that he termed ‘jihad,’” accord­ing to the fed­eral indictment.

Bell and a juve­nile trav­eled to Jor­dan Sep­tem­ber 2012 and made con­tact with some­one who could facil­i­tate their travel to Yemen and intro­duce them to ter­ror­ists, accord­ing to the indictment.

The indict­ment also alleges that between May 2012 and Sep­tem­ber 2012, Bell and oth­ers engaged in phys­i­cal, firearms, and other train­ing in prepa­ra­tion for what Bell described as “the actions of jihad,” includ­ing “a night-time mis­sion” in which they van­dal­ized reli­gious stat­ues at a Jack­sonville cemetery.

Bell allegedly also made video and audio record­ings for the pur­pose of solic­it­ing and recruit­ing oth­ers to par­tic­i­pate in vio­lent jihad.

Lead­ers of the Islamic Cen­ter of North­east Florida in Jack­sonville report­edly noti­fied law enforce­ment about Bell because they were con­cerned about con­ver­sa­tion he was hav­ing about weapons and jihad at their mosque.

AQAP has been described by the U.S. gov­ern­ment as “the most active and dan­ger­ous” branch of Al Qaeda. The growth of AQAP has led Amer­i­can offi­cials to indi­cate that Yemen could become Al Qaeda’s next oper­a­tional and train­ing hub for the group’s mil­i­tants from around the world.

A key com­po­nent of AQAP’s oper­a­tional strat­egy entails reach­ing out to English-speaking audi­ences with its mes­sages and pro­pa­ganda in order to recruit new mem­bers. This mate­r­ial encour­ages West­ern audi­ences to adopt its ide­ol­ogy and carry out attacks against West­ern inter­ests in the Ara­bian Penin­sula and abroad.

The dri­ving forces behind AQAP’s English-language pro­pa­ganda machine were Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric, and Samir Khan, an Amer­i­can blog­ger and pro­pa­gan­dist, both of whom were killed in a Sep­tem­ber 30, 2011 drone strike.

Bell, who worked as a com­puter repair ven­dor at a flea mar­ket in Jack­sonville, is in jail await­ing trial on unre­lated grand theft charges.

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June 27, 2013 0

ADL’s Terrorism Update Highlights New Inspire Magazine Resource

The June 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 to our subscribers.

The fea­ture arti­cle focuses on the increas­ing num­bers of for­eign­ers, includ­ing Amer­i­cans, whTU for blogo have trav­eled to Syria to join with terrorist-linked groups fight­ing against the Assad regime. To date, there have been three pub­licly dis­closed cases of Amer­i­cans involved in fight­ing along­side rebel forces, each of whom have been linked to Jab­hat al-Nusrah, a State Department-designated alias for Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Inspire, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Penin­sula’s English-language ter­ror­ist mag­a­zine, is also fea­tured in our June newslet­ter, which can be sub­scribed to on our web­site. ADL has cre­ated a new microsite focus­ing on Inspire, which has influ­enced numer­ous inter­na­tional and domes­tic ter­ror­ists since its inau­gural issue in 2010.  The issue also con­tains arti­cles on an AQAP pro­pa­gan­dist fac­ing extra­di­tion to the United States for pro­vid­ing “expert advice and assis­tance in pho­tog­ra­phy and graphic design of media” and dis­sem­i­nat­ing AQAP mate­ri­als, as well as an analy­sis of how the lat­est issue of Inspire cel­e­brated the Boston Marathon bomb­ings.

The newslet­ter includes an analy­sis of how the thwarted 1993 plot tar­get­ing New York City land­marks fore­shad­owed the esca­lat­ing domes­tic ter­ror­ism threat, arti­cles on terrorism-related arrests in Idaho and New York, and an update on an Iran-linked assas­si­na­tion plot.  The issue also has analy­ses of Anwar al-Awlaki’s influ­ence on domes­tic ter­ror plots, includ­ing the Tsar­naev Broth­ers, and on Hamas’s Al Aqsa TV, which was the focus of intense media scrutiny recently after two its jour­nal­ists were sup­posed to be hon­ored by the New­seum in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

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June 14, 2013 0

Al Qaeda Propagandist Faces Extradition To New York

A British national of Viet­namese ori­gin is fac­ing extra­di­tion to the United States for his alleged role help­ing Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP) cre­ate and dis­trib­ute the type of online pro­pa­ganda that has become a sta­ple of domes­tic ter­ror­istsinspire-al-qaeda-pham

The indict­ment, filed in New York fed­eral court in June 2012, alleges that Minh Quang Pham “pro­vided expert advice and assis­tance in pho­tog­ra­phy and graphic design of media” for AQAP. In addi­tion to help­ing AQAP craft its pro­pa­ganda, author­i­ties also allege that Pham helped dis­sem­i­nate the propaganda.

These graph­ics, cou­pled with West­ern ref­er­ences, prac­ti­cal infor­ma­tion and anti-Semitic nar­ra­tives have made AQAP’s Inspire mag­a­zine an effec­tive recruit­ment and rad­i­cal­iza­tion tool. 

Before trav­el­ing to Yemen in 2010 and bring­ing his pro­fes­sional exper­tise to AQAP, Pham report­edly estab­lished a busi­ness in Lon­don as a web and graph­ics designer. 

The indict­ment also alleges that Pham met with two unnamed Amer­i­cans, a likely ref­er­ence to Anwar al-Awlaki, AQAP’s American-born ide­o­logue who also served as its chief of exter­nal oper­a­tions, and Samir Khan, an Amer­i­can blog­ger who was believed to be the prin­ci­pal edi­tor of Inspire. Both Awlaki and Khan were killed in a drone strike in Sep­tem­ber 2011.

Pham is for­mally charged with pro­vid­ing mate­r­ial sup­port to AQAP, receiv­ing mil­i­tary train­ing from a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion, firearms charges and two other related crimes. He report­edly trav­eled from the UK to Yemen in 2010 where he allegedly received weapons train­ing, took an oath of alle­giance to AQAP, and pro­vided his expert media advice to the ter­ror­ist organization.

British author­i­ties arrested Pham last June, coin­cid­ing with the announce­ment of the Amer­i­can charges against him. He had pre­vi­ously been in immi­gra­tion cus­tody after ammu­ni­tion was allegedly found in his bag after he returned from the Mid­dle East.  His extra­di­tion hear­ing is sched­uled for August. 

If con­victed on all charges, he faces the pos­si­bil­ity of life in prison.

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